Annual Report of Research & Development Activities

Fiscal Year 2015

American Printing House For The Blind

Department of Research


MISSION STATEMENT

The American Printing House for the Blind promotes the independence of blind and visually impaired persons by providing specialized materials, products, and services needed for education and life.

Letter from Executive Director of Research

October 8, 2015

Dear Colleagues and Friends of APH,

It is my honor to present to you the FY 2015 Annual Research Report. This document highlights the work of the Research Department during the past fiscal year. We recognize and thank not only the APH staff, but also the hundreds of consultants, field testers, and expert reviewers who have worked on the projects and helped develop the products that are made available to you.

This past year was a time of transition. Our Vice President for Educational Services and Research, Bob Brasher, retired after a long and successful career in the field of blindness, including more than 15 years at APH. Without his leadership, the Research Department could not have excelled in providing to you the number, the quality, and the complexity of APH products. Our new Vice President for a newly named area, Educational Services and Product Development, is Craig Meador. His background in the field of blindness positions him well to carry on the APH product work to even higher levels.

Best wishes to all of you for a successful year!

Ralph E. Bartley, Ph.D.

Executive Director of Research

Advisory Committees

APH especially wishes to acknowledge the superb leadership and guidance from the Ex Officio Trustees serving as members of the Educational Products Advisory Committee (EPAC) and the Educational Services Advisory Committee (ESAC).

Educational Products Advisory Committee – FY 2015

Educational Services Advisory Committee – FY 2015

DEPARTMENT OF RESEARCH STAFF

Accessible Tests

Educational Product Research

Technology Product Research

Technical & Manufacturing Research

Agencies Participating in Research (117)

Consultants (122)

Field Evaluators / Expert Reviewers (148)

Barraga Visual Efficiency Program

Boehm Test of Basic Concepts, Third Edition (Boehm-3)

Building on Patterns, Second Edition: Prekindergarten

Expandable Calendar Box Stabilizer

Explorer Bright Ray

Functional Skills Assessment

Gross Motor Development Curriculum

Holy Moly

KeyMath™3

Light In-Sight: Reflection & Refraction Kit

Orion TI-30XS MultiView™ Talking Scientific Calculator

Submersible Audible Light Sensor (SALS)

Tactile Compass for Math & Art

Tactile Editing Marks Kit

ACCESSIBLE TESTS

Deborah H. Willis, M.A.

Director

Accessible Tests Department

Purpose

The Accessible Tests Department provides high stakes tests and test-related materials in high-quality accessible media. Accessible Tests addresses, conveys, and facilitates best practices and appropriate accommodations when testing or assessing individuals who are blind and visually impaired. The department promotes the inclusion of visual impairment professionals and individuals with visual impairments during test development, and it seeks to enhance the test performance of blind and visually impaired individuals through research, education, and communication.

Background

In FY 2000, the initiative called Test Central, which had been prepared by Debbie Willis while Director of APH's Educational Research Department, received federal funding. In FY 2002, Test Central became APH's new Accessible Tests Department. The primary focus of the department was and continues to be review and editing of high stakes test materials to be produced in accessible media, delivered in a timely manner, and administered to individuals who are blind and visually impaired. The initial goal of the new department's charge was expanded in FY 2003 to provide practice tests and test-prep materials in accessible media.

To help accomplish the goals of the Accessible Tests Department, Accessible Test Editors review and edit a variety of tests and assessments, such as state assessments, alternate assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities, practice tests, field tests, and tests for English Language Learners. The department deals primarily with high stakes standardized tests for grades 3 through 12, including math, science, social studies, and English Language Arts tests. In addition, Accessible Tests staff has reviewed for bias and accessibility thousands of items for possible inclusion on future assessments.

Past and present customers have included the following: American College Testing (ACT®) Central Services; American Institutes for Research® (AIR®); Association of American Medical Colleges; Cheeney Media Concepts; College Board®; Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems (CASAS®); CTB McGraw-Hill; Data Recognition Corporation (DRC); Discovery Communications™; Dynamic Learning Maps™ (DLM®); Alternate Assessment System Consortium; Measured Progress™; Measurement Incorporated®; NCS Pearson, Inc.; New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP); Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC); Questar Assessment, Inc.TM; Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC); ThinkLink; Touchstone Applied Science Association; multiple states' departments of education; National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC); and WiDA™ Consortium.

The number of unique tests that Accessible Tests has provided each year in accessible media continues to grow, as can be seen in the chart and table below. In 2001, the number of unique tests produced was 232. In 2014, the number of different tests reviewed/edited/proofed/produced was 1,041. In 2001, Accessible Tests had worked with only a handful of states. In 2014, Accessible Tests had produced tests for every state in the United States via our routine test contracts and our working relationship with PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and the minor consortia.

