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Eligibility for NIMAS-Sourced Specialized Formats


Note: The content on this page is offered as historical information. An update is forthcoming. See OSEP Clarifies NIMAS Eligibility for more information.

In a significant step forward for the rights of disabled students in the classroom, the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) offers blind or print-disabled students the opportunity for timely access to instructional materials. Whether students require Braille, audio, or digital text, NIMAS provides the standard from which these specialized formats can be created. Though accessible, student-ready versions of instructional materials may benefit many different types of learners, not all students qualify for specialized format materials created from NIMAS source files. There does not seem to be any dispute that students who are blind or otherwise visually impaired qualify for these materials, but there continues to be confusion and debate regarding the definition of students who are "print disabled."

the NIMAS-related sections of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, State Education Agencies (SEAs) and/or Local Education Agencies (LEAs) "will provide instructional materials to blind persons or other persons with print disabilities in a timely manner" (Part B, Sec. 612(a)(23)(B) and Sec. 613(a)(6)(B)). Part D, Sec. 674(e)(3)(A) of the same act refers to the Library of Congress regulations (36 CFR 701.6(b)(1)) related to An Act to Provide Books for the Adult Blind (approved March 3, 1931, 2 U.S.C. 135a) to provide a definition for "blind or other persons with print disabilities." 1 This act allowed the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), an agency of the Library of Congress, to provide alternate format books to eligible persons through the Talking Book program. This program was further strengthened by Public Law 104-197 in 1996 (a.k.a. the Chafee Amendment—an exemption to copyright law as put forward by the U.S. Copyright Office, also an agent of the Library of Congress) allowing authorized entities, such as the NLS, to reproduce and distribute books in alternate formats to "blind or other persons with disabilities."

The NLS has attempted to address the issue of defining who qualifies for specialized-format materials in the Frequently Asked Questions section of their web site. In order for students with print disabilities, including reading disabilities such as dyslexia, to qualify for the Talking Book Program through the NLS, they must be certified as having a physically-based disability through a physician or doctor of osteopathy. In the NLS Factsheet on Talking Books and Reading Disabilities, applicants for the program who seek documentation of a physically-based reading disability must establish that the disability is sufficiently severe, based in organic dysfunction, and that the person certifying them as reading-disabled due to organic dysfunction must be a doctor of medicine or a doctor of osteopathy.


1. The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) NIMAS Regulations Summary refers to the Library of Congress regulations and identifies these individuals as: "(i) Blind persons whose visual acuity, as determined by competent authority, is 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting glasses, or whose widest diameter if visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees. (ii) Persons whose visual disability, with correction and regardless of optical measurement, is certified by competent authority as preventing the reading of standard printed material. (iii) Persons certified by competent authority as unable to read or unable to use standard printed material as a result of physical limitations. (iv) Persons certified by competent authority as having a reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction and of sufficient severity to prevent their reading printed material in a normal manner."

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

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Digital Text

Published material retrieved and read via a computer.

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Local Education Agency (LEA)

Agency legally authorized to provide administrative control or direction of publically funded schools.

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Print Disability

Blindness or other disability that prevents the effective use of printed materials.

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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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Chafee Amendment

Copyright Law Amendment allowing authorized entities to reproduce previously published work for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.

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Authorized Entity

Non-profit organization or governmental agency with primary mission to provide specialized services to blind or other persons with disabilities.

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Organic Dysfunction

Reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction establishes eligibility under Chafee Amendment for specialized formats.

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Physical Limitation

Disability preventing an individual from using standard print material establishes eligibility under Chafee Amendment for specialized format.

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