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Accessible Educational Materials (AEM): Special Factor Considerations

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Accessible Educational Materials

Accessible educational materials (AEM) are print- and technology-based educational materials, including printed and electronic textbooks and related core materials, that are designed or enhanced in a way that makes them usable for all learners.  Based on the individual needs of learners, AEM may be needed across age ranges, from early childhood years through high school.  There are a variety of formats that the team may consider including print, large print, braille, digital, tactile graphics, audio, video, and closed captioning. An IEP team must determine and document a learner’s need for AEM each time an IEP is written, reviewed, and/or revised.

An IEP team may use the following questions to determine if a learner requires AEM to independently access print-based and digitally-based text:

  • Does the learner understand grade-level reading material at a higher level when it is read to them?
  • Does the learner’s rate of reading impact comprehension or the time it takes to complete the task?
  • Does the learner have accommodations listed in the IEP that require an adult reader at specific times?
  • Does the learner have hearing, vision or physical difficulties that prevent them from independently utilizing print or digitally-based materials?
  • Does the learner require accessible materials for working or living?

If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, the IEP team needs to determine if use of an accessible format will improve the learner’s independent access to content that is being used in the classroom. 

Some of the data that may be helpful in making this determination include:

  • Independent reading level compared to listening comprehension;
  • The learner’s reading rate when reading independently vs. the reading rate when provided audio text;
  • Data from standardized assessments or the Protocol for Accommodations in Reading (PAR or uPAR), which helps determine a learner’s need for accommodations in reading text;
  • Results of the Learning Media Assessment (for learners who are blind or visually impaired);
  • Information gathered through a learner’s use of accessibility features or tools within accessibility exploration.

The outcome of the data review may be: 

  • The learner can access standard print-based and technology-based educational materials used across the curriculum by other students and does not require accessible formats.
  • The learner requires exactly the same content as peers in accessible formats.
  • The learner requires accessible formats for some but not all content.
  • The learner requires modified content and does not require accessible formats.
  • The learner requires modified content in accessible format(s).
  • More information is needed to determine whether or not the learner requires AEM. 
  • The learner’s difficulties with print are due to lack of sufficient instruction or limited English proficiency and the team will determine if specialized instruction is more appropriate than materials in accessible formats or if both are necessary.

If a learner needs an accessible format, the IEP must document:

  • The specific format(s) to be provided and that accessible materials will be provided at the same time as peers. 
  • The designated individual(s) at the district responsible for acquiring and providing the accessible format(s).
  • The services and/or assistive technology the learner needs to use the accessible format(s).
  • The instruction, supports, and other services, and/or training that will be needed by the learner and others to use the materials effectively.
  • The instruction, supports, and training that will be needed if staff will be creating accessible materials.
  • Whether the format is required to be used in the learner’s home or in other settings in order for the learner to receive a free and appropriate public education.

The IEP team must document all AEM considerations and decisions in the IEP. If the IEP team determines that AEM is a special factor to be addressed in the IEP it may be documented in the following sections:

  • Special Factors
  • Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance
  • Services +
    • Activities and Supports
      • Accessible Instructional Materials (AEM)
    • Accommodations
    • Statewide Assessment
  • Prior Written Notice

AEM Resources

Accessible Educational Materials (Iowa Department of Education) includes information in the following areas:

  • Who is responsible for providing AEM?
  • Who needs AEM?
  • How does a school obtain AEM?
  • How does a school support students in using AEM?

Assistive Technology (Iowa Department of Education)

Summary of laws guiding the use of AEMNational Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) provisions of IDEA, Chafee Amendment of Copyright Law and Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (MTIA)

Further resources are available on the i3 special education resources page.  

Commonly Used Tools