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Accessible Instructional Materials: Ensuring Access for Students with LD

Students With Disabilities - Instructional Materials for StudentsNCLD believes that access to the classroom curriculum via digital textbooks is becoming more important as learning becomes more connected to digital media and technology. We all know our kids spend an inordinate amount of time “playing” with technology. It is no surprise that educational research and practice is showing that students (with and without disabilities) can directly benefit from having access to instructional materials that are, at a minimum, offered in a digital format (e.g., a reader that converts text to speech and/or provides text in other formats).

We also know that there's been difficulty in ensuring that students with learning disabilities (LD) — who are eligible for accessible materials — receive them in time to learn alongside their peers at school. So, in 2004, Congress added the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standards to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and required textbooks developed in 2006 and beyond to also be made available in digital format to states and school districts for qualifying students, including students with LD. Although we have a law that is meant to help, major barriers still exist for students LD in accessing digital books including:

  • Publishers continue to be wary of what it means to provide “free textbooks” to students despite the fact that provisions are in place to ensure that schools and districts comply with the law;
  • Families face barriers in understanding how to work with the school to request the materials; and,
  • Schools face challenges in obtaining the textbook(s) through a state-run digital library, or through a contract with federally funded centers such as Bookshare or Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic.


NCLD wants to lead initiatives that will help reduce these barriers. Our first step is to provide a comprehensive look at the law and begin a discussion about what we need to do to improve it.

Download your FREE copy of  Accessible Instructional Materials: Ensuring Access for Students with Learning Disabilities, executive summary (PDF, 4 pages)

Download your FREE copy of  Accessible Instructional Materials: Ensuring Access for Students with Learning Disabilities, full report (PDF, 22 pages)



This report, Accessible Instructional Materials: Ensuring Access for Students with Learning Disabilities, was written with support from the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials (NCAIM), a cooperative agreement between CAST and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), Cooperative Agreement No. H327T090001. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, and no official endorsement by the Department should be inferred.

Listen to NCLD’s October 14, 2010 webinar, “Access to Instructional Materials for Students with Learning Disabilities (LD): Getting it Done” (length: 90 minutes). Download the webinar PDF. Presenters: Chuck Hitchcock, Chief Officer of Policy & Technology for the Center for Applied Special Technology and Joanne Karger, J.D., Ed.D., an attorney at the Center for Law and Education (CLE).

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