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AEM Guidelines

What are AEM?
Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) are specialized formats of curricular content that can be used by and with learners who are unable to read or use standard print materials. They include formats such as Braille, large print, digital text and audio. For some students, printed instructional materials can be a barrier to participation and achievement in the general education curriculum. Particular students may need AEM in order to access the general education curriculum. Such access is for students with a print disability and guaranteed in federal statutes, such as IDEA, Section 504, and ADA.

What is a print disability?
A print disability is generally considered to be a condition related to blindness, visual impairment, specific learning disability or other physical condition for which the student requires an alternative or specialized format (i.e., Braille, large print, audio, digital text) to access content.  While this defines a print disability, it is important to remember that not all students with disabilities will require AEM.

Who is responsible for providing AEM?
School districts have the ultimate responsibility to provide learning materials that are accessible to all students with print disabilities. Core curricular material and textbooks may need to be converted to these specialized formats (Braille, large print, audio, digital text). Specialized formats enable students with print disabilities to gain the information they need to access curricular standards, participate in educational tasks, and work toward IEP or Section 504 goals.

What is meant by providing AEM in a timely manner?

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) contains important specifications related to the timely provision of printed textbooks and related printed core materials in specialized formats (Braille, large print, audio, and digital text).

  • In Nevada, the Local Education Agencies (LEAs) will provide print instructional materials in accessible formats (i.e., Braille, large print, audio, digital text) to children who are blind or have other print disabilities in a timely manner.

  • Timely manner provides an expectation that the LEA will ensure that students with print disabilities have access to specialized instructional formats at the same time students without print disabilities receive their instructional materials.

  • In cases when a student with a print disability is newly identified or transfers schools or in instances that are beyond the LEAs control, temporary accommodations must be provided while accessible specialized formats are acquired.

  • LEAs should have clearly defined policies and/or procedures to address such delays (i.e., providing an audio book until such time as the required format is complete; providing materials in installments until the entire book is complete, etc.).  This will require advanced planning and ongoing communication between service providers to prevent unnecessary delays.

What are the legal obligations and considerations?
Several federal mandates require districts to provide accessible instructional materials to eligible students with disabilities, including:

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004

    • Ensures students with disabilities have access to the general education curriculum and receive a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).

    • Ensures students with disabilities who need instructional materials in accessible formats receive those materials in a timely manner, regardless of eligibility under the copyright act of 1931 as amended.

    • Adopts the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS).


  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

    • Protects the civil rights of people with disabilities in any program or activity receiving federal funds.


  • American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA)

    • Protects civil rights and serves as a national mandate to fully integrate individuals with disabilities into the mainstream

  • The National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)

    • NIMAS refers to the digital file standard established by the Secretary of Education to be used in the preparation of electronic files suitable and used solely for efficient conversion into specialized formats for students with visual impairments or print disability.  The National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) is the Office of Special Education Programs funded national repository that houses NIMAS files.  Anyone can search the NIMAC but only an Authorized User can download or assign a NIMAS source file to be converted to a student ready file. 

What are the roles and responsibilities of the State Education Agency (SEA) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in providing AEM?

State Education Agency: 
IDEA 2004 reaffirms the responsibility of State Education Agencies (SEAs) to provide Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) to print-disabled students in a timely manner.  Each state must provide an assurance to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) as part of its annual IDEA Part B Application for federal funds that students who need curricular materials in alternate formats are provided with those formats using the NIMAS standard in a timely manner to ensure student’s access to the general education curriculum.  To meet this requirement Section 200.2(b)(10) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education requires school districts to ensure that all instructional materials used in the district are available in a usable alternative format that must meet NIMAS.

Assistive Technology:
Included in the NIMAS/NIMAC section of IDEA 2004 is the expectation that state education agencies will coordinate with other state agencies responsible for assistive technology.

