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Quality Indicators with Critical Components for Early Childhood

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The Critical Components for the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials and Accessible Technologies for Early Childhood, Version 1 (November 2020) include actionable language specific to an Early Childhood audience. For more information on how to use the quality indicators and critical components and how they were developed, see the Preface to the Quality Indicators.

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Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)

Print- and technology-based educational materials designed to be usable across the widest range of individual variability.

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Accessible Technology

Technology that can be used by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Incorporates the principles of universal design.

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Critical Components for Quality Indicator 1

A Coordinated System

Statement: The state has a coordinated system for the provision of high-quality accessible materials and technologies for preschool aged children receiving special education and related services under Part B of the IDEA.

Intent: Access for children with disabilities is built into the design of inclusive social and learning activities, including those that have print or text-based material, digital material, and technology. A coordinated system for the provision of such accessible materials and technologies is created and sustained by a state level cross-sector leadership team in collaboration with local programs and families.

To effectively address Quality Indicator 1, the following components should be present: 

1.1. Strategic collaborations for creating and sustaining a coordinated system for providing accessible materials and technologies

1.2. A means for ensuring that digital materials and technologies purchased or created for use by all children are accessible 

1.3. A means for ensuring that accessible formats of print and text-based materials are provided for children who need them, with appropriate copyright protection

  • Some children with disabilities have difficulty using print and text-based materials because these formats present physical, sensory, or perceptual barriers for them. Under criteria set by the National Library Service (NLS), eligible children can receive accessible formats of materials under copyright (e.g., braille, large print, digital text, or audio formats of a storybook). Additionally, the IDEA created the NIMAC, which facilitates acquisition of accessible formats for eligible children who also receive special education services. This combination of copyright and special education law results in sources of accessible materials based on eligibility:
    • Accessible formats sourced from files obtained through the NIMAC for children who meet the NLS definition of eligible person and are also served under IDEA
    • Accessible formats acquired from restricted libraries such as Bookshare, American Printing House (APH), and Learning Ally for children who meet the eligibility requirements of the specific library
    • Accessible formats acquired from the publisher/manufacturer for an individual child who meets the NLS definition of eligible person
    • Accessible formats purchased from the publisher/manufacturer for any child
    • Accessible formats curated from copyright-free sources, such as open libraries on the internet, for any child

Critical Components for Quality Indicator 2

Technology

Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.

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Digital Text

Published material retrieved and read via a computer.

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Audio

Digital form or representation of a sound which may be used for non-visual access to text and images.

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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 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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Provision in a Timely Manner 

Statement: High-quality accessible materials and technologies needed for the full participation of preschool aged children receiving special education and related services under Part B of the IDEA are acquired and provided in a timely manner.

Intent: In general, “timely manner” means children who require accessible materials and technologies receive them at the same time that materials and technologies are distributed to all children. For example, if a child needs a braille version of a book to participate in a reading activity, that accessible format is provided at the same time other children receive their books. Attention is given to identify and address factors that could delay timely delivery.

To effectively address Quality Indicator 2, the following components should be present: 

2.1. A state definition of timely manner

2.2. Strategic collaborations for timely delivery of accessible materials and technologies

  • The cross-sector leadership team described in Critical Component 1.1 facilitates strategic collaborations for ensuring timely manner. Examples include:
    • State special education leadership personnel communicate the state’s definition of timely manner to LEAs and the early childhood programs within them, as well as other agencies and programs that provide IEP services and least restrictive environment for children with disabilities (e.g., Head Start and community partners).
    • Part C to Part B transition services personnel consult with families in the consideration of accessible materials and technologies in a child's IEP. When it is determined that a child needs accessible materials and technologies as part of their education program, a plan for timely provision is made.
    • Local assistive technology and educational technology personnel collaborate to ensure that the most accessible versions of digital materials and learning technologies are selected for use by all children, including children with disabilities.
    • Local programs coordinate with accessible media producers (AMPs), including Bookshare and the State Instructional Materials Center (IMC), to ensure timely delivery of accessible formats for children who need them.

