National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard
For many students with a disability, a print-based learning environment can often create a barrier to accessing the general education curriculum. For example, students who have vision impairments, physical disabilities, or learning disabilities may find it difficult to use standard printed core materials such as textbooks or workbooks.
Often, students with these print disabilities need alternatives to printed instructional materials. For this reason, IDEA 2004 mandated the creation of the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) provide instructional materials in a timely manner to blind students or other students with print disabilities (IDEA 2004 Sec. 612[A]).
In IDEA 2004, NIMAS is defined as “the standard… to be used in the preparation of electronic files suitable and used solely for efficient conversion into specialized formats” (IDEA 2004 Section 674[e][B]). Textbook publishing companies create NIMAS files of their instructional materials based on Extensible Markup Language (XML). These XML source files can then be easily converted into usable, specialized formats that students with print disabilities need such as Braille, large print, and audio and digital text.
Why NIMAS is Necessary
Before NIMAS, some textbook publishing companies may not have provided alternative versions of their text at all. In this case, schools would need to convert textbooks and other instructional materials into usable formats on their own. Because of the amount of time this would involve, students would often not receive the alternate materials in a timely manner. Or, if publishing companies did provide a digital version of their text, it may have come in a format that may not have been usable for every student with a print disability. At times, the AT that a student would use to access these textbooks would work with some formats but not with others, making access to the material very difficult. The NIMAS standard allows for one consistent file set from which all other specialized formats may be derived.
Materials Covered by NIMAS
NIMAS covers specific printed materials. In IDEA 2004, print instructional materials are defined as “printed textbooks and related printed core materials that are written and published primarily for use in elementary school and secondary school instruction and are required by a State educational agency or local educational agency for use by students in the classroom” (IDEA 2004 Section 674[e][C]. Instructional materials that are sold by publishers to elementary or secondary schools after July 19, 2006, are covered by NIMAS. Instructional materials that were sold to schools before this date are not covered under NIMAS, although publishers may voluntarily offer NIMAS file sets for these earlier editions (National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials, 2010. Frequently Asked Questions).
- For more information regarding the Office of Special Education Programs’ (OSEP) interpretation of materials covered under NIMAS, please refer to the state NIMAS/NIMAC webpage.
Students Who Qualify to Receive NIMAS-Derived Files
Only blind students or other students with print disabilities qualify to receive NIMAS-derived files. The Library of Congress regulations (36 CFR 701.6[b] ) related to the Act to Provide Books for the Adult Blind state that these people include:
- Blind people whose visual acuity, as determined by competent authority, is 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting glasses, or whose widest diameter of visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees.
- People whose visual disability, with correction and regardless of optical measurement, is certified by competent authority as preventing the reading of standard printed material.
- People certified by competent authority as unable to read or unable to use standard printed material as a result of physical limitations.
- People certified by competent authority as having a reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction and of sufficient severity to prevent their reading printed material in a normal manner.
36 CFR 701.6(b) (2) defines “competent authority” as follows:
In cases of blindness, visual disability, or physical limitations “competent authority” is defined to include doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathy, ophthalmologists, optometrists, registered nurses, therapists, professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or welfare agencies (e.g., social workers, case workers, counselors, rehabilitation teachers, and superintendents); and
In the case of a reading disability from organic dysfunction, competent authority is defined as doctors of medicine who may consult with colleagues in associated disciplines.
The NIMAS Process in Connecticut
The process begins when a school district orders new textbooks. When a district submits its textbook orders, it will need to include language in the contract requiring textbook publishing companies to create NIMAS file sets of their textbook.
The National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials provides this example that may be included in a contract or purchase order:
By agreeing to deliver the materials marked with “NIMAS” on this contract or purchase order, the publisher agrees to prepare and submit, on or before ___/___/_____ a NIMAS file set to the NIMAC that complies with the terms and procedures set forth by the NIMAC. Should the vendor be a distributor of the materials and not the publisher, the distributor agrees to immediately notify the publisher of its obligation to submit NIMAS file sets of the purchased products to the NIMAC. The files will be used for the production of alternate formats as permitted under the law for students with print disabilities.
This is page __ of __ of this contract or purchase order.
For further information on the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials (NIMAS/NIMAC, 2010) and Frequently Asked Questions, please go to the FAQ. The Office of Special Education Programs’ (OSEP) interpretation of materials covered under NIMAS is online at the state NIMAS/NIMAC webpage.
The Connecticut State Department of Education strongly suggests that each school district sign on to the NIMAC/NIMAS system for qualifying students. When a qualifying student is identified, a step-by-step explanation for a district representative is available on the State Department of Education Web site. If further assistance is required, call the State Education Resource Center (SERC) at 860-632-1485.