What is NIMAS?

The National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard - NIMAS is a technical standard that curriculum publishers began using in 2006. NIMAS is designed to make it easier and faster to obtain accessible instructional materials. Publishers will send NIMAS files to the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC). The NIMAS files can then be used to produce alternate formats, including braille, large print, digital text, and audiobooks, for students with disabilities.

What books are available through the NIMAC?

The NIMAC will maintain a catalog of “printed textbooks and related printed core materials that are written and published primarily for use in elementary school and secondary school instruction and are required by a state educational agency or local educational agency for use by students in the classroom.” The NIMAC depends on participation by school districts to help to build its library.

Who is eligible to use NIMAS materials?

NIMAS files are available only to blind or other students with print disabilities in elementary schools and secondary schools.

More on NIMAS...


In the past a teacher or school who had a student who was blind or had low vision needed to request a braille or large print version of the textbook this work was done manually and often would take most of the school year before the student had access to the same textbook content in braille. This left these students seriously behind their peers. Now with the advent of digital technology, accessible instructional materials can be created and delivered on the first day of school.

In the following interview we will hear from Skip Stoll, Project Director for the Nemeth Center at CAST about the materials available for qualifying students and the process for receiving them.

My name is Skip Stahl. I'm project director for the NIMAS Center at CAST. NIMAS stands for the National instructional materials accessibility standard and the acronym aim AIM refers to accessible instructional materials. And essentially what that means refers to materials that are usable by the broadest range of student so if you imagine teaching in a classroom and you have a series of textbooks and you want to be able to provide students with Braille or audio versions for students who read Braille or have low vision. You might want to provide large print versions for those same students with vision issues. Books that could be navigated on the computer or read aloud for a student unable to turn the pages of a book. So multiple formats of the same content to make it proprietary for the widest possible variety of student. As I mentioned the National instructional materials accessibility standard refers to a technical specification. Upon the request of school districts or who's ever purchasing textbooks at the local or state level publishers produce NIMAS files and they deposit them in a central repository that's referred to as the NIMAC, the National instructional materials access center and the NIMAC stores these files, it validates that and then it catalogues them and makes them available to third-party accessible materials producers. NIMAS files are not designed for use by students they're designed to be a source file from which multiple formats can be subsequently created. Audio books can be created from NIMAS files, digital talking books, Braille large print all the different types of formats that specific students might need, particularly those students who are unable to deal with print. The student has to be qualified to access materials that are developed from an NIMAS source file. For students to qualify they need to have two certifications. One they have to be identified as a student with a qualifying print disability under existing copyright exemption and that means a student who is blind or has low vision or physically unable to hold a book or a reading disability that has some sort of organic basis so that's one level and they have to be certified by a competent authority a medical doctor or psychologist, assistive technology specialist, etc., as having that print disability and - they have to be receiving services under special education law under IEA 2004. So once those two criteria are established then they become eligible to receive materials from the NIMAS initiative.

The next step is really - are the materials available from a commercial source? Does the publisher offer these materials for sale? If the answer is yes then the route to getting those materials is pretty straightforward. You simply purchase those directly from the publisher and that's many ways the most important first step. But assuming that those materials might not be then available, the next step is to determine whether or not the school or the district has a relationship with an accessible materials provider like Bookshare or Learning Ally or American printing house and if the answer is yes then they will provide those materials in whatever the format is requested. If the school or the district does not have a relationship with those three entities it would be a logical next step for that district to form a relationship with one of those vendors to provide those materials and the good news is that the majority of cases that exchange is free of charge to the both the district and the student because there's a national infrastructure set up to make sure that there are no costs passed along to the student. The important thing about NIMAS from my perspective has been that it has helped reinforce the concept that one size doesn't fit all and when we simply had print as the primary medium for presenting information it ruled out access by a lot of students we're quickly moving away from a print only environment and we're enhancing those environments using digital materials and it's my belief that in the next few years we're going to see an increase in the flexibility in the way those digital materials are presented and a resulting inclusion of students who previously would have been excluded based on the curriculum materials themselves that's going to disappear and increasingly those students would be included and we'll see an increase in their achievement and their capability of becoming more productive members of society, because they weren't initially excluded or repeatedly excluded from very early age from the learning opportunities made available to everyone.

In conclusion, accessible instructional materials created from NIMAS files are freely available to students who qualify under the two criteria. These are students with the qualifying print disability who also receive special education services. NIMAS is a standard for use by publishers to create digital source files of all textbooks and related core instructional materials upon the request of schools, accessible media producers can retrieve the NIMAS file from the NIMAC and prepare an accessible version of the instructional materials as soon as possible for students who need these materials. But if they don't qualify for AIM under the NIMAS initiative, accessible learning materials can be purchased commercially from a publisher. Yet if they are not available from the publisher the PALM initiative (Purchase Accessible Learning Materials) has been launched to ensure that accessible learning materials are available for purchase for all students for more information.

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