Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) and NIMAS

National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)

The AIM Center works with key stakeholders such as states, districts, and an OSEP-supported network of technical assistance and dissemination projects to support the implementation of NIMAS and effective uses of accessible instructional materials (AIM).

National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires school districts to provide instructional materials to blind persons or other persons with print disabilities in a timely manner. This means that districts must take all reasonable steps to provide print instructional materials in accessible formats to children with disabilities at the same time as other children receive those materials.

What is NIMAS?
The National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) is a technical specification that publishers must use to produce source files (in XML) that may be used to develop multiple specialized formats (such as Braille or audio books) for students with print disabilities. These files are deposited in the NIMAC.

What is the NIMAC?
The National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC), established in 2006, makes it easier to obtain materials for students with disabilities. Publishers send electronic files to the NIMAC at the request of the school district at the time when new textbook adoptions are made. These files are then used to produce braille, large print, digital text, and audiobooks.

What kinds of materials are in the NIMAC?
The NIMAC contains textbooks and related printed core materials published primarily for use in elementary or secondary education.

How can districts participate in the NIMAC?
To participate in the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC), a district needs to include a NIMAS provision in its contracts or purchases orders with publishers. When purchasing new textbooks, the district should require the publisher to send NIMAS files to the NIMAC, on or before delivery of the print books.

Which students are eligible to use these materials?
Use of NIMAS-based materials is limited to students with a documented print disability in their IEP plan. This qualifies them to access and use specialized formats under provisions of the Chafee Amendment to the Copyright Act. The amendment allows "authorized entities to reproduce or distribute copies of previously published non-dramatic literary works in specialized formats exclusively for use by persons with blindness or other disabilities."
As a result, school districts should keep on file documentation of students' eligibility to use NIMAS files. Proof of a student's disability should be certified by a qualified professional, as explained below. In order to request NIMAS materials from an Authorized User (AU), districts need to be able to certify the eligibility of students who will use the materials.
To be eligible to use NIMAS files, students must belong to at least one of the following groups:

  1. Blind persons whose visual acuity, as determined by competent authority, is 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting glasses, or whose widest diameter if visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees.
  2. Persons whose visual disability, with correction and regardless of optical measurement, is certified by competent authority as preventing the reading of standard printed material.
  3. Persons certified by competent authority as unable to read or unable to use standard printed material as a result of physical limitations.
  4. Persons certified by competent authority as having a reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction and of sufficient severity to prevent their reading printed material in a normal manner

Student eligibility must be documented by a "competent authority," which the law defines as follows: In cases of blindness, visual disability, or physical limitations, competent authority is defined to include doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathy, ophthalmologists, optometrists, registered nurses, therapists, professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or welfare agencies (e.g., social workers, case workers, counselors, rehabilitation teachers, and superintendents). In the case of a reading disability from organic dysfunction, competent authority is defined as doctors of medicine who may consult with colleagues in associated disciplines.

Are students eligible if they have a 504 plan and not an IEP?
Students who do not have an IEP are not eligible to use NIMAS-derived materials. School districts are responsible for providing accessible instructional materials to students with disabilities who need them, regardless of whether the students are eligible to use NIMAS materials.

Who are Authorized Users (AUs) that can access the NIMAC?
AUs serve as contacts for Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to access materials for students who qualify for NIMAS materials. Kansas has four Authorized Users: The Kansas Instructional Resource Center, Learning Ally, Bookshare and Infinitec

To request materials for students who are Blind or Visually Impaired LEAs should contact the Kansas Instructional Resource Center at 913-281-3308.

To request audio and digital materials for students who have a print disability or are Blind or Visually Impaired LEAs should contact Learning Ally (formally known as Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic) at 800-221-4792 or via email at nimas@learningally.org or Bookshare at 650-644-3411.

To request materials for students with a print disability other than vision or blindness, LEAs should contact Infinitec, affiliated with United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Chicago, at 708-444-4203.

In either case, LEAs should be aware that once a file is retrieved from the NIMAC by an AU, the file may need to be converted to the requested format (e.g., Braille, Audio, Digital or Large Print). The cost for converting the NIMAC file may be passed onto the requesting LEA. It is recommended that the LEA contact the AU regarding potential costs.

For more information, see:

  • the Kansas Department of Education’s NIMAS webpage : NIMAS/NIMAC
  • the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials : AIM
  • the Center for Applied Special Technology : CAST
  • the National Center for Universal Design for Learning : UDL