National Center on Accessible Educational Materials
For learners with sensory, physical, cognitive, or learning differences and their teachers, accessible educational materials (AEM) may open doors to teaching and learning that ordinary print-based materials have closed.
AEM are specialized formats of curricular content--such as braille, audio, large print, and digital text-- that can be used by and with students who are unable to read or use standard print materials. In the United States, federal law requires schools to provide AEM in a timely manner to K–12 students who need them for participation and achievement.
The AEM Center serves as a resource for state- and district-level educators, parents, students, publishers, conversion houses, accessible media producers, and other stakeholders. In addition, the AEM Center provides support for the use of AEM in early learning, higher education, and workplace settings and has extended its reach to include educational materials that are first developed and distributed in digital formats.
Services and activities include the following:
- Developing and sustaining a readily available base of information and tools to build the capacity of stakeholders to enhance both the effective provision and use of high quality AEM.
- Providing stakeholders with expert technical assistance and customized "just-in-time" consultation on major issues relevant to the timely provision and use of AEM.
- Hosting a Community of Practice (COP) that offers a functional connection between State Education Agency Coordinators and AEM Center staff to ensure state and local level implementation and to improve the outcomes of students with disabilities through the timely provision and use of AEM.
- Collaborating with OSEP, AEM-related OSEP-funded projects work with technical assistance and dissemination center networks, family centers, and post-secondary AEM providers to build capacity for and raise awareness about the timely provision and use of AEM to improve outcomes for learners with print-related disabilities.
- Providing additional services and products related to Early Learning, Higher Education, and Workforce Development to be announced in the near future.
The AEM Center, with the support of national experts, also maintains and advances the NIMAS Technical Specification used by educational publishers to prepare filesets that are deposited in the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Center (NIMAC) at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH).
The Center also promotes the commercial and OER development of accessible EPUB3 so that the markets may play a more significant role in the timely provision of accessible educational materials to learners.
CAST has been at the forefront of establishing national standards for the provision of AEM, dating back to the founding of the federally funded National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum in 1999.
The AEM Center continues to build collaborations by stakeholders to deliver high-quality learning materials in a timely way and to refine the standards for making such materials. In doing so, it helps to eliminate barriers to learning for millions of people with disabilities.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs
Jose Blackorby, PhD
Cynthia Curry (Director)
Joy Zabala (Co-director Emeritus)