Local Education Agency

Both state education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) have critical roles in developing coordinated systems for the timely provision of accessible instructional materials (AIM) and collaboration is essential.

This section provides guidance specific to LEAs:


Photo of a girl using headphones and a laptop computerImplementing LEA Actions Based on the Critical Components of Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)

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). The quality indicators and critical components were developed by the AIM Center to assist state and local education agencies (SEAs and LEAs) with planning, implementing, and evaluating dynamic, coordinated systems for the timely provision of AIM. Please refer to the Components of Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Instructional Materials page for the complete document and listing of the critical components.

The critical components of quality indicators for the provision of accessible instructional materials provides a framework to highlight suggested actions for LEAs. The recommended activities are not exhaustive but serve as a basic organizer for consideration.

Quality Indicator 1: The education agency supports the provision of appropriate, high-quality accessible instructional materials to all students with disabilities who require them.

Intent: IDEA requires the provision of instructional materials in accessible formats to students with disabilities who need them. No SEA or LEA can deny instructional materials in accessible formats to students with disabilities who need them for any reason (e.g., type of disability, copyright eligibility, type of format needed, administrative concerns, fiscal concerns).

Suggested LEA actions: To effectively address this quality indicator, consider the following in the development of a coordinated system for the provision of AIM:

  • Has a means of providing each of the four formats been identified?
  • Do purchasing contracts with publishers include language requiring publishers to deposit NIMAS compliant files in the NIMAC or is there a means to purchase accessible instructional materials directly from the publisher that are produced in or may be rendered in specialized formats?
  • Can all students needing the formats be served by some part of the system?
  • Is the means of acquiring each of the formats widely communicated?
  • What collaborations are in place and should others be initiated?

Quality Indicator 2: The education agency supports the provision of appropriate accessible instructional materials in a timely manner.

Intent: IDEA requires states to define "timely manner." In general, "timely manner" means that schools provide accessible instructional materials to students with disabilities who need them at the same time that non-disabled peers receive their instructional materials. Appropriate consideration should be given to factors that could delay that access. Agencies should have clearly defined policies and procedures to identify and address sources of delay.

Suggested LEA actions: To effectively address this quality indicator, consider the following in addressing timely manner.

  • Is there a state definition of timely manner?
  • Is there a tracking system and is the data used to improve efficiency?
  • What collaborations are in place and should others be initiated?

Quality Indicator 3: The education agency develops and implements written guidelines to define the responsibilities and actions needed for effective and efficient provision of accessible instructional materials.

Intent: Written guidelines identify the roles of all responsible parties and the knowledge, skills, actions, alignment, and coordination required for delivery of accessible instructional materials in a timely manner. IDEA requires SEAs to work collaboratively with the state agency responsible for assistive technology programs.

Suggested LEA actions: To effectively address this quality indicator, consider the following in the development and dissemination of written guidelines:

  • Do you have written guidelines and are they comprehensive?
  • Was the QI Components document used as a guide to determine components to include?
  • Was a decision-making process related to need, selection, acquisition, and use included?
  • Do the guidelines address consideration of the need for AIM and inclusion of AIM in the IEP?
  • Have roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders been identified?
  • Have multiple representations and means of distribution of the written guidelines been included such as the following?
    • Brochures
    • Policy manual
    • Web site with online form of guidelines
    • Hand-outs of guidelines distributed through appropriate channels
  • What collaborations are in place and should others be initiated?

Quality Indicator 4: The education agency supports learning opportunities and technical assistance to facilitate the identification of students with disabilities who need instructional materials in accessible formats, as well as the selection, acquisition, and use of appropriate accessible formats.

Intent: Learning opportunities are based on the needs of and are readily available to students, families, staff, pre-service educators, and other stakeholders. Training and technical assistance include topics pertinent to the identification of students with disabilities who need instructional materials in accessible formats as well as the selection, acquisition, and use of accessible instructional materials.

Suggested LEA actions: To effectively address this quality indicator, consider the following in the provision of AIM learning opportunities and technical assistance:

  • Are multiple content topics and multiple audiences included?
  • Are the topics presented in a way that matches the interests and responsibilities of the audience?
  • Are multiple methods of delivery included?
  • What collaborations are in place and should others be initiated?

Quality Indicator 5: The education agency develops and implements a systematic process to monitor and evaluate the equitable, timely provision of appropriate, high-quality accessible instructional materials.

