Report of the Advisory Committees to the Trustees of the American Printing House for the Blind For the Year 2001

As approved at the Formal Meeting of Ex Officio Trustees in Louisville, Kentucky, October 12, 2001

Respectfully submitted by:
Lee Robinson (UT), Chair, Publications Advisory Committee
and Bill Daugherty (KS), Chair, Research and Development Advisory Committee

Introduction

The American Printing House for the Blind has a distinguished one hundred and forty three-year history of services. During that time APH has produced most of the educational materials adapted for use by children who are blind and visually impaired. The primary method APH uses to receive support and obtain input from its trustees has been through two advisory bodies – the Research and Development Committee and the Publications Committee. While this structure has worked well in the past, the committees now feel a strong need to change how the committees do their job.

The major reasons change is required comes from outside APH. Sweeping changes in education and the wide use of technology have already required APH to make changes in its operations. Most children are not educated in self-contained classes or in residential schools, and services are dictated by individual education plans. This makes production of inventories of textbooks impractical. Instead, the order of the day is Braille and Large Print ‘on demand.’ Additionally, production capabilities require use of more diverse equipment from far-flung industries. Lastly, technology is a vital part of both making information available and producing materials.

Because of the changing environment the committees have reflected on what their role should be as well as a process that would further unify the internal operations of APH. The conclusions reached are that (1) APH must develop additional internal decision making processes that include trustees and a broad contingent of other professionals and (2) a new committee structure may serve APH better. As an initial step the committees are presenting a single report for the year 2001, with a strong recommendation that APH revise its committee structures as a part of the overall strategic planning recommended by this report.

Commendations

  1. Increased use of consultants, experts, vendors, reviewers, and field
    testers from across the country.
  2. Setting 18 point type size as the minimum standard for large print.
  3. Development and innovative improvements to Book Master.
  4. Completion and availability of 65 new products last year.
  5. Continued refinement of computer processes that make QUARK
    publisher files ready for use by transcribers.
  6. Development of APHONT, incorporating features important
    for persons with low vision.
  7. Ongoing work to supply students who are blind and visually
    impaired with textbooks and materials that have artistic appeal and are comparable to their sighted peers.
  8. Recognizing the special talents of many staff and changing their
    assignments to take best advantage of their expertise.
  9. Recognizing the skills and abilities of individuals who are blind or
    visually impaired through employment practices.
  10. Filling all recommended and approved Project Leader positions.
  11. Investigating technologies in other industries and successfully
    adapting them for use in its production and tactile graphics processes lead by the Accessible Textbook Initiative and Collaboration.
  12. Virtually eliminating back orders and providing more timely
    delivery of books.
  13. Increasing the awareness of college students who are preparing to
    teach children with visual impairments by implementing the university materials loan program.
  14. Creating short APH product videos focusing on practical techniques
    in real situations.
  15. Taking over the Early Childhood Registry.
  16. Initiating the idea of Test Central in response to joint
    recommendations from the 2000 report.
  17. Collaborating with and contributing to DAISY.
  18. Developing guidelines for computer-based testing.
  19. Promoting and utilizing universal design concepts and developing a
    strong foundation in the areas of digital and audio work as exemplified by Book Master.
  20. Reaching out to the field by sponsoring training workshops using
    APH staff as well as outside consultants.
  21. Hiring a Director of Research with a background in materials
    development that will benefit APH and the field.
  22. Continuing to vigorously pursue publication of a large print atlas in color and a revised Braille atlas.
  23. Focusing on the challenges and issues related to the testing and assessment of students who are blind or visually impaired.
  24. Garnering file repository agreements with all major textbook publishers and outstanding progress in the timely and responsive provision of accessible textbooks.

