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Accessible Books for All

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Reading Rockets, an educational initiative of the public television station in the Washington area, has a nice, easy-to-read web page about accessible instructional materials. Though the guide is written for parents, teachers and administrators could also find this information valuable.

IDEA 2004 requires textbook companies to adhere to a certain technical standard (the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard, or NIMAS) when they create the source files that are used to create textbooks.

This digital source file can then be used to produce the standard textbooks we all know and love, as well as Braille versions, audio versions, large-print editions, and other instructional materials that would be useful for students who need help accessing printed materials. Using just one standard means that schools don't have to cope with a variety of different technologies when they're requesting Braille or large-print books for a blind student, for example.

Right now, accessible books are so hard to produce that students may wait months for appropriate instructional materials.

The Center for Applied Special Technology
has received funding from the U.S. Department of Education to establish technical assistance centers for NIMAS. The center also created and promotes an educational concept called universal design for learning, which suggests that technology should be used to create accessible learning materials for all types of learners, not just those who have problems with print.

Thanks to the Charles Fox's Special Education Law Blog for pointing out the Reading Rockets site.

1 Comment

While the new requirement for NIMAS in IDEA 2004 is certainly a step in the right direction, the language regarding who is eligible to receive alternative formats of instructional materials created with the NIMAS source files is highly restrictive - relying on a very old definition from the Act to Provide Books for the Adult Blind.

I wrote about NIMAS for Exceptional Parent magazine this month. The article - What You Need to Know About NIMAS - is available at: http://tinyurl.com/269n2h

Candace Cortiella
The Advocacy Institute
Marshall, VA

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