- Oklahoma Equipment Exchange
- DME Reuse
- Special Education Resolution Center
Oklahoma State Department of Education
2500 North Lincoln Boulevard
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Phone: 405-522-3248 www.ok.gov/sde
It is the policy of the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability in its programs or employment practices as required by Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Civil rights compliance inquiries related to the OSDE may be directed to the Affirmative Action Officer, Room 111, 2500 North Lincoln Boulevard, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105-4599, telephone number (405) 522-4930; or, the United States Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. Inquiries or concerns regarding compliance with Title IX by local school districts should be presented to the local school district Title IX coordinator.
Some students with disabilities have difficulty reading and accessing standard print learning materials such as textbooks and supplementary materials. A student with a visual impairment, for example may not be able to read a standard print textbook and would likely require larger print or braille to read independently. A student with a physical disability, who is unable to hold and turn the pages of a standard textbook, may benefit from having an audio or digital version of a textbook. A student with a reading disability may better comprehend information that is displayed on a computer or a tablet while the text is read aloud by a computer voice. To be successful in school, these students and others like them need learning materials in specialized formats. When the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 2004, it included a requirement that elementary and secondary school students with disabilities who need print instructional materials in an accessible format receive them in a timely manner. This means that school districts must
take reasonable steps to provide accessible instructional materials (AIM) to eligible students with disabilities without delay, typically at the same time as other students receive instructional materials.
“Print disability” is used by U.S. copyright law to determine who is eligible to receive specialized formats of print materials under the provisions of the 1931 Act to Provide Books to the Adult Blind, as Amended. Under this Act, individuals with a print disability are those who have been certified by a competent authority to be unable to read or use standard print materials because of:
• Visual impairment,
• Physical limitations, or
• Reading disabilities resulting from an organic dysfunction such as dyslexia.
This guide was created to explain:
• The process for making decisions about AIM;
• Why a student may need AIM;
• What types of specialized formats are available;
• How AIM are acquired;
• What supports are necessary to effectively utilize AIM; and
• What can be done to promote the use of AIM for students.
With this knowledge, school districts, educators, and families can ensure that students with disabilities have access to the materials they need to participate in class and achieve academically.
“Print instructional materials” include printed textbooks and related print core materials that are written and published primarily for use in elementary and secondary school instruction and are required by a state or local education agency (LEA) for use by students in a classroom. Such materials often include workbooks and other supplemental materials packaged with the textbook by the publisher.
NIMAS is a standard file format established by IDEA that was created to make it easier for students with disabilities to access learning materials in the formats they need as quickly as possible. Electronic files of books created using the NIMAS format are designed to be easily converted into specialized formats including braille, large print, audio, and digital text. States must ensure that students with disabilities who need AIM receive them “in a timely manner.” Each state has the responsibility to define “in a timely manner.” Oklahoma has defined it as “at the same time as other students or to the greatest extent possible.”
Oklahoma coordinates with the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) as a means to provide specialized formats to qualifying students in a timely manner. IDEA mandated the establishment of the NIMAC. The NIMAC is a national repository for publisher source files of textbooks and related core printed materials that are created according to the NIMAS technical specification.
Purchase orders made by state and local education agencies should include language that requires publishers to submit NIMAS-conformant files to the NIMAC, or provide assurances that they have already done so, for each specific title purchased. Contract language must also ask publishers to use the MathML3 Structure Guidelines recommended by the NIMAS Center when requesting NIMAS files. MathML3 structure increases the accessibility of math and science textbooks. By doing this, the education agencies obligate publishers to submit source files to the NIMAC, ensuring that all students with print disabilities receive appropriate accessible versions of instructional materials in a timely manner. Sample contract language can be found at okabletech.okstate.edu/AIM.html.
For more information about MathML3 and NIMAS formats visit www.aim.cast.org.
Access to NIMAS textbooks is limited to individuals who qualify for an exemption to copyright law due to print disability. The Chafee Amendment (17 U.S.C. § 121 ) allows authorized entities to reproduce or distribute copies or phonorecords of instructional materials in specialized formats exclusively for use by “blind or other persons with disabilities.”
