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NIMAS FAQ

Updated 3/20/14

NIMAS & NIMAC

The NIMAC—Central Repository for NIMAS Filesets

SEA and LEA Requirements

Schedule for Implementation

Provision of Accessible Instructional Materials to Students

Additional Information

Answers: NIMAS & NIMAC

What do the acronyms "NIMAS" and "NIMAC" mean?

NIMAS is the acronym for the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard. NIMAC is the acronym for the National Instructional Materials Access Center.

What are "coordinating agencies" and other frequently used terms?

What are the NIMAS and NIMAC highlights within IDEA-2004?

  • State Education Agencies (SEAs) must adopt the NIMAS (by 12/3/06).
  • SEAs will collaborate with state agencies responsible for AT programs.
  • The National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) is established.
  • The NIMAC will establish procedures for downloading publisher-provided files by agencies authorized to develop specialized formats.
  • State and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) will opt in or out of the NIMAC.
  • SEAs and LEAs that opt in will require that publishers submit NIMAS-conforming filesets to the NIMAC.
  • SEAs and LEAs that opt out will be responsible for ensuring that blind and other persons with disabilities receive specialized versions of print materials in a timely manner.
  • Copyright protections are provided to publishers when submitting electronic files to the NIMAC and when a publisher may lack electronic rights but possess print rights.
  • Large print has been added to the list of qualifying student-ready versions covered under the Chafee copyright exemption for the development and delivery of accessible instructional materials to students with print disabilities. The other versions are Braille, audio, and digital formats.

What are NIMAS-conformant files?

The NIMAS outlines a set of consistent and valid XML-based source files created by K–12 curriculum publishers or other content producers. These well-structured source files can be used to create accessible specialized formats (i.e., Braille, audio, digital, large-print, etc.) of print instructional materials. The full set of files includes XML content files, a package file, images, and a PDF file of the title page (or whichever page contains ISBN and copyright information).

Will schools, classrooms, and students use NIMAS-conformant source files directly?

That outcome is not intended. In the majority of circumstances, NIMAS-conformant source files will not be distributed at the classroom, school, or even district level, since these files require additional enhancements to make them appropriate for student use. Most SEAs and LEAs will need to designate an authorized user.

Why are the NIMAS and the NIMAC necessary?

Having consistent and high-quality source files available from a central repository will improve the quality and timely delivery of these materials to qualified students.

What curriculum materials are covered by the NIMAS?

IDEA 2004 indicates that the term "print instructional materials" includes printed textbooks and related printed core materials that are written and published primarily for use in elementary school and secondary school instruction, and are required by a SEA or LEA for use by students in the classroom.

The NIMAC carries out its responsibilities for those instructional materials that are made available by publishers for use in elementary and secondary classrooms after the date the NIMAS technical specification is posted to the Federal Register. Some publishers may, however, voluntarily include earlier editions.

What will happen if a publisher does not hold the electronic rights for all of the content contained in instructional materials?

As long as a publisher possesses print rights, the material is needed by an SEA or LEA, and the files will be used to produce Braille, large-print, audio, or digital text for blind or other persons with print disabilities, the publishers are given an exemption to copyright law to facilitate the transfer of NIMAS-conformant files directly to the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC). This copyright protection applies only to the files provided to the NIMAC and not, for example, to files that may be provided directly to SEAs and LEAs.

Why does the Association of American Publishers support NIMAS?

When NIMAS filesets are provided to the NIMAC by publishers and then used for the preparation of accessible student-ready versions, the need to create multiple digital formats of each textbook and deliver them to various agencies will be significantly reduced. Publishers will produce each text in a single file format and deliver it to one location—the NIMAC—for distribution to authorized entities and for further enhancement by authorized users.

Who is required to adopt the NIMAS?

SEAs are required to adopt the NIMAS. Although the term "adopt" is not defined by the statute, it is generally understood to mean that these agencies will commit to improving the systems most likely to ensure that students with print disabilities will receive the accessible specialized formats they need in a timely manner. The specification is but one part of a system.

Answers: The NIMAC—Central Repository for NIMAS Filesets

What is the NIMAC and what will it do?

