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NIMAS Technical Specification


NOTE: Annotations have been added to this post of the Technical Specification to explain changes and corrections that have been made to the Standard since publication in the Federal Register. Changes represent clarification of or additional information about parts of the Specification or items that have been determined in practice since its original publication (as planned, see paragraph five of the Package File section). Please send an email for assistance in interpreting the Technical Specification or for more information.


  1. The authority citation for part 300 continues to read as follows:
    Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1411–1420, unless otherwise noted.
  2. Part 300 is amended by adding an appendix D to part 300 to read as follows:

    Appendix D—National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard

    Under sections 612(a)(23)(A) and 674(e)(4) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as amended by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, the Secretary of Education establishes the NIMAS. Under section 674(e)(4) of the Act, the NIMAS applies to print instructional materials published after August 18, 2006. The purpose of the NIMAS is to help increase the availability and timely delivery of print instructional materials in accessible formats to blind or other persons with print disabilities in elementary and secondary schools.


The Baseline Element Set details the minimum requirement that must be delivered to fulfill the NIMAS. It is the responsibility of publishers to provide this NIMAS-conformant XML content file, a package file (OPF), a PDF-format copy of the title page (or whichever page(s) contain(s) ISBN and copyright information), and a full set of the content's images. All of the images included within a work must be provided in a folder and placeholders entered in the relevant XML document indicating their location (all images must be included). The preferred image type is SVG, next is either PNG or JPG format. Images should be rendered in the same size/proportion as their originals at 300 dpi. Images should be named with relative path filenames in XML files (example: <img id="staricon4" src="./images/U10C02/staricon4.jpg" alt="star icon"/>).

Annotation: Language pertaining to images has been clarified to explicate size and resolution guidelines and the fact that images present in a source work are required as part of a NIMAS fileset.

NIMAS-conformant content must be valid to the NIMAS 1.1 [see DAISY/NISO Z39.86 2005 or subsequent revisions]. In addition, files are required to use the tags from the Baseline Element Set when such tags are appropriate. Publishers are encouraged to augment the required Baseline Element Set with tags from the Optional Element Set (elements not included in the Standard) as applicable. For the purposes of NIMAS, appropriate usage of elements, both baseline and optional, is defined by the DAISY Structure Guidelines. Files that do not follow these guidelines in the selection and application of tags are not conformant to this Standard. Both optional elements and appropriate structure guidelines may be located within Z39.86-2002 and Z39.86-2005 available from Specifications for the Digital Talking Book. Use of the most current standard is recommended.

Annotation: A typo was corrected to show that NIMAS 1.1 aligns to DAISY/NISO Z39.86 2005 (not ANZI/NISO).

The Baseline Element Set

a. Document-level tags

The root element in the Digital Talking Book DTD. <dtbook> contains metadata in <head> and the contents itself in <book>.

This element should be empty for a NIMAS file.

Surrounds the actual content of the document, which is divided into <frontmatter>, <bodymatter>, and <rearmatter>. <head>, which contains metadata, precedes <book>.

Indicates metadata about the book. It is an empty element that may appear repeatedly only in <head>.

For the most current usage guidelines, please refer to

b. Structure and hierarchy

Usually contains <doctitle> and <docauthor>, as well as preliminary material that is often enclosed in appropriate <level> or <level1> etc. Content may include a copyright notice, a foreword, an acknowledgements section, a table of contents, etc. <frontmatter> serves as a guide to the content and nature of a <book>.

Annotation: Currently must appear as the first element within source files. (This was not yet required when the Standard was first published.)

Consists of the text proper of a book, as contrasted with preliminary material <frontmatter> or supplementary information in <rearmatter>.

Contains supplementary material such as appendices, glossaries, bibliographies, and indices. It follows the <bodymatter> of the book.

The highest-level container of major divisions of a book. Used in <frontmatter>, <bodymatter>, and <rearmatter> to mark the largest divisions of the book (usually parts or chapters), inside which <level2> subdivisions (often sections) may nest. The class attribute identifies the actual name (e.g., part, chapter) of the structure it marks. Contrast with <level>.

Annotation: Typos (duplicate word, missing letter) were corrected in the description: "rearmatter ", "bodymater".

Contains subdivisions that nest within <level1> divisions. The class attribute identifies the actual name (e.g., subpart, chapter, subsection) of the structure it marks.

