Why provide AIM?
Both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, reauthorized as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) include compelling requirements for state and local education agencies (SEAs and LEAs) to ensure that all students, including those with disabilities, receive the supports and services they need to access, participate, and achieve in the general educational curriculum.
Unfortunately, the printed textbooks and instructional materials used in the general education curriculum are not useful to many students—both those general education students whose decoding abilities are well below grade level and those with identified disabilities who receive services under IDEA. The very materials that are supposed to support learning actually create barriers to learning that result in students not being able to gain access to or use the information contained in typical textbooks and related printed instructional materials that are used to convey important educational content that leads to the expected high levels of achievement to which all students are held. For example, students with visual impairments may not be able to see the material; students with physical disabilities may not be able to hold a book or turn its pages; students with learning disabilities as well as general education students whose decoding abilities are significantly below grade level may not be able to make meaning from printed instructional materials. These students require another way to gain the information needed to participate and achieve in the general curriculum. For many students, this need can be addressed by providing the identical information in one or more specialized formats—braille, large print, audio, and/or digital. When specialized formats and supports for use are well-matched to a student’s individual needs and abilities and combined with effective instruction in reading, the result can mean the difference between exclusion and achievement across the curriculum.
Recognizing both the statutory and practical importance of ensuring that all students have instructional materials in formats that are useful to them, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the United States Department of Education has funded several projects that, along with others funded directly by Congress, provide products and services designed to help SEAs and LEAs improve the quality, availability, and timely delivery of accessible instructional materials to K–12 students with disabilities that diminish the usefulness of traditional printed materials. Two current projects—the NIMAS Development Center and the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials Center (AIM Center)—were awarded to CAST, a nonprofit research and development organization founded in 1984 as the Center for Applied Special Technology. The mission of CAST is to expand learning opportunities for all students through Universal Design for Learning and related initiatives.
The work of the current projects builds on the work begun, lessons learned, and products developed by previous NIMAS/AIM projects at CAST—the initial NIMAS Development Center, the NIMAS Technical Assistance Center and the AIM Consortium. The work of these three projects is integrated into the continuing work of the AIM Center which provides knowledge development, technical assistance, and leadership to state and local education agencies as well as to other stakeholders in a massive collaborative effort involved in getting high quality accessible materials into the hands of students who need them.
Federal statutes, including civil rights legislation, and statutes in several states, require SEAs and LEAs to ensure that students with disabilities access, participate, and achieve in the general educational curriculum and receive accessible instructional materials when needed.
To learn more about the legal context and the statutory requirements, visit the Policy section of the AIM Center web site.