2.3. Multiple means for timely delivery

  • Examples of actions that can be taken at the State and local level to optimize timely delivery:
    • Proactive planning for inclusive learning and social activities includes procuring or creating accessible materials and technologies that may be needed by children with disabilities
    • Procuring the most high-quality and accessible digital materials and technologies that are available for purchase
    • Creating organizational accounts with AMPs, such as Bookshare and Learning Ally
    • Identifying and correcting delays in timely manner when they happen

Critical Components for Quality Indicator 3

Written Guidelines 

Statement: The state develops and implements written guidelines on the provision and use of high-quality accessible materials and technologies for preschool aged children receiving special education and related services under Part B of the IDEA, and provides them to all stakeholders.

Intent: Guidelines, informed by federal, state, and local policy, document the roles and responsibilities for timely provision and use of high-quality accessible materials and technologies. Guidelines are communicated in multiple formats and broadly disseminated to ensure that all responsible parties can understand and apply them.

To effectively address Quality Indicator 3, the following components should be present: 

3.1. Guidelines that specify laws, policies, and plans relevant to the provision and use of accessible materials and technologies, including assessment, in early childhood programs

  • Relevant federal laws and policies that can be referenced in state and local guidelines related to the provision and use of accessible materials and technologies for preschoolers served under Part B
  • Relevant state guidelines, standards, and plans 

3.2. Guidelines for procuring accessible digital materials and technologies for all children in early childhood programs

3.3. Guidelines for decision-making processes for providing accessible formats of curriculum materials for children who need them

3.4. Guidelines that delineate roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders

  • Roles and responsibilities should be identified for all areas related to the timely provision of accessible materials and technologies in early childhood programs. Examples include:
    • In the decision making process of a child’s need for accessible materials and technologies, the responsibilities of each team member, including parents and caregivers and outside service providers.
    • In the acquisition of accessible formats for children who need them, the responsibilities of the personnel who will coordinate with accessible media producers such as the state IMC, Bookshare, APH, and Learning Ally.
    • In the training of personnel, families, and children on the use of accessible materials and technologies, the responsibilities of qualified training providers. Guidelines for determining appropriate settings for trainings should also be provided.
    • In the procurement of accessible materials and technologies at the state and local levels, the responsibilities of the personnel assigned to evaluate materials and technologies for accessibility, communicate with publishers and vendors, and ensure that required accessibility language is included in purchase agreements.
  • In addition to providing guidelines, an agency may consider including responsibilities related to the timely provision of accessible materials and technologies within job descriptions.

3.5. Guidelines that are made available in multiple formats and widely disseminated through varied means to reach all stakeholders

  • Examples of formats for conveying guidelines:
    • Print
    • Large print
    • Accessible digital text
    • Closed-captioned and audio described video
    • Audio with transcript
    • Braille
  • Examples of varied means for disseminating guidelines to personnel, families, and the community:
    • State and district websites
    • State and district education technology plans
    • Reference cards
    • Infographics
    • Pamphlets
    • Handouts
    • Email

Critical Components for Quality Indicator 4

Accessibility Standards

Current or revised electronic and information technology accessibility standards developed under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

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Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)

Print-based educational materials converted into specialized formats, related to the requirements of the IDEA statute.

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LRE (Least Restrictive Environment)

To the maximum extent possible, each identified child with special needs, shall be educated with children who are not disabled.

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Accessible Media Producers (AMPs)

Produced specialized formats of instructional materials for use by blind or other persons with print disabilities.

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American Printing House for the Blind (APH)

Largest non-profit organization creating products and services for people who are visually impaired.

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Learning Opportunities and Technical Assistance  

Statement: The state and local programs provide or arrange for comprehensive learning opportunities and technical assistance (TA) that address all areas of the provision and use of high-quality accessible materials and technologies for preschool aged children receiving special education and related services under Part B of the IDEA.

Intent: Comprehensive learning opportunities and TA are ongoing, draw from multiple sources, and are offered in different forms that benefit children and their families, personnel, and the community.

