Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

CSMT Frequently Asked Questions

Clearinghouse for Specialized Media and Technology Frequently Asked Questions.

Specialized Media and Technology Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Expand All | Collapse All

American Printing House for the Blind (APH) FAQs

What is the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) and how does it help students who are blind?

The APH was established in 1858 as a service to support blind and visually impaired students across the United States. Federal dollars have been provided by Congress annually since the passing of the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind in 1879 to fund materials exclusively for students who qualify as legally blind. The services include textbooks, products, and devices used by the blind for literacy, mobility, and independent access to the community and educational offerings. Additional information can be found on APH External link opens in new window or tab..

How do I get students to qualify as legally blind and receive Federal Quota Funds?

Students are annually registered for the APH census based on being enrolled in a public or private school program on the first Monday in January. Each year registration packets are distributed statewide to register new students and update information on continuing students. The registration information can also be found on our APH Federal Quota webpage. It is important to remove students who are no longer enrolled in a program or students who no longer qualify. Legal blindness, as defined by the APH, is divided into two categories:

1) Meets the Definition of Blindness (MDB): Central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with best correction or a peripheral field so contracted that the widest diameter of such field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees.

2) Functions at the Definition of Blindness (FDB): Visual performance reduced by a brain injury or dysfunction that meets the definition of blindness as determined by an eye specialist or neurologist. Registration requires that an ophthalmologist validate visual acuity every three years.

The registering public or private school must be a formally organized public or private nonprofit educational agency with students working at less than college level. The APH certifies the number of qualifying students in each state and allocates the amount per student approved by Congress.

Who can order American Printing House for the Blind (APH) products?

Only persons authorized by a public or private school can order APH products. The names of these individuals must appear on the form APH Federal Quota Orders Authorization List, a part of the annual packet to register students who are legally blind (available on the CDE CSMT Web site). Prior to ordering the first time, the authorized person must submit a New Account Form (PDF) to order materials from the Instructional Materials Ordering and Distribution System (IMODS) External link opens in new window or tab.. The administrator on the account, usually the special education director or program specialist, can authorize new members.

How do I know if I can order APH products and books?

It is the responsibility of the authorizing agency to approve members from their organization to submit federal quota orders for textbooks (regular account for public schools) and/or for APH products and books. If you do not know who the agency-authorized officer is, contact James Morrison, CSMT Associate Governmental Program Analyst, by phone at 916-323-1329 or by email at, or CSMT general email at

What APH products, books, and electronic files can be ordered on the IMODS?

APH External link opens in new window or tab. products, books, and electronic files can be found on the APH Web site, Shop APH External link opens in new window or tab. Web page. Products can be ordered from IMODS using your federal quota allocation.

What is the ordering process?

To order APH products, books, and electronic files, you must first register as an IMODS user by completing the IMODS Member Registration Form located on the CDE IMODS Web page. After registering, CSMT staff will determine if you qualify, and you will receive an email with your username and password. Once you have the login information, go to the Media Ordering Guide External link opens in new window or tab., log on, search, and order. Your APH allocation will automatically be deducted based on the items you order. The items will be shipped to the address you chose when confirming the IMODS order.

What should I do when I cannot find an item on IMODS that is available from the APH or on the Louis database?

Please send an e-mail to with the ISBN and the name of the item and request that it be added. CSMT staff will build a record so that you can order the items you need for your students.

How many APH items can I place in the shopping cart for one order?

Please limit yourself to 20 different items per order. If you have questions about ordering, please contact James Morrison, CSMT Associate Governmental Program Analyst, by phone at 916-323-1329 or by e-mail at

What if IMODS doesn't have the APH product I need?

The APH products, available through Federal Quota Program funding, are found in IMODS by entering the catalog number in the search box. If you find an APH product that is not listed in IMODS, please send an e-mail to with the catalog number and the name of the item and request that it be added.

How long will it take to receive APH materials?

After your purchase order is processed, it may take several weeks to receive all items on your order. Delivery of materials is based on the availability of the item at the APH and whether it has to be produced or simply shipped out.

Can I download APH files?

Once you place an order for an e-file, CSMT staff will process your order and deliver the file to you directly.

Who owns APH products ordered with Federal Quota funds? Do these need to be returned CSMT?

Any APH items purchased through IMODS with Federal Quota funds belongs to your organization or agency and should not be returned to the CSMT. You may affix any tracking, inventory, or serial numbers to them for local purposes. Please do not cover APH serial numbers on braillers or other assistive technology devices that may require repair.

What do encumbered and expended mean when I look at my APH balance?

