Reports of the Advisory Committees To the Trustees of the American Printing House for the Blind For the Year 2017
Report of the Educational Services Advisory Committee to the Trustees of the American Printing House for the Blind for Fiscal Year 2017
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 2017 the Educational Services Advisory Committee (ESAC) met in Louisville, KY at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) to address the 2016 ESAC report and to develop commendations and recommendations for the current fiscal year. To assist with this endeavor, interactive presentations were made by APH’s administrative staff, including progress updates on the 2016 recommendations, operations and information on new initiatives.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the development of the APH 2017 Strategic Plan including the vision to be known as the “go to” provider for goods and services for the visually impaired community across the world.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the seamless transition of the release of the NIMAC V3 online system.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the aggressive marketing plan for increasing revenue and Federal Quota allocations.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the reorganization of the Annual Meeting agenda: engaging EOTs involvement in product and service discussions during breakout sessions; committee member led work groups; and the increased focus on adult services.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for continuing to involve APH Scholars in EPAC/ESAC Meetings.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for supporting the Core Business by investing in APH staff.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the redesign of 2016 Annual Report.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the weekly distribution of Quick Tip videos.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the establishment of the Louis Advisory committee.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the continued progress of knowledge management as a company-wide initiative and the plan to share results with other organizations and EOTs.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for exhibiting internationally.
Consistent with the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind (1879), the committee recommends that APH:
- In order to build the capacity for family engagement, collaborate with experts in the field of family-school partnerships. Consider gathering a focus group of national organizations such as the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) and the National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) informing them of who APH is and what it has to offer.
- In accordance with the 2017 APH Strategic Plan, prioritize and fund a minimum of one regional representative within one year.
- Develop virtual tours of APH which can be shared with stakeholders (including university programs) highlighting the features of APH such as the transcription process, technology, the manufacturing plant, the APH history, Museum exhibits, etc.
- To further enhance the training for new Ex Officio Trustees, provide additional in-depth information about policies, procedures, and EOT responsibilities by developing follow-up activities. Examples may include teleconferencing and optimizing use of the listserv. Offer these trainings to existing EOTs as refresher courses and collect feedback from EOTs for the benefit of program improvement.
- Utilize the EOTs to educate stakeholders about The Act and APH products and services. Select a small number of APH products and services to highlight each year. Support this initiative by providing presentation materials to EOTs. (For example: take a few minutes of each General Session during the Annual Meeting to promote a product or service).
- Offer major, promotional product roll-outs including brochures, Quick Start Guides, and one-to-two minute videos demonstrating the use of products.
- Expand ways to utilize and involve EOTs and past APH Scholars through unique networking opportunities.
- Develop “Marketing Kits” enabling EOTS to fulfill their responsibilities of promoting APH products. Kits may include items such as a tablecloth, banner, branded marketing materials, and a usage log. Provide an option for accounts to buy or loan the kits.
- Improve search engine optimization so that APH ranks near the top of search-engine results.
- Continue to develop partnerships with other organizations as it relates to accessibility and integration of new technology and software (include Liblouis, web apps, cross platform options, actions and skills, etc.)
- Prioritize the Core Business Strategy (Quota and The Act) by involving Field Services in the collection of information and feedback to support the Vision of APH becoming the “go to” provider.
- Consider the complexity involved when simultaneously implementing multiple initiatives such as revising the APH website and updating the shopping site.
Report of the Educational Products Advisory Committee to the Trustees of the American Printing House for the Blind for Fiscal Year 2017
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 2017, the EPAC met for the fifteenth 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.
The EPAC Commendations 2017
- The EPAC commends APH for its unwavering commitment to the company’s original mission in the face of inevitable exponential change and in light of unavoidable internal and external pressures.
- The EPAC commends APH for recognizing and honoring the ideas and skill sets of the company’s talented and dedicated employees and for allowing considerable behind-the-scenes access in order to facilitate more comprehensive understanding of critical internal methods and processes.
