Changes to AEM and NIMAS terms

From the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials

Recent federal statutory developments have impacted the provision of accessible educational materials, specifically those sourced from NIMAS files. The following changes mean that certain aspects of the AEM Navigator are now outdated:

  1. Definitions of key NIMAS-related terms have been updated.
  2. The NIMAC is now permitted to accept NIMAS files sourced from digital instructional materials.

First, as a result of changes to Copyright Law in response to the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act, key NIMAS-related terms have been updated. See our recent announcement NIMAS Terms Clarified Post Marrakesh to learn about the new terms “eligible person” and “accessible format.” The definition of “eligible person” has implications for the guidance that the AEM Navigator provides for who can use materials created from NIMAS source files from the NIMAC. We are currently waiting on the Library of Congress for regulations that will update the process currently outlined in the AEM Navigator.

Second, the U.S. Department of Education recently published a Notice of Interpretation in the Federal Register permitting the NIMAC to accept NIMAS files sourced from digital instructional materials. Previously, as reflected throughout the AEM Navigator, the NIMAC was permitted to accept NIMAS files from print instructional materials only. We are currently working with our stakeholders to develop new guidance and technical assistance to support educators with navigating a student’s need for accessible materials, whether those materials start as print or as digital.

We look forward to providing you with a new version of the AEM Navigator. The timeline primarily depends on when the Library of Congress  publishes procedures related to the new term “eligible person.”  While we don’t expect to be able to replace the AEM Navigator Online Tool due to the technology now being outdated, we will certainly build the best experience possible for you and your team.

If you have questions or comments regarding upcoming changes to the AEM Navigator, please contact us at aem@cast.org.

2020 Guide for Maine Families on AT and AEM Published

EducationThe Maine CITE Assistive Technology Program is pleased to release the revised Guide for Maine Families on Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Materials. The 2020 Guide provides Maine families who have children with disabilities an easy to use resource describing how to get the assistive technology (AT) devices and services they need. Information about accessible education materials (AEM) and families’ important role in the planning process are also provided.

The 2020 Guide updates general information about AT and AEM. It includes new resources about assistive technology used during “learning at home” activities, as well as AT device demonstration and loan services – AT4Maine.org.

Use this link to download the The 2020 Guide – PDF

Feds provide clarification on definition of print materials

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), Department of Education has announced a “Final notice of interpretation” regarding the definition of “print instructional materials’’ in the Individuals with Disability Education Act – IDEA regarding digital instructional materials. In this final interpretation, effective May 26, 2020, OSERS noted the “trend” toward digital materials in classrooms, a far different landscape from 2004 when IDEA was last amended and the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) was created. At that time, the vast majority of instructional materials were printed on paper and NIMAC was implemented to allow for the schools to convert printed instructional materials into specialized formats for a student with a print disability in a timely manner.

According to the announcement in the Federal Register Vol. 85, No. 101 of May 26, 2020:

“…the Department interprets the phrase ‘printed textbooks and related printed core  materials’ referred to in the definition of ‘print instructional materials’ in section 674(e)(3)(C) of IDEA (20 U.S.C. 1474(e)(3)(C)) to include digital instructional materials that comply with NIMAS, because that is the primary medium through which many textbooks and core materials are now produced.”

The full announcement in the May 26th Federal Register may be downloaded in PDF on the govinfo.gov website.

Read more about Laws and Policies related to AEM…

Text-to-Speech vs. Human Audio Debate

Book with headphonesTime was, if you wanted/needed to have textbooks and other educational materials in “audio” format, you needed to acquire a recording made by a human narrator reading the materials. Indeed, the earliest forms of these recordings were developed in the late 1940 as a service known as, Recordings for the Blind (later renamed Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, and now known as Learning Ally), started in New York City.  Learning Ally is currently the largest supplier of human-narrated audio texts and educational materials.

As information technology has advanced greatly in the last 20 years, so too has the quality of “audio” transformations made by text-to-speech software (TTS). One might assume therefore that the need for audio recordings from human narrators would no longer be needed. Perhaps.

A recent blog article from Christine Jones at Bookshare/Benetech (full disclosure – Bookshare is a supplier of digital content that can be read by TTS) notes that the differences between TTS and human narration have become less and may soon “be negligible.”

Perhaps what is more important from Ms. Jones’ article is the emphasis that not only are audio and digital/TTS options essential for many readers with print disabilities, ALL students, even those without disabilities, can benefit from the use of these audio methods when used in conjunction with printed materials.

The decision on whether a student should use human-narrated audio content or digital content read with TTS is probably best done on an individual basis. However, it is quite likely that having both options available will continue to be a good thing for some time to come.