Expended indicates the amount of funds that have been used for purchasing Federal Quota items. This amount is deducted from the opening balance when calculating the remaining balance. APH items that are in stock at the CSMT warehouse will be expended because the order can be guaranteed and shipped immediately.

With specific orders, like APH Non-stock, the CSMT staff must review and order the item(s) directly from the APH. While they do this, the funds move into a reserved, or encumbered, state which prevents them from being used on future orders. When funds are encumbered, they are deducted from your opening balance, just like expended funds.

Both expended and encumbered represent funds that you spent on Federal Quota items and are deducted from the opening balance. When determining the amount of funding left, the remaining balance considers the previously mentioned and represents the most accurate value of your available Federal Quota funding.

Clearinghouse for Specialized Media and Technology FAQs

Why is there a Clearinghouse for Specialized Media and Technology?

The Clearinghouse for Specialized Media and Technology (CSMT) has a clearinghouse depository as required by:
California Education Code (EC) Section 60313(a)(b)(c)(d) The Superintendent of Public Instruction is required to maintain a central clearinghouse depository and duplication center for the design, production, modification, and distribution of braille, large print, special recordings, and other accessible versions of instructional materials for use by pupils with visual impairments or other disabilities who are enrolled in the public schools of California.

What are the requirements in the Education Code to provide accessible materials?

The California Education Code (EC) mandates for the State Board of Education:

EC Section 60240(a): The State Instructional Materials Fund is hereby continued in existence in the State Treasury. The fund shall be a means of annually funding the acquisition of instructional materials as required by the Constitution of the State of California...

EC Section 60240(c)(1): The state board shall encumber part of the fund to pay for accessible instructional materials pursuant to Sections 60312...

EC Section 60312: The state board shall make available copies of adopted textbooks and other state adopted print materials in large print and other accessible media for pupils enrolled in the elementary schools whose visual acuity is 10/70 or less or who have other visual impairments making the use of these textbooks and alternate formats necessary...

The California Education Code (EC) mandates for publishers of programs that have been adopted for kindergarten through grade eight:

EC Section 60060: Every publisher or manufacturer of instructional materials offered for adoption or sale in California shall comply with all the requirements and provisions of this part.

EC Section 60061(a)(7): Provide to the state, at no cost, computer files or other electronic versions of each state-adopted literary title and the right to transcribe, reproduce, modify, and distribute the material in braille, large print if the publisher does not offer a large print edition, recordings, American Sign Language videos for the deaf, or other specialized accessible media exclusively for use by pupils with visual disabilities or other disabilities that prevent use of standard instructional materials...

What Specialized Media is provided by the CSMT?

The CSMT provides the following resources:

Textbooks, workbooks, and literature books are provided in braille, large print, rich text, audio recordings, Digital Talking Books (DTBs), American Sign Language (ASL) Video Books, and electronic files

Registration of students who are blind or visually impaired for the Federal Quota program of the American Printing House for the Blind (APH)

Instructional materials and products from the APH

The Instructional Materials Ordering and Distribution System (IMODS) for state-adopted K-8 instructional materials

A list service for educators working with students with disabilities to share information and exchange ideas with each other

How does the CSMT decide which instructional materials to make available?

The Instructional Materials Ordering and Distribution System (IMODS) includes materials adopted by the State Board of Education. The complete list of adopted instructional materials can be found on the CDE Instructional Materials Price List. If there is an item on the price list that you cannot find in IMODS, please contact to ask about having it added.

Are the materials on IMODS free?

Instructional materials on the IMODS system are purchased with Instructional Materials Funding Realignment (IMFR) funds and are loaned to public schools at no cost to the school. Only persons authorized by your local educational agency (LEA), school districts, special education local plan area (SELPA), county offices of education, or charter schools may submit orders for books and products on IMODS at no cost to them.

How do I register so that I can get materials?

To register for an IMODS account, go to CSMT Web page. Fill out the Member Registration Form (PDF), and forward it to your supervisor (special education director, program specialist, or other account administrator). Once approved by the supervisor, it is forwarded to the email address The CSMT staff will e-mail a username and password for the new account. For more information about registration contact, Cyndi Reimer by phone at 916-323-4375 or by email at

What is the ordering process?

