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AEM for Workforce Development Professionals


Accessible educational materials include both print-based and digital learning materials and technologies that are designed or enhanced in a way that makes them usable across the widest range of learner variability regardless of format (e.g., print, digital, graphic, audio, or video). In this Quick Start you will find answers to questions that often arise for workforce development professionals about AEM as well as links to additional AEM Center resources.

Quick Start for Workforce Development Professionals: Questions

Quick Start for Workforce Development Professionals: Answers

What are accessible educational materials or AEM? Why are they important?

AEM include print- and technology-based educational materials designed to be usable across the widest range of individual variability. Any materials or technologies used in the American Job Center delivery system programs and services need to be usable by everyone. If we’re talking about print materials like books or course packets, sometimes that means those materials have to be converted into specialized formats like braille, large print, audio or digital text. If we’re talking about digital materials and technologies like e-books, learning management systems, or clickers, those need to be selected and provided so that all learners can interact with them. In other words, materials and technologies used in any learning environment need to be accessible.

Accessibility is a moving target to the extent that each individual learner has particular reasons for needing AEM and accessible technologies. For example, accessible materials and accessible technologies may mean one thing to a person who has a visual impairment and a very different thing to a person who has a hearing impairment. That’s why there are accessibility guidelines and regulations to let content creators, publishers, schools, organizations and institutions know what’s expected.

Learn the basics about AEM

A customer is having difficulty with the format of my program’s educational materials and technologies. What should I do to help?

Although it’s not the role of workforce development professionals to identify customers who need AEM, there are several indicators to be aware of if a customer presents you with related difficulties. Signs include that the customer:

  • is able to learn from audiobooks and understand text when it is read aloud but has trouble reading materials in print format.
  • has difficulty seeing text in print or on a screen.
  • has difficulty holding a book, turning pages, or using a keyboard.
  • fatigues easily when trying to complete required reading.

If a customer brings these concerns to your attention, whether in an online or in-person program or activity, refer them to your agency’s designated personnel, such as a Disability Resource Coordinator. Individuals in job training settings must self-disclose a disability in order to receive accommodations, such as materials in alternative format, and your agency is required to have staff with training and expertise in providing this service. Confirm that your agency has a clearly communicated and widely disseminated procedure for customers with disabilities to request accommodations, including location and contact information for designated staff. Work with colleagues to make sure this information is on your agency’s website and in materials you provide to all customers at the beginning of a program or activity.

Customers with qualifying disabilities can have textbooks and related curriculum materials provided in alternative formats. Beyond meeting the needs of an individual customer, materials created by staff in your agency should be made accessible, including documents, presentations, web pages, etc.

Resources for acquiring and creating materials in accessible formats

Are there legal issues that are important to know about in relation to AEM in workforce development?

Section 188 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, political affiliation or belief, among other bases in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance, such as the American Job Center delivery system. The provision of accessible materials and technologies for job seekers and employees who need them is required under Section 188.

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 503) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by federal contractors and subcontractors. It requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain individuals with disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and guarantees equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, state and local government services, and telecommunications. Title I of the ADA protects employees with disabilities across all areas of employment, such as job application procedures, hiring, advancement, and job training, all of which directly connect to the need for accessible materials and technologies by job seekers with disabilities.

Learn more about the legal issues related to AEM in workforce development

What does my job training agency need to know about material and technology accessibility requirements in WIOA?

On December 2, 2016, the Department of Labor published a final rule revising the regulations implementing the nondiscrimination and equal opportunity provisions of Section 188 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The provision of accessible materials and technologies for job seekers and employees who need them is required under Section 188. The AEM Center has provided information and guidance on our website.

Resources for learning more about accessible materials and technologies in Section 188 of WIOA

My agency wants to procure materials and technologies that are accessible. Where do we begin?

Prioritizing accessibility in your agency’s procurement system is one of the most effective ways to meet the access needs of all your present and future customers. For example, when selecting a learning management system for online programs or activities, your agency can include accessibility in its purchasing criteria and in contract language. By communicating your agency’s preference for purchasing accessible, you’ll be helping to drive the availability of more flexible and accessible learning materials and technologies in the marketplace. California State University’s Vendor Accessibility Requirements serve as a good model.

What are the responsibilities of my agency’s community college liaison in providing accessible materials and technologies to our customers?

Community colleges are required to provide accessible materials and technologies to students who need them under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Your agency’s relationship with a community college liaison should include shared supports and learning opportunities for staff and instructors. When workforce and higher education work together to support a job seeker’s needs for accessible materials and technologies, the more likely those needs will be met.

Resources for learning more about higher education and AEM

Where can I find out about AEM contacts and resources in my state?

Visit AEM State Contacts and SEA Information to find information about what’s happening in your state concerning AEM issues.

How can I stay connected to the AEM Center?

Visit the AEM Center website often. We're always updating and adding resources, so you're sure to find something new. Attend AEM Center Events. Sign up to receive the AEM Connector e-newsletter. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube. You can also contact the AEM Center staff via email at We are here to help you.

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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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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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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Electronic version of a book.

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LMS (Learning Management System)

Software application or system that provides educational programs and their components.

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

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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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Section 188 of WIOA

Prohibits discrimination against people who apply, participate, work, or come into contract with programs and activities of the workforce development system.

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Work performed for compensation, at location, and with opportunities for advancement similar to those who are not individuals with disabilities.

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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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