We all know how important it is that our students get their instructional materials in an accessible format and in a timely manner. It's written into the Federal IDEA law! I hadn't seen the Dear Colleague Letter and the FAQ document that were issued in the fall by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education. Check this out, from a recent post by the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials for Learning at firstname.lastname@example.org:
AEM in Elementary and Secondary Schools
Accessible Educational Materials and the IEP
In order to participate and achieve in the general curriculum, all students need educational materials that they can perceive and interact with. IDEA states that timely access to appropriate and accessible instructional materials is an inherent component of the obligation of public agencies to ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is available for children with disabilities. When AEM is explicitly incorporated into a student's IEP, the likelihood is increased that the student's use of AEM will become an effective and integrated part of the learning process.
The resource, Accessible Educational Materials and the IEP Brief, explores components of the IEP where it might be appropriate to refer to a student's need for and use of AEM. The document is available for download from the AEM and the IEP page of the AEM website.
Dear Colleague Letter on Effective Communication has AEM implications
Recently a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) and a FAQ document were issued jointly by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education concerning effective communication for students with hearing, vision or speech disabilities in public schools. Implications related to AEM focus on the special factors which must be considered in the development, review and revision of IEPs. As a part of the communication special factor, the needs of all students with disabilities should be considered, not just those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Since communication includes both visually and aurally presented information, the need for accessible educational materials should be considered as part of this factor.
Although the communication special factor indirectly requires consideration of the need for AEM, SEAs and LEAs might consider explicitly adding a student's need for AEM as a sixth factor for IEP teams to consider. The IEP form might include a specific prompt for the consideration of AEM (e.g., "Does the student require one or more specialized formats -- braille, large print, audio, and/or digital text -- of educational materials because disability prevents effective use of standard educational materials?").