NOTE: October is Blindness Awareness Month
When typical textbooks don’t meet the needs of students with reading disabilities, visual impairments, or physical disabilities, the OSEP-funded National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) helps ensure that these students can obtain the accessible formats they need to engage and contribute alongside their peers.
The NIMAC, located at the American Printing House for the Blind, was created by IDEA to serve as the national repository for digital source files for use in the production of accessible formats for K–12 instructional materials. The files the NIMAC receives from publishers are in a special format (called “NIMAS”) which is not distributed directly to students but is used to produce formats like braille, digital audio, large print, and digital text. These formats are then distributed by states and the agencies they designate to qualifying students in elementary and secondary schools.
Bookshare, also an OSEP-funded project, is the most widely used provider of accessible digital formats produced from NIMAS files. They convert files from the NIMAC into a range of accessible digital formats and make these available free of charge to eligible students through Bookshare’s online library.
Recent changes have simplified the process of determining student eligibility for accessible materials produced from the NIMAC’s files. The list of professionals who can certify student eligibility now includes medical professionals, teachers, counselors, librarians, and school administrators. This expansion means that qualifying students can be certified as NIMAS-eligible more quickly, helping ensure they receive the accessible formats they need to participate and succeed in school. For more about these changes, review the NIMAC’s New NLS Guidelines PowerPoint.
Another recent change for the NIMAC is the 2020 Notice of Interpretation which clarifies that the Center can accept from publishers — and provide to states — source files for digital textbooks as well as hard copy textbooks. This change provides an alternative for schools to obtain accessible formats for digital instructional materials if the standard digital textbooks are not fully accessible.
Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.