The National Instructional Materials Access Center is the national library of files developed according to the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). To receive specialized formats created with NIMAS source files from the NIMAC, a student must:
Students eligible for materials created from NIMAS files from the NIMAC will not receive them directly. Authorized users designated by states and registered with the NIMAC access these files for creation of student-ready materials in braille, large print, audio and digital text formats. In Oklahoma, ABLE Tech, Bookshare, Learning Ally, Liberty Braille, the AIM Center at the Oklahoma Library For the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and the Oklahoma School for the Blind are authorized users of the NIMAC.
A competent authority certifies students as having a print disability. For students who are blind, have a visual impairment, or have physical limitations, this can be a doctor or other medical professional, a social worker, or a school official such as a school psychologist
or special educator. Students with reading disabilities resulting from organic dysfunction must be certified as having a print disability by a medical doctor.
There are four decision-making steps members of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team should take to ensure that students receive specialized formats that are needed for educational participation and achievement. The IEP team should:
Students with a variety of disabilities may need AIM. Students who can understand the textbook content but are unable to read or use standard print materials can access that content through specialized formats, which include braille, large print, audio, and digital text.
An IEP team should consider a variety of factors when determining whether a student needs materials in a specialized format. First, the IEP team should consider whether the student can read and use the standard print-based materials used by the other students.
When thinking about a student’s possible need for specialized formats, the IEP team might consider, along with other factors, the student’s sensory, physical, and cognitive capability; reading level (decoding, word recognition, comprehension, and fluency skills); grades; classroom performance; and levels of academic proficiency in all subject areas.
If the IEP team determines that a student needs AIM, the next step is to select which specialized format would be most appropriate. The four types of specialized formats are braille, large print, audio, and digital text:
• Braille is a tactile system of reading and writing made up of raised dot patterns for letters, numbers, and punctuation marks. This format is used almost exclusively by people with visual impairments or blindness. Braille may be either embossed (a permanent printed document) or refreshable (electronically generated and accessed via a braille display device).
• Large print is generally defined as 18 point or larger font size. A document produced in large print format usually has more white space and may not look like the original document, but it contains the same information. Large print may be printed on pages that are the same size as a standard textbook page or on pages of a larger size.
• Audio formats present content as sound with no visual component. Audio formats include recorded human voice or synthesized electronic speech.
• Digital text provides electronic content that is delivered on a computer or another device. Electronic content may be changed in many ways (e.g., size, contrast, read aloud) to accommodate the needs and preferences of a student. How content is presented to a user depends upon the technology being used and student needs.
should also be considered. A student will typically
need a trial period with different formats to determine
which are most effective and preferred in different
environments for various reading tasks. Oklahoma AIM
service providers listed on page 5 provide free shortterm
assistive technology loans to help students and
teachers determine the right fit.
AIM can be acquired from a variety of sources; however, not all students are eligible to receive materials from each of the sources. U.S. copyright laws require individuals to have a certified “print disability” in order to receive specialized formats of copyrighted materials from some sources. However, if an IEP team has determined that a student needs accessible instructional materials in order to receive
a free appropriate public education (FAPE), the school must provide specialized formats even if the student does not have a print disability as defined by copyright statute.
Students may require different formats depending on their needs, the instructional material, and the environments in which it will be used. For example, a student may use a digital format at school, an audio format at home, a large print book for math, and a digital text for history. The IEP team will select the formats that are needed for each print instructional material that must be available in an accessible form. In making the decision, the team should consider which format will best enable the student to:
The student’s preferences, language, vision, memory, listening skills, tactile skills, and English proficiency.
AIM can be acquired from the following common sources:
The following providers are available to help with AIM services and assistive technology. The organizations with asterisks are NIMAC authorized users and can download textbooks and related instructional materials on behalf of Oklahoma students as well as provide the
appropriate specialized format, often at no cost to the school:
There are numerous free and commercial sources for accessible materials. Some of the sources are for textbooks and other books. Items with expired copyrights and in the public domain are typically available free of charge.
Provides core instructional textbooks and materials for K-12 students.
Bookshare creates and provides files that can be used by students with print disabilities who need materials in digital text, audio, or braille formats. Materials are free for students with print disabilities.
