Skip to Content

Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Materials



Assistive technology enables children with disabilities to participate more fully in all aspects of life (home, school, and community) and helps them access their right to a “free, appropriate, public education” in the “least restrictive environment.”

281--Iowa Administrative Code 41.172

Before the IEP Meeting

The following steps need to be completed prior to the IEP meeting:

  1. Teacher, in collaboration with IEP team members, reviews information regarding the student’s abilities, educational tasks that are difficult for the student, interventions that have been implemented.
  2. The following questions should be asked in regard to assistive technology (AT) services and devices and accessible educational materials (AIM/AEM):
    • What are the rest of the students’ doing that this student can’t do due to the nature of the disability?
    • Is there available AT (either devices, tools, or software) or accessible educational materials that could be used to address these activities?
  3. Collect information about possible AT interventions and accessible educational materials. This might include having the student try different devices or accessibility tools to determine potential for addressing the student's needs..
  4. Implement the chosen intervention and collect sufficient data, typically 6-8 weeks worth of data about the intervention’s effectiveness. This time frame should be based on the device or format being assessed, the student’s needs, and the severity of the intervention problem.
  5. If data (collected as stated in #4 above) shows that the AT or AEM intervention does not work, try another intervention, if available, and collect additional data.

At the IEP Meeting

The following are important to address at the IEP meeting:

  1. Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP)
    • Strengths, interests and preferences of the individual: In relation to AT and AEM, this statement should indicate how the student’s disability-related needs affect the student’s ability to access and derive meaning from the printed and digital materials of the general education curriculum. Be specific in describing how they support the student’s competencies and access to the content.
    • Special Factors: Three of these factors are important to the issue of AT and AEM.
      1. Communication and Language: especially if the student is deaf or hard of hearing.
      2. Braille instruction needs: for blind students and students with other visual impairments
      3. Assistive Technology: for all students the team must consider whether the student needs AT devices or services. As part of this consideration the following guiding questions apply:
        1. What data resulted from pre-IEP AT interventions?
        2. Does the student require AT services, devices or accessibility tools to access the general education curriculum?
    • Student requires Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM/AEM): After consideration of the Special Factors, the IEP team determines whether the student requires AEM. The special factors emphasize the importance of AEM as part of the right to FAPE. If students with visual impairments have difficulty perceiving and using standard print materials, they may need braille and instruction in the use of braille to provide access to educational materials. For students who are deaf or hard of hearing, they may need oral language to be signed, video material to be close-captioned, or other accessible technologies. If there has been a successful trial with an AT intervention or AT is already being used effectively, the AT intervention must be described in the IEP.
    • Other Information essential for development of this IEP: This is the location where results of an AT intervention or AT/AEM consideration can be documented. During consideration, the primary focus should be on determining whether or not the student needs AEM and should not be limited to determining if a student’s situation satisfies eligibility requirements for sources of materials, e.g. National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS), Bookshare, American Printing House for the Blind (APH). If Assistive Technology is provided by the family e.g. personal voice output device, wheelchair, etc. it is listed in this section of the IEP.
    • Describe the effect of the student’s disability on involvement and progres. If the student uses AT or AEM, the IEP team should take into account the impact of the use of these tools on the student’s involvement and progress in the educational environment.
  2. Establish student learning goals.
    • Current Academic Achievement and Functional Performance: describe impact of AT and AEM on student’s performance in comparison to general education peers and standards.
    • Baseline: include information about student’s current performance using AT and accessible materials and technologies.
    • Measurable Annual Goal: can include use of AEM in the conditions, behavior and criterion of the goal.
    • Progress Monitoring: Identify methods and dates to monitor progress of AT implementation.
  3. Special Education Services, Activities and Supports. This section of the IEP is where teams can specify accommodations, assistive technology, type of AEM i.e. specialized formats of print materials and technology-based learning materials, and other supports and services necessary for the student.
    • Describe each service: AT and AEM are often represented in the IEP as activities or supports; however, if direct instruction with the student is required to assist the student to take advantage of the AT or AEM in order to engage in educational activities a service may be provided. Services imply a regular, purposeful, ongoing set of actions delivered to or on behalf of a student over time.
    • Describe each activity or support:
      1. AT Services needed to address the training needs of student, family, necessary staff in use of the AT or AEM. Identify who will provide the training and the time and frequency of the training.
      2. Discuss maintenance and repair issues and responsibilities for AT the student uses.
      3. AT provided by the school district is described as a support for the student. The inclusion of assistive technology in the IEP requires a degree of specificity so that it is clear how and why the technology will be used to accomplish a particular goal and the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of the technology.
      4. AT/AEM intervention. If the IEP team determines through their consideration process, that the student would benefit from an intervention to trial an assistive technology or accessibility tool, describe what intervention will be tried, for what specific educational tasks, under what conditions, and the criteria for determining whether or not the need is being met by the AT intervention.
      5. Accessible educational materials. When the “AIM” item on Page B is answered “yes”, an accessible educational materials activity/support box is automatically added to the Special Education Services page of the IEP.
        1. This is where to record the type(s) of accessible formats that are required i.e.specialized formats for print materials: braille, audio files, large print, or digital text
        2. and/or accessible technology-based learning materials e.g. digital content that is “born” digital such as online textbooks and related materials for which there is no corresponding print version, supplemental digital materials either added to or created for a learning management system by an educator.
        3. Timely manner is essential for procurement and provision of AEM. In Iowa, timely manner is defined as “at the same time as peers”. In practice, this means that the student needing AEM, gets accessible materials when peers are provided with learning materials. Allow for any training, installation or implementation needs that are required to meet this timely manner requirement.
        4. An LEA representative must be identified in this support box and is responsible for monitoring the procurement and provision of AT and AEM in a timely manner.
  4. Participation in district-wide or Statewide Assessments. Best practice suggests that assessment accommodations align with the accommodations and supports that a student receives during instruction. Although all classroom accommodations may not be allowable in statewide assessment, assessment accommodations should, to the greatest extent possible, mirror accommodations frequently used in the classroom. NOTE: Accessibility tools are detailed in the Assessment and Accommodations Manuals for the various statewide assessments, e.g. ISASP, ELPA21, DLM, ELAA. The reader is referred to those manuals for further detail.
  5. Transition IEP. There is benefit in creating a record of AEM or AT use through the IEP.
    • Accessible materials and technologies used for success in school facilitates the transition to the student advocating for accommodations needed in postsecondary situations.
    • Self-determination skills, AEM and technology-based materials need to be explicitly included in the transition planning process. AEM-related postsecondary accommodations such as accessible digital materials, extended time on exams, or note-taking services can increase student independence. Without a direct focus on these tools for equal access and the student’s ability to advocate effectively for what is needed, accessible materials may be overlooked in postsecondary environments.

