National Reading Media Assessment (NRMA)

for Youth with Visual Impairments

Quick Start Guide

Download our Quick Start Guide (PDF)


This assessment has been developed with three purposes in mind: to determine the most appropriate reading medium/media for students who are blind/visually impaired; to ensure that the reading medium is appropriately identified both for current as well as for future need; and to ensure that student success is not hampered by incorrect identification of literacy needs. The target population for this tool consists of youth with an identified visual impairment who have enough visual functioning to identify print letters or shapes by sight.

Rationale for the Assessment

Accurate identification of the appropriate reading medium/media for a student who is blind/visually impaired depends upon expectations of the student when using that medium. Said another way, the development of an assessment tool has a great deal to do with what is being measured.  Each student is an individual and under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as well as within best practice, the educational curriculum must be “individualized.” However, for the blind/visually impaired student, the question to be answered in regard to reading medium involves “literacy” and student “success.” For visually impaired youth, the best criterion against which to measure literacy and success is the performance of sighted peers of similar intellectual ability.  The need arises, then, for a valid, standardized measuring tool that will yield a quantitative measure of otherwise qualitative factors. 

As a result, this assessment departs from existing learning media assessments in several critical ways. Where existing assessments operate by obtaining considerable information about the individual youth’s performance in a variety of situations, under a variety of conditions, with varying types of materials, in varying time frames, this assessment gathers only information pertinent to reading and writing; gathers these data under standardized conditions; and bases evaluation of the student’s reading “efficiency” and the  appropriateness of the reading medium on what would be expected of sighted students of similar intellectual functioning in terms of reading speed, accuracy, and duration. 

In the administration of this assessment, students are evaluated under typical classroom lighting conditions, using a standardized print size.  It is recognized that many schools have the ability to provide accommodations such as brighter or dimmer lighting or special contrast.  However, it is the assumption of this assessment that in order to fully prepare the student for both present and future needs, the student who uses print must be able to compete effectively under typical conditions in the present school setting (for example, in the classroom, in the auditorium, on the stage, in the bandstand, etc.) and in future settings, such as the college lecture hall, the worksite, and the boardroom.

Reading and writing materials in this assessment are presented in 18-point font. This size is consistent with Library of Congress?s National Library Service for the Blind (NLS) information: ?The minimum size for large-print materials is 14-point type. Large-print materials are most commonly available in 16- to 18-point type.?1 Standardization of font size ensures consistency across assessment results.

It is common practice for youth with visual impairments to hold reading materials very close to their faces, and/or to hunch their bodies over the materials when reading. In addition to the posture and other health concerns these reading positions raise, years of field practice and experience have demonstrated that youth who read print materials at very close distances suffer eye strain, headache, neck and back pain, fatigue, and diminished concentration, reading speed, and comprehension. Consequently, in this assessment students are evaluated when sitting up straight and with materials held or placed at standardized distances.

Assessment results include a quantitative summary which indicates the extent to which the youth is able to function using print materials in comparison with sighted peers, and provides a scale indicating the level at which print loses its effectiveness and Braille or a combination of print and Braille should be employed for educational purposes. The intent of this assessment is not to identify all possible learning materials and auxiliary tools that the individual student might employ. Instead, this instrument is meant to be a clear, concise, and valid tool for identifying the appropriate medium/media for the acquisition of literacy through reading and writing.

Sections of the Assessment

The National Reading Media Assessment has been designed for use both with students who are not yet reading (prereaders) and with youth in kindergarten through high school. Both the Prereader Assessment and the K-12 Assessment include Observation and Interview forms, an assessment conducted by the TVI/TBS, an assessment of future need, and a Result and Recommendation Page.

In some cases, it may be helpful to complete both the Prereader TVI/TBS Assessment Form and the K-12 TVI/TBS Assessment Form. For example, completing both of these forms for a youth in kindergarten may give a clearer picture of the child?s needs and abilities.

If you choose to do so, follow the instructions on the assessment page.

1National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, "Reading Materials in Large Print: A Resource Guide," NLS Reference Circulars, 2005, (accessed February 8, 2012).

Training Videos

By watching these videos, join Teacher of Blind Students Casey Robertson as she demonstrates the NRMA. Each video provides training for a section of the assessment.

For Further Information

The Jernigan Institute
National Federation of the Blind

"Changing What It Means to be Blind"

200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21230

Office: (410) 659-9314
Web site:
The Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness
Louisiana Tech University

210 Woodard Hall
PO Box 3158
Ruston LA 71272

Office: 318.257.4554 (Office)
Fax: 318.257.2259 (Fax)
Web site:


© 2023 National Reading Media Assessment (NRMA)