Reports of the Advisory Committees To the Trustees of the American Printing House for the Blind For the Year 2015
Report of the Educational Services Advisory Committee to the Trustees of the American Printing House for the Blind for Fiscal Year 2015
The purpose of the Educational Services Advisory Committee (ESAC) is to:
- Provide oversight and leadership in the planning, evaluation, and delivery of services.
- Identify new services needed.
- Assist the promotion of APH products through services, and
- Advise APH on general operations and communications as they relate to the accountability of services provided.
In May of 2015 the Educational Services Advisory Committee (ESAC) met in Louisville, KY at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). The ESAC committee met to address the 2014 ESAC report and to develop commendations and recommendations. To assist with this endeavor, interactive presentations were made by APH’s administrative staff and ESAC committee members. These interactive presentations provided progress updates on the 2013 recommendations, operations and information on new initiatives.
ESAC Commendations 2015
Consistent with the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind (1879), the committee commends APH for:
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the commitment and dedication to and the continued development of the REAL Plan.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the development and implementation of the Strategic Technology Plan via eleven initiatives funded with endowment money in three main categories – infrastructure, collaborations and outreach, for example:
- the expansion of technology staff
- the appointment of a Chief Technology Officer
- the hiring of a consultant to promote cultural change
- the creation of internship positions
- participation in the development of technology standards
- the addition of recognition awards
- The ESAC offers a commendation for implementing operational plans in individual departments which promote internal collaborations and more efficient, more focused meetings, thereby insuring effective strategies for prioritizing and achieving identified goals.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for accessing MathML files and exploring devices that can utilize these files.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for developing and promoting the success of the Braille Transcriber Apprentice Program.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the systematic approach to the transition of key leadership in the agency, including a new organizational chart.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for making iOS apps available on Quota.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the quality of the customer service provided by APH in all departments.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the informational video, “No Other Place Like It” as well as the variety of Quick Tips videos.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for improved ease of website navigation, using sub sites.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for providing textbook cover images on the website.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for simplifying the ordering of free items without requiring a user ID for login.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for enhancing the security of the website and providing a separate site for credit card purchases only.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for providing EOT and EOT assistant training including online tutorials and quick tips.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for increasing the number of Project Leaders to 14.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for proactively advocating for and improving public awareness in the field of blindness through the Leaders to Leaders program.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for securing funding to acquire a new high powered scanner to safely digitize the Migel and Barr Library materials.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for progress made in developing a new customer review system for products by Accessible Media Providers (AMPs).
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the 40% increase of tactile graphics images, as well as the improved forty eight (48) hour delivery time for custom requests.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the progress being made on Braille Blaster realizing the positive impact it will have on students who are blind or have low vision.
ESAC Recommendations 2015
Consistent with the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind (1879), the committee recommends that APH:
- Continue to explore options for a review and rating process for APH instructional products on the shopping site as recommended by ESAC in 2014.
- Solicit specific feedback from EOTs about high stakes test accessibility in four categories, including:
- appropriateness of test items (e.g. language, concepts)
- hardware/software (availability of devices and instruction)
- hard copy testing materials in accessible formats that will be shared back with EOTs, with state departments, schools, agencies and test developers and to propose solutions for improving accessibility in all categories.
- Revisit the position of not transcribing existing textbooks in English Braille American Edition (EBAE) into Unified English Braille Code (UEB) identifying specific criteria, considering demand and copyright date.
- Continue to explore funding opportunities and shared financial responsibilities for providing and expanding National Instructional Partnership (NIP) events.
- Explore options in providing braille files for textbooks in addition to or in lieu of hard copy braille books based on the growing trend of students using technology to access information and instructors using portions of textbooks.
- Continue to work with vendors to provide a “discounted” or “out of stock” message on the shopping site as recommended by ESAC in 2014.
- Work with current EOTs to develop a mentor/buddy program for new EOTs and first time AM attendees to provide one on one support in the fulfillment of EOT duties and responsibilities.
- Expand the APH Scholar Program to identify an annual “Scholar of the Year,” from the pool of past recipients, who has used their APH experience to advance their learning and their leadership for the benefit of the field.
- Develop policies and procedures for the AMP and APH product feedback system, which may include a 5-star rating system.
- Continue to expand APH visibility and communication using social media.
- Continue to provide the resources required to bring Braille Blaster to fruition by providing needed features to make files more accessible in multiple formats.
- Provide more specific criteria for the nomination process for the APH Scholar Program to include actual products used, creative product application, and methods of product promotion.
- Evaluate the existing criteria and time frames for the Braille Transcriber Apprentice Program, given the individual state parole requirements.
Report of the Educational Products Advisory Committee to the Trustees of the American Printing House for the Blind for Fiscal Year 2015
The purpose of the Educational Products Advisory Committee (EPAC) is:
- To advise APH in establishing priorities, standards, and policies regarding products.