Intent: Data are collected that measure the degree to which accessible instructional materials are 1) provided to students with all types of disabilities in an equitable manner, 2) provided at the same time as print formats, and 3) of quality sufficient to support appropriate instruction and achievement.

Suggested LEA actions: To effectively address this quality indicator, consider the following in developing a systematic process to monitor and evaluate all aspects of the system:

  • Are data being collected?
  • How are data being collected?
  • What data are being collected?
  • What collaborations are in place and should others be initiated?

Quality Indicator 6: The education agency uses data to guide changes that support continuous improvement in the selection, acquisition, and use of accessible instructional materials.

Intent: Data are systematically analyzed to gauge effectiveness of current practice and are used to inform actions needed to improve future practice.

Suggested LEA actions: To effectively address this quality indicator, consider the following related to analyzing and using data:

  • Has a plan been developed to analyze and use the data?
  • What strategies are used to involve a variety of stakeholders?
  • How is the information disseminated?
  • What collaborations are in place and should others be initiated?

Quality Indicator 7: The education agency allocates resources sufficient to ensure the delivery and sustainability of quality services to students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials.

Intent: Sufficient fiscal, human, and infrastructure resources are committed to ensure that student needs are appropriately addressed (e.g., identification, delivery of services, professional development).

Suggested LEA actions: To effectively address this quality indicator, consider the following related to allocating resources:

  • Are sufficient fiscal, human, and infrastructure resources allocated to meet the needs?
  • Are the needs of all stakeholders addressed?
  • What collaborations are in place and should others be initiated?

Purchasing Accessible Instructional Materials

LEAs play a critical role in ensuring that all instructional media that is purchased is accessible and usable by all students. IDEA includes important specifications related to the provision of print instructional materials which mean printed textbooks and related printed core materials. In the ever-changing world, in addition to print instructional materials, SEAs and LEAs are incorporating more and more digital technology and online learning materials in their purchases. Text, images, audio, and video all need to be accessible. The AIM Center has launched a new initiative, Purchase Accessible Learning Materials (PALM), to address this issue. The purchase of both print and digital instructional materials will be addressed below.

For Print Instructional Materials

In addition to ensuring that all print-disabled students receive appropriate accessible versions of core curriculum materials in a timely manner, SEAs and LEAs play an important role in obligating publishers to submit essential source materials to the NIMAC. This is accomplished by contract or by including appropriate language in purchase orders that require publishers to submit NIMAS-conformant files to the NIMAC, or provide assurances that they have already done so, for a specific title and version that is to be purchased.

The following Q&A is excerpted from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Program’s, Opens new windowBuilding the Legacy: IDEA 2004 web site.

Questions and Answers on the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)
Revised August 2010

Question A-8: Instructional materials such as textbooks are typically acquired through textbook purchasing offices at the SEA or LEA level. Are these offices required to comply with NIMAS requirements in their purchase of textbooks and other instructional materials?

Answer: If an SEA chooses to coordinate with the NIMAC, the SEA must, as part of any print instructional materials adoption process, procurement contract, or other practice or instrument used for purchase of print instructional materials, enter into a written contract with the publisher of the print instructional materials to— 1) require the publisher to prepare and, on or before delivery of the print instructional materials, provide to the NIMAC electronic files containing the contents of the print instructional materials using the NIMAS; or 2) “purchase instructional materials from the publisher that are produced in or may be rendered in specialized formats.” (See 34 CFR §300.172(c) and 300.210(a).) The SEA must ensure that all public agencies take all reasonable steps to provide instructional materials in accessible formats to children with disabilities who need those instructional materials at the same time as other children who receive instructional materials (34 CFR §300.172(b)(4)). Therefore, SEAs should inform all relevant offices and parties within the State, including LEAs, of their obligation to meet the requirements for access to instructional materials. For example, SEAs and LEAs should communicate these requirements to textbook adoption committees, as well as procurement and contracting offices.

Please note that, in a letter dated June 22, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education encouraged SEAs and LEAs to ask publishers to also use the MathML3 Structure Guidelines recommended by the NIMAS Center, stating that these guidelines reflect the most effective method of providing accessible print instructional materials involving mathematical and scientific content to students who are blind or with print disabilities and do not conflict with the minimum requirements in the NIMAS.

