The laws and rules that pertain to the obligations for local School Administrative Units (SAUs) to provide services to students with disabilities and those related to the protection of copyrights are still confusing. Issues related to student eligibility for Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) may also still exist. We provide these resources to provide the best guidance.
Here are the major pieces of legislation:
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA04).
- Higher Education Opportunity Act.
- U.S. Copyright Laws.
- Maine Statutes.
- US Department of Education “Dear Colleague Letters”.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA04)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA04) requires the timely delivery of accessible instructional materials to students who are IDEA04 eligible. To assist in implementation of this requirement, IDEA04 established the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) that serves as a repository for electronic files prepared in the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) format. NIMAS is the technical standard to be used by publishers in the preparation of electronic files. A NIMAS source file can converted into accessible formats (NOTE: this was formerly called specialized formats – Braille, large print, digital audio and electronic text and was changed in 2020 – see information below).
IDEA04 specifically requires that each state education agency (SEA):
- Adopt NIMAS as the technical standard for electronic file sets for accessible instructional materials. (§300.172(a)(1)), and
- Establish a State definition of “timely manner” for purposes of providing accessible instructional materials to IDEA04 eligible students in a timely manner.(§300.172(a)(2)
The National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) – is an acquisition system for specialized formats of textbooks and related core instructional materials sold after July 18, 2006. The NIMAC is a national repository of electronic files of textbooks and core instructional materials that are submitted directly by publishers. These files, once downloaded from the NIMAC, are then available to be converted to accessible formats. Although the process of downloading files is limited to authorized individuals, the NIMAC is freely searchable by anyone .
The electronic files that are submitted to the NIMAC by publishers are based on the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS), and are known as NIMAS source files. The NIMAS is a technical standard used by publishers to produce source files of their textbooks and related core instructional materials. A single file based on the NIMAS is built once and then, upon download from the NIMAC, rendered many times in multiple formats. The NIMAS and NIMAC significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to get specialized formats of core instructional materials to the students who need them.
NIMAS and the NIMAC originate from a provision within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 04). The law requires that printed textbooks and related core instructional materials be provided to students with print disabilities in specialized formats in a timely manner. In Maine, “timely manner” means, “at the same time as other students receive their core instructional materials in print format.” “Core instructional materials” are textbooks and related core materials published with texts that are primarily for use in elementary and secondary school instruction and required by state or location education agencies for use by students in the classroom.
For those who did not assure coordination with NIMAC, the agency must provide accessible, alternative format instructional materials to students who are blind or have other print disabilities in a timely manner through their own resources and will not have access to the NIMAC repository of files.
Recent Changes to NIMAC
The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled was adopted in 2013 by the International World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and its provisions were incorporated into United States law as the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (MTIA) in 2018. The MTIA updated section 121 of the U.S. Copyright Law (also known as the “Chafee Amendment”) to meet the terms of the treaty. The goal of both the treaty and the MTIA is to ensure equitable access to books and other text-based materials by individuals with visual or other print disabilities.
In December 2019, Congress also updated the statute authorizing the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled at the Library of Congress (NLS statute). This statute is sometimes called “An Act to provide books for the adult blind.” In order to provide consistency with the MTIA, Congress revised the NLS statute to include some of the new terminology that the MTIA had incorporated into section 121 of the Copyright Law.
The statutory changes introduced by the MTIA amendments to section 121 and revised NLS statute have implications for the provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) pertaining to the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). The NIMAS provisions of IDEA, in fact, reference both section 121 and the NLS statute. The statutory changes impacting the NIMAS provisions are as follows:
- The term “eligible person” is now used to describe students who qualify for NIMAS-derived materials and
- The term “accessible formats” is now used to describe the types of formats that may be developed from NIMAS file sets.
These changes were recently included in the OSEP memorandum to states regarding IDEA Part B grant applications – PDF .
For more information see NIMAS Terms Clarified Post Marrakesh – National Center on AEM
Maine Requirements and Interpretations of Federal Laws
The Maine Department of Education has adopted NIMAS as the technical standard for Maine through the Local Entitlement Application – (Local Entitlement Application information available as a MS-Word document). The Maine Department of Education, with input from the Maine AEM Communities of Practice, has defined “timely manner” as follows:
School Administrative Units (SAUs) will provide print instructional materials in accessible specialized formats (i.e. Braille, audio, digital, large print) to children who are blind or have other print disabilities in a timely manner.
