What are Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)

AIM are educational materials that are developed or adapted in a variety of formats (print, digital, graphical, Braille, audio or video)  that enables  all students the same opportunity to learn the equivalent information, engage in the same interactions, at the same time. Ensuring accessibility of learning materials provides every student a level playing field and meets the needs of all learners. As classrooms incorporate more digital technology, it becomes increasingly important that all materials used in the classroom are designed to be accessible by all students.  This includes hardware, software, web-based resources, and both print and digital instructional materials.

Why Provide AIM?

Many students are unable to access information through traditional print media, becoming a barrier to both participation and achievement. AIM allow students with disabilities to participate in the general education curriculum by providing access to information contained in instructional materials in formats from which students can gain meaning.  Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational set of principles related to curriculum development and implementation that is meant to reduce barriers in instruction and provides needed supports for all students, while maintaining high achievement expectations.  In order to incorporate UDL practices, it is imperative that schools also incorporate universal design in procurement, purchasing, and creation of all instructional products to reduce barriers from the start.  While UDL is an educational practice, universal design describes a framework for designing and delivering products and services that are usable by students with the widest range of capabilities. Once the principles of UDL are in place, most students’ needs will be met through the curriculum and flexible methods of instruction. For those students whose unique needs require reading materials in alternative format AIM resources should be made available.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) requires State and local education agencies to ensure that accessible versions of  textbooks and related core instructional materials are provided to students who are blind or otherwise unable to use printed material in a timely manner.

Education Article §7-910 Annotated Code of Maryland and COMAR 13A.05.02.13H requires that specifications used in all grants and procurement contracts for technology-based instructional products require equivalent access for students with disabilities.  Ensuring that equivalent access standards are included in guidelines used for design specifications, evaluation, selection, and procurement of all instructional products supports the inclusion of student with disabilities and reduces the need for accommodations.

What are indicators of accessibility?

All hardware and content must be able accessible by students with disabilities without assistive technology or it is interoperable with assistive technologies.

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) created four primary principles that are the basis for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and help us understand what accessibility means.  These include:

Perceivable: Content is represented in multiple ways so it can be based on what students might need or prefer (captions, alt text for graphics, audio, text-to-speech, electronic braille).

Operable: Navigation is possible via visual (mouse and cursors) and non-visual means (keyboard, voice), location and progress supports are included (page numbers, progress bars), there are multiple ways to enter text (on-screen keyboards, voice input), and timing and pace can be controlled.

Understandable: Content is predictable and logical and at an appropriate level for students, supports and scaffolds are available (glossaries, highlighters, spellcheckers), and feedback on errors and progress is provided.

Robust: Content can be used and is tested with multiple devices and with different assistive technologies and there is nothing that prevents access to built-in accessibility features or assistive technologies (Digital Rights Management).


Section 508 Technology Standards

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Standards

PALM (Purchase Accessible Learning Materials): What are Accessible Learning Materials?


National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)

AEM Center Webinars

This information on AIM is available for download and printing:

AIM Content for Learning Links

Accessible Media Producers

Sources of Commercial Electronic Text

Sources of Commercial Audio

Sources of Accessible Media (Captioned Videos and Audio Described Videos)


The AEM Navigator is an interactive tool that facilitates the process of decision-making related to accessible instructional materials for an individual student. The AIM Navigator also includes a robust set of guiding questions, useful references and resources. Different scaffolds of support are built in so teams can access information at the level needed to assist in making informed, accurate decisions.


The National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) is a technical standard used by publishers to produce source files that can be used to develop specialized formats for students with print disabilities. These files are stored in a national repository called The National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC). These files are in one of four specialized formats: Braille, large print, audio or digital and are used by students who are unable to read standard print as a result of a disabling condition. To learn more about NIMAS and the NIMAC and to learn which students are eligible to use these specialized materials, download this technical assistance bulletin developed by the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Special Education/ Early Intervention Services.