What are Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)?
Accessible instructional materials, or AIM, refers to print-based educational materials that are converted into specialized formats (e.g., braille, large print, audio and digital text). The term AIM is most often used when specifically referring to I.D.E.A. (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) regulations. These regulations form the legal grounds for a virtual library (called the NIMAC), that provides digital formats for students with disabilities. Only a handful of professionals have access to the NIMAC and AIM-VA is one of them.
While this definition of AIM specific focuses on the specialized formats of braille, large print, audio, and digital; many formats cannot be used without additional assistive technology. This means that the effective use of AIM requires ensuring compatibility between the formats, software, and hardware.
Accessible formats are alternate versions of print-based educational materials that are designed to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. An accessible format will have various characteristics (page layout, text format, OCR, Navigation, Alternate Text, etc.) built in that would not otherwise be available. AIM-VA has 12 unique accessible formats, some sourced from the NIMAC but many created “from scratch” to ensure compatibility across a wide array of software and hardware options.
Software is any program, application, or app used by a computer. For accessible materials read in a digital format, the software you choose will provide the user interface and can be a decisive factor in what features are available or formats that can be used. Effective software choices ensure that the software is usable, contains the need features, and is compatible with the available hardware and needed format.
Hardware, in the context of accessible instructional materials, refers to any physical technology used for reading. Many modern devices such as PCs, Macs, iPad, Chromebooks and Kindles as well as specialized devices like dedicated DAISY players, refreshable braille displays, switch access devices, and video magnifiers are all considered hardware. Depending on what hardware you choose, your access to software may differ.