Contains sub-subdivisions that nest within <level2> subdivisions (e.g., sub-subsections within subsections). The class attribute identifies the actual name (e.g., section, subpart, subsubsection) of the subordinate structure it marks.

Contains further subdivisions that nest within <level3> subdivisions. The class attribute identifies the actual name of the subordinate structure it marks.

Contains further subdivisions that nest within subdivisions. The class attribute identifies the actual name of the subordinate structure it marks.

Contains further subdivisions that nest within subdivisions. The class attribute identifies the actual name of the subordinate structure it marks.

Contains the text of the heading for a structure.

Contains the text of the heading for a structure.

Contains the text of the heading for a structure.

Contains the text of the heading for a structure.

Contains the text of the heading for a structure.

Contains the text of the heading for a structure.

For the most current usage guidelines, please refer to

c. Block elements

Identifies the writer of a work other than this one. Contrast with <docauthor>, which identifies the author of this work. <author> typically occurs within <blockquote> and <cite>.

Indicates a block of quoted content that is set off from the surrounding text by paragraph breaks. Compare with <q>, which marks short, inline quotations.

Contains some form of list, ordered or unordered. The list may have an intermixed heading <hd> (generally only one, possibly with <prodnote>), and an intermixture of list items <li> and <pagenum>. If bullets and outline enumerations are part of the print content, they are expected to prefix those list items in content, rather than be implicitly generated.

Marks each list item in a <list>. <li> content may be either inline or block and may include other nested lists. Alternatively it may contain a sequence of list item components, <lic>, that identify regularly occurring content, such as the heading and page number of each entry in a table of contents.

Marks the text of a heading in a <list> or <sidebar>.

Annotation: A typo was deleted from the description: "or \ <".

Marks a footnote, endnote, etc. Any local reference to <note id="yyy"> is by <noteref idref="#yyy"">. [Attribute id]

Contains a paragraph, which may contain subsidiary <list> or <dl>.

Contains information supplementary to the main text and/or narrative flow and is often boxed and printed apart from the main text block on a page. It may have a heading <hd>.

Marks a reference (or citation) to another document.

Marks a definition of the preceding term <dt> within a definition list <dl>. A definition without a preceding <dt> has no semantic interpretation, but is visually presented aligned with other <dd>.

Contains a definition list, usually consisting of pairs of terms <dt> and definitions <dd>. Any definition can contain another definition list.

Marks a term in a definition list <dl> for which a definition <dd> follows.

For the most current usage guidelines, please refer to

d. Inline elements

Indicates emphasis. Usually <em> is rendered in italics. Compare with <strong>.

Contains a short, inline quotation. Compare with <blockquote>, which marks a longer quotation set off from the surrounding text.

Marks stronger emphasis than <em>. Visually <strong> is usually rendered bold.

Indicates a subscript character (printed below a character's normal baseline). Can be used recursively and/or intermixed with <sup>.

Marks a superscript character (printed above a character's normal baseline). Can be used recursively and/or intermixed with <sub>.

Marks a forced line break.

Marks a single logical line of text. Often used in conjunction with in documents with numbered lines. [Use only when line breaks must be preserved to capture meaning (e.g., poems, legal texts).]

Contains a line number, for example in legal text. [Use only when is used, and only for lines numbered in print book.]

Contains one page number as it appears from the print document, usually inserted at the point within the file immediately preceding the first item of content on a new page. [NB: Only valid when it includes an id attribute].

Marks one or more characters that reference a footnote or endnote.

For the most current usage guidelines, please refer to

e. Tables

Contains cells of tabular data arranged in rows and columns. A <table> may have a <caption>. It may have descriptions of the columns in <col>s or groupings of several <col> in <colgroup>. A simple <table> may be made up of just rows <tr>. A long table crossing several pages of the print book should have separate <pagenum> values for each of the pages containing that <table> indicated on the page where it starts. Note the logical order of optional <thead>, optional <tfoot>, then one or more of either <tbody> or just rows <tr>. This order accommodates simple or large, complex tables. The <thead> and <tfoot> information usually helps identify content of the <tbody> rows. For a multiple-page print <table> the <thead> and <tfoot> are repeated on each page, but not redundantly tagged.

Indicates a table cell containing data.

Marks one row of a <table> containing <th> or <td> cells.

