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AEM for Teacher Educators


Teacher educator faculties at institutions of higher education may find this resource helpful in learning about accessible educational materials (AEM) and supporting undergraduate and graduate teacher candidates improve access to general education curricula for elementary and secondary level students.

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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Quick Start for Teacher Educators: Questions

Quick Start for Teacher Educators: Answers

Why should teacher-educator faculties at institutions of higher education know about AEM?

The charge of teacher-educator faculty members is to prepare teacher candidates for the educational realities in K–12 schools, and part of this charge is to also prepare teacher candidates to provide access to educational materials for all students.

Learn more about who needs AEM

What are accessible educational materials or AEM?

Accessible educational materials (AEM) or accessible instructional materials (AIM) are print- and technology-based learning  materials that are designed or converted in a way that makes them usable across the widest range of student variability regardless of media type (print, digital, graphic, audio, video). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) specifically focuses on accessible formats of print instructional materials. In relation to IDEA, the term AIM refers to print instructional materials that have been transformed into the specialized formats of braille, large print, audio, or digital text. For more information about specialized formats, see the Specialized Formats section of our Selection of AEM FAQ.

Learn the basics about AEM

Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)

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

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

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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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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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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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Digital Text

Published material retrieved and read via a computer.

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What are the AEM-related legal issues that teacher candidates need to know?

IDEA requires that states and districts ensure timely provision of AIM to elementary and secondary students with disabilities who need these materials. This means that state and local education agencies must take reasonable steps to provide AIM to eligible students with disabilities without delay, typically at the same time as other students receive instructional materials. For students who do not receive special education services under IDEA, the disability civil rights laws (Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act) may require the provision of AEM. There are also copyright issues that may impact the sources that can be used to acquire AEM for a student in a teacher’s classroom.

Learn more about the legal issues related to AEM

Local Education Agency (LEA)

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

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Section 504

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

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What do my teacher candidates need to know about supporting elementary and secondary students to successfully use AEM?

Educators play a critical role in helping students succeed in using AEM in the classroom. In order for a student to effectively use accessible instructional materials for educational participation and achievement, it is likely that additional supports and services will be needed for teaching and learning. Supports typically fall into the following categories:

  • Technology to deliver the content
  • Training for the student, educators, and family
  • Instructional strategies
  • Support services
  • Accommodations and/or modifications

Learn more about supporting effective use of AEM

What do my teacher candidates need to know about the relationship between assistive technology and AEM?

Other than embossed braille and hard copy large print, the other forms of specialized formats require technology to deliver the content to the student. When a student served under IDEA needs Assistive Technology (AT) devices or services to access the curriculum, educational agencies are required to provide them. IDEA defines an AT device as any item, piece of equipment, or product whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a student with disabilities.

Are there online tools that my teacher candidates can utilize to better understand and make decisions about AEM?

The AIM Explorer is a simulation tool that facilitates students trying out features often found in reading software (e.g., font sizes, magnification, text and background colors, highlighting, layout options, text-to-speech settings) to decide what settings work best for them as they read text. The AEM Navigator is an interactive tool that facilitates the process of decision-making around accessible instructional materials for an individual student. The four major decision points in the process include 1) determination of need, 2) selection of format(s), 3) acquisition of format(s), and 4) selection of supports for use.

Text-to-Speech (TTS)

Artificial production of human speech, using special software and/or hardware.

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What resources are available to help prepare my teacher candidates in the use of AEM?

Teacher educators can use the resource links below to introduce teacher candidates to the issues related to the use of AEM. The differences between the use of "typical" printed text and the use of specialized formats are significant enough that when specialized formats are introduced teachers, students and families have many adjustments to make. It is likely that they will need to develop proficiency with new or unfamiliar technology, use different strategies, and need different supports to teach and learn. The AEM Center website is rich in resources that are available to assist in the acquisition of knowledge and skills needed.

Learn more about supports for preparing teacher candidates

What are the issues that my teacher candidates should be aware of as schools move to digital learning environments?

As educators incorporate more digital technology in classrooms, it becomes increasingly important that teacher candidates understand that the materials used in classrooms need to be designed to be usable by all students from the start. It is important to consider AEM during the transition planning process; because when students with disabilities exit special education and are no longer entitled to special education and related services under IDEA, they have to be able to advocate on their own behalf in other settings, including postsecondary education. This requires teacher candidates to understand the issues that pertain to equal access and the use of emerging technologies in educational settings as well as adjustments in the way materials are purchased.

Learn more about accessible digital materials and technologies