- To review research and development priorities, suggest additional areas of interest, and advise APH staff on the prioritization of needs and projects.
- To review products under development and to consider approval of finished products for purchase with Federal Quota funds.
- To recommend parents, caregivers, students, clients, and professionals in the field to serve as subjects for research or field-test purposes, as project consultants, and/or as committee members.
In May 2015, the EPAC met for the fourteenth year as a formal advisory committee to APH—meeting with project leaders and other APH staff. The committee appreciated the time dedicated to project discussions and preparation for the EPAC visit. The APH staff clearly demonstrates passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to the vision of the company and is dedicated to the development of products for students who are blind and visually impaired.
EPAC Commendations 2015
- The EPAC commends APH for establishing and utilizing eight clearly-defined milestones when considering field testing, revising, and introducing new products.
- The EPAC commends APH’s significantly increased efficiency over the past 4 years regarding overall project completion timelines.
- The EPAC commends APH for the implementation of the Technology Strategic Plan, which encompasses the REAL Plan, and for possessing the determination and foresight to carefully examine product efficacy and the courage to sunset products as needed.
- The EPAC commends the Software Engineering and Assistive Technology Department for hiring a Project Leader to manage its myriad endeavors.
- The EPAC commends APH for its judicious use of 3-D printing and the Roland printer to reduce tooling expenses and decrease prototyping delays.
- The EPAC commends APH for increasing the number of surveys sent to EOTs and others in the blindness field in order to more effectively gauge product needs.
- The EPAC commends APH for fostering a spirit of collaboration internally and with outside agencies and personnel, resulting in improved product quality and shrinking timelines.
- The EPAC commends APH on the release of the feature-rich Visual Brailler iPad app for use by transcribers, students, and anyone interested in practicing any and all braille codes.
- The EPAC commends APH for continuing to increase the number of images available in the Tactile Graphics Image Library and appreciates the timely responsiveness of TGIL staff to customer requests and feedback.
- The EPAC commends APH on the development and upcoming field testing of I-M-ABLE materials for readers of functional braille, which is an area of pressing need in the field.
- The EPAC commends APH for hiring a CVI Project Leader resulting in beneficial developments surrounding CVI products.
- The EPAC commends APH for revising the packaging and distribution of Early Braille Trade Books in response to customer feedback.
- The EPAC commends APH for its mindful and proactive approach to the implementation of Unified English Braille.
- The EPAC commends APH for utilizing principles of universal design, making products useful to and able to be used by general educators, paraeducators, and peers.
- The EPAC commends APH for adapting mainstream products for use by students who are blind and visually impaired, resulting in more inclusive classroom participation.
- The EPAC commends APH on the free update to the Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator, which allows for output to refreshable braille displays.
- The EPAC commends APH on the development of the web-based Nemeth Tutorial, useful to students, TVIs, and university personnel preparation programs.
- The EPAC commends the Early Childhood Project Leader for conducting in-person outreach and technical assistance regarding APH products to parents at conferences and other gatherings.
- The EPAC commends the Tactile Graphics Project Leader for the development of clearly-defined questions and criteria when selecting field testers.
- The EPAC commends APH for the development and upcoming field testing of Sports Courts, which promotes spatial skills development and increased socialization for students who are blind and visually impaired and peers.
- The EPAC commends APH for working with outside entities to increase the availability of graphic artists and designers in order to expedite project completion.
- The EPAC commends APH for selecting early childhood readers that promote the examination and understanding of a wide variety of tactile graphics and age-appropriate vocabulary.
EPAC Recommendations 2015
Consistent with the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind (1879):
- The EPAC recommends that APH modernize Talking Typer—maintaining its rock solid data monitoring and reporting features while giving the end user a more interactive, less stolid instructional experience.
- The EPAC recommends, in response to indications from the field, that APH responsibly phase out the sale of the Next Generation Perkins-APH Brailler.
- The EPAC recommends that APH legacy Touch and Tell in favor of expanding beneficial partnerships (e.g., Les Doigts Qui Revent , LDQR) with early childhood book publishers to offer an increasingly greater variety of beginning tactile graphics titles. This is important given the significantly increased emphasis placed on a child’s ability to evaluate and interpret graphics.
- The EPAC recommends that, in the digital age, APH continue to expand instructional offerings/products including the creation of field driven webinars, video clips, blog entries, Pinterest posts, YouTube videos, and other online and social media.
- The EPAC recommends that APH consider revising field testing procedures and other requests for product feedback to include travel by project leaders to geographically diverse schools for the blind, consumer group meetings, parent and student seminars, etc. to acquire candid, meaningful, and immediate feedback from those for whom a product is most useful while simultaneously promoting existing products as appropriate.
- The EPAC recommends that APH continue to allocate resources to meet current and future needs for graphic artists and designers to continue shrinking project completion timelines.