Many years ago, a high school student with low vision discovered that they were unable to read the standard-sized print that was used in their textbooks for class. The student wondered if they were going to have to go without textbooks for all of their classes because they weren’t sure where to find digital copies of these older titles, and the school district forgot to order them textbooks that they could read. Frustrated at the situation, the student’s parent began researching how to get accessible textbooks in Virginia, and placed a phone call to an organization called AIM-VA that was listed as being the provider for accessible instructional materials in the state. Not only did AIM-VA help the parent and the school district procure accessible textbooks, but they introduced this student to the world of accessible materials and educational assistive technology and ignited a passion that lead to the student studying assistive technology in college, starting a website to educate others about low vision assistive technology, and even working for AIM-VA as a video content specialist to help educate others on the world of accessibility and assistive technology.
The student in the story above is me, and while I was frustrated at the time that I didn’t receive textbooks due to an error on my school district’s part, this experience allowed me to go behind the scenes and learn more about how accessible instructional materials are created and distributed, as well as find words to describe my own experiences as a student with low vision. Today, I am going to be talking all about AIM-VA and how they can be used to help students with disabilities.
I am a George Mason University student employee of AIM-VA at the time of publishing. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the postings, strategies, or opinions of AIM-VA. I received no compensation for this post.
A student is eligible to receive services from AIM-VA if they have both an IEP and a qualifying print disability. Examples of print disabilities include:
Students will need to receive special education services through a Virginia public school in order to qualify for AIM-VA. This includes students who attend public schools as well as students who receive special education services provided through a Virginia public school division while attending a private school, homebound instruction, or while being homeschooled.
In addition to all of the information above, students will also need to have their print disability certified by a competent authority. Examples of school personnel that can qualify as competent authority include:
Examples of other personnel that can qualify as competent authority include:
A digital rights manager, or DRM, is the person responsible for the usage of copyrighted accessible instructional materials for students with print disabilities. The DRM orders materials for the students in their school and ensures that the following conditions are met (taken from AIM-VA website):
Any Virginia public school personnel with a school division email address can become a DRM, and schools can have multiple DRMs as well.
AIM-VA provides free accessible instructional materials to Virginia K-12 students who have an IEP related to a print disability. Accessible instructional materials are alternate print materials that are used by students that are unable to use traditional print formats and can consist of large print, Braille, audio, and other digital formats for materials.
Examples of accessible instructional materials that can be provided by AIM-VA include:
AIM-VA can create accessible instructional materials for all grades and for all subjects, and strongly recommends that students receive accessible materials for all of their classes. AIM-VA can also create materials in non-English languages- I received materials for my Spanish class through AIM-VA.
In addition to providing accessible materials, AIM-VA also provides free customized trainings and videos about how to use accessible instructional materials in a variety of settings. Users can stay up-to-date on the latest information by visiting the AIM-VA website or subscribing to their newsletter.
AIM-VA accepts requests from DRMs year-round, though recommends that orders for accessible instructional materials are placed as soon as possible to ensure that materials are ready for the first day of school. AIM-VA has a large library of accessible books, though they can also convert physical copies of books and worksheets into accessible materials in multiple formats.
It’s worth noting that DRMs can order the same title in multiple formats – for example, a student with low vision might prefer to have their textbook in an audio format and a large print format, or they might prefer worksheets as an accessible PDF and have their textbooks in a EPUB format. Students are not tied to only having one format!
Students can read and annotate AIM-VA materials in a variety of different ways, depending on the file type and their personal preference. Some examples of ways that I access my personal accessible instructional materials include:
AIM-VA is only for K-12 students in Virginia public schools, and is not available for students attending public or private colleges/universities in Virginia, or for students attending community colleges. However, many colleges and universities have their own resources for getting accessible instructional materials, and I have an entire post on this topic linked below.
I shared the story about how being introduced to AIM-VA changed my life at the beginning of this post, but I also wanted to share how having accessible instructional materials changed my educational experience for the better:
By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com
Updated September 2023; original post published March 2017.
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