The Maine AIM Program has coordinated with the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials (NC-AIM) and the NIMAS Center located at CAST for many years. In 2015, the National Center changed it’s official name to the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials for Learning (AEM Center) . The change has caused some confusion.
What Does it Mean?
AEM Center provided this explanation for the change from AIM to AEM in their newsletter of October, 2015.
Section 300.172 of the regulations for the implementation of IDEA 2004 is entitled “Access to Instructional Materials.” This section focuses on the responsibility of state and local education agencies to provide specialized formats of printed materials in a timely manner to students with disabilities who require those formats for educational participation and achievement. It also includes a number of supports to assist in meeting the responsibilities. When referring to the statutory and regulatory requirements related to the timely provision of printed materials, we will continue to use the term accessible instructional materials or AIM.
While the focus on print was reasonable in 2004, the landscape of materials used in education has changed and expanded over the last decade to include a broad range of digital technology-based materials. Thus the focus on printed materials, while still critically important, is no longer adequate to ensure that students with disabilities have access to the materials used. This is where the term accessible educational materials or AEM comes in.
OSEP has expanded the definition of educational materials to include both print and digital technology-based learning materials. “Accessible educational materials means print and technology-based materials, including printed and electronic textbooks and related core materials that are required by SEAs and LEAs for use by all students, produced or rendered in accessible media, written and published primarily for use in early learning programs, elementary, or secondary schools to support teaching and learning.” (Footnote 10, Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 90 / Friday, May 9, 2014 / Notices, page 26728)
In summary, the mandate in IDEA to provide textbooks and related core instructional materials in specialized formats only applies to materials which have a print-based source. However, two federal civil rights acts — Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and speak to the obligation of public schools to provide accessible educational materials to students with disabilities who need them.
Whether your state uses AIM or AEM when referring to accessible materials and technologies, accessibility is critical in all materials used in the educational process regardless of the original format (e.g., print, digital, graphical, video) of the materials. Whether the materials are labeled “instructional,” “educational,” or “learning,” they need to be usable by the widest possible range of students. If the materials are intended to be used as print, they need to be retrofitted to specialized formats. If materials are intended to be used digitally and delivered via technology, they need to be designed and developed from the start with accessibility features included.
For the time being, the Maine AIM Program will retain the same name, but our mission also is expanding to include early intervention and post-secondary. We also now address issues related to Accessible Digital Documents, as well as issues related to training people with print disabilities in the workplace.