To effectively address Quality Indicator 4, the following components should be present: 

4.1. Content that is targeted at the differentiated roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders  

  • In identifying content, the needs of all stakeholders are systematically addressed, including but not limited to: 
    • Children with disabilities and their families who need to know the process for receiving accessible materials and how to use them with related assistive technology (AT) at school, home, and in the community
    • General and special education teachers who need to collaborate on supporting children with disabilities in using accessible materials and technologies for full participation, independence, and progress in natural, inclusive, and routines-based environments
    • Paraprofessionals who need to know how to provide direct support to children who use accessible materials with related AT
    • Related services personnel (e.g., OTs, PTs, SLPs) who need to know how to evaluate and monitor the use of accessible materials and AT by children who need them
    • Transition coordinators who need to ensure that children who use accessible materials and technologies experience continuity of services as they transition to new settings
    • Educational technology/digital learning and AT personnel who need to collaborate on ensuring a robust technology infrastructure that supports interoperability with AT 
    • Procurement/purchasing decision makers who need to know how to communicate accessibility requirements to vendors, both orally and in written contracts and purchase agreements 

4.2. Learning opportunities and TA that are designed and delivered using evidence-based practices.

  • Examples of evidence-based practices include those that 
    • Are job-embedded for personnel. 
    • Are learning-, home-, and community-embedded for children and their families.
    • Address learner variability, including the accessibility of the training and TA materials (e.g., using the Universal Design for Learning framework).
    • Build upon state and local initiatives for improving teaching and learning with technology in multiple settings (e.g., in-person, hybrid, or remote).
    • Engage families as essential partners, including ways that individualize supports for families of children who need accessible materials and technologies.
    • Are informed by data collection and use (see Quality Indicators 5 & 6).

4.3. Use of federally-, state-, and locally-funded sources of high-quality content, training, and TA

Critical Components for Quality Indicator 5

Accessibility

Access for all people, including people with disabilities, to web environments.

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Data Collection 

Statement: The state and local programs use a secure, systematic data collection process to monitor and evaluate the equitable, timely provision and use of high-quality accessible materials and technologies for preschool aged children receiving special education and related services under Part B of the IDEA.

Intent: While protecting children’s privacy, data collection processes target all areas of the provision and use of accessible materials and technologies, including the risk of disproportionality in the disabilities and demographics of children being served. Any state quality assurance process that addresses the provision of services and supports for children with disabilities in inclusive settings includes data collection activities related to the provision and use of accessible materials and technologies.


 

To effectively address Quality Indicator 5, the following components should be present: 

5.1. Methods for collecting data on the procurement of accessible digital materials and learning technologies for use by all children

  • Ongoing inventory of digital materials and learning technologies that comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the applicable version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) at level AA
  • Ongoing inventory of digital materials and learning technologies that do not comply with Section 508 and the applicable version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) at level AA
  • Ongoing record of communications with vendors regarding product accessibility

5.2. Methods for securely collecting data on the extent to which children who need them receive high-quality accessible formats of materials, including assessments, in a timely manner 

  • Tracking and recording the timely delivery of accessible materials for children with disabilities who need them
  • Inspecting and recording the quality of accessible materials received by those children 

5.3. Methods for securely collecting data on the extent to which children who need them effectively use accessible formats of materials 

  • Observing and recording the use of accessible formats of materials in all settings where they are needed (e.g., learning, play, home, and community)
  • Surveying families about the quality of their children’s experience with using accessible formats of materials and related assistive technology (AT)

5.4. Methods for securely collecting data on the proportion of children across disability and demographic categories that are receiving accessible formats of materials, and that an appropriate range of formats are being provided to those children

Critical Components for Quality Indicator 6

Section 504

Prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. Written 504 plan used to guide provision of instructional services.

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Data Use 

Statement: The state and local programs have a plan for the secure use of data to guide changes for continuous improvement in all areas of the systemic provision and use of high-quality accessible materials and technologies for preschool aged children receiving special education and related services under Part B of the IDEA.   

Intent: While protecting children’s privacy, data are systematically analyzed to measure effectiveness of all areas of the system and are used to inform actions needed to improve practice, program planning, and resource allocation.

To effectively address Quality Indicator 6, the following components should be present: 

6.1. Analysis of procurement data (Critical Component 5.1) to monitor practices for ensuring digital material and technology accessibility in contracts, purchase agreements, and in communications with vendors

  • Data are used to increase the proportion and range of market-available accessible digital materials and technologies procured by the state and local programs.

