Archive for the ‘NIMAS’ Tag

Bookshare Part 2: Student Eligibility

A post about Bookshare appeared on the ACTEM listserv earlier this week that led to some confusion about “who is eligible and for what books?” The confusion is more than understandable as student eligibility for copyright exemption is pretty complex. Add to that confusion the new IDEA provision for accessible instructional materials (“NIMAS“), and we have a full-day symposium on how to get students what they need in the format they need…when they need it.

In the interest of keeping this post manageable and not a white paper, I’d like to shed some clarity on the Bookshare eligibility issue and leave NIMAS for another day.

As was indicated on the ACTEM list, not all students with learning disabilities qualify for Bookshare service. The disability needs to specifically impact the ability to read print and must be certified by one of the following: a neurologist, psychiatrist, learning disability specialist, school psychologist, or a clinical psychologist with a background in learning disabilities.

The reasoning for this goes back to Copyright law. It’s much easier for students with visual or physical impairments to qualify for Bookshare. “Learning” or “reading” disabilities must have a physical basis in order for a student to meet the requirements for copyright exemption. This is a much more complicated diagnosis than blindness or motor impairment.

The second misconception that I believe may be circulating is that Bookshare has “free textbooks.” No…and yes. Bookshare has a growing number of textbooks in its repository due to a provision of IDEA ’04, but it will take some time for that collection to become robust. To further complicate these matters, most of those textbooks will only be available for students who have IEPs (i.e., qualify under both Copyright and IDEA).

Like I said, this stuff has no place on a blog!


Fast Forward Digital Media

NIMASOne of my first posts to this blog related to the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). NIMAS is mandated under IDEA ’04 and is a partial acquisition system for getting Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) to kids who need them – in a timely manner. Maine is participating in a 15-state consortium to develop work flows and training materials that will support schools in the implementation of this law. That work is well underway and information will be disseminated over the course of the next year (district administrators have been notified of NIMAS and the initial steps of compliance).


While NIMAS is a highly technical standard that is intertwined in legislative mumbo jumbo, its intent is as pure as our own individual pursuits to equip kids with curriculum materials in formats that they need or prefer, such as digital text, audio, Braille, or enlarged print. I don’t pretend to frequently agree with what the Feds choose to pour money into, but this funded statute has resulted in some innovative and emergent tools that heretofore have been reserved as accommodations for students with print disabilities. The provision of books in flexible online interfaces for all students is emerging. A compelling example is a creation by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). Called UDL Editions, current texts include “Call of the Wild” by Jack London, Shakespeare’s “18th Sonnet,” Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the Gettysburg Address, and a couple of books related to coyotes (not sure why coyotes…my first thought was supplements to Call of the Wild but then again Buck yearned to be a wolf…).

I realize that literature in the public domain has long been available on the Web in digital format. But creations like UDL Editions extend accessibility to include features that promote literacy skills, regardless of reading ability. Supports are scaffolded into “maximum,” “moderate,” and “minimal,” and include features such as “Stop and Think” prompts, highlighting of critical features, models, hints, and immediate feedback on responses. And Texthelp has donated its speech synthesis program to the site, including topic fact-finder, dictionary, and English-Spanish word translation.


Lots more good stuff to share – stay tuned!

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.