Recommendations

  1. The enormous expansion of APH initiatives, products, and services over the past several years necessitates that APH develop new approaches to the prioritization of initiatives and projects across all teams. This should be done within the framework of an on-going strategic planning process that maximizes contact with the field and ensures that products are based upon existing and emerging national priorities and promising practices in a manner that guides the allocation of resources towards areas of greatest opportunity for major educational impact. Implementation of this recommendation should include:
    1. Base initiatives and products upon thorough research that can be articulated to Ex Officio Trustees, advisory bodies, and internal decision makers enabling them to fulfill their roles in ensuring that APH products meet their intended educational purposes and further APH’s leadership role as the most respected resource for educational materials.
      • Develop new strategies to make decisions about which products must be produced in the short term to meet immediate needs in the field, and which products and initiatives require more rigorous investigation for efficacy and marketability.
      • Utilize the advisory committees throughout the year in a feedback loop as a method to use the ex-officio perspective at the conceptualization stage of initiatives so that the committees can help synthesize and interpret the information that describes the need.
      • Continue to phase out production of materials that do not meet standards established through research, and uniformly adopt standards such as 18 point type and APHONT that have proven product efficacy. A notification to customers should precede filling orders for materials that are inconsistent with established standards, informing them of the deviation from the standard.
    2. Implement additional communication technologies and processes to maximize interactions with the field and involve stakeholders in the development, marketing, and usage of APH products and services.
      • Build upon the current web-based initiatives to become more interactive with the field through active server pages and through databases that show trend factors such as regional needs, disability-specific issues, and help identify and sort sources of inputs such as field-based reviewers and product submissions for future contact.
      • Use the APH website to provide guidance to general educators on issues specific to visual impairment by posting information on such topics as assessment, tactile graphics, low vision and others.
      • Develop, implement, and systemically update a process to obtain input for decision making that will include involvement of appropriate professionals in the field; use of available technology; focus groups; needs assessments; trend identification; accepted and promising practices; and, Ex-Officio Trustees, including members of the advisory committees when appropriate, to ensure the greatest input possible and general support for the decision made.
      • Develop uniform processes across all teams for the appropriate advisory committees to guide and review all materials prior to production or publication.
    3. Develop additional collaborations within the field and with industry to enhance and extend APH expertise and expand its impact through research initiatives, production capabilities, and other opportunities that arise through full utilization of the various networks and organizations with common missions.
      • Utilize the expertise of APH Project Leaders and staff to coordinate and oversee collaborations by outsourcing or otherwise assigning projects that can be replicated by others with guidance from APH, freeing internal staff to pursue other initiatives.
      • Publish more research in journals in collaboration with universities and organizations to advance knowledge in the field and reflect APH’s leadership and commitment to promising educational practices.
      • Ensure that all APH product development includes a thorough awareness and understanding of similar initiatives that may be occurring elsewhere.
      • Explore with all producers of Braille what relationships could encourage sharing of files through the repository.
      • Utilize the Test Central initiative as a model for focusing APH expertise in a team concept that contracts with recognized experts in the field of assessment and visual impairments, and is guided from the inception by an advisory committee representative of individuals with similar expertise.
    4. Establish guiding principles and methods for making decisions that integrate the large number and wide range of inputs coming into APH from the field in the form of recommendations and product and services ideas.
      • Use the Expanded Core Curriculum and other unifying paradigms that describe and organize the needs of the field so that APH can integrate the expanding inputs coming into its internal committees in its prioritization process.
    5. Clearly identify who is using APH products and how they are using them in the various educational service delivery models through which students and clients are being served, and expand strategies to better understand product efficacy in different settings and how products meet customers’ needs.
      • Ensure that all initiatives, new products and product revisions are tied closely to data representative of national needs in areas such as assistive technology, early childhood, literacy, academics, assessment, multiple disabilities, low vision, sensory development, tactile graphics, orientation and mobility and adult products. Products that don’t meet this criteria should be evaluated relative to their drain on APH’s overall resources.
  2. With the expansion in the number and type of products, there is considerable overlap between the charges of the Publications and Research and Development Committees. APH should consider options for new committee models that might facilitate their review and guidance roles. This could be accomplished by finer distinctions on what constitutes a publication issue and what constitutes a research and development concern, or by combining the committees into one unified body with subcommittees as needed.
  3. APH should emphasize in its recruitment of key project staff the necessity of expertise in how children with vision impairments learn. This expertise could be reflected by credentials in the field of visual impairment or through closely related professional experience.

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