Top 5 Accessibility Resources from the AEM Center at CAST

National Center on Accessible Educational Materials | The AEM Center at CAST works to increase both the availability and use of high-quality accessible materials and technologies in education environments

Accessible educational materials, or AEM, are designed or enhanced in a way that makes them usable across the widest range of learner variability, regardless of format (e.g. print, digital, graphic, audio, video). From a UDL perspective, AEM and accessible technologies may be customized and adjusted to meet a wide range of individual needs, making them assets for all learners.

In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, The AEM Center at CAST invites you to check out the following resources to build your understanding of AEM and accessible technologies and how they can be used to support the variability of all learners:

  • Five Things Educators Can Do to Buy Accessible: Proactive attention to accessibility in the procurement process can reduce the amount of costly retrofitting that is often needed to make educational materials and technologies accessible to all learners. By following the five guidelines outlined in this resource, educators can advance a market model for accessibility, pushing us closer to a time when buying accessible requires nothing more than just buying.
Illustrations representing the POUR design principles: content should be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust to accommodate the needs of all individuals.
  • Designing for Accessibility with POUR: The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide guidance on how to author accessible content, but its guidelines are written in technical language that can be difficult for even veteran web developers to understand. This section of the AEM Center website provides practical tips for creating accessible classroom materials that follow the POUR design principles that are the foundation of WCAG: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust. Tutorials and other accessible resources demonstrate how to implement these principles with a variety of authoring tools.
  • Teaching with Accessible Video: Video is the way many of our learners not only consume content for entertainment but also learn and access information. In this section of the AEM Center website, you will find resources to help you enhance and enrich your teaching with accessible videos that include captions and/or audio description. Like the UDL principles, the section explains the why, what and how of accessible video, with tips for how to incorporate video into flexible instruction, guidance for improving the quality of captioned and described content, and information about a range of tools for captioning and describing classroom videos (including a video tutorial on the free CADET software from the National Center on Accessible Media).
  • Getting Started with EPUB: An EPUB publication is essentially a website that has been compressed into a single file to make it easier to distribute across the web. Since the individual files inside an EPUB publication are created using standard web technologies such as HTML, this means that many of the accessibility best practices that apply to websites (including those outlined in Designing for Accessibility with POUR) are also applicable to EPUB publications. This page explains the benefits of the EPUB format, how to acquire and read EPUB publications, and the tools that are currently available for authoring EPUB publications.
  • Online Course on AEM: During the 2018–19 school year, the AEM Center offered a free online course targeted at new educators, but anyone with an interest in AEM was welcomed to join. While the formal course has now ended, all of the resources developed for it, including recordings from the webinars that kicked off each of the five modules, remain available on the AEM Center website. In keeping with the UDL principles of instructional design, each topic has varied options for independent practice and the provided resources (slide decks, handouts and recordings) model accessibility best practices.

Follow the AEM Center on Twitter (@AEM_Center) for the latest information and resources to help you create a more accessible classroom experience that benefits all learners.

The National Center on Accessible Educational Materials at CAST is a federally-funded technical assistance center working to increase both the availability and use of high-quality accessible materials and technologies, with the goal of supporting improved learning opportunities and outcomes for students with disabilities. Funding for the AEM Center is provided by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education.