To order materials, begin by logging on to the IMODS Account Logon Web page External link opens in new window or tab.. Enter the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) at the top in the search window and click GO. The item will display your product search results. To add hard-copy braille, large print, or a CD of an audio title, click on the blue ISBN or title. The system will ask you for a quantity. After entering the quantity, the system will put the item in your shopping cart (similar to other online ordering systems). The program will next ask if you want to continue shopping or check out. Once you have completed your order and check out, the items will automatically be sent to the address provided for shipping. We would appreciate only one order per day, per site. You will receive notification within 48 hours if an item is on back order. If you are authorized to submit APH Federal Quota orders, your account will automatically be debited for costs related to the order.

How many items can I put on an order?

You may order as many items as you need. We ask that you please limit orders to 20 textbook items or 20 APH items per order.

How long will it take to get materials?

If materials are in stock at the CSMT warehouse, it usually takes up to a week to receive the materials. Sometimes the shelves are empty, and the item will be on back order. Ordering a new title to be transcribed can take several months for a textbook, depending on the number of pages and complexity, and an additional 2 months for embossing. Large print can take up to 60 days. An audio file may take two weeks, if we have created the audio for that title. Obtaining an electronic file from a publisher can take three months.

The CSMT stocks some APH products in the warehouse. Stocked items are shipped within a week. If it is a non-stock item, it will be ordered directly from APH. We are committed to providing instructional materials as soon as possible for students.

Are some materials downloadable?

Yes, a good portion of the IMODS file collection can be downloaded to a computer or other device (e.g., Book Port Plus, APH Braille Plus Mobile Manager, MP3 player, iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android Phone, etc.). Search the database by ISBN after logging on. If the file is available, it will display "Yes." Click on Download and save the file to your desktop or other folder location. Our file formats include: publisher-submitted rich text file (RTF), transcriber braille and electronic tactile, audio, and large print PDF files.

Most of our digital files are compressed, and the end user needs a zip software to unzip them after they are downloaded to their computer.

If you are having difficulties or encounter problems when downloading files, please contact Cyndi Reimer by email at or by phone at 916-323-4735.

What formats of digital files are on IMODS?

The current formats are:

Braille: This type of digital transcription file is produced and sent to CSMT for a majority of state adopted textbooks, including many workbooks and study guides. Electronic braille file extensions are Braille 2000 Braille File bml; Annotated Braille Text File abt; ED-IT PC kind of ABT file abt; ASCII-Braille File acn, bfm, brf, or txt; Micro Braille File brl; or Duxbury Braille File dxb. These braille files can be opened and read using braille software such as Braille 2000, MegaDots or Duxbury Braille Translator (DBT). CSMT Braille ZIP file may also include title pages and electronic tactile files in Adobe pdf, tiger tactile in Microsoft Word or CorelDRAW image file in cdr format.

PDF: Adobe PDF files can be opened and read using free Adobe Reader. The PDF files can be used as large print format as the PDF files page can be enlarged using the zoom feature in Adobe Reader. The CSMT PDF files are either publisher-submitted digital PDF files or large print contractor-submitted large print ready scanned PDF files. The contractor PDF file fonts are already enlarged according to CSMT large print materials production guidelines, and the PDF files are print ready for large print production.

Audio: CSMT Audio files are in MP3 format and can be played with any MP3 software on a PC, Mac or on any other portable media devices that support MP3 format.

RTF: Rich Text Files (RTF) come from the publisher. These files can be opened with most word processors (e.g., MS Word, WordPad, Notepad, etc.) and then read aloud with any screen reader, enlarged or converted to Braille with other Braille software. Many CSMT RTF files are converted from National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) files available on the National Instructional Materials Access Center External link opens in new window or tab. repository to RTF file format.

DAISY: The CSMT Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) standard files are DAISY 2.02 and DAISY 3 (ANSI/NISO Z39.86 specification for the Digital Talking Book) text with graphics files. DAISY files can be opened and played using any of the free (such as Adaptive Multimedia Information System External link opens in new window or tab. AMIS) or commercial DAISY players on the computer or many commercial portable DAISY player devices. The CSMT DAISY files may be played on DAISY Mobile Applications External link opens in new window or tab. as well depending on mobile application specifications. More information about DAISY files is available on DAISY Consortium External link opens in new window or tab.. Some students transfer DAISY files to iPads for student use with popular applications.

Do I need the 10-Digit or 13-Digit ISBN?

All adopted materials published after 2007 are entered into IMODS with the 13-Digit ISBN. If you do not know the 13-Digit ISBN, use the online ISBN Convertor External link opens in new window or tab. to find it.

What materials do we need to return?

If no longer needed by your students, nonconsumable braille and large print books that are current and in good condition should be returned to the CSMT. These materials will continue to be loaned out for student use.

National Instructional Materials Access Center Files

What is the NIMAC and where can I learn more?

