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Acquisition of Specialized Formats

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There are a variety of sources for acquiring specialized formats of AEM; however, not all students are eligible to receive materials from each of the different sources. Keep in mind that many students may need more than one specialized format for print materials and materials may need to be procured from more than one source.

There are five basic sources which include the following:

  1. The NIMAC: The National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) is the national repository for NIMAS source files provided by publishers. Only students who are dually qualified under IDEA and copyright law are eligible to receive specialized formats created from NIMAS-conformant files from the NIMAC.
  2. AMPs: Accessible media producers (AMPs) create and provide student-ready specialized formats to two groups of students. Materials produced by AMPs are available to students or others who meet copyright criteria. Only those students who are dually qualified (meet copyright criteria and are served under IDEA) are eligible for specialized formats created from NIMAS filesets obtained from the NIMAC. Visit the AEM Guide to AMPs page for more information.
  3. Commercial Sources: Some instructional materials can be purchased in accessible formats from publishers and other sources (e.g., Materials acquired via purchase from a commercial source can be used by any student. This source should be used when it is available.
  4. Free Sources: Some accessible materials are available free-of-charge from various sources, frequently via the Internet. These materials are typically copyright-free or open source. Materials acquired from free sources can be used by any student. With the exception of open source materials, commercially prepared textbooks are not available in this category.
  5. "Locally Created": Some instructional materials are not available in accessible formats from any other source and others are not published (e.g., teacher-developed materials). Accessible versions of these materials must be locally created through the use of scanning or other means. When accessible versions of copyrighted materials are created locally, compliance with and respect for copyright law is required. These materials are created on a student-by-student basis for a specific student only. Publisher permission should be requested.

Select from the following options to determine the sources that can be used to acquire materials for the student.

  • Student meets copyright criteria for specialized formats and is served in special education under IDEA.
    This student is eligible for specialized formats acquired from all five sources: NIMAC, AMPs, commercial sources, free sources, and, under some circumstances, "locally created."
  • Student meets copyright criteria for specialized formats but is not served under IDEA.
    This student is eligible for specialized formats acquired from AMPs, commercial sources, free sources, and, under some circumstances, "locally created."
  • Student does not meet copyright criteria for specialized formats.
    This student is eligible for specialized formats acquired from commercial sources, free sources, and, under some circumstances, "locally created."

If the decision-making team needs more support in order to make an informed decision, the Acquisition of AEM FAQ page includes in-depth background information about each source mentioned above, types of materials typically available, and a description of who is eligible to receive such materials. Once it has been determined which sources to use to acquire materials, district personnel should proceed according to district and/or state procedures for procurement.

There are different interpretations of the legal issues; when questions arise, educators, students, and families should contact their district administrators and/or state AEM contact designee. Refer to the AEM State Contacts and SEA Information page for names of contacts and other state resources.

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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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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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.

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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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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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NIMAS-conformant files

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

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Accessible Media Producers (AMPs)

Produced specialized formats of instructional materials for use by blind or other persons with print disabilities.

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Resources for Acquisition

The  AEM Guide to AMPs provides an overview of the three major, nationally-recognized accessible media producers (AMPs) including resources available from each, who can use them, and detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to access these resources. A question and answer document is provided for each of the AMPs.

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. The AEM Navigator also includes a robust set of guiding questions and useful references and resources specifically related to each decision point. Different scaffolds of support are built in so that teams can access information at the level needed to assist them in making informed, accurate decisions.

Numerous resources are made available on the web page including an E-book Market Brief, guidelines, hand-outs, sample contract language, and action items. A short video, Simply Said: Understanding Accessibility in Digital Learning Materials, is a valuable resource for providing insight and eliciting support.

The AIM workflow process (graphic below) begins with state education agencies (SEAs) or local education agencies (LEAs) issuing purchase orders or state adoption contracts that require publishers to submit a NIMAS fileset to the NIMAC as part of their textbook fulfillment order. In step two, publishers develop NIMAS filesets and send them to the NIMAC. A publisher may also offer accessible instructional materials for sale as a commercial product, in which case materials would be delivered directly to an SEA, LEA, or student. In step three, NIMAS filesets developed by the publishers are validated by the NIMAC and added to the NIMAC repository. In step four, an authorized user (AU) appointed by an SEA downloads the NIMAS fileset from the NIMAC or assigns it to an accessible media producer (AMP). The AU or AMP converts the NIMAS fileset into one or more student-ready specialized formats of accessible instructional materials. In step five, materials are delivered to SEAs or LEAs who, in turn, provide them to individual students.

Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)

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

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Electronic version of a book.

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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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Authorized User

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

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