Step 1: Identification of Need

A collaborative, school-based team needs to determine if the student can gain information from standard print-based instructional materials used across the curriculum by all students or if the student needs the materials in an accessible format. These collaborative teams may include:

  • Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team
  • Individual and Family Support Plan (IFSP) Team
  • Planning and Placement Team (PPT)
  • Section 504 Team
  • Scientific Research Based Intervention (SRBI) Team

To assist these teams in determining AEM needs of a student, the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials has created the AEM Navigator. This online tool is a process facilitator that guides the work of a collaborative team as they work through the AEM-related needs of individual students. It is not a screening or diagnostic tool. The Navigator consists of a series of guiding questions to assist teams with decision-making about need, selection, acquisition, and use of accessible educational materials. Learning supports for completing each decision-making step are available throughout. View the AEM Navigator

Step 2: Selection of Materials

After the team determines that a student needs Accessible Educational Materials (AEM), the team selects which specific formats are needed. The selection process includes a series of checkpoints:
List the print instructional materials used across the curriculum. The team gathers information about the print instructional materials used across the curriculum in which their student will participate and makes a list.
Consider the instructional context. Next the team considers their student’s skills, needs, and preferences; the environments in which the student will be working; and the tasks for which accessible formats will be needed. Thinking about the student, environments, and tasks helps the team understand how materials are used so that they can make informed decisions about which accessible formats or combination of formats—braille, large print, audio, or digital text—will work for their student.
Select formats needed. Subsequently, the team determines which accessible format(s) will be most useful to their student. They select the format(s) needed by this student based on matching the student’s needs and the instructional context needs with the features that can be manipulated in the accessible format(s). More than one may be needed and selected.
In order to assist school-based teams in selecting the appropriate formats for their students, the National Center on AEM has developed the AEM Explorer. This free software simulation tool combines grade-leveled digital text with access features common to most text readers and other supported reading software. Magnification, custom text and background colors, text-to-speech (synthetic and human), text highlighting, and layout options are presented in a logical sequence to help struggling readers, educators, and families decide which of these supports might enable the student to access and understand text. View the AEM Explorer

Step 3: Acquisition

Once you have determined that a student is eligible for National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)-derived instructional materials based on the definitions above, you will need to decide upon the format that will best meet the student’s needs (e.g. braille, large print, audio, digital text). If you need assistance in this decision-making process, please go to “Selection” section. When you have identified the necessary format, you will then need to directly contact the appropriate Accessible Media Producers (AMPs) listed below.

Braille and Large Print (Hard Copy)*

Department of Aging and Disability Services
Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind
Nancy Mothersele –
(860) 602-4123

*Districts should be aware that conversion of instructional materials into large print or braille will take longer than other accessible formats. Please make your requests six months in advance to ensure students receive the materials on time.

Digital Textbooks – Bookshare (

Bookshare is an online library of copyrighted content for people with qualifying print disabilities. Schools will need to set up a free account with Bookshare in order to access their NIMAS-derived instructional materials.

Audio Textbooks – Learning Ally (

Learning Ally is a nonprofit organization that provides a library of accessible audiobooks using human narration for people who cannot effectively read standard print. Schools will need to set up an account in order to access NIMAS-derived materials.

Step 4: Use

After a decision-making team has selected the accessible format(s) needed and determined where to acquire them, the team considers what types of supports are needed for a student to use the accessible materials for educational participation and achievement. Technology is frequently needed to deliver student-ready accessible materials. Other than hard-copy braille and hard-copy large print, all other accessible formats are based on the use of technology to deliver content to the student. After a team has selected what features and accessible format(s) a student will need, decisions are made regarding what type of technology will be the best match for the student to use the accessible format(s). The information already identified by the team about the student, the features and accessible formats needed by the student, and how and where the student will use the accessible materials will be helpful in making decisions. To support your decision-making, you may wish to consult the CAST-AEM website.

Connecticut Assistive Technology Guidelines

AT Guidelines help to define the process for considering, implementing, and evaluating technologies that equalize the learning experience for students of all abilities. These guidelines describe the continuum of AT from low to high tech; current federal and state laws and policies to include the Connecticut Birth to Three System through high school (ages 3-21); consideration of AT needs; assessment/evaluation; funding for AT; documentation; implementation and effectiveness; transition planning; administrative responsibilities; universal design for learning; formats for AEM; NIMAS; and resources.

alternate formats