  1. In TEXTBOOK ADOPTION STATES, it is important that LEAs’ state-level adoption agreements (contracts) include the requirement that NIMAS filesets be prepared and deposited in the NIMAC. Many adoption states also allow OFF-LIST PURCHASES and LEAs should be encouraged to include the NIMAS language suggested below or SEA-recommended NIMAS language in or with LEA purchase orders.
  2. In OPEN TERRITORY STATES, LEAs are reminded to include NIMAS language suggested below or SEA-recommended NIMAS language in or with LEA purchase orders.

For additional information about NIMAS, refer to http://aim.cast.org.
For additional information about the NIMAC, refer to Opens new windowhttp://nimac.us.

Sample Contract Language

Language has been suggested in the NIMAS FAQ 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 file set to the NIMAC that complies with the terms and procedures set forth by the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC), (IDEA Title I, Part D, sec. 674(e)). 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 (Opens new windowhttp://www.daisy.org/z3986/structure/SG-DAISY3/index.html). 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(IDEA Title I, Part B, sec. 612(a)).

For additional information about NIMAS, please refer to http://aim.cast.org/collaborate/NIMASCtr.
For additional information about the NIMAC, please refer to Opens new windowhttp://nimac.us.

This is page __ of __ of this contract or purchase order.

In keeping with existing practice, some state and local education agencies may meet NIMAS-related requirements contained in IDEA by contracting with curriculum publishers directly to purchase accessible, student-ready versions. Some have referred to this approach as the "market model" and expect that at some point accessible instructional materials will be ordered directly from publishers at the same time as print textbooks are ordered.

For Digital Materials: Purchase Accessible Learning Materials (PALM)

PALM logo

Accessible learning materials are educational materials that are fully usable by all students. As classrooms are adopting more digital content and online learning media, to ensure this is possible, both the content and the technology used to deliver and interact with the content need to be accessible, so both must be considered. For example, both an e-book (content) and an e-book reader (delivery system) need to be accessible. The same applies to e-learning systems. A computer used to access the information and the content within an e-learning system needs to be accessible. If only one component is accessible, then the materials will not be accessible to all learners. Detailed information, resources, and suggested actions are available on the PALM Initiative web pages on the AIM Center web site.

Sample Contract Language

Contract language for the purchase of accessible digital materials could be combined with contract language for the purchase of print materials. A sample statement for digital materials is—

Vendor represents that the materials delivered under this contract or purchase order conform to, at a minimum, the standards for accessibility as set forth in—

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. § 794d), and its implementing regulations (36 C.F.R. § 1194), or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 (minimum of Level AA conformance).

Should any portion of the materials not conform to the aforementioned standards of accessibility, vendor agrees to provide a written explanation of the reason for non-conformance, and grants permission to create accessible versions for students who meet the appropriate copyright criteria.

For additional information, please refer to http://aim.cast.org/learn/practice/palm.


Including Accessible Instructional Materials in the IEP

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, re-authorized as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), federal 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 (AIM) when needed. To learn more about the legal context and the statutory requirements for the provision of AIM, visit the Policy section of the AIM Center web site at http://aim.cast.org/learn/policy.

SEAs and LEAs are encouraged to include language related to considering a student's need for specialized-format versions of print instructional materials in the IEP in order to ensure that the need is considered and, if needed, that the specialized formats and supports for use are included in the IEP.

It is recommended that the IEP include a query such as the following to prompt the IEP team to consider the need for AIM:

Does the student require accessible, specialized-format versions of printed textbooks and printed core materials that are written and published primarily for use in elementary and secondary school instruction and required by an SEA or LEA for use by students in the classroom?

In order to assist with the decision-making process related to AIM for individual students, the AIM Navigator was developed by the AIM Center. It is a process facilitator that assists teams in making informed, accurate decisions about need, selection, acquisition, and use of AIM. The AIM Navigator is provided in a downloadable, printable format and as an interactive, web-based tool on the AIM Center web site at http://aim.cast.org/navigator.

If a student with a disability does need a specialized format(s), the IEP should specify the following:

  • the specific format(s) (braille, large print, audio, and/or digital text) needed for the various instructional materials used across the curriculum
  • the supports for use that are needed for the student to effectively use the specialized materials (e.g., technology, training, instructional strategies, support services, and accommodations and/or modifications)
  • the individual or individuals responsible for providing the specialized format, and
  • whether or not the format is required to be used in the student’s home or in another setting in order for the student to receive a free appropriate public education.
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Last Updated: 03/20/2014

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