The NIMAC is a central national repository established at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) that will contain NIMAS filesets. It will feature an automated system for allowing publishers to deposit NIMAS-conformant files within the repository. The files will be checked to confirm that they are valid NIMAS-conformant files, and the files will be cataloged in a web-based database. Those who have been authorized for access will have user identifications and passwords. These authorized users will be able to search the NIMAC database and download directly the file(s) they need to convert to accessible instructional materials for those students who are in elementary and secondary schools and have qualifying disabilities.

What does it mean for an SEA or LEA to opt out of the NIMAC?

SEAs and LEAs are not required to coordinate with the NIMAC. If they choose to opt out, state or local education agencies will be required to provide assurances that students with print disabilities will receive high-quality accessible materials in a timely manner.

What are the advantages of opting in to the NIMAC?

It is recommended that all SEAs and LEAs opt into the NIMAC in order facilitate the development of a production and delivery infrastructure that is cost effective, efficient, and appropriate to the needs of students with print disabilities throughout the United States.

In many cases, a state's current practices will not be changed. One small difference is that LEAs that contract for the purchase of core curriculum materials will require that publishers submit those same materials to the NIMAC as a NIMAS-conformant fileset. Textbook adoption states would impose the same requirement on publishers when such materials are accepted or purchased under an adoption contract.

Coordinating with the NIMAC will—

  • provide instructional materials options beyond those currently available: a larger selection of options to choose from and a wide range of alternate formats;
  • maximize the availability and effectiveness of student-ready versions created by authorized entities;
  • support copyright indemnification for publishers, SEAs, and LEAs;
  • provide economies of scale;
  • result in higher quality content (since source files will be provided by publishers);
  • eliminate duplication of efforts by providing access to a centralized database;
  • facilitate the development of a national database of student-ready accessible versions created by authorized entities; and
  • provide these benefits without interrupting existing systems that already serve students (the statute does not indicate that opting in is an exclusive choice that would change current best practices for a limited number of large adoption states. Over time, these systems are likely to merge in ways that improve the production and delivery of accessible materials).

Why would any state or local education agency choose not to opt in?

An SEA or LEA might not understand how submissions to the NIMAC will benefit students with print disabilities throughout the United States. Some may fear that they will put themselves at risk in some way that they don't yet understand or may feel that the NIMAS will confuse or complicate existing practices. A few states have existing accessible materials legislation. These states are not prevented from implementing existing practices unless they would interfere with the timely delivery of accessible materials to students with print disabilities (part B, sec. 612(a)(23)(A) and (B)). The NIMAS Development Committee urges all SEAs and LEAs to opt in to the NIMAC.

How will SEAs and LEAs work with the NIMAC?

To coordinate with the national repository, SEAs and/or LEAs will—

  • officially choose to act as a coordinating agency with the NIMAC,
  • include language in contracts with publishers directing them to send NIMAS-conformant files of elementary and secondary school textbooks and related core print instructional materials to the NIMAC,
  • identify authorized users who may obtain files directly from the NIMAC,
  • arrange to have files converted to accessible textbooks by using their own resources or contracting with others, and
  • be encouraged to share information about the availability of textbooks in accessible format through APH's LOUIS Database of Accessible Materials for People who are Blind or Visually Impaired in order to avoid duplication of effort.

We encourage SEAs to serve as a conduit between LEAs and the NIMAC.

Answers: SEA and LEA Requirements

What will be required of state and local education agencies?

In addition to ensuring that all print-disabled students receive appropriate accessible versions of core curriculum materials in a timely manner, SEAs and LEAs will play an important role in obligating publishers to submit essential source materials to the NIMAC. This will be accomplished by contract or by including appropriate language in purchase orders that require publishers to submit NIMAS-conformant files to the NIMAC, or provide assurances that they have already done so, for a specific title and version that is to be purchased.

Please note that, in a letter dated June 22, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education encouraged SEAs and LEAs to ask publishers to also use the MathML3 Structure Guidelines recommended by the NIMAS Center, stating that these guidelines reflect the most effective method of providing accessible print instructional materials involving mathematical and scientific content to students who are blind or with print disabilities and do not conflict with the minimum requirements in the NIMAS.

