The University of the State of New York
Albany, NY 12234
E-mail Special Ed
Presidents of Boards of Education
Superintendents of Schools
Superintendents of State-Operated and State-Supported Schools
Superintendents of Special Act Schools
Organizations, Parents & Individuals Concerned with Special Education
Directors of Special Education
Chairpersons of Committees on Special Education
Chairpersons of Committees on Preschool Special Education
Commissioner's Advisory Panel for Special Education Services
SETRC Professional Development Specialists
Other State Agency Programs
Regional School Support Centers
Impartial Hearing Officers
Effective May 16, 2002, section 200.2 of the Regulations of the Commissioner is amended to implement Chapter 377 of the Laws of 2001. As a result of Chapter 377 and the implementing regulations, each board of education (BOE) and each Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) must establish a plan to ensure that every student with a disability who needs his or her instructional materials in an alternative format will receive those materials at the same time that they are available to non-disabled students.
This memorandum provides information and technical assistance regarding these requirements and includes:
- pertinent background information;
- a summary of the regulatory amendments;
- questions and answers;
- sample plan considerations;
- alternate format textbook and educational materials resources;
- Chapter 377 of the Laws of 2001; and
- amendments to section 200.2 of the Regulations of the Commissioner.
As required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a student who needs an accommodation to instructional materials because of his or her disability must be provided with such materials in the alternative format needed by the student. Historically, many students with disabilities have not had equal and timely access to the same educational materials used by their non-disabled peers. Even with today’s advanced technologies, students who require instructional materials in alternative formats continue to experience problems receiving such materials in formats suited to their individual learning needs. If these students with disabilities are going to meet high educational standards, be integrated with their non-disabled peers, participate successfully in post-secondary education and be employed in integrated work settings, instructional materials must be readily available to them in a timely manner.
In 1999, the State Education Department sponsored a legislative conference that addressed this issue, with presentations by national experts. As a result, the Board of Regents advanced a priority legislative proposal to address the primary barriers that prevent students from receiving instructional materials in needed alternative formats:
- The lack of availability of instructional materials in usable formats from publishers was identified as a major factor contributing to students not receiving such materials in a timely manner. While this is changing as technology advances, publishing companies need to realize the need for and benefits of developing such materials in alternative formats. Thus, it was recommended that schools be required to give preference in the purchase of instructional materials to those vendors who provide them in alternative formats.
- The lack of sufficient lead-time to procure or produce instructional materials in alternative forms was identified as another major factor, often resulting in students beginning the school year without the appropriate books and materials. In many cases, this happened simply because the district’s ordering procedures did not acknowledge the time needed to procure some alternative format materials. In other cases, the alternative format needs of certain students were not considered when making decisions about instructional materials to be used by the district or school. Thus, it was recommended that school districts and BOCES address these issues through a planning process.
Effective April 21, 2002, Chapter 377 of the Laws of 2001 amended Education Law sections 1604, 1709, 1950, 2503, 2554 and 3602 to require every school district and BOCES to develop a plan to ensure that all instructional materials to be used in the schools of the district (or in the programs of the BOCES) are available in a usable alternative format for every disabled student, in accordance with his or her individual needs, at the same time that such materials are available to non-disabled students. This law pertains to students with disabilities with individualized education programs (IEPs) as well as disabled students with Section 504 accommodation plans.
While Chapter 377 of the Laws of 2001 (Attachment 3) and the implementing regulations (Attachment 4) do require school districts and BOCES to plan in advance to provide instructional materials to students with disabilities in the needed alternative formats, it does not alter in any way the district’s obligation under the IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to make such materials available and accessible to students with disabilities so that students with disabilities can participate and progress in the general curriculum.
Each BOE and each BOCES must establish a plan to ensure that the instructional materials to be used in the schools of the district (or in the programs of the BOCES) are available in a usable alternative format for each student with a disability in accordance with the student’s educational needs and course selections at the same time that such materials are available to non-disabled students. "Alternative format" is defined to mean any medium or format for the presentation of instructional materials, other than a traditional print textbook, that is needed as an accommodation for a disabled student enrolled in the school district (or program of a BOCES). It would include, but not be limited to, Braille, large print, open and closed caption, audio, or an electronic file (e.g., "accessible html file") in a format compatible with alternative format conversion software that is appropriate to meet the needs of the individual student.
