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VESID Committee


Rebecca Cort 


Use of technology to provide accessible instructional materials for students with disabilities


January 21, 2010


Goals 1 and 2






Issue for Discussion

The Regents will discuss issues relating to the use of technology for students with disabilities.  This discussion will include technology advances to provide instruction to students with disabilities and how VESID is providing information, training and technical assistance to school districts to learn about and obtain accessible instructional materials to meet the individual needs of students.   As the Department moves forward in its discussion of on-line courses and other technology initiatives, it is important to consider the needs of individuals with disabilities to access and benefit from these initiatives.


Reason for Consideration

              For information.

Proposed Handling

              This item will come before the VESID Committee for discussion at its February 2010 meeting.

Procedural History

As required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a student who needs an accommodation to instructional materials because of his or her disability must be provided with such materials in the alternative format needed by the student.  Chapter 377 of the Laws of 2001 requires that every school district and Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) develop a plan to ensure that all instructional materials to be used in the schools of the district or in the programs of the BOCES are available in a usable alternative format for every student with a disability, in accordance with his or her individual needs, at the same time that such materials are available to non-disabled students.  This law pertains to students with disabilities with individualized education programs (IEPs) as well as disabled students with Section 504 accommodation plans. 

IDEA 2004 requires every state and school district to adopt the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS).  NIMAS outlines a set of consistent and valid specifications for document source files created by K-12 curriculum publishers or other content producers that can be used to create accessible specialized formats of print instructional materials.  New York State (NYS) has a written agreement with the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC), which has created a national repository of these NIMAS source files to streamline access to instructional materials that meet NIMAS standards for students who are blind or have other print disabilities.

Background Information

Many students with disabilities have not had equal and timely access to the same educational materials used by their non-disabled peers.  Even with today’s advanced technologies, students who require instructional materials in alternative formats (such as Braille and large print) continue to experience problems receiving such materials in formats suited to their individual learning needs.  If these students with disabilities are going to meet high educational standards, appropriate and accessible instructional materials must be readily available to them in a timely manner. 

Technology, adaptable to individual needs, is used as a tool to provide student access to both materials and information, both input and output.  There are various types of technology, including hardware and software.  A student may use hardware, such as e-readers or netbooks, to access written materials or for note-taking capabilities.  A student may use software programs to assist with organization, writing tasks or learning concepts.  Examples of available technologies include such simple items as slant boards and larger keys on a keyboard to more complex items such as word prediction and voice recognition software.

Considerations in Use of Technology for Students with Disabilities

Individual student needs:





Curricula and Instructional Approaches




Teacher Preparation

New teachers need to be prepared to work with diverse learners.  Preservice education should include competencies to provide instruction using the principals of UDL to offer multiple means of representation, expression and engagement to more effectively reach and teach all learners within a classroom.

Current Department Initiatives

The Regents have long established policy to ensure that students with disabilities have access to appropriate instructional materials at the same time as their nondisabled peers.  Over the past two years, VESID has taken on new initiatives to assist school districts with training and resources to improve student access to technology and accessible instructional materials. The U.S. Education Department, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) sponsored a group of 15 states, led by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), to assist with timely delivery of AIM.  New York was selected to be a part of this AIM Consortium, and we began our work in 2008. Through this project, the Office of Special Education of VESID accomplished the following: