Florida State Story
Florida has a coordinated system of IDEA discretionary grant projects to support the availability and use of appropriate, high-quality accessible materials and technologies throughout the state. The NIMAS Florida service is part of the Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Impaired (FIMC-VI) and it serves as a statewide accessible media producer (AMP) for all students who are eligible for NIMAS related services. The NIMAS Florida service also maintains a network of digital rights managers in all school districts to ensure the timely request and provision of instructional materials in specialized formats, including coordination with accessible media producers Bookshare and Learning Ally. The latter is funded as a discretionary grant project through the state’s Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services. While initial efforts in the state focused on NIMAS and the adoption of specialized formats required under the IDEA statute, a long term goal is to expand the understanding of AEM beyond specialized formats through the careful consideration of student need regardless of format.
Technical Assistance and Professional Development
Technical assistance and professional development (Quality Indicator 3) to accomplish the stated goals are provided through a network of service providers:
- The Problem Solving/Response to Intervention Project provides support for learners with disabilities in general. The Technology and Learning Connections Team, which is a part of the PS/RtI Project, supports Local Assistive Technology Specialists and Regional Local Assistive Technology Specialists who provide support and training on AEM.
- The Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System (FDLRS) provides support on topics such as accommodations, assistive technology, and accessible educational materials.
- The Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Impaired provides more targeted support for students who are blind or have visual impairments.
- The Resource Materials and Technology Center for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing provides more targeted support for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- The Bureau of Exceptional Student Services at the state Department of Education coordinates a statewide online Assistive Technology & Universal Design for Learning (AT & UDL) Loan Library that provides information and resources related to the selection and acquisition of accessible technologies through multiple state and federally supported discretionary projects and through a network of Local Assistive Technology Specialists who serve all Florida LEAs.
On the availability side, the Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services and the Bureau of Standards and Instructional Support have developed a Universal Design for Learning Publishers Rubric that districts can use to assess the accessibility and transformability of instructional materials. A version has also been made available to school districts to guide instructional materials acquisition.
With regard to data collection (Quality Indicators 5 and 6), the FIMC-VI tracks student registrations to identify districts that are statistically under or over identifying students with visual impairments. FIMC-VI then offers technical assistance and/or professional development to the identified districts. Student registration data is also used to inform the ordering of accessible educational materials in order to improve timely delivery. FIMC-VI also tracks registrations for digital rights managers and offers follow-up to districts that do not submit annual DRM registrations. Finally, it also collects data on vendors that provide materials in a timely manner, and it uses data to improve its in-house production of braille and large print materials.
The ultimate goal for this coordinated system of supports is to build student self-advocacy and self-determination.
Recommendations to Other States
Continue to network and be open to learning from what others have done in order to develop the most effective policies and procedures. Along with monthly phone calls with other Best Practice cohort states, Florida takes advantage of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference held in Orlando each year as an opportunity to network and learn from others in the field.
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.View in glossary
Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.View in glossary
Accessible Media Producers (AMPs)
Produced specialized formats of instructional materials for use by blind or other persons with print disabilities.View in glossary
National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)
A technical standard used to produce XML-based source files for print-based educational materials.View in glossary
Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)
Print- and technology-based educational materials designed to be usable across the widest range of individual variability.View in glossary
Technology that can be used by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Incorporates the principles of universal design.View in glossary
Local Education Agency (LEA)
Agency legally authorized to provide administrative control or direction of publically funded schools.View in glossary
Access for all people, including people with disabilities, to web environments.View in glossary
Digital Rights Management (DRM)
Authorizing technologies implemented by rights holders and publishers to limit the distribution and use of proprietary content.View in glossary
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.View in glossary
Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA)
Non-profit membership organization of manufacturers, sellers, and providers of technology-based assistive devices and services.View in glossary