Instructional Materials for All

This may appear to contradict my introductory post, but I want to raise awareness about an important mandate that has implications for the current access that students with print disabilities have to instructional materials. I say that this contradicts my most recent post because universal design is not about individualized plans for kids with disabilities, right? Right. It is, however, about creating access for the widest possible number of learners and NIMAS (the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard) is all about contributing to the means by which access to the content areas is seamless.

OK, now that I’ve justified and captured your attention, here’s the bottom line on NIMAS (and, as with all laws, there are thousands of lines above the bottom one so this is no easy summation): As of August 18, 2006, a process is now in place by which students with print disabilities can get instructional materials in the specialized formats that they need in a timely manner. Why is this a big deal? You likely have witnessed firsthand that the current process of getting copyrighted material in alternative formats for kids who need them is notoriously unorganized and inefficient. It’s not uncommon for kids to receive them long after the associated unit of study has ended. NIMAS is a standard for all publishers to follow, and there’s even a central national repository for all textbook and other print material source files, making it easy to get and then converted to the specialized formats needed (i.e., Braille, digital text, audio, or enlarged print).

The real bottom line: Another step toward seamlessly providing the same content to all students. Different formats, same content. Beautiful.

Having said that, my eyes are certainly wide open to the complications associated with the implementation of such laws. Maine and every other state in the nation has been in the process of setting up internal systems for NIMAS, as well as education and awareness training for school districts. This information is most immediately relevant to IEP teams, and support is being customized around best practices for developing IEPs. I’ll use this blog to post information as it becomes available. In the meantime, you can learn more about NIMAS.

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