It is encouraging to see new companies partnering with educational publishers to create accessible instructional materials that are innovative and accessible to all learners right from the start. We have also been encouraged by efforts to create Open Education Resources that are fully accessible although much work remains to be done in this area.
One important initiative of note is the Enabling Technologies Framework, a three-year project funded by WIPO and endorsed by the Stakeholders Platform of WIPO. Its goal was to support the development of mainstream publishing processes capable of delivering digital publications fully accessible to individuals with reading and print disabilities. The target is to produce products that are usable by everyone.
The primary focus of this work was to develop best practice guidelines for publishers to use in their production process and the technologies selected are considered global rather than localized (e.g. ONIX, ePUB, and DAISY). The new guidelines document, initially published in 2011, is available for viewing and download here: Accessible Publishing Best Practice Guidelines for Publishers.
Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)
Print-based educational materials converted into specialized formats, related to the requirements of the IDEA statute.View in glossary
Blindness or other disability that prevents the effective use of printed materials.View in glossary
Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.View in glossary
Distribution and interchange format standard for digital publications and documents.View in glossary
Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY)
Technical standard for producing accessible and navigable multimedia documents.View in glossary
The National Center on Accessible Educational Materials strongly supports the development and implementation of a market model for preparing and delivering specialized formats of instructional materials to schools. We understand that a number of publishers are moving in this direction, and we applaud those efforts. In addition to providing opportunities for schools to purchase specialized-format instructional materials for students with print disabilities, once a publisher owns electronic rights to all of a product’s text and images, that publisher will be able to sell resulting specialized formats to schools for any student that may need or prefer such formats.
We estimate that approximately 5% of the K–12 student population qualifies for specialized formats under the Chafee Amendment to copyright law. This includes students who are blind, have low vision, have physical challenges that prevent holding a book and turning its pages, and students with reading-related learning disabilities resulting from organic dysfunction. There are additional qualifications related to IDEA and certifications.
While developing a market model, it will be important to keep the following in mind:
- In order to participate in adoptions and local district purchases, a publisher will quite likely still be asked to prepare and submit valid NIMAS filesets to the NIMAC. We suspect that high-quality products offered directly by publishers will do well compared with other options, but it seems unlikely that most publishers will be able to offer all of the current specialized formats (high-quality Braille or tactile graphics, for example) that would normally be prepared by highly qualified accessible media producers (AMPs).
- Should a publisher decide to offer a full suite of specialized formats, we recommend that the following be made available: DAISY Talking Book (preferably DTB3), accessible HTML, large print, and audio (high-quality TTS to MP3 or human recorded voice). We would expect that third-party experts would be required to produce high-quality Braille and tactile graphics.
- Standards for each format should be carefully studied, and versions with images should include alternative text and long descriptions with those images for an HTML output and alternative text and producer notes for a DAISY output. Content of long descriptions and producer notes would be identical. Many, but not all, images will require long descriptions or producer notes.
- Specialized formats should be tested with appropriate players and reviewed by experts who have experience acquiring and using specialized formats with K-12 students.
Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)
Print- and technology-based educational materials designed to be usable across the widest range of individual variability.View in glossary
Copyright Law Amendment allowing authorized entities to reproduce previously published work for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.View in glossary
Reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction establishes eligibility under Chafee Amendment for specialized formats.View in glossary
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Federal law governing rights of children with disabilities to receive free and appropriate public education in least restrictive environment.View in glossary
National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)
A technical standard used to produce XML-based source files for print-based educational materials.View in glossary
National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC)
Central national repository established at American Printing House for the Blind to store, validate, maintain and disseminate NIMAS filesets.View in glossary
Images designed to be touched rather than seen.View in glossary
Accessible Media Producers (AMPs)
Produced specialized formats of instructional materials for use by blind or other persons with print disabilities.View in glossary
Digital form or representation of a sound which may be used for non-visual access to text and images.View in glossary
Artificial production of human speech, using special software and/or hardware.View in glossary
Alt Tag (alternative text)
Brief description of a single image designed to be read by a screenreader as an alternative to the image.View in glossary