The purpose of the National AEM Center’s Quality Indicators with Critical Components for K-12 is to assist state and local education agencies with planning, implementing, and evaluating systems for providing accessible materials and technologies for all students who need them. States and local school districts will find the Quality Indicators useful for implementing statutory requirements that mandate equitable access to learning opportunities for students with disabilities, including equal access to printed materials, digital materials, and technologies.
Understanding accessible formats requires some background knowledge of the barriers many learners with disabilities experience when reading or accessing information in print-based and certain digital-based materials.
"Text-based" refers to materials with static or fixed text and images, such as textbooks and supplemental text materials. Both print and digital materials can be text-based. For example, an electronic textbook that replicates a standard print textbook is considered a text-based material.
Books in standard print are common examples of text-based materials. To successfully use print, learners need functional skills related to sensory, physical, and cognitive abilities. Some learners may have visual disabilities that make it difficult to see the text and images on the page. Other learners may be unable to hold printed materials because of a physical disability. Still others may be unable to read or derive meaning from the printed text because of a learning disability.
Certain digital materials also have text and images. Specifically, text-based digital materials are not consistently designed for use with assistive technology (AT). Some learners use AT to read and navigate text and images in digital materials. Screen readers, text to speech, and switches are a few examples of AT devices and software that learners with a wide range of disabilities use. To prevent barriers for learners who use AT, see Vetting for Accessibility.
Because of the frequent barriers presented by text-based materials, some learners with disabilities need alternative forms, known as accessible formats. Examples of accessible formats include audio, braille, large print, tactile graphics, and digital text conforming with accessibility standards.
The term accessible format is defined in section 121 of the Copyright Act, known as the Chafee Amendment:
Discover accessible learning across the lifespan in these short and informative videos designed to start conversations about the importance of accessibility and accessible materials in your context.
Introduction to Accessibility
In this first video in our series, you’ll build an understanding of what accessibility means. People who need accessible materials and technologies describe how access creates inclusion where they live, learn, and work. Ultimately, accessibility is achieved when we remove barriers — or better yet, design environments that are inclusive for everyone from the beginning.
Turn learning barriers into learning opportunities by exploring the world of accessibility and Universal Design for Learning.
Each episode of The Accessible Learning Experience features interviews with national, state, and local leaders whose work focuses on turning learning barriers into learning opportunities. These leaders share their top tips and strategies for implementing accessibility best practices in a variety of settings. They also shine a spotlight on the partnerships and collaboration that are needed to create robust systems for the timely provision and use of accessible educational materials and technologies in support of inclusive teaching and learning practices. Episodes are released monthly and you can listen on the web through Anchor or through the podcast app of your choice.
Acquiring the accessible formats a learner needs is part of a multi-step decision-making process. By prioritizing accessibility, access barriers for learners with disabilities will be minimized when materials are acquired. In cases where inaccessible materials have been selected, alternative forms - accessible formats - of those materials will have to be acquired for learners who need them. Examples of accessible formats include audio, braille, large print, tactile graphics, and digital text conforming with accessibility standards.
Accessible formats of materials can be acquired from:
Accessible Media Producers (AMPs)
The purpose of the Quality Indicators and Critical Components is to assist state and local education agencies, institutions of higher education and workforce development agencies with planning, implementing, and evaluating dynamic, coordinated systems for the timely provision of accessible educational materials and accessible technologies. Given the variability of policies and practices across these organizations, the Quality Indicators and Critical Components are designed to provide agencies with consistent goals and to promote discussion around multiple methods to achieve those goals.
Michael Cantino from Northwest Regional Education Service District presents Creating Accessible Documents in the Microsoft and Google Suites.
Brainstorming is a team creativity activity that helps generate a large number of potential solutions to a problem. In this activity, students participate in a group brainstorming activity to generate possible solutions to their engineering design challenge. Students learn brainstorming guidelines and practice within their teams to create a poster of ideas. The posters are used in a large group critiquing activity that ultimately helps student teams create a design project outline. (Note: Conduct this activity in the context of a design project that students are working on; this activity is Step 3 in a series of six that guide students through the engineering design loop.)
Engineering analysis distinguishes true engineering design from "tinkering." In this activity, students are guided through an example engineering analysis scenario for a scooter. Then they perform a similar analysis on the design solutions they brainstormed in the previous activity in this unit. At activity conclusion, students should be able to defend one most-promising possible solution to their design challenge. (Note: Conduct this activity in the context of a design project that students are working on; this activity is Step 4 in a series of six that guide students through the engineering design loop.)
On March 13, 2017, the Department released a revised template for the consolidated State plan under section 8302 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The purpose of the consolidated State plan is to provide parents with quality, transparent information about how the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, will be implemented in their State.
Even though a State Educational Agency (SEA) submits only the required information in its consolidated State plan, an SEA must still meet all ESEA requirements for each included program. For any program not included in a consolidated State plan, the SEA must submit individual program State plans that meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of each respective program.
In inclusive early childhood programs and settings, social and learning activities are designed for the participation of all children. Objects, tools, and materials that are selected for inclusive activities provide options for engaging through multiple sensory, physical, and perceptual means. The Quality Indicators for Early Childhood describe how agencies, programs, and services can work together to improve the accessibility of early learning environments for children with disabilities.
The Library of Congress is adopting amendments to its regulations regarding loans of library materials for blind and other print-disabled persons, as authorized by Title XIV of the Library of Congress Technical Corrections Act of 2019, to amend terminology, the description of services, and certification requirements, and to memorialize existing practices in the Library of Congress's National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS).
Framing the Future of Learning with Technology
The goal of the Center on Inclusive Technology & Education Systems (CITES) is to empower school districts to create and sustain inclusive technology systems that serve all students, including students with disabilities who require assistive technology or accessible educational materials. To do this work, we are creating and disseminating a framework of evidence-based practices to enhance the successful use of technology by all students. We provide technical assistance to districts, educators, and families to ensure that students with disabilities are able to use the technology tools they need to foster learning and life success.
The purpose of the National AEM Center’s Quality Indicators with Critical Components for Higher Ed is to assist institutes of higher education, both at the system and campus level, with planning, implementing, and evaluating systems for providing accessible materials and technologies for all students who need them. Higher Ed institutions, both universities and community colleges, will find the Quality Indicators useful for implementing statutory requirements that mandate equitable access to learning opportunities for students with disabilities, including equal access to printed materials, digital materials, and technologies.
Checklist of best practices for creating accessible resources.The Accessibility Checklist is adapted from BC Open Textbook Accessibility Toolkit, CC-BY 4.0 International License.
This module is part of a course on Inclusive Educational Practices that offers professional development for educators who aspire to provide a supportive learning environment for dyslexic and with learning difficulties learners.Students have different needs, interests, and abilities. In order to effectively teach them and provide them with rich learning experiences, lesson plans need to be as diverse as they are. This module aims to help educators analyze different learning styles and accordingly build their lesson plans as to embrace and support not only the needs of specific learners but provide quality education for all students. To this end, tools, articles, guidelines, videos, and examples are provided. Planning a lesson for an inclusive classroom entails less modifications for future use in a different learning context, facilitates a substitute to take over the class, and ensures learning for every child."It is not the disabilities of the students that prevent the implementation of a long effective instructional model, but the environment that is disabling" Katz, 2015