The National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) was created by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, which amended and reauthorized the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The NIMAC is an online file repository of source files from publishers of K–12 print-based instructional materials in the NIMAS format. The NIMAC is housed at the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky. Visit the NIMAC External link opens in new window or tab. for additional information.

What is the NIMAS format?

The National Instructional Materials Access Standard (NIMAS) is an XML-based source file format designed for use in producing various accessible formats. It is important to know that NIMAS files are not intended to be directly distributed to students. These files will need conversion to become fully accessible.

Who is eligible to receive formats produced from NIMAS file sets?

Students must have a qualifying disability and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). IDEA 2004 points to the National Library Service (NLS) eligibility External link opens in new window or tab. guidelines for certifying the disability criterion for NIMAS.

Can I search for files in the NIMAC?

Anyone is able to search for a file in the National Instructional Materials Access Center External link opens in new window or tab. repository.

How can I obtain a file from the NIMAC?

While anyone is able to search for a file in the NIMAC, not everyone is able to download files from the NIMAC. Files can only be downloaded and distributed by CSMT. Please email with the ISBN and title of the file you need. You will be required to have a Member Registration form (PDF) on file with CSMT before the file can be provided. If you are an Accessible Media Producer (AMP), CSMT will require verification from the school you are acting on behalf of.

Why are students with 504 plans not eligible for NIMAS sourced files?

IEPs and 504 plans are governed by different legislation. IEPs fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) while 504 Plans fall under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The NIMAC falls under IDEA. Therefore, students must be served under IDEA in order to benefit from this resource.

What are Accessible Media Producers?

Accessible Media Producers External link opens in new window or tab.(AMP) are individuals or agencies who convert NIMAS files to accessible formats for students. AMPs are able to download NIMAS files directly from the NIMAC for authorized purposes once they have been assigned by CSMT.

What does it mean to convert a file?

Publisher files from the NIMAC can be converted to rich text (RTF) or portable document format (PDF). If you find a file that is available on NIMAC but not in our IMODS database, please send an email to to request the file. We can usually get the file for you and convert it to one of the formats listed above.

If a student needs an accessible digital format, NIMAS-sourced DAISY and EPUB files can be obtained free of charge directly from Bookshare External link opens in new window or tab.. Bookshare also offers braille files, but these do not include image descriptions, formatting, or tactile graphics. The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) offers free NIMAS-to-braille translation service External link opens in new window or tab.. Please send an email to to request this service of APH.

Can NIMAS files be added to IMODS?

Yes. NIMAS files will be available through IMODS and will be marked as such. It is the user’s responsibility to ensure these files are going only to eligible students.

List Service FAQs

What is the Braille and Teach email list?

Braille-N-Teach (BNT) is an email service, hosted by the Clearinghouse for Specialized Media and Technology (CSMT) unit of CDE. This list is for educators working with students who have low vision or who are blind. The list service provides an opportunity to exchange ideas, borrow and lend instructional materials, and discuss issues that arise in this specialty area. Information could include best practices, sharing research articles, directing others to important web sites, and brainstorming when a new idea is brought forward.

Who can register as a member?

BNT list: Anyone who works with a student having vision impairments can become a member. Directors of special education, program specialists, classroom assistants, and teachers can become members. Specialists, including Orientation and Mobility, Adaptive PE, Cane Instructors, and an array of Expanded Core Curriculum educators are encouraged to become BNT members.

What are the guidelines of the list service?

We hold members to a high standard of professional integrity. Please do not pass on jokes, clever web sites, or information that does not pertain to the work we do in support of students who have vision impairments. If guidelines are not followed, the person violating this standard will be contacted and reminded to stay on course. If violations are repeated, access to the list service will be temporarily blocked or terminated. It is forbidden to sell products or post resumes. Posting of available employment opportunities for districts or agencies is permitted.

How do I sign up?

To sign up to be a member of our list service, you need to download and fill out the membership form. Email the completed form to When your form is received, you will be registered and activated to receive and send emails on the appropriate list. You will receive an informational email from CSMT confirming receipt of your application and general information on how to use this service. Use this form for Braille-N-Teach (PDF).


Questions: Clearinghouse for Specialized Media and Technology | | 916-319-0881 
Last Reviewed: Monday, June 21, 2021
Related Content
  • Clearinghouse for Specialized Media & Technology
    The Clearinghouse for Specialized Media & Technology (CSMT) helps to close the achievement gap by providing instructional resources in accessible formats to students with disabilities in California.
Recently Posted in Publications
No items posted in the last 60 days.