Each BOE and BOCES must establish its written plan no later than July 1, 2002. The plan must:
- include an amendment to the district’s or BOCES’ procurement policy to ensure that the district/BOCES gives a preference in the purchase of instructional materials it has selected for its students to those vendors who agree to provide such materials in alternative formats;
- specify, if an electronic file is provided, how students will access the format and/or how the district/BOCES will convert the electronic file to an accessible format;
- specify the process to be used when ordering materials to identify the needs of students with disabilities residing in the district (or attending the programs of the BOCES) for instructional materials in alternative formats;
- specify ordering timelines to ensure that disabled students’ instructional materials in the needed alternative formats are available at the same time as regular format materials are provided to other students; and
- include procedures so that when students with disabilities move into the school district (or enroll in the programs of the BOCES) during the school year, the process to obtain needed materials in alternative formats for such students is initiated without delay.
Every school district must amend its District Plan of Service (as required by section 3602(10) of the Education Law and section 200.2(c) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education) to include a description (plan) of how the district intends to ensure that all instructional materials to be used in its schools will be made available in a usable alternative format for each student with a disability at the same time as such instructional materials are available to non-disabled students. This district plan of service requirement may be met through reference to the plan established by the BOE pursuant to section 200.2(b)(10) of the Regulations of the Commissioner.
Questions and Answers:
1. Why must a written plan be developed to ensure the availability of instructional materials in alternative formats?
School districts and BOCES must establish written plans so that they are prepared when students with disabilities attending their schools need instructional materials in alternative formats. Obtaining instructional materials in alternative formats is a process that requires sufficient lead time and clear and timely communication among school personnel.
Generally, it takes approximately three to four months for texts to be converted to large-print. It takes an average of three to six months for straight literary texts (without math, special symbols or graphics) to be converted to Braille. Mathematics, music, science, social studies or other textbooks containing symbols, maps, graphs and other graphics take an average of six to nine months to produce, as these require special Braille codes and hand-created tactile graphic representations or verbal descriptions of graphics that are not reproducible in tactile form.
Advance planning should result in efficient, systematized and expedient procedures so that the instructional materials in alternative formats needed by students with disabilities for the courses they are taking are provided at the same time that such materials are available to non-disabled students. If such procedures are institutionalized, it will help to prevent delays and confusion as to how materials will be obtained in the event, for example, that the one individual identified by a school district to oversee this process leaves the school district.
The ultimate goal of the new law and regulation is to ensure that districts and BOCES plan ahead to meet the needs of their students with disabilities. To this end, the district/BOCES needs to determine how it will:
- convey a student’s need for instructional materials in alternative formats to the individuals ordering instructional materials;
- select instructional materials, in consideration of which materials are available from vendors in alternative formats needed by students with disabilities;
- ensure that its timelines for ordering materials are established in consideration of the additional time that will be needed for instructional materials to be obtained or converted to alternative formats;
- identify and/or obtain the resources a student needs to access an electronic file;
- ensure that an electronic file is converted to a format needed by the student; and
- initiate without delay the process to obtain instructional materials in alternative formats when a student moves into the district or enters the program of the BOCES during the school year.
Schools and BOCES are encouraged to consider all factors that may result in a delay in obtaining such materials for students with disabilities. For one district, it might be a budget issue when, for example, a new student moves into the district and the cost of obtaining materials in alternative formats has not been considered. For another district, a factor contributing to a delay might be identifying who will be responsible to convey a student’s needs as identified on the student’s IEP or section 504 accommodation plan to the persons responsible for obtaining or converting materials. For another district, the process might be delayed because the request for Braille conversion is submitted too close to the time that classes are beginning. As they develop their written plans, each school district and BOCES, therefore, should consider such factors as budget, staff development, available technology, personnel resources and communication protocols between special education and general education staff with responsibility to convey student needs to the individual(s) who order instructional materials. Examples of the factors to address in a sample plan are provided in Attachment 1.
2. What is the relationship of the plan relating to instructional materials in alternative formats to other policies, plans and procedures established by the Board of Education or BOCES?
Each BOE must include in its District Plan of Service, developed pursuant to section 3602(10) of the Education Law, a description (plan) of how the district intends to ensure that all instructional materials to be used in its schools will be made available in a usable alternative format for each student with a disability at the same time as such instructional materials are available to non-disabled students. This District Plan of Service requirement may be met through reference to the plan established by the BOE pursuant to section 200.2(b)(10) of the Regulations of the Commissioner. The District Plan of Service is developed every two years and reviewed annually and is available for review by the State Education Department and for public inspection.
A district’s or BOCES’ need to access instructional materials in alternative formats should also be considered in the district’s regular budget and professional development plans as appropriate. Schools and BOCES are encouraged to consider professional development plans that ensure, for example, that teachers are knowledgeable about how to present the instructional materials in alternative formats to students with disabilities and where they can address their questions or need for assistance to understand, use and maintain the materials and/or the technology that supports their use.