- The EPAC commends APH’s determined pursuit of grant opportunities which enable the purchase of productivity solutions designed to maximize efficiency–thereby facilitating more streamlined development and completion timelines.
- The EPAC commends APH for exploring process management solutions (e.g., Microsoft Project, Enterprise Resource Planning–ERP) to facilitate more seamless procedural collaboration between departments resulting in increased efficiency.
- The EPAC commends APH’s planned shopping website redesign, particularly with regard to greater visibility of parts lists and links to additional resources, which will provide increased product clarity for educators and other customers resulting in a more satisfactory purchasing experience.
- The EPAC commends APH’s development of a new strategic plan which will enable the company to:
- respond nimbly to dynamic market conditions and customer needs
- acquire and employ human capital and other resources to strengthen the brand
- serve underrepresented populations
- explore additional funding streams
- locate new product markets, and
- become a “go-to” information clearinghouse for students, practitioners, families, administrators, researchers, and others.
- The EPAC commends APH for developing cross-platform solutions (e.g., mobile browsing), allowing for greater availability of highly-relevant instructional software and exploration of other products.
- The EPAC commends APH for making available no-cost and low-cost digital offerings including Braille Blaster, Talking Typer for iOS, Draw2Measure protractor, and others under consideration/ development.
- The EPAC commends APH’s expansion of mutually beneficial outside partnerships.
- The EPAC commends APH for undertaking relevant product modernization.
- The EPAC commends APH staff for their passion, dedication, creativity, and responsiveness.
The EPAC Recommendations 2017
Consistent with the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind (1879):
- In order to foster a positive company culture, communication, and willingness to work together as a team is vital. Therefore, the EPAC recommends that APH:
- engage the services of outside consultants to improve interpersonal relationships, positive and constructive interdepartmental communication, cooperation, and teamwork—with the goal of relating in a positive, professional, and cooperative manner with coworkers, supervisors, and other staff, to share information in a timely manner keeping appropriate people informed, listening to and understanding differing perspectives as well as addressing and identifying problems to be solved;
- evaluate and implement protocols for in-person staff meetings and include these in its Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). For example, project leaders, pre-production, and production staff should interface in-person to provide frequent progress updates and make necessary adjustments to include materials and process changes;
- departments work collaboratively to enhance job-by-job prototyping, production processes, and the utilization of materials and methods (high, medium, low, and no-tech) to ensure product quality.
- In the event of current field test opportunities, calls for product evaluations, and announcements of new products available for purchase, the EPAC recommends that APH disseminate a concise email to Ex Officio Trustees for distribution to the field.
- The EPAC recommends that APH carefully examine product repair procedures, including data collection, primarily those surrounding quality control and turnaround time.
- The EPAC recommends that APH clearly define departmental/staff roles and responsibilities—communicating the same across all departments.
- Given acknowledged production concerns inclusive of braille and binding errors (e.g., bottlenecks, transcription errors, inverted labels and pages, collation, and assembly issues), the EPAC recommends that APH establish, implement, and adhere to clearly-defined standard operating procedures (SOP) to address quality control issues while incorporating realistic timelines.
- The EPAC recommends that APH phase out the traditional enlargement process while allowing resources to be redirected to the enhanced enlarged texts/digital files.
- The EPAC recommends that APH increase marketing efforts, prioritizing the education of consumers about APH enhanced texts and digital file access.
- The EPAC acknowledges the training opportunities provided to staff and recommends that APH expand similar offerings to cross-train personnel as appropriate, resulting in increased skills, efficiency, and development and production of quality products.
- For greater visibility of the Braille Tales program, the EPAC recommends that APH consider providing a demonstration pack for each Ex Officio Trustee as well as to interested university personnel preparation programs for students who are blind/visually impaired and/or DeafBlind. This pack would include marketing materials (i.e., display boards and flyers) and books with the Braille Tales logo on the front cover.