The PALM Initiative
A digital educational material or technology is accessible when a learner with a disability “is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a learner without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use” (U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights). Edtech developers have been making significant advances in accessibility in response to states and districts that have made buying accessible a priority. As a result, all learners are experiencing benefits. Customization features, options for physical interaction, and multiple modes of output are assets of accessible design.
Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.View in glossary
Access for all people, including people with disabilities, to web environments.View in glossary
As classrooms incorporate more digital technology, it becomes increasingly important that materials used in the classroom are designed to be useable by all students from the start. This requires adjustments in the way materials are purchased, and that, in turn, will drive the availability of more flexible and accessible learning materials in the marketplace. The PALM Initiative (Purchase Accessible Learning Materials) was launched to ensure this change happens as soon as possible.
The E-Book Market Brief begins to highlight some of the problems that we are seeing in the commercial and open education resource markets. The problem extends to purchasing decisions for hardware, software, e-learning platforms, apps, and more. This is a problem worth solving. Publishers will respond when states and local education agencies demand accessible learning materials directly from the source.
Draft purchase order and contract language has been proposed for use by state and local education agencies. In order to increase demand for accessible digital instructional materials, the language is offered to support requests for accessible materials with supporting documentation. A DRAFT document, Guidance for SEA and LEA Purchasing Agents has been posted below with the proposed language and related resources.
The AEM Center recommends that publishers and developers use up to date guidelines and best practices when creating accessible digital instructional learning materials and technologies. Links to pertinent resources are provided on the Best Practices for Publishers & Software Developers page. For additional resources, see our list of Accessibility Organizations and Resources.
Our hope is that all learners will be able to use the digital learning materials that are recommended by states and/or purchased by school districts and families. This means that those digital learning materials will need to be accessible to students who have print disabilities right from the start. It also means the technologies used to render and interact with the learning materials, such as computers, tablets, and e-book readers, will also have to be fully accessible to students with disabilities.
Simply Said: Understanding Accessibility in Digital Learning Materials
PALM Initiative (Purchase Accessible Learning Materials)
Create demand for, promote, and encourage development of accessible digital materials and technology to be used by all students.View in glossary
Electronic version of a book.View in glossary
Local Education Agency (LEA)
Agency legally authorized to provide administrative control or direction of publically funded schools.View in glossary
Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)
Print- and technology-based educational materials designed to be usable across the widest range of individual variability.View in glossary
Blindness or other disability that prevents the effective use of printed materials.View in glossary
Take Action: What You Can Do
Making the Case: PALM Resources
The following resources are "ready to go," or you may customize them to fit your needs.
- PALM Initiative: A Call to Action
- Introducing the PALM Initiative
- Why Buy Accessible?
- What are Accessible Learning Materials?
PALM All-in-One Publication: Single AEM Publication with key content from 8 hand-out and guidance documents.
- Require that all materials purchased are fully accessible
- Incorporate accessibility into your policies and practices
- Include accessibility in contract language
- Create lesson plans and units that include accessible materials
- Introduce PALM at a staff meeting
- Form an accessibility action team
- Talk with administrators, technology coordinators, and purchasing coordinators about accessibility
- Create an accessibility action group in your child’s school or district
- Inform school administrators about accessibility
- Talk with your child’s teacher about accessibility
- Talk with other parents and parent groups about accessibility
- Present PALM to your stakeholders
- Share the PALM documents through your networks
- Include accessibility in your mission statement
Form an accessibility taskforce
Guidance for SEA and LEA Purchasing Agents
An AIM Center PALM Initiative project
The AIM Center has posted a draft version of Guidance for SEA and LEA Purchasing Agents. A revision is in development and will require vetting.
As educators transition from purchasing print to digital instructional materials, it is essential that both are available in a timely manner and fully usable by students who require accessible formats. All learners should be able to read (visual and/or with audio support), navigate, interact with and express their ideas. To support this goal, the following information is provided within this document:
- Contract or purchase order language for print materials
- Contract or purchase order language for digital instructional materials
- How to ask for product accessibility information
- What if accessibility language is not provided?
- What about materials developed locally or provided as OERs?
- Relevant guidance and examples from the field
- Sample Voluntary Produce Accessibility Templates (VPATs)
- Related statutes, regulations, and guidance
- Additional information
Ultimately, our hope is that all learners will be able to use the digital learning materials that are recommended by states and/or purchased by school districts and families. This means that those digital learning materials will need to be accessible to students who have print disabilities right from the start. It also means the technologies used to render and interact with the learning materials, such as computers, tablets, and e-book readers, will also have to be fully accessible to students with disabilities. Thank you in advance for your support and recommendations.
Digital form or representation of a sound which may be used for non-visual access to text and images.View in glossary
Print Instructional Materials
Printed materials written and published for use in elementary and secondary school instruction, required by a SEA or LEA for use by students in classroom.View in glossary
Share Your Success Stories
Advocating for change is hard work! Do you have a strategy that’s worked for you? Send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.