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AEM & Technology

Accessible Educational Material (AEM), accessible technology, and assistive technology are powerful implementation drivers within a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) because they ensure equitable access to core curriculum across all tiers of intervention. AEM paired with technology enables the removal of learning barriers by assuring accessible instructional content and personalization of tools to access that content. This promotes engagement, as well as academic and behavioral success, by fostering an environment where all learners can thrive. Providing AEM and accessible technologies aligns with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) which emphasizes giving students different ways to learn, show what they know, and stay engaged in their learning.

Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)

Accessible Educational Materials are print and technology-based educational materials, including printed and electronic textbooks and supplemental materials, designed or enhanced in a way that makes them usable across the widest range of learners, regardless of the format. (e.g. print, digital, graphic, audio, video.)


The design of applications, materials, devices, and environments that enable all learners to access equal information, engage in equal interactions, and enjoy equal services with substantially equivalent ease of use.

Assistive Technology (AT)

Assistive Technology is defined within special education law as, "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities." AT allows a student to complete tasks that they could not otherwise do and removes barriers by improving access to the core curriculum. IEP teams consider AT by asking, Does the student need AT to make progress and to access the general education curriculum?

Accessible Technology

Accessible Technology is hardware and software that is designed to provide all learners with access to content in digital materials. (i. e.., Built-in features such as speech-to-text or zoom in Chrome, Microsoft, or IOS devices.)

Universal Design for Learning:


Universal Design for learning is “a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that (A) provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged and (B) reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who have limited English proficiency. When instruction is intentionally designed using the UDL framework, it allows for a broader population of students to benefit from accessible technologies.”

Implementation Drivers

Implementation drivers refer to critical factors that influence the success of an initiative. They serve as a catalyst for effective implementation by providing support, resources, and strategies to achieve desired outcomes.

Accessible Educational Material (AEM) and accessible technology set the stage for inclusive learning and move us away from only providing accessibility on the basis of “necessity.”

Connecting AEM & Technology with MTSS

Promoting Equity with Accessibility by Design

AEM and Accessible Technology focus on accessibility by design. Providing accessible content, paired with technology tools to improve access to the content, addresses a foundational assumption within MTSS: All students have equitable learning opportunities with equitable access to grade-level content.


AEM and accessible technology tools provide choice and personalized learning opportunities for all students. Students have agency over learning when they can choose the tech tools that help them access content, such as using read-aloud or translation tools.

Decision Making:

Data on implementation of AEM and technology usage, paired with factors such as student engagement, comprehension, and response to interventions, can assist educators in discerning the effectiveness of these supports paired with interventions within MTSS.

Allowing for Differentiation, Accommodations, and Modifications

Differentiation, accommodations, and modifications all happen across the tiers. AEM and assistive technology assist educators in providing accommodations and modifications within MTSS. Assistive technology removes instructional or environmental barriers to learning for students with disabilities. For example, students with learning disabilities may require read-aloud or a student with low vision may require enlarged text to access curricula. Accessible content makes it possible for students to use the AT tools they require. Accessible content makes it possible for teachers to modify content, such as leveling text to support understanding of vocabulary and concepts. AEM and technology enable educators to customize and adapt materials to differentiate content across all tiers of support.

Identify strengths/needs by gathering data on current district practices.

Identify accessible and assistive technology tools available within your district.

Set goals and objectives to address identified needs.

Define data points for progress monitoring.

Example: Creating an accessibility checklist for acquiring and creating accessible curriculum content. When adopting a curriculum, hold vendors accountable for demonstrating accessibility features within the curriculum.

Key Questions: Do educators in your district know about AEM? Do they know how to access built-in accessibility features and extensions within Google Chrome, Microsoft, and/or IOS? Do IEP teams in your district know about assistive technology and how to consider, assess, and support the implementation of assistive technology?

Develop in-district PD or arrange PD with external partners.

Review data and gather feedback.

Use the data to refine strategies and improve AEM and technology implementation.

Carl, D., Zabala, J., Karger, J., & Curry, C. (2021). AEM center brief: Accessible educational materials in the IEP. AEM in the IEP.

CAST. (2023, May 15). Vetting for accessibility. National Center on Accessible Educational Materials.

CAST. (2021, July 20). Module 4: Selecting Accessible Digital Materials & Technologies. National Center on Accessible Educational Materials.

Edyburn, D. L. (2010). Would you recognize Universal Design for learning if you saw it? Ten propositions for New Directions for the second decade of UDL. Learning Disability Quarterly, 33(1), 33–41.

Florida Department of Education. (n.d.). Multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS). Student Support Services. Retrieved February 3, 2024, from

Fullan, M., & Quinn, J. (2016). Coherence: The right drivers in action for schools, districts, and systems. Corwin.

McLeskey, J., Maheady, L., Billingsley, B., Brownell, M., & Lewis, T. (Eds.). (2019). High leverage practices for Inclusive Classrooms. Routledge.

Reed, P., & Gierach, J. (2009). Chapter 1 – Assessing Students’ Needs for Assistive Technology (ASNAT) Process. Assessing students’ needs for assistive technology.

U.S. Department of Education. (2024, January 22). Myths and Facts Surrounding Assistive Technology Devices and Services.