Read Christine Jones complete article, Reframing the Text-to-Speech vs. Human Audio Debate: Both Make Reading Easier…

Read Why Audiobooks? from Learning Ally…

 

Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by Jeff Golden 

Audio Description in Education Content

Young People Who Are Blind Write Reviews of Film and Video

Pictogram of Audio Description logoOctober 24, 2019 – The American Council of the Blind’s Audio Description Project (ACB-ADP) and the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) are continuing their co-sponsorship of an exciting opportunity for blind and visually impaired young people, in four categories from ages 7 to 21: the Benefits of Audio Description in Education (BADIE) contest.

Kids love movies!

Movies, videos, and other forms of multimedia are, these days, integral to public, private, and special education curriculum. If you’re a young person who can’t see or can’t see well, audio description provides access to all the visual images of the movies that sighted young people enjoy.

Students choose an audio-described film or video from the more than thousands of titles available through the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP). Or a young person who is blind can borrow an audio-described video or film from a library, and dozens of audio-described films videos are available for purchase through the ACB-ADP’s website.

Reviews can be submitted in writing, in braille or via an audio recording.

Register for the contest at Listening is Learning’s BADIE website. 

Entries can also be submitted via e-mail or postal mail (submissions from outside the United States are fine) to:

ACB-DCMP Benefits of Audio Description In Education
1703 N. Beauregard St., Suite 420
Alexandria, VA 22311 USA

E-mail: jsnyder@acb.org
Phone: (202) 467-5083

Deadline for Entries: Friday, December 6, 2019

Contest winners in each category will be chosen by January of 2020, and the grand prize winner will receive an iPad Mini! Each first-place winner will receive a $100 iTunes gift card. Second-place winners will receive a $50 iTunes gift card, and third-place winners will receive a $25 iTunes gift card. Each supporting teacher who has a first-place winning student will be awarded a $100 Amazon gift card.

 

AEM Pilot Has Launched

From NC-AEM

The AEM Pilot Has Launched!

We’re excited to announce the launch of the AEM Pilot. If you’re in a school district that has work to do to improve the accessibility of materials and technologies provided to learners with disabilities, enlist a crew and board the AEM Pilot! It’s a secure, interactive, web-based tool aligned with the AEM Quality Indicators with Critical Components for K-12.

The AEM Pilot:

  • Provides guidance on establishing a high-functioning cross-disciplinary district team
  • Scaffolds individual and group knowledge about AEM and related technologies
  • Presents guiding questions for critical self-reflection
  • Offers exemplars of effective practices already in use by states and districts
  • Recommends specific actions for getting started with improving the provision of AEM in your district
  • Guides your district’s team in conducting self-assessments in relation to the AEM Quality Indicators
  • Saves your team’s data for progress monitoring purposes
  • Generates reports that include self-ratings, goals, and action steps.

Let the AEM Pilot navigate a crew of accessibility heroes in your district.

Use this link for more information about the AEM Pilot… 

 

New EdTech Publications Emphasize Inclusion

From State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) and National Center for Learning Disabilities:

June 7, 2019 – Eleven national organizations have come together to outline a new vision for education technology in a series of publications that explore conception, design, procurement, use, and continuous improvement of ed tech initiatives.

The collaborative publications build off a central report, “Inclusive Technology in a 21st Century Learning System”, by Ace Parsi, Director of Innovation at the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). The report lays out a new inclusive vision for educational technology and considerations to ensure technology closes educational, economic, and civic opportunity gaps for individuals with disabilities.

The complimentary local and state/national briefs were developed in collaboration between the following organizations:

  • Policy and Research Organizations:  The American Institute for Research, Digital Promise, the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, and The Learning Accelerator
  • Associations Representing Local Policy Leaders: CoSN – Consortium for School Networking, the School Superintendent Association and Association of School Business Officials International;
  • Associations Representing State Policy Makers:  National Association of State Directors of Special Education, the State Education Technology Directors Association, and the National Association of State Boards of Education;
  • National Policy and Advocacy Organizations: The Alliance for Excellent Education, the Future Ready Schools initiative, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

“Working together with these 10 other organizations sets a prime example of how all decision makers should be working together to ensure the needs of all learners are truly being met,” noted Lindsay Jones, CEO of the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

“These publications provide information and guidance to educational leaders to effectively leverage education technology to meet the needs of all learners, particularly those with disabilities,” said Tracy Gray, Managing Director at the American Institute for Research.

Use this link to read the entire news release and learn more about this topic..