3. Must the plan be submitted to the State Education Department for approval prior to July 1, 2002?
No. However, the plan is subject to review by the State Education Department upon request and during Quality Assurance Reviews. The District Plan of Service, developed pursuant to section 3602(19) of the Education Law must be available for review by the Commissioner and the public.
4. Who must participate in the development of this plan?
The law and regulations do not specify who must participate in the development of the written plan. However, it is recommended that it be developed in consultation with both general and special education school administrators and teachers, school librarians, parents, business office representatives, teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing, teachers of the visually impaired and curriculum specialists. This will help to ensure that the school district/BOCES has considered the different perspectives and issues that may be preventing students in their schools from accessing instructional materials in needed alternative formats in a timely manner.
5. What instructional materials to be used in the schools of the district or in the programs of the BOCES must be provided in alternative formats?
The instructional materials to be used in the schools of the district or in the programs of the BOCES that must be provided in alternative formats (in accordance with students’ IEPs or section 504 accommodation plans) include those materials a student with a disability needs in order to participate and progress in his or her selected courses (i.e., written and published textbooks and related core materials to be used by teachers for classroom instruction and for preparation and participation in State and district-wide assessments).
6. What is the process to obtain a State assessment in an alternative format?
Braille and large-type test booklets are available from the State Education Department for the Elementary and Intermediate State assessments and each Regents and Regents Competency Examination. The Braille and large-type test booklets requested will be included in the regular shipment to the school. The ordering timelines for State assessments should be a component of the plans developed by the school districts because of the time required for the production of Braille and large-type examination booklets. The Department may not be able to accept requests that are submitted after the last date set for receiving requests (January or June). Any reproduction and/or reformatting of test booklets requires the written advance permission of the State Education Department, Office of State Assessment, Room 771 EBA, Albany, NY 12234.
Sample copies of some past examinations and reference tables in Braille and large type may be borrowed from the New York State Resource Center for the Visually Impaired, 2A Richmond Avenue, Batavia, NY, 14020 (telephone number: 585-343-8100).
The Department is taking steps to further ensure that State assessments are available in alternative formats. This information will be provided to school districts and BOCES under separate cover.
7. Does the reference to "all instructional materials" in Chapter 377 of the Laws of 2001 and the implementing regulations require, for example, that all selections in a school library be converted to accessible formats?
Neither Chapter 377 of the Laws of 2001 nor the implementing regulations require that the district or BOCES convert all of its existing library materials to alternative formats. However, to the extent that specific resources of the library are required for the student to participate and progress in his or her selected courses, such materials must be made available in an accessible format for the student. As new instructional materials are ordered for a library, however, the district/BOCES must give preference to those vendors who provide such materials in alternative formats.
8. What is meant by the requirement that a district or BOCES amend its procurement policy to give preference to those vendors that agree to provide the materials in alternative formats?
As a school district or BOCES selects any new instructional materials for a course, it must consider, as one factor, if such materials are available from the vendor in the alternative format(s) needed by the students enrolled in such courses. For example, three different textbooks may meet the district’s criteria for selection in terms of content and quality related to the subject to be taught, but only one of the vendors agrees to provide the materials in alternative formats. In this case the district must give preference to the vendor that agrees to provide the materials in alternative formats. The requirement relating to vendor preference should not be construed to mean that a school/BOCES must change the textbooks they have already purchased and are using for all students and select and purchase a different textbook solely because another textbook is available for purchase in an alternative format.
9. What is the most efficient source of information available to determine if an instructional material is available in an alternative format from a vendor?
Schools are encouraged to ask publisher sales representatives about available formats as a means to influence publishers to covert instructional materials to alternative formats. Most publishers provide copies of all files they have converted to the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). Therefore, districts and BOCES are encouraged to check first with APH for the file availability. A list of publications in alternative formats is available at http://www.aph.org/. For students who are blind or visually impaired, schools must first check with the NYS Resource Center for Visually Impaired at (585) 343-8100.
10. What if a textbook cannot be purchased in an alternative format?
If the instructional materials needed by the student cannot be purchased in alternative formats, the district (or BOCES) must make reasonable efforts to adapt or convert such materials or provide substantially equivalent materials to the student in a format he or she can access. It is important for the school district and BOCES to include sufficient lead-time in their plans so that materials could be converted if necessary so that the student can participate and progress in the general curriculum. A school may enlarge or Braille one copy of a text for a student without permission of the publisher.