Local Education Agencies: 
Part B, Section 613 of IDEA 2004 also requires that each local education agency (LEA) provide assurances to the Secretary of Education regarding the timely provision of accessible, alternate-format materials for students with identified print disabilities. With the exception of encouraging coordination with the state agency for assistive technology, the obligations for LEAs are identical to those required by states.

Curriculum & Instruction:
Another critical component of state-level accessible materials coordination is the inclusion of state agencies or departments involved in the recommendation, selection, or authorization of use/purchase of textbooks and related instructional materials.

If publishers produce digital materials that are accessible and can be purchased for use by any student, districts are encouraged to purchase them because such actions align with existing educational initiatives, including Differentiated Instruction, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  It also allows teachers to spend their time on instruction versus creating accessible materials.

A state's department of special education can play a crucial and supportive role by suggesting language in textbook adoption contracts that supports the acquisition of accessible, alternate-format instructional materials for students with print disabilities who qualify for NIMAS/NIMAC derived materials, and for those who do not, because they are unable to read grade level curriculum materials.

Sample Language for LEA Purchase Orders
There is no inherent obligation for publishers to provide a NIMAS file to the NIMAC.  Districts must embed specific language in contracts or purchase orders with publishers that obligate them to do so.    Language has been suggested in the NIMAS Frequently Asked Questions on the AIM center site, but LEAs are free to modify it to suit their needs. A sample statement that could be included in a contract or purchase order follows:

By agreeing to deliver the materials marked with "NIMAS" on this contract or purchase order, the publisher agrees to prepare and submit, on or before ___/___/_____ a NIMAS fileset to the NIMAC that complies with the terms and procedures set forth by the NIMAC. The publisher also agrees to mark up materials eligible for NIMAS submission that contain mathematical and scientific instructional content by using the MathML3 (refer to latest applicable version) module of the DAISY/NIMAS Structure Guidelines as posted and maintained at the DAISY Consortium web site ( Should the vendor be a distributor of the materials and not the publisher, the distributor agrees to notify the publisher immediately of its obligation to submit NIMAS filesets of the purchased products to the NIMAC. The files will be used for the production of alternate formats as permitted under the law for students with print disabilities.
This is page __ of __ of this contract or purchase order.

For additional information about NIMAS, refer to
For additional information about the NIMAC, refer to



Not all students will meet criteria under the Copyright Act of 1931 as amended. SEAs are still required to ensure that children with disabilities who need instructional materials in accessible formats, but are not eligible to receive educational materials produced in accessible formats from NIMAS files obtained from the NIMAC, receive those instructional materials in a timely manner (34 CFR §300.172(a)). In order to comply with this requirement, SEAs and LEAs must obtain the materials from other sources.

Documentation is essential to ensure compliance with copyright laws.  Districts are encouraged to develop policies and/or procedures to track distribution and use of accessible instructional materials. Specialized formats are intended for eligible students and it is illegal to distribute them to students who are not eligible without publisher permission, regardless of whether they would be beneficial.

Criteria for Copyright Act of 1931 as Amended
a. Blind persons whose visual acuity, as determined by competent authority, is 20/200 or less in the better eye with 
correcting glasses, or whose widest diameter of visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees.
b. Persons whose visual disability, with correction and regardless of optical measurement, is certified by a competent 
authority as preventing the reading of standard printed material.
c. Persons certified by a competent authority as unable to read or unable to use standard printed material as a result of 
physical limitations.
d. Persons certified by a competent authority as having a reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction and of 
sufficient severity to prevent their reading printed material in a typical manner.

In cases of blindness, visual disability, or physical limitations a 'competent authority' is defined to include doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathy, ophthalmologists, optometrists, registered nurses, therapists, professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or welfare agencies (i.e., social workers, case workers, counselors, rehabilitation teachers, and superintendents).

In the case of a reading disability from organic dysfunction, a competent authority is defined as doctors of medicine who may consult with colleagues in associated disciplines.

Additional information regarding copyright can be obtained at:
Districts are advised to seek advice from their legal counsel regarding copyright law.

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