Acquisition of Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)
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Accessible and Assistive Technologies
Infrastructure of the general education classroom and curriculum can provide accessibility to all learners. Acquisition and provision of AIM begins with an examination of the technology and general education curriculum already in place in a school. Two questions guide this consideration:
- Are devices, hardware, software, desktop or handheld equipment directly usable to provide access to learning activities for everyone, including individuals with disabilities? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is often “NO.” Even with recent movement in 1:1 initiatives, the hardware selected may not provide the full range of accessibility for students, including students with print disability. Schools acquire or create digital content as part of the general education curriculum yet in many cases, this content is not functionally accessible. With that in mind, schools considering new technology or digital learning materials can tap into resources such as the PALM Initiative, Benetech’s Buy Accessible initiative, and the National Education Technology Plan (NETP) for guidance.
- Can devices, hardware, software, or desktop or handheld equipment be made usable with assistive technology to provide access to learning activities for everyone, including individuals with disabilities? Assistive technology is the access and delivery system for students needing AIM if they cannot see the print or cannot physically access books or computers if school technologies are not accessible. Assistive technology tools are individualized to match student needs, the learning environments, and learning tasks. Examples could include a Braille reader, eye gaze technology to interact with digital learning materials, switch access to turn pages of digital text, or voice control of computer content and functions.
Schools increasingly use a combination of print and digital content in the general education curriculum. Print materials can be acquired or made digital and accessible to many students with print disabilities. Digital content, either purchased commercially or uploaded into a learning management system, is not readily retrofitted for accessibility, so needs to be fully accessible “out of the box.”
Where to get AIM
Authorized Media Producers (AMP) - These entities provide files of print materials which are regulated by copyright restrictions and IDEA. Many of the files in these repositories are NIMAS source files (insert link), which are accessible files of copyrighted print materials, created by publishers. In Iowa, Bookshare and the Iowa Department for the Blind (IDB) are authorized media producers.
- An online library of digital books for people with print disabilities. It operates under an exception to U.S. copyright law (Chafee Amendment) which allows copyrighted books to be made available to people with qualifying disabilities in specialized formats. As of June, 2016 Bookshare provides access to over 432,000 digital books, including thousands of K–12 textbooks, to members worldwide. Bookshare is free for qualified U.S. schools and students through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) (2007).
- Each school district in Iowa can have a free organizational membership in Bookshare and provide books to their students with print disabilities, such as blindness, low vision, a physical disability or reading disability of sufficient severity that they cannot access traditional print. Who have an IEP or 504 Plan. Qualified students have access to books including textbooks from the NIMAC, educational reading, vocational resources, reference materials, fiction, and newspapers and magazines. Bookshare has computer, smartphone and tablet reading tools. Formats available: Braille, Large Print, Audio, and Digital text.
- Iowa Department for the Blind
- Curriculum publishers are now making many of their materials available in digital format as well as print. Unfortunately there is no central clearinghouse listing who these publishers are or how accessible the digital content really is.
- Process guidance for purchasing accessible learning materials is available through The PALM Initiative from the AEM Center at CAST.
- LEAs are legally required to include language in their purchase contracts for publishers to provide accessible files. Local Purchase Order and Contract Language.
- Vendors in the consumer market offer for purchase accessible audio files or eReaders that have audio and visual display options, e.g. Playaway, Kindle, Audible.
Free Resources – There are no limitations in use for these materials; however, they may not offer a full array of accessibility options.
- Iowa AEA Online - Iowa AEAs provide schools and students in their region a collection of online resources that can be used without cost. Every school has a login and password students can use at home or school. These resources include research tools and ebooks that provide accessibility features such as text to speech, audio, or a selection of reading levels.
- Open Educational Resources (OER). Broadly, these are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online for any educator or learner to use. The authors and creators of OER retain little or no ownership rights. Most open educational resources have a Creative Commons license or GNU General Public License and indicate how the materials can be used, adapted and shared. OER Commons is a curated digital library and network to explore.
- Public Domain Materials. A work in the public domain is not protected by copyright and is freely usable by everyone - not just students with disabilities. Students can access this content on the Web in multiple ways, such as customizing the appearance (font, size, contrast) or having the text read aloud via text to speech. These materials are not necessarily accessible on their own.
- Locally Created. If accessible materials cannot be acquired from any of the sources above, they may be created locally. For example, print-based curriculum can be scanned and converted to Braille or digital format which is then accessed through accessible or assistive technologies. There may be constraints on use of these files from copyright restrictions. Locally created materials require substantial time to obtain, produce and distribute which can be burdensome on the human resources of a district.