Open source materials can be acquired, customized, and used with any student free of charge, or for a very small fee, depending on the source. The IEP team will need to verify that an open source material is accessible. The CK-12 Foundation (about.ck12.org) has additional information on this source.
Although specialized formats are increasingly available through accessible media producers and commercial sources, the “do-it-yourself” method of creating materials - often by scanning the material or by creating it on a computer and saving it as digital text - remains a way to meet the needs of some students for certain materials. For example, teacher-made materials will almost always need to be created in this manner.
When an accessible version of a published, copyrighted material is created in this way, copyright law must still be respected. The safest approach is to ask permission from the publisher.
Upon request by a state or local education agency (LEA), a publisher may be willing to provide a digital file or grant permission to copy and scan materials that are not available from another source. When publishers provide these files, it is usually with the understanding that use of materials created from the file will be limited to students certified as having a print disability. This is especially helpful when the material is no longer sold and has no NIMAS source file. These materials are called “legacy materials.”
Some publishers also provide digital versions of instructional materials that can be purchased along with or instead of the printed books. This can be very useful if the digital version contains the same information as the printed book rather than supplementary material. Just because a material is in a digital format, however, does not necessarily mean that the material is accessible to all students. For example, perhaps the text cannot be read aloud, highlighted, or otherwise changed.
The IEP team should determine whether any of the following supports are needed for a student to effectively use the selected AIM:
Why Aren’t More Instructional Materials
Available for Purchase in
Some publishers have said that few educational
agencies are asking for accessible materials for
purchase, but that may be because people do not know
To increase the availability of AIM for purchase,
school staff and parents are encouraged to
contact publishers to ask for accessible versions of
textbooks that can be purchased. This is extremely
important because a purchased textbook in any
format can be used by any student, rather than by
only students who meet certain qualifications.
In addition, if the accessible material is coming
directly from the publisher of the printed material,
it is likely that both formats will be delivered at the
After selecting the specialized formats and determining
how to acquire them, the team should decide what
types of technology or tools are needed for a student
to use the accessible materials. Information about the
specific formats and features needed by the student
along with how and where the student will use the
accessible materials can be helpful when choosing
among the various technology tools that might be used
to deliver the specialized formats.
Oklahoma’s AIM service providers help schools,
students, parents, and guardians determine which
device(s) and/or software will be most effective with
the specialized format used by a student. As Oklahoma’s
Assistive Technology Act Program, ABLE Tech
offers device loans for up to six weeks for trial
purposes. After the loan term is complete, it is the
responsibility of the local education agency (LEA) to
purchase equipment listed in a student’s IEP. Liberty
Braille, the AIM Center, and OATC offer short term
assistive technology loans. Bookshare and Learning Ally
also offer specialized assistive technology for use with
specialized formats free-of-charge, for purchase or loan.
The amount of training required for the student to use AIM will vary according to the complexity of the technology
or tool selected to access the specialized formats. For example, use of a large print book would not require
much training. However, if a student is using text-to-speech software or a screen reader to access digital text, he
or she may need to learn more advanced skills. Teachers, other school staff, and families may also need training in
order to support the child at home and school.
Students may also need additional types of training, such as when to use a particular format or tool for a specific
learning task or how to ask for needed supports when they are not readily available.
Educators may need to use various instructional strategies to support students using specialized formats and
supporting technologies. When a student first begins using these tools, instruction should include multiple
opportunities for the student to understand the purpose, benefits, and outcomes of using the tools. It is helpful
to start by providing opportunities for the student to use the tools to successfully complete familiar learning tasks
(possibly in a single environment). Gradually building on early successes and slowly introducing the complexity
of the tools will enable the student to master them and work as independently as possible on learning goals
in a variety of environments. Educators and families will need to work together to support the student’s use of
accessible materials and to monitor the change in the student’s participation and achievement.
A student’s IEP should describe any support services needed for effective use of various specialized formats and
who is responsible for providing them. Different support services may be needed for different formats. For example,
a student using braille may require specialized instructions from a qualified teacher of the visually impaired,
and a student with a physical disability may need the support of an occupational or physical therapist. Additional
supports such as case management, classroom organization and arrangement, equipment management and maintenance
and file acquisition may also be needed.