For the most current usage guidelines, please refer to

f. Images

Provides a container for one or more <img> and associated <caption>(s) and <prodnote>(s). A <prodnote> may contain a description of the image. The content model allows: 1) multiple <img> if they share a caption, with the ids of each <img> in the <caption imgref="id1 id2 ...">, 2) multiple <caption> if several captions refer to a single <img id="xxx"> where each caption has the same <caption imgref="xxx">, 3) multiple <prodnote> if different versions are needed for different media (e.g., large print, braille, or print). If several <prodnote> refer to a single <img id="xxx">, each prodnote has the same <prodnote imgref="xxx">.

Points to the image to be rendered..An <img> may stand alone or be grouped using <imggroup>.

Describes a <table> or <img>. If used with <table> it must follow immediately after the <table> start tag. If used with <imggroup> it is not so constrained.

For the most current usage guidelines, please refer to

1. The Optional Elements and Guidelines for Use

Publishers are encouraged to apply mark-up beyond the baseline (required) elements. The complete DTBook Element Set reflects the tags necessary to create the six types of Digital Talking Books and Braille output. Because of the present necessity to subdivide the creation of alternate format materials into distinct phases, the Panel determined that baseline elements would be provided by publishers, and optional elements would be added to the NIMAS-conformant files by third-party conversion entities. In both circumstances the protocols for tagging digital files should conform to the most current DAISY/NISO Z39.86 specification. Content converters are directed to the most current DAISY Structure Guidelines ( for guidance on their use.

Since the publication of the original National File Format report from which the NIMAS technical specifications were derived, ANSI/NISO Z39.86-2002 was updated and is now DAISY/NISO Z39.86-2005. It may be best to avoid using the following optional elements which are no longer included in DAISY/NISO Z39.86-2005: <style>, <notice>, <hr>, and <levelhd>.

Also, the following new elements were introduced by DAISY/NISO Z39.86-2005 and should be considered optional elements for the NIMAS: <bridgehead>, <byline>, <covertitle>, <dateline>, <epigraph>, <linegroup>, and <poem>. Please refer to DAISY/NISO Z39.86-2005 for additional information regarding these elements. To access the DAISY/NISO Z39.86-2005 specification, go to

Package File

A package file describes a publication. It identifies all other files in the publication and provides descriptive and access information about them. A publication must include a package file conforming to the NIMAS. The package file is based on the Open eBook Publication Structure 1.2 package file specification (For most recent detail please see A NIMAS package file must be a valid XML OeBPS 1.2 package file instance and must meet the following additional standards:

Annotation: A typo was corrected in the wording of this section of the Standard to clarify that a NIMAS OPF file must be a valid XML OeBPS 1.2 package file.

Annotation: NIMAS package files must also conform to NIMAC metadata requirements. (The NIMAC had not yet established their specific metadata requirements when the Standard was first published.)

The NIMAS Package File must include the following Dublin Core (dc:) metadata:

  • dc:Title
  • dc:Creator (if applicable)
  • dc:Publisher
  • dc:Date (Date of NIMAS-compliant file creation—yyyy-mm-dd)
  • dc:Format (="NIMAS 1.1")
  • dc:Identifier (a unique identifier for the NIMAS-compliant digital publication, e.g., print ISBN + "-NIMAS"—exact format to be determined)
  • dc:Language (one instance, or multiple in the case of a foreign language textbook, etc.)
  • dc:Rights (details to be determined)
  • dc:Source (ISBN of print version of textbook)

Annotation: A typo was corrected to show that the current specification is NIMAS 1.1, not NIMAS 1.0, and a typo was corrected to add a missing space.

Annotation: The precise format of the dc: Identifier metadata element had not yet been established when the Standard was first published. The example here provides a practical model.

<dc: Indentifier> exact format has been determined as follows:
<dc:Identifier id="id">
where the zeroes are the print work's ISBN followed by the text "NIMAS" without punctuation.

And the following x-metadata items:

  • nimas-SourceEdition (the edition of the print textbook)
  • nimas-SourceDate (date of publication of the print textbook)

The following metadata were proposed also as a means of facilitating recordkeeping, storage, and file retrieval:

  • dc:Subject (Language Arts, Social Studies, etc.)
  • nimas-grade (specific grade level of the print textbook, e.g.; Grade 6)
  • nimas gradeRange (specific grade range of the print textbook, e.g.; Grades 4–5)

Annotation: For NIMAC repository submissions, provide PDF-format pages of a print work's title page(s) and copyright/ISBN page(s). The NIMAC has determined in practice that a work's title page(s) information is/are needed in addition to copyright/ISBN page(s) when copyright/ISBN information appears elsewhere within a work.

