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Iowa State Story


Iowa has made progress with regard to the provision of AEM at the classroom and district level. This progress has taken place in the context of 1-to-1 rollouts that included a number of assistive technologies such as Don Johnston’s uPar and TextHelp’s Read and Write for Google. Iowa’s Department for the Blind provides materials in Braille, large print or audio formats to registered users, and the state has developed a Braille On Demand service for quick turnaround of Braille materials. Up to 10 pages, including tactile graphics, can be submitted and be ready by the next day at 9 am. This work is done as part of a contract between the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa Prison Industries and the output has increased dramatically in the time it has been available.

Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)

Print- and technology-based educational materials designed to be usable across the widest range of individual variability.

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Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.

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Digital form or representation of a sound which may be used for non-visual access to text and images.

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Tactile Graphics

Images designed to be touched rather than seen.

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John graduated in 2016 with 504 plan and could not read his textbooks and tests. After being exposed to text reader options available on his mobile technology and on school computers that were flexible and met his needs, he became a strong advocate for himself. He spoke to teachers about ways they could make the curriculum accessible for him and he researched apps that provided text to speech support for his AP classes. John participated in learning opportunities for a regional conference where he demonstrated some of the accessibility supports he uses and answered questions about his journey to success! 

Professional Learning Opportunities

Iowa has seen a significant increase in the number and variety of  learning opportunities (Quality Indicator 4) available to district and regional education agency staff. Regional directors coordinate these professional learning opportunities in close collaboration with assistive technology specialists, and the persistence of both has been instrumental in driving these efforts forward. The learning opportunities have ranged from building-level trainings conducted with small groups, to training for district staff and support personnel at the regional education agency level.  Some state-level learning opportunities were started in conjunction with an AEM Oversight Committee that has been replaced by an Access Coordination Team (ACT). The ACT includes the Special Education Director, the AIM Coordinator, the AT Leadership Team lead, and consultants with the usability districts for Iowa’s State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG), which focuses on specially designed instruction (SDI). This multidisciplinary team not only facilitates the state's AEM growth but also targets individual districts’ needs.The ACT has set three priorities for AEM in Iowa: procurement, provision, and changing the perception of AEM among teachers and parents so that it is seen as a valuable contributor to learning for all students. The goal going forward is to build a robust state-wide support system for the implementation of AEM in the state.  

Recommendations to Other States

Iowa’s staff had the following advice for other states:

  • Build on the existing strengths of teachers, administrators, and support staff
  • Integrate learning opportunities for AEM into existing processes rather than making them an add-on
  • Recognize and build on small successes by seeing them as progress toward greater goals
  • Get leadership onboard with the work as early as possible

Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)

Print-based educational materials converted into specialized formats, related to the requirements of the IDEA statute.

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