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NIMAS & Digital Materials: May 2020 Notice of Interpretation

On May 26, 2020 the U.S. Department of Education issues a Notice of Interpretation (NOI)  permitting the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) to accept files derived from digital instructional materials. These FAQs will be updated as more is learned about the implementation of the NOI.

What does the Notice of Interpretation (NOI) do?

The NOI clarifies that the term ‘‘print instructional materials,’’ with regard to the scope of NIMAS in IDEA 2004, includes digital instructional materials.

What does this mean for instructional materials?

Under this NOI, the NIMAC can now accept files derived from digital instructional materials if these materials can be produced in valid National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) format. They still must conform to the NIMAS specification and metadata requirements.

Why is it important for the NIMAC to accept digital instructional materials?

The use of digital instructional materials as a core component of elementary and secondary curricula has grown significantly since NIMAS was created under IDEA. While digital does not mean “accessible,” digitally formatted materials accompanied by technology have the potential to facilitate learning for all students when they are available in accessible formats. However, IDEA does not specifically address the inclusion or use of digital instructional materials, which were not as common when the law was originally enacted. By clarifying the term “print instructional materials,” the NOI permits the NIMAC to accept digital instructional materials to reflect the growth in the use of technology in educational settings.

What does the NOI mean for digital instructional materials that are already accessible?

If digital instructional materials are already in an accessible format, they may not need to be sent to the NIMAC.

Digital instructional materials are accessible if they meet the requirements set forth in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which currently align to the WCAG 2.0 AA standards. States and LEAs may include language in their contracts and purchase orders requiring that digital instructional materials that can conform to the NIMAS specification be deposited in the NIMAC.

What kinds of digital instructional materials are accepted by the NIMAC?

Digital instructional materials intended for the NIMAC must be structured documents or publications (i.e., with sections that have headings) that follow a linear reading order and consist of static text and images. For submission to the NIMAC, these documents and publications need to conform to the NIMAS specification.

The AEM Center and the NIMAC have co-developed an exemplar of a NIMAS-conformant file created from digital instructional materials

What kinds of digital instructional materials are not accepted by the NIMAC?

Interactive and adaptive technologies that cannot be converted into a NIMAS format are not accepted by the NIMAC at this time. However, such technologies should be made accessible to support SEAs and LEAs in meeting legal requirements under Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as well as IDEA.

The AEM Center and the NIMAC, in coordination with OSEP and input from the field, will update this guidance if it is determined that additional kinds of digital instructional materials can be produced in valid NIMAS format.

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