Accessible Instructional Materials for Students with Print Disabilities

ADMINISTRATIVE LETTER: 31
POLICY NUMBER: LG

TO: Superintendents, Special Education Directors
FROM: Angela Faherty, Ph.D., Commissioner of Education
DATE: February 16, 2011
RE: Accessible Instructional Materials for Students with Print Disabilities

SUMMARY
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) 2004 requires local educational agencies (LEAs) to ensure that children with “print disabilities” who need instructional materials in specialized formats (Braille, Large Print, Audio or Digital text) receive them in a “timely manner.”

The purpose of this Administrative Letter is to:

  • Provide a definition for the terms “timely manner” and “print disability” as used in the IDEIA requirement; and
  • Remind LEA’s of their options and responsibilities under IDEIA.

TEXT
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) 2004 requires local educational agencies (LEAs) to ensure that children with “print disabilities” who need instructional materials in specialized formats (Braille, Large Print, Audio or Digital text) receive them in a “timely manner.”

Federal regulations require each State to determine what constitutes a “timely manner” of providing specialized formats, for purposes of implementing IDEIA. In order to ensure consistency across the State in the provision of accessible instructional materials, the Department provides the following definition of “timely manner.”

Timely Manner
“Timely manner” means that children with print disabilities have access to specialized instructional materials at the same time as students without print disabilities. In cases when a student with a print disability is newly identified or transfers schools, temporary accommodations must be provided while accessible specialized formats are being acquired.

Blind Person or Person with Print Disabilities
Federal IDEIA law and regulations define “blind person or person with other print disabilities” by referring to a very specific Library of Congress definition. (see attached) However, IDEIA regulations also state that nothing in the specific definition relieves an LEA of its responsibility under IDEA generally to ensure that children with disabilities who need instructional materials in accessible formats but are not included under the definition of blind or other persons with print disabilities in 34 CFR 300.172(e)(1)(i) receive them in a timely manner.

Reminder of LEA Responsibilities under IDEIA
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) establishes the responsibility of Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) to provide accessible instructional materials. An LEA may choose to coordinate with the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) when purchasing print instructional materials. The election whether or not to coordinate with NIMAC is reported by each LEA to the Maine Department of Education as part of the LEA’s Local Entitlement Application.

If the LEA chooses to coordinate with NIMAC, it must acquire those instructional materials in the same manner, and subject to the conditions set forth in 34 CFR 300.172. An LEA that coordinates with NIMAC must provide instructional materials in a timely manner, even if the materials cannot be produced from the NIMAC files.

If an LEA chooses not to coordinate with the NIMAC, the LEA must provide an assurance to the State Educational Agency (Maine Department of Education) that the LEA will provide instructional materials to blind persons or other persons with print disabilities in a timely manner.

If you have questions regarding this topic you may contact Kathy Powers at MaineCite via email at kpowers@mainecite.org .

TECHNICAL DEFINITION OF “PRINT DISABILITIES”

Under IDEIA, “blind persons or other persons with print disabilities” means children served under Part 300 (of IDEA) who may qualify to receive books and other publications produced in specialized formats in accordance with the Act entitled “An Act to Provide Books for the Adult Blind,” …2 U.S.C. 135a. [34 CFR 300.172(e)(1)(i)] [20 U.S.C. 1474(e)(3)(A)]

The Library of Congress regulations (36 CFR 701.6(b)(1)) related to the Act to Provide Books for the Adult Blind provide that “blind persons or other persons with print disabilities” include:

(i) Blind persons whose visual acuity, as determined by competent authority, is 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting glasses, or whose wide diameter if visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees;

(ii) Persons whose visual disability, with correction and regardless of optical measurement, is certified by competent authority as preventing the reading of standard printed material;

(iii) Persons certified by competent authority as unable to read or unable to use standard printed material as a result of physical limitations; and

(iv) Persons certified by competent authority as having a reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction and of sufficient severity to prevent their reading printed material in a normal manner.

“Competent authority” is defined in 36 CFR 701.6(b)(2) as follows:

(i) In cases of blindness, visual disability, or physical limitations “competent authority” is defined to include doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathy, ophthalmologists, optometrists, registered nurses, therapists, professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or welfare agencies (e.g., social workers, case workers, counselors, rehabilitation teachers, and superintendents); and

(ii) In the case of reading disability from organic dysfunction, competent authority is defined as doctors of medicine who may consult with colleagues in associated disciplines.

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