When learners have accessible materials and technologies in a timely manner, they are more likely to be independent, to participate, and to make progress in the curriculum. Examples of AEM include:
Printed textbooks and instructional materials
Traditional materials are defined as textbooks and related printed core materials that are written and published primarily for use in elementary school and secondary school instruction and are required by a State education agency or local education agency for use by students in a classroom. These materials may not effectively provide access to the curriculum for many learners. In addition to students with identified disabilities, print can be a barrier for general education students, such as those whose decoding abilities are considerably below grade level. Students with visual impairments may not be able to see the material; students with physical disabilities may not be able to hold a book or turn its pages; students with learning disabilities, as well as general education students with limited decoding abilities, may have difficulty making meaning from printed text. These and other barriers presented by printed materials may be addressed by providing the identical information in one or more specialized formats such as audio, large-print, braille or electronic text.
Digital materials and technologies
Materials already in a digital form may present barriers to learners with a wide range of disabilities. Consider the functional abilities required to interact with media-rich content delivered by devices and software programs, such as computers, tablets, learning management systems, and video players. Students with low vision may not be able to see the text, graphics, menus, navigational tools or video. Physical disabilities may interfere with students’ abilities to use standard input and navigational methods, such as the keyboard, mouse or trackpad on computers or touchscreens on tablets. Students with hearing loss may not benefit from audio-only output, including alerts, cues, narration, or video. And students with learning disabilities and communication needs may need options for reading formats, the rate at which audio is played, or the appearance and features of a program.
Fortunately, access barriers may be prevented when digital materials and technologies are designed from the start to be accessible. In some cases, access features are built into the design of products and media, giving all learners the option to use them. Examples include:
• Text that can be read aloud by text-to-speech or recorded human speech for learners who may have low vision, reading disabilities, or fatigue easily
• Alt text added to graphics on web pages and digital documents to describe visuals for learners who may be blind
• Closed captions on video for learners who may be deaf or hard of hearing
• Audio descriptions on video for learners who may not be able to see onscreen actions due to low vision or blindness
• Voice control that supports opening and closing programs, dictating documents, or navigating the web by learners who may not be able to use a keyboard or mouse due to a physical disability
In some cases, technologies are designed to be used with assistive technology, making them accessible to learners who use alternatives to the keyboard, mouse and trackpad on computers, or touchscreens on tablets. Examples of alternative access methods include refreshable braille displays that may be used by learners with low vision or speech recognition that may be used by learners with physical disabilities.
The AEM center has
compiled a list of a number of the available digital reading technologies (hardware, software and apps). Anyone in the state of Idaho is able to borrow/try out assistive technologies for free from the
Idaho Assistive Technology Project.