After the IEP Meeting

Following the IEP meeting:

  • Implement AT and/or AEM interventions as identified
  • Document the effect of the intervention on student performance through data collection
  • Review effectiveness of AT/accessible formats on a periodic basis using data
  • Designated LEA representative monitors the procurement and provision of AT and/or AEM in a timely manner.
  • AEM are procured through sources appropriate for the student’s needs.
    • The district may have purchased print- and digital-based curricula that are accessible. (Guidance for Local Education Agencies (LEA) on contract or purchase order language and product accessibility information is available from the National Center for Accessible Educational Materials.)
    • A student who is blind or visually impaired may need braille or large print specialized format that is available for registered users from the Iowa Department for the Blind or Iowa Prison Industries Braille on Demand service.
    • Bookshare is an online ebook library that provides accessible textbooks and trade books for IEP students, and other populations, who have reading barriers i.e. who are vision impaired, have a physical disability, or have learning  disabilities.
    • The agencies and entities identified above are able to access the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) to retrieve National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) files which can be rendered into accessible formats i.e. braille, large print, audio files, or digital text. Though individuals can search the NIMAC, only authorized media producers are able to retrieve files directly from the NIMAC. 
    • Other options for procuring AEM include, but are not limited to, audiobooks e.g. Audible or PlayAway; human narrated text e.g. Learning Ally; and closed captioning e.g. Described and Captioned Media Program. Audiobooks may be available for loan through libraries; human narrated text and closed captioning resources are subscription services, unless the individual meets the profile of the particular resource.


Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on July 12, 2020 at 6:10am.