A sample statement that could be included in a contract or purchase order follows:

National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)

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

View in glossary

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.

View in glossary

Local Education Agency (LEA)

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

View in glossary

NIMAS-conformant files

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

View in glossary

Coordinating Agencies

State and local agencies who coordinate with the NIMAC by directing publishers to provide NIMAS-conformant files to the NIMAC.

View in glossary

Authorized Entity

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

View in glossary

Audio

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

View in glossary

Digital Text

Published material retrieved and read via a computer.

View in glossary

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.

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

Authorized User

Agent of a coordinating agency with access to the NIMAC database to download NIMAS-conformant files.

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

Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)

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

View in glossary

XML (EXtensible Markup Language)

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

View in glossary

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.

View in glossary

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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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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American Printing House for the Blind (APH)

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

View in glossary

Sample Language for Adoption Contracts and LEA Purchase Orders

By agreeing to deliver the materials marked with "NIMAS" on this contract or purchase order, the publisher agrees to prepare and submit, on or before ___/___/_____ a NIMAS file set to the NIMAC that complies with the terms and procedures set forth by the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC), (IDEA Title I, Part D, sec. 674(e)). The publisher also agrees to mark up materials eligible for NIMAS submission that contain mathematical and scientific instructional content by using the MathML3 (refer to latest applicable version) module of the DAISY/NIMAS Structure Guidelines as posted and maintained at the DAISY Consortium web site. Should the vendor be a distributor of the materials and not the publisher, the distributor agrees to immediately notify the publisher of its obligation to submit NIMAS file sets of the purchased products to the NIMAC. The files will be used for the production of alternate formats as permitted under the law for students with print disabilities (IDEA Title I, Part B, sec. 612(a)).

For additional information about NIMAS, please refer to http://aem.cast.org.
For additional information about the NIMAC, please refer to  http://nimac.us.

This is page __ of __ of this contract or purchase order.

Are there other options available to SEAs and LEAs?

In keeping with existing practice, some state and local education agencies may meet NIMAS-related requirements contained in IDEA-2004 by contracting with curriculum publishers directly to purchase accessible, student-ready versions. Some have referred to this approach as the "market model" and expect that at some point accessible instructional materials will be ordered directly from publishers at the same time as print textbooks are ordered.

How do textbook adoption states that have agreed to coordinate with the NIMAC and have 5- or 6-year textbook adoption cycle contracts comply with the IDEA's requirement that they have contracts in place with publishers by December 3, 2006?

We understand that states that adopt textbooks on a cyclical basis will have a series of multi-year contracts covering particular subjects or grades expiring over a period of years. These states could comply with the requirements of section 612(a)(23)(C) by adding the contract provisions required by 612(a)(23)(C) to each contract in their adoption cycle as a particular contract ends and a new contract is negotiated. However, since states, as a part of their responsibility to ensure the availability of a free appropriate public education to all eligible children need to ensure that blind persons or other persons with print disabilities have timely access to appropriate and accessible instructional materials, and the NIMAS and the service available from the NIMAC can be important tools in meeting this responsibility, states may want to take other steps to re-negotiate non-expiring adoption contracts to include production of NIMAS filesets, or make other informal arrangements with publishers for production of NIMAS filesets for the materials covered by contracts that are still in effect.

If a school contracts with a Community College for advanced placement classes, is the LEA or community college responsible for a student who is eligible for NIMAS materials?

AP classes are classes provided for secondary school credit. They also may allow students to earn post-secondary credit (but generally only after they receive a sufficiently high score on a national, standardized test in that subject).

NIMAS is only a standard for preparation of text files—it does not assign responsibility to provide accessible instructional materials to any entity.

Under 612(a)(23) and 613(a)(6) [300.172 and 300.210] the SEA and LEA have the responsibility to provide print instructional materials to blind and other print disabled persons in a timely manner. This responsibility would extend to all courses that the SEA and LEA offer for elementary school or secondary school credit, even if they are provided by another entity through a contract or other arrangement with the SEA or LEA. Of course, the SEA or LEA could, as a part of its contract with the other entity, require that entity to make Braille versions of the materials available to the students who need them.