11. What must a district/BOCES do to specify how students will access an electronic file or how an electronic file will be converted?
An electronic file is a computer readable file such as ASCI, accessible HTML and PDF. An electronic file must be compatible with alternative format conversion software appropriate to meet the needs of the individual student. Instructional materials provided in electronic files can offer many flexible options for a student with a disability to access the curriculum when the files are used with a variety of technology and tools such as computer screens using highlighted or enlarged text, screen readers or Braille printers. If an electronic file is provided, the district/BOCES must specify how the students will access the format and/or how the district/BOCES will convert the electronic file to an accessible format.
For example, the plan might specify:
- how students will access electronic files for screen and/or text readers and alternative display technologies;
- what hardware (e.g., computers, printers, scanners, closed circuit televisions, alternative keyboards, alternative mice, tape recorders) and software (e.g., screen readers, screen magnification devices, scan and read, Braille translation) will ensure students can access electronic files; and
- how electronic files will be converted to Braille, large-print, audio or alternative displays.
12. What is the role of the Committee on Special Education (CSE) in ensuring that a student with a disability receives his or her instructional materials in needed alternative formats?
If the CSE determines that a student needs his or her instructional materials in an alternative format, the IEP needs to specify the accommodations for the individual student and any related instruction and/or assistive technology devices needed for the student to access the alternative format materials. If the student needs instructional and assessment materials in alternative formats, the CSE should consider, for example:
- what alternative format(s) is needed?
- what instruction is needed for the student to use the alternative format materials?
- what assistive technology devices or services are needed for the student to access the alternative format materials?
- what supports for school personnel may be needed related to the alternative format(s) recommended?
- what assistance do the parents need to help them acquire skills necessary to support the child’s use of the instructional materials and/or related assistive technology devices?
- what testing accommodations a student might need related to the alternative formats?
IEP Recommendation Examples:
- Child A
Alternative Format Needs: Large Print – 16-font size
Assistive technology: Magnification device, scanner, and alternative display software
Instruction needed: Use of scanner and alternative display software
Supports for school personnel: Teacher aide to assist with material conversions
- Child B
Alternative format needed: Audio text
Assistive technology: Tape recorder, computer, speech synthesizer, headphones
Instruction needed: Use of speech synthesizer software
Related service: Reader
Supports for school personnel: Instruction on use of speech synthesizer software
Testing accommodations: Separate location with double time
- Child C
Alternative format needs: Braille text
Assistive technology device: Braille Lite; refreshable Braille notetaker; related hardware and software
Instruction needed: Instruction in the use of Braille
Related services: Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired
Supports for school personnel:Training in the use of the Braille Lite
Parent counseling and training: Training in the use of the Braille Lite
- Child D
Alternative format needs: Accessible html
Assistive technology: Computer and talking text-to-speech browser
Instruction needed: Use of software and management of electronic materials
Supports for school personnel: Instruction on use of software and electronic material
The school district must ensure that each teacher and provider is informed of his or her specific responsibilities related to implementing the student’s IEP and the specific accommodations, modifications and supports that must be provided for the student in accordance with the IEP.
13. What can teachers do to help assure the availability of instructional materials in alternative formats?
Teachers can help assure the availability of instructional materials in alternative formats by anticipating that there may be students in their classes who will require instructional materials in alternative formats. Advance planning in the selection and ordering of books, developing lists of required readings and providing such reading lists in advance will help ensure that students with disabilities attending their classes receive their instructional materials at the same time as other students in the classes.
The following attachments provide further information on these requirements:
- ATTACHMENT 1: Sample Considerations: Plan to Ensure Availability of Instructional Materials in Needed Alternative Formats
- ATTACHMENT 2: Alternate Format Textbook and Educational Materials Resources
- ATTACHMENT 3: Chapter 377 of the Laws of 2001
- ATTACHMENT 4: Amendment to Section 200.2 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, Effective May 16, 2002
Questions regarding this memorandum may be directed to the Program Development and Support Services Unit at (518) 486-7462, the Special Education Policy Development Unit at (518) 473-2878 or your Regional Associate at one of the following Special Education Quality Assurance Regional Offices:
- Central New York Regional Office - (315) 471-4796
- Eastern Regional Office - (518) 486-6366
- Hudson Valley Regional Office - (914) 245-0010
- Long Island Regional Office - (631) 884-8530
- New York City Regional Office - (718) 722-4544
- Western Regional Office - (585) 344-2112, ext. 420
Please Note: Some documents on this page are saved in the Portable Document Format (PDF). If it's not already on your computer, you'll need to download the latest free version of Adobe Reader.