Annotation: As the Standard has moved foward to implementation, questions have arisen regarding metadata element content when an ISBN is not present in a print work. The following alternative unique identification information and its use and mark-up has been determined:

Use a work's UPC code, only for items without ISBN information, in <dc: Identifier> (do not use <dc: Source> for UPC information) in the following format: UPC123456NIMAS

An additional suggestion references the use of—

  • dc:audience:educationLevel (for the grade and gradeRange identifiers, noting that Dublin Core recommends using educationLevel with an appropriate controlled vocabulary for context, and recommends the U.S. Department of Education's Level of Education vocabulary. Using educationLevel obviates the need for a separate field for gradeRange since dc elements can repeat more than once. A book used in more than one grade would therefore have two elements, for example, one with a value of "Grade 4" and another with a value of "Grade 5."

A final determination as to which of these specific metadata elements to use needs to be clarified in practice. The package manifest must list all provided files (text, images, etc.). (Note: For purposes of continuity and to minimize errors in transformation and processing, the NIMAS-compliant digital text should be provided as a single document.)

Annotation: Metadata in NIMAS filesets are in the process of being determined via practice and consensus of the NIMAS Technical Sub-Committee. One item determined since original publication of the Standard is the correct MIME type format to use in NIMAS package files, as the use of established MIME types in OPF files is required for NIMAS fileset package files. The correct types for the most-commonly used formats are as follows:
XML: "media-type="application/x-dtbook+xml"
PDF: "media-type="application/pdf"
images: "media-type="image/jpeg", "media-type="image/svg+xml", "media-type= "image/png"

3. Modular Extensions

The most current DAISY/NISO standard, formally the DAISY/NISO Z39.86, Specifications for the Digital Talking Book defines a comprehensive system for creating Digital Talking Books. A part of this standard is DTBook, an XML vocabulary that provides a core set of elements needed to produce most types of books. However, DTBook is not intended to be an exhaustive vocabulary for all types of books.

Guidelines for the correct approach to extend the DAISY/NISO standard have been established. Mathematics, video support, testing, workbooks, music, dictionaries, chemistry, and searching are some of the extensions that have been discussed. Visit to learn more about modular extensions.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Federal law governing rights of children with disabilities to receive free and appropriate public education in least restrictive environment.

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National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)

A technical standard used to produce XML-based source files for print-based educational materials.

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Print Instructional Materials

Printed materials written and published for use in elementary and secondary school instruction, required by a SEA or LEA for use by students in classroom.

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Blind or Other Persons with Print Disabilities

Eligible students must qualify under IDEA and the 1931 Act to receive books and publications produced in specialized formats.

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XML (EXtensible Markup Language)

Universal format for structured documents and data. Set of rules, guidelines, and conventions for designing text formats for data.

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PDF (Portable Document Format)

Universal computer file type used to exchange and view documents on any computer with Adobe Acrobat or Foxit Reader software installed.

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International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

Unique book identifier used to identify particular book title, edition, publisher, and geographic group of origin.

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Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY)

Technical standard for producing accessible and navigable multimedia documents.

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National Information Standards Organization (NISO)

United States committee working on a specification for Digital Talking Books and much more.

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Digital Talking Book (DTB)

Digitally encoded files containing audio portions and full text to increase quality and availability of information to print-disabled persons.

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Document Type Definition (DTD)

Discrete set of XML tags, targeted at a particular type of application.

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XML element set defining markup for textual content of a Digital Talking Book.

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One or more pieces of descriptive information about data.

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Prodnote (Producer's Note)

Information added to Digital Talking Book to provide descriptions, supply operating instructions, or describe differences between print and audio.

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NIMAS-conformant files

XML files valid to the NIMAS technical specification used to create accessible specialized formats of print-based instructional materials.

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Format and content of an electronic fileset, comprising a digital talking book and requirements for playback devices.

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Electronic version of a book.

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National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC)

Central national repository established at American Printing House for the Blind to store, validate, maintain and disseminate NIMAS filesets.

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Digital Text

Published material retrieved and read via a computer.

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