Bookshare qualification / need

On 3/2/2011 10:20 AM, Joy Zabala wrote:
I think there are TWO issues being discussed here, both under the guise of the word "qualification" when really only one of the issues actually relates to qualification.  

The first question was about qualification for Bookshare... and this is the place where the word "qualification" can be accurately used because there ARE qualifications for acquiring accessible materials from various sources, including Bookshare and other accessible media producers (AMPs)

I was a bit unsure whether the second statement/question - "In this case the auditory comprehension alone was worse than reading comp...but together it was documented as improved ...would this then qualify the student?" - I wondered if the question was this still about quaification for a SOURCE of AIM or if the question had shifted to whether the student "qualifies" for (reframe: NEEDS!) accessible instructional materials.

Wondering about this shift compelled me to write a bit about the "myth" and the "reality" of qualification.

The myth of "qualification":  Many people think that there is some way that a student must "qualify" for accessible instructional materials.  This is a myth in the same way that "qualifying" for assistive technology is a myth. 

The reality of need: Both are related to NEED... so a re-framed question might be "Can the student use typical printed-based instructional materials in order to benefit from their instructional program and reach high levels of achievement?... If the answer to this question is "NO", then the question has two branches... "Would the identical content be useful to the student if presented in a different format?" or "Is modified content needed by this student?"  

You'll notice that there has been no mention of qualification at this point.  The problem with talking about "qualification" too early is that it GREATLY increases the possibility that students who actually NEED and could benefit from accessible versions of the print-based instructional materials used by other students get passed over because they do not "qualify" (for accessible materials from a particular source or sources). 

At this point, I am going to shift my focus a bit to those students for whom it has been determined to need the identical content presented in some other way.

Once NEED has been established, it is time to determine which presentation formats would be both useable by and beneficial for the student - braille? large print? audio? digital. (I do not mean to gloss over this step, as it can be quite complex, but it is not pertinent to this discussion about qualification).

The reality of qualification: Once it has been determined that the student needs print-based materials used by other students in accessible formats and which of the formats are needed for which materials, it is time to think about the sources of materials that can be tapped for the particular student.  THIS is the place where the "qualification" of the individual student is both appropriate and necessary.

There are five "broad brush" sources of AIM, several which have "rules" - qualifications - that must be followed.

Source: National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) The library of NIMAS source files created and deposited by publishers  
Qualification: Student must be served under IDEA (have an IEP) AND be certified by a competent authority as having a print disability under copyright

Source: Accessible Media Producers (AMPS) (There are many but the big federally-funded ones are American Printing House for the Blind - funded by Congress - Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, and Bookshare - both funded by OSEP )
Qualification:  Two collections.  General collection open to all qualified individuals: Certified by a competent authority as having a print disability under copyright (different AMPS interpret this statutory requirement in different ways.) NIMAC-Sourced Collection that can only be acquired by schools:  Same as the NIMAC.

Source: Materials available for purchase from commercial sources (the market model)
Qualification: No qualifications.  Accessible materials purchased can be used with ANY student. (see Pearson HTML Books for an examples) Important to keep in mind that if 100 students are to use the materials, then 100 copies must be purchased  Also, it is important to ensure that any digital versions acquired are ACCESSIBLE.  For sources of materials that are primarily supplemental trade books (not textbooks) other commercial sources might include all of the folks (e.g. Amazon, Barnes and Noble) who now sell digital versions of materials (which may or may NOT be accessible) and for audio versions.  

Source: Free (most likely web-based)
Qualification: No qualifications.  This is a great source for items without copyrights and for books that are no longer under copyright and a terrific way to obtain materials for trials with different formats.

Source: Do It Youself (The old standby of all us AT people!)
Qualification:  It depends upon what the material IS and how it is copyrighted.  This should be a LAST RESORT rather than a first resort.

So.. Wow!  The whole "qualification" issue obviously touches a nerve for me!  While this message is long, I hope it clarified a bit about where qualification is important (where you GET- or acquire - the materials that a student needs) and where it is dangerous (when confused with NEED in order for the student to benefit from the educational program).

I would also like to share a couple of excellent resources that go much more deeply into this and other issues.  If you have not already done so, please visit the website of the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials at and go to the EXPERIENCE section where you will find information about two tools that are DIRECTLY related to this discussion:  The AIM Navigator which is an online process facilitator that walks a team through decision-making steps and provides multiple levels of unobtrusive support if/when needed and the AIMing for Achievement DVD which provides both information and wonderful illustrative vignettes about all phases of the provision of accessible instructional materials.  

Note that the NIMAS/AIM Coordinator has recently received multiple copies of the AIMing for Achievement DVD. Contact the NIMAS/AIM Coordinator in your state to find out how to obtain a copy. (If you do not know who your state's AIM/NIMAC Coordinator is, they are listed at  There is also information on the AIM Center website about how to purchase copies. (The information in the DVD is provided free of charge, but there are shipping and handling charges from the order fulfillment company.)

Also, please do not hesitate to contact me directly by email to if there is anything I can help you with.


From the QIAT listserve:  March 1, 2011

What a great question! If I had the answer, I'd be a lot smarter... But this is, to me, an it all depends. What does the data say about the student's ability to gain information through auditory input? If the IEP team has adequate data, then I would be comfortable with their decision. I don't try to second guess a good IEP team decision.
Joan Breslin Larson

Hi Shelley,

If the nature of the reading-related learning disability is the inability to understand what can be decoded, the IEP team surely has the authority to determine that the student qualifies for services from Bookshare and RFB&D. I don't see any problem at all with such a finding.  The law does not really address this level of detail so it is left to the best judgment of educators and/or medical experts.

Chuck Hitchcock
Chief Officer, Policy and Technology & Director, National AIM Center
CAST, Inc., 40 Harvard Mills Square, Suite 3, Wakefield MA 01880-3233
TEL 1-781-245-2212 x233,  FAX 1-781-245-5212,  TTY 1-781-245-9320

-----Original Message-----
From: Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology [mailto:QIAT@LSV.UKY.EDU] On Behalf Of Shelley Haven
Sent: Tuesday, March 01, 2011 1:47 PM
Subject: [QIAT] Question on e-text eligibility for other reading disabilities

To paraphrase those Windows 7 TV ads where the protagonist seeks a solution by declaring "To the cloud!", I will turn to the unseen audience and declare "To the QIAT listserve!"

As we all know, students with learning disabilities are eligible for copyrighted material from Bookshare or RFB&D if they have "severe learning disabilities that keep them from being able to effectively read standard print" which "makes it difficult to read standard print effectively" (I'm quoting from Bookshare's Qualifications webpage).  Furthermore, those disabilities must have a physical basis.

When we say a student has difficulty "reading", we typically mean they have problems acquiring information from printed text -- for example, decoding words fluently.  But what about the "comprehension" part of reading effectively -- kids who can read (decode) fluently but have difficulty comprehending what they read because of a learning disability?  Are they also eligible for accessible media?

For example: students may have difficulty extracting meaning at the paragraph and chapter level because of problems with processing or working memory.  They might understand what they decode at the word and sentence level but can't see connections or get "the big picture".  Those with working memory issues might forget the points made in paragraph 1 by the time they get to paragraph 5 and thus miss the larger meaning.  Such students might need to hear text read aloud (assuming better auditory processing skills), or annotate e-text as they read and extract the main points.

To me, these issues are all part of "reading effectively" and should warrant access to accessible media, but I'm not sure what U.S. Copyright Law thinks about this.  In lieu of hearing from the Law itself, I'd like your thoughts.

Thanks in advance,

Shelley Haven  ATP, RET
Assistive Technology Consultant

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