Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Assessing Formats and Eligibility for Accessible Instrcutional Materials, Part One

Getting curriculum to students in an accessible format can be a challenge, but it is a federal mandate. We are to provide materials in a timely manner which means, "At the same time as the other students".
In Oregon, we are working on a protocol for helping districts and educators streamline the process for identifying what type of format AIM (accessible instructional materials) needs to be in and how to access the materials in a timely manner and implement them.
If you are looking at qualifying some students you have, or you are a parent that knows your child needs textbooks, articles and handouts in an alternative format, but aren't currently getting them, this post might help.

What are the formats we are talking about? Most common are: Large print; Mp3 audio; DAISY files; text files in a .txt format that can be opened by a text reader (see past posts on my blog for text to speech tools); or a text file that can be opened in a program or web browser with different color text and background. (Access Apps has some great free tools for this)
These formats require an e-copy of the text book or other materials so that the text can be converted, manipulated by an assistant, parent, teacher or the reader.
Accessing the Format:
We will assume for this post that the student has already qualified and eligibility has been proven. Briefly though, the standard requirements for eligibility are that the student needs to 1.) either be blind or visually impaired, 2.) orthopedically impaired to the point where a book cannot be held or pages turned, or finally, 3.) the student has an organic brain dysfunction that causes a processing or reading disorder.
A doctor's letter supporting one of these three eligibilities is needed for accessing copyright protected files through a state authorized media provider of files coming from the NIMAC (National Instructional Materials Access Center).
Another option, Bookshare.org , requires that a competent professional make this determination and it doesn't necessarily have to be a doctor. A special education teacher, a specialist in the field of disability, etc. can make this determination. You can consult the Bookshare.org website under qualifications for membership eligibility for more information. Bookshare is working hard to expand their ability to locate and provide textbooks for students so check them out.
I recently had a visit from a young woman who was a nursing student who wanted to know about some tools to help her access her nursing textbooks. She was able to connect me with a regional school psych who had tested her in community college for eligibility on a learning disability. I was able to send him the Bookshare form and he was able to sign off on her eligibility and fax it in.

These are some of the foundational pieces to setting up access to instructional materials that are copyright protected. We will look at the process of assessing formats for students and implementing in part two.

All the best to you!


Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!


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