Timely manner means that SAUs will ensure that children with print disabilities have access to specialized instructional materials at the same time as students without print disabilities.
In cases when a student with a print disability is newly identified or transfers schools, temporary accommodations must be provided while accessible specialized formats are being acquired.
To deliver accessible print materials in a timely manner, each SAU must either assure they will coordinate with NIMAC or assure they will provide accessible, alternative format instructional materials to students who are blind or have other print disabilities in a timely manner through their own resources. Each Maine SAU must provide this assurance in their Local Entitlement Application – annually.
For those SAUs who did assure coordination with NIMAC (“opt-in”), any print instructional material adoption process, procurement contract, or other purchase of print instructional materials must include a written requirement that the publisher:
- Prepare and, on or before the delivery of the print instructional materials, provide to the NIMAC, electronic files containing the contents of the print instructional materials using the NIMAS, and/or
- Produce and provide the print instructional materials in specialized formats. (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(23)(C) and §300.172(c)).
The print instructional materials covered by such contract or purchase agreement language include print textbooks and related print core materials that are written and published primarily for use in elementary and secondary school instruction and are required by a state or local education agency for use by students in the classroom. Here is suggested language for inclusion on SAU’s textbook purchase orders. The SAU is free to modify this to suit their needs.
As noted above, for those SAUs who did not assure coordination with NIMAC, the agency must provide accessible, alternative format instructional materials to students who are blind or have other print disabilities in a timely manner through their own resources and will not have access to the NIMAC repository of files.
FROM the IDEA Regs: Establishes SEA rights and responsibilities.
Nothing in 34 CFR 300.172 shall be construed to require any SEA to coordinate with the NIMAC. If an SEA chooses not to coordinate with the NIMAC, the SEA must provide an assurance to the Secretary that it will provide instructional materials to blind persons or other persons with print disabilities in a timely manner.
Nothing in this section relieves an SEA of its responsibility to ensure that children with disabilities who need instructional materials in accessible formats, but are not included under the definition of blind or other persons with print disabilities in 34 CFR 300.172(e)(1)(i) or who need materials that cannot be produced from NIMAS files, receive those instructional materials in a timely manner.
Establishes responsibilities of LEAs for purchase of instructional materials.
Not later than December 3, 2006, an LEA that chooses to coordinate with the NIMAC, when purchasing print instructional materials, must acquire those instructional materials in the same manner, and subject to the same conditions as an SEA under 34 CFR 300.172.
Nothing in this section shall be construed to require an LEA to coordinate with the NIMAC. If an LEA chooses not to coordinate with the NIMAC, the LEA must provide an assurance to the SEA that the LEA will provide instructional materials to blind persons or other persons with print disabilities in a timely manner.
Nothing in this section relieves an LEA of its responsibility to ensure that children with disabilities who need instructional materials in accessible formats but are not included under the definition of blind or other persons with print disabilities in 34 CFR 300.172(e)(1)(i) or who need materials that cannot be produced from NIMAS files, receive those instructional materials in a timely manner. [34 CFR 300.210] [20 U.S.C. 1413(a)(6)(E)]
Guidance on MathML in NIMAS
In March, 2009, the NIMAS Standards Board voted by a clear majority to recommend to the Office of Special Education Programs, United States Department of Education that MathML become part of the required NIMAS Baseline Element Set.
In response, on June 22, 2012, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services distributed a Dear Colleague letter to all state directors of Special Education referencing the availability of the MathML3 Structure Guidelines. (MathML3 is the current version of the XML-based math mark-up language ratified by the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C], the DAISY Consortium, and the NIMAS Standards Board.) See more information on the National Center on AEM website…
Maine Department of Education – Special Services Forms
The Maine DOE has published information and the standardized the Individualized Education Program (IEP) form in multiple formats including RTF or MS Word. The latest version of the IEP Form may be found on the Maine DOE Special Services Forms webpage . In addition, there is also an IEP Guidance Document – which will assist IEP Teams on how to include AEM and Assistive Technology in the IEP.
