Why should teacher-educator faculties at institutions of higher education know about AIM?
The charge of teacher-educator faculty members is to prepare teacher candidates for the educational realities in K–12 schools, and part of this charge is to also prepare teacher candidates to provide access to instructional materials for all students.
What are accessible instructional materials (AIM)?
Accessible instructional materials or AIM are materials that are designed or converted in a way that makes them usable across the widest range of student variability regardless of format (print, digital, graphic, audio, video). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) specifically focuses on accessible formats of print instructional materials. IDEA 2004 established the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS), a technical standard for the preparation of “electronic files” that can be used to convert print instructional materials into the specialized formats of Braille, audio, digital text, or large print. IDEA 2004 also established the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC), a national center that stores the electronic files of print instructional materials that have been developed based on NIMAS.
Learn the basics about AIM
What are the AIM-related legal issues that teacher candidates need to know?
IDEA requires that states and districts ensure timely provision of AIM to elementary and secondary students with disabilities who need these materials. This means that state and local education agencies must take reasonable steps to provide AIM to eligible students with disabilities without delay, typically at the same time as other students receive instructional materials. For students who do not receive special education services under IDEA, the disability civil rights laws (Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act) may require the provision of AIM. There are also copyright issues that may impact the sources that can be used to acquire AIM for a student in a teacher’s classroom.
Learn more about the legal issues related to AIM
- NIMAS in IDEA 2004: Provisions Related to Access to Instructional Materials, NIMAS, and NIMAC
- OSEP NIMAS Regulations Summary
- The Right of Students with Disabilities Who Need AIM to Receive These Materials in a Timely Manner: A Brief for Families and Educators
- An Examination of the NIMAS and NIMAC Provisions in IDEA 2004: A Brief for Families and Educators
- Equal Access to Learning: Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and Department of Justice (DOJ)
- Understanding the NIMAS and NIMAC Provisions of IDEA: Analysis of the Term Reading Disability Resulting from Organic Dysfunction and Its Relationship to the IDEA Category of Specific Learning Disability
What do my teacher candidates need to know about supporting elementary and secondary students to successfully use AIM?
Educators play a critical role in helping students succeed in using AIM in the classroom. In order for a student to effectively use accessible instructional materials for educational participation and achievement, it is likely that additional supports and services will be needed for teaching and learning. Supports typically fall into the following categories:
- Technology to deliver the content
- Training for the student, educators, and family
- Instructional strategies
- Support services
- Accommodations and/or modifications
Learn more about supporting effective use of AIM
What do my teacher candidates need to know about the relationship between assistive technology and AIM?
Other than embossed braille and hard copy large print, the other forms of specialized formats require technology to deliver the content to the student. When a student served under IDEA needs assistive technology (AT) devices or services to access the curriculum, educational agencies are required to provide them. IDEA defines an AT device as any item, piece of equipment, or product whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a student with disabilities.
Learn more about assistive technology
Are there online tools that my teacher candidates can utilize to better understand and make decisions about AIM?
The AIM Explorer is a simulation tool that facilitates students trying out features often found in reading software (e.g., font sizes, magnification, text and background colors, highlighting, layout options, text-to-speech settings) to decide what settings work best for them as they read text. The AIM Navigator is an interactive tool that facilitates the process of decision-making around accessible instructional materials for an individual student. The four major decision points in the process include 1) determination of need, 2) selection of format(s), 3) acquisition of format(s), and 4) selection of supports for use.
Learn more about the Explorer and Navigator tools
What resources are available to help prepare my teacher candidates in the use of AIM?
Teacher educators can use the resource links below to introduce teacher candidates to the issues related to the use of AIM. The differences between the use of "typical" printed text and the use of specialized formats are significant enough that when specialized formats are introduced teachers, students and families have many adjustments to make. It is likely that they will need to develop proficiency with new or unfamiliar technology, use different strategies, and need different supports to teach and learn.
Learn more about available supports for preparing teacher candidates
What do my teacher candidates need to know about students with disabilities transitioning into postsecondary learning environments and the use of AIM?
This section includes information and resources regarding AIM related to post-secondary education and transition. Access to information about transition is important for all learners and listed below are relevant resources pertaining to the transition from high school to college, to work, and to life. We realize that these lists are not exhaustive but some information about rights of students and families, helpful web resources, and a collection of transition-related research articles are included.
Learn more about higher education and transition
What are the issues that my teacher candidates should be aware of as schools move to digital learning environments?
As educators start to incorporate more digital technology in classrooms, it becomes increasingly important that teacher candidates understand that the materials used in classrooms are designed to be useable by all students from the start. It is important to consider AIM during the transition planning process because when students with disabilities exit special education and are no longer entitled to special education and related services under IDEA, they have to be able to advocate on their own behalf in other settings, including postsecondary education. This requires teacher candidates to understand the issues that pertain to equal access and the use of emerging technologies in educational settings as well as adjustments in the way materials are purchased.