Accommodations and Modifications
The use of AIM may require accommodations or modifications to a student’s education program. For example,
a student may need preferential seating or additional time to complete tasks due to the time required to use a
specialized format. A student may need frequent breaks to avoid fatigue. Some students may need to provide
responses orally rather than in writing. The team should consider which accommodations or modifications will
be necessary when writing the IEP.
The following examples are provided to illustrate how
AIM can be used with various students:
• A ninth-grade student with a visual impairment is
enrolled in Oklahoma History, English Literature,
Physical Science, Algebra I, and French. His IEP
team has determined that he needs digital text for
Oklahoma History, Physical Science, and French;
audio for English Literature; and embossed braille for
Algebra I. The student will also need audio versions of
several novels required for English Literature.
School personnel could contact ABLE Tech or
Liberty Braille to facilitate the acquisition of specialized
formats and to borrow assistive technology such as
screen reader software or text-to-speech software on
a computer or a tablet, if needed for decision making
ABLE Tech will coordinate with Bookshare or the
NIMAC for digital versions of the Oklahoma History,
Physical Science and French textbooks, Learning Ally
for the audio version of the English Literature textbook
and additional novels, and Liberty Braille for an
embossed copy of the Algebra I textbook. The
school may also contact these AMPs individually for
Oklahoma AIM service providers will also help schools
set up organizational accounts and individual memberships
for students with AMPs such as Bookshare and
• A second-grade student with a reading disability
from organic dysfunction may need his materials for
reading, science, and social studies in a digital format.
The school would contact ABLE Tech to help with
getting digital textbooks from Bookshare or the
NIMAC and to borrow assistive technology if needed.
The school may also obtain an organization membership
with Bookshare and assist the student in getting
an individual membership to have access to additional
• The IEP team has determined that an eleventhgrade
student who has been diagnosed with emotional
disturbance needs instructional materials in digital
format to be read with text-to-speech. Since he does
not have a qualified print disability, this student is not
eligible to receive NIMAS materials. However, the
school is still required to provide AIM. In this case,
school personnel may request a digital copy from the
publisher or permission to copy and scan this student’s
materials into electronic text.
The requirement for providing AIM to students is
a relatively new provision in IDEA. Teachers, school
officials, parents, and advocates can help facilitate the
use of specialized formats by:
• Sharing information about AIM and available
• Using a decision-making process during the
development of the IEP to determine if students
• Learning about the process for obtaining materials
from the NIMAC, accessible media producers and
• Communicating with IEP teams and school
administrators about accessible materials that are
often available to eligible students free of charge; and
• Collaborating with local and state education agencies
to urge publishers to offer accessible versions of textbooks
AIM can help students with disabilities access the
same content as their peers and be successful in
school. Because of new provisions in IDEA, specialized
formats are more readily available to students
who cannot read or use a standard textbook.
Reading this booklet, learning more information and
sharing it with others are important first steps to
ensuring that students with disabilities have access to
accessible materials needed for their school participation
Interactive tools from the National Center on Accessible
Instructional Materials can be used by teams to help
with decisions about accessible instructional materials.
The AIM Navigator facilitates the process of decision making
about AIM for an individual student by IEP
or other decision-making teams. The four decision
points in the process include 1) determination of need,
2) selection of format(s), 3) acquisition of formats,
and 4) selection of supports for use. The Navigator
provides support for decision-making at each
point by providing guiding questions, resources,
and links to other tools. The AIM Navigator
collects information and creates a summary “to do” list.
The AIM Explorer is a free downloadable simulation
tool that combines grade-leveled digital text with
access features common to most text readers and
supported reading software. Settings for magnification,
colors of text and background, text-tospeech,
text highlighting, and layout options can be
manipulated to help educators, families, and struggling
readers decide ways in which these supports
can be configured to help with access to and understanding
of text. The AIM Explorer collects information
and prepares a summary that can be printed or
saved to a local computer. http://aim.cast.org/experience/
National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials:
National Instructional Materials Access Center:
NIMAS Information from the U.S. Department of
Education, IDEA Part B: idea.ed/gov/explore/home
United States Department of Education Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): idea.ed/gov
Accessible Instructional Materials Technical Guide for
Families and Advocates, National Center on Accessible
Instructional Materials at CAST: