Why did APH establish the National Instructional Materials Access Center?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) required states to address the critical difficulty in obtaining accessible textbooks for students with disabilities by adopting a new file format, the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). This same legislation offered a means to assist states in this responsibility by establishing a national repository to receive and store these files and make them available to states. This repository is the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC), and was established at the American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. (APH) with support from the U.S. Department of Education.

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What is the NIMAC?

The NIMAC is a central repository that contains NIMAS source files. These files can be used to produce accessible formats on behalf of eligible print disabled students in grades K-12. Publishers deposit NIMAS files to the repository. The NIMAS files are checked to confirm that they are valid NIMAS, and are cataloged into a web-based database. Anyone is welcome to search the database. Those who have been authorized for access have user identifications and passwords. These Authorized Users (AUs) can download directly the files they need to convert into accessible formats. Or they can assign files for download to Accessible Media Producers (AMPs) who have registered with us.

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What kinds of materials are in the NIMAC?

The NIMAC contains textbooks and related printed core materials published primarily for use in elementary or secondary education.

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Does the NIMAC serve college students?

The legislation that created the NIMAC defines its scope as K-12 only. As such, the NIMAC is not able to serve students in higher education.

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How do files get to the NIMAC?

States and local education agencies require publishers to produce and submit NIMAS files as a part of the print book purchase agreement or adoption contract.

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How do states work with the NIMAC?

To coordinate with the national repository:

  • The state selects a state-level official to serve as the NIMAC State Coordinator.

  • The State Coordinator designates Authorized Users (AUs) who may obtain files directly from the NIMAC or assign them to registered Accessible Media Producers (AMPs) for download.

  • State Educational Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) agree to include language in purchase contracts with publishers directing them to send NIMAS files of elementary and secondary "textbooks and related printed core materials" to the NIMAC.

  • The SEAs or LEAs arrange to have the files converted to accessible textbooks by using their own resources or contracting with AMPs to provide these services.

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How can educational agencies cooperate to avoid duplicating effort in producing accessible textbooks?

A proven method of effectively leveraging resources for students with disabilities is through instructional materials centers. In most cases, these centers will be designated by their states as Authorized Users of the NIMAC. In open territory states where purchasing decisions are made at the district level, local districts will coordinate with the state and its designated AUs. The NIMAC also encourages all AUs and AMPs to share information about accessible formats that they have available for sale or loan to others by listing those materials in the Louis Database of Accessible Materials found at the APH web site. More information on how to list with Louis can be found here: About Louis

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How are files distributed by the NIMAC?

After validation and cataloging, the NIMAS files are available for downloading by Authorized Users via an online, searchable database. Anyone is welcome to search the NIMAC at

To ensure copyright protection and to ensure that files are used only to produce accessible textbooks on behalf of eligible print disabled students, all Authorized Users sign the NIMAC Limitation of Use Agreement.

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What happens when NIMAS files are downloaded?

NIMAS file sets are source files and are not designed to be handed directly to students. In nearly all cases, some conversion work must be done in order to create a student-ready version. This work may be done by the state or local education agency, or it may be contracted out to an Accessible Media Producer.

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What about copyright?

IDEA 2004 amended the copyright law to provide additional protection for publishers who provide files to the NIMAC in NIMAS format. It also extends specialized formats to include large print.

Publishers do not receive the same level of protection if they provide the files directly to states, rather than to the NIMAC.

Those who wish to download NIMAS files, either as Authorized Users or as AMPs, are required to sign the NIMAC Limitation of Use Agreement (LUA) that defines the purposes for which these files may be used. The files themselves are digitally fingerprinted and watermarked. Information identifying the file as having been obtained from the NIMAC by a specific user remains embedded in the file.

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What disabilities qualify a student to be served with NIMAS-derived accessible textbooks?

IDEA 2004 limits NIMAS eligibility to students who are "Blind or other persons with print disabilities " and provides this definition: "Blind or other persons with print disabilities means children served under IDEA and who may qualify in accordance with the act entitled "An Act to provide books for the adult blind," approved March 31, 1931 (2 U.S.C. 135a; 46 Stat. 1487) to receive books and other publications produced in specialized formats." [674(e)(3)(A)]

The NIMAC is not involved in determining student eligibility. This reponsibility lies with the individual states.

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How can I become an authorized user?

Please refer to our FAQ for Authorized Users for more information: FAQ for Authorized Users

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Where can I obtain more information?

Please check out the additional resources and specific user group pages and FAQs available at this web site. NIMAC staff are also happy to answer your questions and provide further guidance. Just call us at 877-526-4622 or email us at!

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