National AEM Center posts “AEM and the IEP”

National Center on Accessible Educational Materials logo

In March, the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (NC-AEM) hosted a webinar entitled, “AEM in the IEP: Where Do Accessible Materials and Technologies Fit?” Presented by Joy Zabala and Diana Carl, the 60-minute webinar detailed the seven points in the IEP development process at which AEM might reasonably be considered and documented. Participants were also provided with IEP requirements at each point and questions related to consideration of accessible materials.

This webinar has now been archived and posted, available for your viewing. The presentation slides and handout is also available for download.

Articles: Assistive Tech for Students with Dyslexia

Student using iPad to readTwo articles appeared recently on Edutopia, a free on-line education resource supported by the George Lucas Foundation. 

In The Benefits of Ear-Reading bDana Blackaby, a dyslexia specialist discusses the assistive technologies she uses to help students with dyslexia make gains in reading. In the article, Blackaby discusses her observations of several of her students with dyslexia using a technique she called “ear reading.” She describes this as, “a key strategy…having (the students) read along with audiobooks, which is beneficial in tying their emotional belief system directly to their academic performance.”

Blackaby goes on to note, “These students have made marked improvements in their reading skills and social behavior as a result of our structured literacy curriculum, my high expectations for their achievement, and their use of supplemental assistive technology resources. Through the structured literacy curriculum, I teach students to decode words in an explicit and systematic manner that focuses on phonology, sound-symbol association, syllable types, and syntax. In addition, this instruction is delivered in a multisensory way that is proven to build pathways to improve phonological memory.”

As a benefit she notes the following results:

After using these resources with fidelity, my students performed higher on state testing and demonstrated large strides in self-confidence. In our state assessments, 97 percent of my students who utilized audiobooks and text-to-speech software met the STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) reading standard.

Read the full article The Benefits of Ear-Reading on Edutopia…

The second Edutopia article Accommodating Students With Dyslexia, Jessica Hamman describes “five easy-to-implement accommodations can make class less stressful and more manageable for students with dyslexia.” The five accommodations include access to audio books, note-taking apps, as well as encouragement for students to utilize text-to-speech technologies.

Read the full article: Accommodating Students With Dyslexia on Edutopia…

 

Online Toolkit Supporting the Selection of Quality Instructional Materials

SETDA Releases Updated Online Toolkit Supporting the Selection of Quality Instructional Materials

From Print to Digital: Guide to Quality Instructional Materials

refreshable braille displaySeptember 11, 2018 (Washington D.C.) Today, SETDA, the principal membership association representing the U.S. state and territorial digital learning leaders announced the release of updates for the online tool, From Print to Digital: Guide to Quality Instructional Materials. Developed in collaboration with state and district digital learning leaders, instructional materials directors and academic officers, this guide provides states, districts and schools with research, resources and exemplars to support selection of quality instructional materials for learning. The Guide to Quality Instructional Materials provides information to establish or enhance state level review processes and provides guidance to districts for both core-content and supplemental resources, including print and digital resources. In this toolkit, SETDA identifies and explains the key steps in this process — planning, considerations, selection, professional learning, effectiveness. In addition, comprehensive state snapshots provide an overview of the state instructional materials review process for multiple states.

“Expanding this useful tool provides additional resources for states, Local Education Agencies and schools regardless of state procurement policies so that every student has access to quality materials for learning,” stated Dr. Tracy Weeks, Executive Director, SETDA. “Collaborating with state leaders from a variety of agencies, the private sector and other organizations helps ensure quality materials are purchased and procured to best meet the needs of all students.”

“As school districts and educators in Oregon shift to innovative, well rounded and personalized learning experiences, high-quality digital instructional materials are critical. SETDA’s guide supports state and district leaders to help ensure that digital materials are high quality, equity focused, and aligned to state standards,” shared by Colt Gill, Director, Oregon Department of Education. To access the most recent webinar highlighting the tool’s updates visit “From Print to Digital: Discover and Implement Quality Instructional Materials for Learning.” 

Online Community: Complementing this resource is a new online community of practice to provide policy makers, school administrators, leaders and educator with a better understanding of policies and practices related to digital instructional materials. The community, Essential Elements for Digital Content, is free and open to the public. The community will engage in and encourage dialogue about the shift to digital including the vetting process, accessibility, professional learning, OER, procurement, implementation and infrastructure. Use this link to access the online community…

About SETDA

Founded in 2001, SETDA is the national non-profit association representing the interests of U.S. state and territorial educational technology leadership. SETDA’s mission is to build and increase the capacity of state and national leaders to improve education through technology policy and practice. For more information, please visit setda.org.