Answers: Schedule for Implementation

What is the timeline for the NIMAS and the NIMAC?

  • Once the NIMAS was published in the Federal Register, each SEA adopted NIMAS no later than December 3, 2006.
  • On December 3, 2005, the NIMAC was established and began a one-year planning phase.
  • The publication of the NIMAS in the Federal Register (July 19, 2006) was the beginning "publication date" by which print instruction materials needed to be provided to the NIMAC when required by SEAs and/or LEAs. As of that date, NIMAC's responsibility pertains to all editions of print instructional materials currently made available for sale by a publisher.
  • As of December 3, 2006 SEAs and LEAs that opt in to the NIMAC require that publishers prepare and deliver NIMAS-conformant filesets to the NIMAC.
  • On December 3, 2006 the NIMAC became fully operational.

Answers: Provision of Accessible Instructional Materials to Students

What disabilities qualify a student to be served with NIMAS-derived accessible textbooks?

IDEA 2004 includes a definition of students who may be provided with accessible textbooks created with NIMAS-conformant files from the NIMAC. That definition, used within the legislation, is "blind or other persons with print disabilities." "Blind or other persons with print disabilities" means children served under IDEA who may qualify in accordance with the act entitled, "An Act to provide books for the adult blind," approved March 31, 1931 (2 U.S.C. 135a; 46 Stat. 1487) to receive books and other publications produced in specialized formats [674(e)(3)(A)].

Who will create accessible "student-ready" versions of textbooks from NIMAS-conformant files?

Under contract with coordinating agencies, accessible, student-ready versions of textbooks will be created from NIMAS-conformant files by—

  • National third-party authorized entities such as Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, American Printing House for the Blind, Bookshare.org, and Talking Tapes, etc.;
  • Regional or state conversion organizations such as Texas Region IV ESC Braille Services, the California Department of Education Clearinghouse for Specialized Media and Technology (CSMT), the Kentucky Accessible Materials Consortium, and other state instructional materials resource centers, etc.;
  • Software developers and file conversion services;
  • Curriculum publishers; K–12 curriculum publishers may produce accessible alternate-format versions for direct sale to SEAs and LEAs. (This workflow is referred to as the "market model"); and
  • Accessible media producers such as Braille transcribers.

How will students receive accessible materials?

The delivery systems that already exist will remain available. It is hoped that improved production systems will make a more timely delivery of appropriate materials possible.

Will other delivery systems evolve?

It seems likely that educational publishers will enter the market for the delivery of accessible digital instructional materials in order to serve students who may not be adequately served under the Chafee Amendment. This is currently referred to as the "market model" and exploration of its benefits is one of the goals of the NIMAS Development Center.

Answers: Additional Information

Where can I obtain more information?

The NIMAS Technical Assistance Center works with key stakeholders such as states, school boards, and publishers to raise awareness of the benefits of accessible materials and advises stakeholders on the efficient production and distribution of NIMAS-conformant materials.

The NIMAS Development Center will improve the original NIMAS by identifying new research and technological advances relevant to the Standard. The Center will also explore existing and new distribution models for the provision of accessible materials to students with disabilities.

For more information about NIMAS, see the NIMAS section of this website.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

Under IDEA, special education is provided at public expense, under public supervision, and without charge.

View in glossary

Print Disability

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

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Technology

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

View in glossary

Chafee Amendment

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

View in glossary

The NIMAC will receive and catalog publishers' electronic files of print instructional materials in a standard format: the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). The NIMAS was recently developed by experts across the country for this specific purpose. The Center will provide these standardized files to authorized textbook providers, who will then produce textbooks for blind and other students with disabilities. The combination of a standard format and a central repository should significantly expedite the time frame in which textbooks are delivered to students who need them in the classroom.

Visit the NIMAC at APH.

Accessibility Standards

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

View in glossary

References to NIMAS within IDEA 2004

Part B

  • Section 612(a)(23)
  • Section 613(a)(6)

Part D

  • Section 674(e)

Title III

  • Section 306