Higher Education Opportunity Act.
On August 14, 2008, the Higher Education Opportunity Act (Public Law 110-315) (HEOA) was enacted. It reauthorized the amended version of the Higher Education Act of 1965. This act made major changes in student loan discharges for disabled people. Previously, to qualify for a discharge, a disabled person could have no income. This has been changed to a no “substantial gainful activity” test, which is the same standard used by the Social Security Administration in determining eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The changes took effect on July 1, 2010.
HEOA of 2008 included requirements that all U.S. colleges and universities release and annual disclosure to students regarding copyright laws and associated campus policies, provide a written plan, submitted to the Department of Education, to combat copyright abuse using one or more technology-based deterrents, and provide an offer to students of alternatives to illegal downloading.
U.S. Copyright Laws
Laws in United States and many other countries prevent the copying of copyright materials without the permission of the copyright holder. In many cases the materials can be copied by paying a fee to the copyright holder.
However in 1931, the copyright laws in the United States were amended. According to the National Library Service Fact Sheet – : “The free national library program of reading materials for visually handicapped adults administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, was established by an act of Congress in 1931. The program was expanded in 1952 to include blind children, in 1962 to include music materials, and in 1966 to include individuals with physical impairments that prevent the reading of standard print.
From the beginning, this program was dependent upon the cooperation of authors and publishers who granted NLS permission to select and reproduce in special formats copyrighted works without royalty. Although many factors influence the length of time it takes to make a print book accessible in a specialized format, the period required to obtain permission from the copyright holder has sometimes been significant.”
Public Law 104-197
From the NLS Fact Sheet: “Under the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, H.R. 3754, Congress approved a measure, introduced by Senator John H. Chafee (R-R.I.) on July 29, 1996, that provides for an exemption affecting the NLS program. On September 16, 1996, the bill was signed into law by President Clinton.
The Chafee amendment to chapter 1 of title 17, United States Code, adds section 121, establishing a limitation on the exclusive rights in copyrighted works. The amendment allows authorized entities to reproduce or distribute copies or phonorecords of previously published nondramatic literary works in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.
In 2010, the Maine State Legislature amended state education statutes to include student access to accessible instructional materials (AIM). Here is the citation and specific language:
State Statute Sec. 2. 20-A MRSA§7201, sub-§5, as corrected by RR 2005, c. 2, §13, is amended to read:
5. Accessible instructional materials; visual impairment including blindness; Braille instruction. All students must have access to accessible instructional materials and may receive instruction in Braille reading and writing as part of their individualized family service plans or individualized education programs. A student may not be denied the opportunity of instruction in Braille reading and writing solely because the student has some remaining vision. If Braille is not provided to a child who is blind, the reason for not incorporating Braille in the individualized family service plan or individualized education program must be documented in the individualized family service plan or individualized education program. Accessible instructional materials and provisions for the accessibility of online learning programs for individuals with disabilities must be in alignment with the accessible instructional materials provisions of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, Public Law 108-446, 118 Stat. 2647 and in alignment with the universal design provisions of the 1998 amendments to the federal Higher Education Act of 1965, 20 United States Code, Chapter 28 contained in the federal Higher Education Amendments of 1998, Public Law 105-244, 112 Stat. 1581.
US Department of Education “Dear Colleague Letters”
The US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights also issues “Dear Colleague Letters” (DCL) which are designed to inform educational institutions, students, parents, advocacy agencies and others of updates to policy and interpretation of regulations. Here are some recent DCLs on the DOE website related to AEM:
- June 29, 2010 DCL – Concerning colleges and universities that are using electronic book readers that are not accessible to students who are blind or have low vision – .
- January 19, 2012 DCL – Concerning Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADA Amendments Act).
- May 14, 2014 DCL – Concerning students with disabilities in public charter schools –.
- November 12, 2014 DCL – Concerning effective communication for students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities in public elementary and secondary schools –.
- October 23, 2015 DCL – Concerning the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia – .
- August 5, 2016 DCL – Concerning IDEA and Virtual Schools – .
Note: Some of the material on this page was adapted from other states. We thank them for allowing us to use their materials.