6.2. Analysis of timely manner and quality data (Critical Component 5.2) to monitor the efficiency with which high-quality accessible formats of materials are provided to children who need them

  • Data are used to identify and correct delays in timely manner and/or technical issues with the quality of accessible formats provided to children. 

6.3. Analysis of use data (Critical Component 5.3) to monitor the effectiveness with which children who need accessible formats use the materials provided

  • Data are used to identify and correct problems that children may experience when using accessible formats of materials, such as environmental issues or lack of training to use the related assistive technology (AT).  

6.4 Analysis of demographic and disability category data (Critical Component 5.4) to monitor the representation of children receiving accessible formats of materials, and the ranges of those formats.

  • Data are used to prevent disproportionality of children identified as needing accessible formats of materials, and to ensure that an appropriate range of types and sources of accessible formats are being acquired.

6.5. A means for local programs to consider a child’s need for accessible materials and technologies when analyzing IDEA Section 618 data.

  • Examples of considerations when analyzing Section 618 data include:
    • For a child who is not making expected progress in language and communication, emergent literacy reading, emergent literacy writing, or mathematics, a team considers whether the formats of the materials or the design of the learning tools, including those used for assessment, are presenting functional barriers, such as physical, sensory, or perceptual.
    • For a child presenting behavioral challenges, a team considers whether functional barriers to materials used for social and learning activities are interfering with access and, thereby, interfering with efforts to promote Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS).

6.6. A systematic approach that supports effective data analysis and use

  • Parts of a systematic approach include:
    • Training for personnel conducting analyses to ensure accuracy and consistency
    • Alignment of analyses with purposes of the quantitative and qualitative data collected
    • Methods that protect the identity of children and their families
    • Timelines for implementation of data driven decisions
    • Identification of targeted audiences with whom aggregated summaries of the data analysis will be shared

6.7. A team consisting of state and local personnel with the combined expertise and authority to synthesize the data, make recommendations, and implement necessary changes 

  • Examples of relevant personnel from both state and local programs include:
    • Administrators who can convene the appropriate personnel and allocate necessary resources
    • General and special education teachers who can interpret the data on behalf of instructional staff
    • Related services personnel who can interpret the data on behalf of therapists
    • Data managers who can address the alignment and integration of the data with other data collected by the state and programs
    • Multicultural/multilingual personnel who can interpret the data from the perspective of the risks of disproportionality
    • Educational technology/digital learning and AT personnel who can interpret the data from the perspective of the need for a robust infrastructure for accessibility and the goal of an inclusive technology ecosystem

6.8. Dissemination of aggregated summaries of data analysis results to all stakeholders, in user-friendly formats

  • Examples of targeted audiences include:
    • Families, who need to be assured that all measures are being taken for timely delivery of consistently high-quality accessible materials and technologies for their children
    • State Instructional Materials Center (IMC), which can use the data to improve its conversion and delivery services
    • State AT Program, which can use the data to inform its training, technical assistance, and other services for state agencies and local programs
    • All program personnel with roles and responsibilities in the provision and use of accessible materials and technologies, for whom the data will inform continuous improvement in practice

Critical Components for Quality Indicator 7

Resource Allocation 

Statement: The state and local programs allocate resources sufficient to ensure the delivery and sustainability of quality services to preschool aged children under Part B of the IDEA who need accessible materials and technologies, as well as their families.

Intent: Sufficient fiscal, human, and infrastructure resources are committed to ensure that the needs of children and their families are effectively met.

To effectively address Quality Indicator 7, the following components should be present: 

7.1. Resources that are provided for human, fiscal, and infrastructure needs

  • Examples include:
    • Coordinating and braiding of funds as permitted (e.g., IDEA and ESSA funds)
    • Training and technical assistance informed by local program needs (e.g., self-assessments completed by personnel and families)
    • Supporting an inclusive technology infrastructure at the local level (e.g., the purchase and maintenance of digital materials and technologies that are interoperable with assistive technology)

7.2. Resources that are used to address the needs of all stakeholders, including all children being served and their families