Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

What You Need to Know about NIMAS

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

What You Need to Know about NIMAS

Article excerpt

This article's focus: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004

When the U.S. Congress updated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 2004 (IDEA 2004), it added an important new provision known as the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard or NIMAS. NIMAS is designed to maximize access to the general education curriculum for children who are blind or have other print-disabilities through the timely provision of accessible instructional materials created from NIMAS source files. As such, it provides exciting new opportunities for the tens of thousands of children who have disabilities that severely impair their ability to read printed text.

A quick look at the numbers of students who may need instructional materials in alternative formats shows the magnitude of the problem.

* 55,200 children in the U.S. are legally blind

* 26,352 children ages 6-21 are served under IDEA's category of "Visual Impairment"

* 61,866 children ages 6-21 are served under "Orthopedic Impairments"

* 599,494 children ages 6-21 are served under "Other Health Impairments"

* 131,682 children ages 6-21 are served under "Multiple disabilities"

* 2,710,476 children ages 6-21 are served under "Specific Learning Disabilities"

While not all of these students need alternative formats to access their instructional materials, many do. And, to receive a free appropriate public education, these students must receive their materials at the same time as their non-disabled peers.

According to the U.S. Department of Education: "Current methods of converting print textbooks into Braille and other specialized formats are complex and time consuming, and the process can take months to complete. In many cases, students who are blind or who have print disabilities now receive accessible textbooks and other instructional materials well after the beginning of the instructional period. The adoption of the NIMAS will improve both the speed of the process and the quality and consistency of books converted into specialized formats."

What is NIMAS?

NIMAS establishes a uniform electronic (or digital) format for textbooks and related materials called a source file. On its own, this source file is not sufficient for direct use by children. However, the source file is the means by which specialized, accessible formats are created--formats such as Braille, audio, or digital text, and large print. These accessible formats can then be used by children who are blind or otherwise print-disabled. The importance of this approach is that all these specialized formats can be created from the same NIMAS source file. Print instructional materials are defined in IDEA as printed textbooks, related printed core materials, and materials written and published primarily for use in elementary and secondary schools and required by the state educational agency or local educational agency--such as a school district - for use by children in the classroom.

Who is eligible for NIMAS?

While a student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team makes decisions regarding instruction programing, modifications, and accommodations that will be needed, including the need for accessible instructional materials, decisions regarding who is eligible to utilize NIMAS materials are governed by the Act to Provide Books for the Adult Blind, originally passed in 1931. The law also established the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) at the Library of Congress to provide alternate format materials (Braille and audiobooks), initially just for adults who were blind. Individuals eligible for special education services under the IDEA are not automatically eligible to use NIMAS materials, and eligibility is not defined in IDEA. Instead, IDEA 2004 relies on the Act to Provide Books for the Adult Blind to define those who are eligible. …

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