Year Number of Unique Tests Quantity Invoiced
1998 16 334
1999 152 15,156
2000 161 15,614
2001 232 21,774
2002 236 152,444
2003 214 9,116
2004 173 9,604
2005 273 16,135
2006 371 24,929
2007 497 31,750
2008 551 34,179
2009 712 36,343
2010 711 17,733
2011 834 44,328
2012 751 19,359
2013 803 25,793
2014 1,041 39,761

Hard-copy braille with tactile graphics, along with accompanying notes to the test administrator, is the accessible medium that Accessible Tests, together with members of APH Production staff, most often provides on a contract basis. Yet, in the past few years, Accessible Tests has taken on work to help ensure that online and computer-based tests are accessible via assistive technology such as speech output, large print to the screen, and refreshable braille displays. This new direction was a major factor in the decision to expand the Accessible Tests Department's number of staff.

Accessible Test Editors, along with the department's Assistive Technology Consultant, Paul Ferrara, have reviewed computer-based test items with assistive technology, such as refreshable braille displays, text-to-speech output, and magnification programs. Accessible Test Editors also write alternative text to describe graphical information. Provision of alternate text enables the graphical information to either be spoken via the text-to-speech output package or it allows for both an audio description as well as a tactile graphic. APH has provided electronic braille files and electronic tactile graphics files that can be embossed in the test-taking environment. Since work of this nature has taken Accessible Tests into new territory, staff members continue to develop their knowledge, skills, and abilities with regard to assistive technology. Staff continues to learn about the Common Core State Standards, accommodations, the instruction and assessment of individuals who are blind and visually impaired, most promising practices, and more as time and opportunities are made available for professional development.

Accessible Test Editors Kris Scott, Priscilla Knight, and Tom Dunn have received certification in literary braille from the National Library Service (English Braille American Edition). Accessible Test Editors Daria Moschowsky and Katherine Padgett started in the department after the transition to Unified English Braille (UEB) was announced and will seek UEB certification once it is available from the National Library Service. All test editors have either received or are in the process of earning a certificate for completing the Australian UEB Online course.

To further the education and understanding of test developers, publishers, and assessment personnel on special issues and concerns relevant to assessment of test takers with visual impairments, as well as our own education and professional development, members of Accessible Tests have provided presentations, workshops, and consulting hours. We have been part of various collaborative efforts and meetings. We have served as focus group, task force, and committee members, including participation in item bias review committees. Debbie Willis, Accessible Tests Director, has served as Chair of AER's Psychosocial Services Division. Willis and Accessible Media Editor Dena Garrett continue to serve on BANA's Standardized Tests Guidelines Committee.

Accessible Tests has helped author and disseminate various guides, position papers, handouts, and surveys, including: Allman, C. (2009). Test Access: Making Tests Accessible for Students with Visual Impairments: A Guide for Test Publishers, Test Developers, and State Assessment Personnel. (4th edition); Allan, J.M., Bulla, N. and Goodman, S.A. (2003). Test Access: Guidelines for Computer-Administered Testing; as well as Goodman, S.A., Evans, C. and Loftin, M. (2011). Position Paper: "Intelligence Testing of Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired." These and other resources are available at www.aph.org/tests/. Also available from Accessible Tests are 2008 Sample Test Items and Supplement: APH Sample Test Items, which include math, science, social science, and English Language Arts (ELA) items for grades 3 through 12.

For a more detailed history and report of activities of the Accessible Tests Department from FY 2001 through FY 2014, please see the Annual Report of Research and Development Activities for each fiscal year.

Work during FY 2015

At this point in time, the Accessible Tests Department has now worked directly or indirectly (via PARCC and SBAC) with every state in the country. Our ability and need to provide assistance to test takers who are blind and visually impaired, test publishers, and assessments teams has continued to grow at a brisk rate during the past 10 years. The volume of work has grown from reviewing and making suggested edits on approximately 100 unique tests to over 1,000 unique tests in FY 2014. During this same period, work and tasks have grown to include online assessments with access via assistive technology such as speech output and refreshable braille displays. Accessible Tests staff has also taken on writing and providing text-based descriptions of graphical information in order for the graphical information to be provided to test takers via speech output with or without accompanying hard copy tactile graphics.

While not all the FY 2015 goals listed in last year's report were accomplished, most of them were addressed; accomplishments and activities include the following:

November and December 2014

New Test Work: Consulting on Online Testing Access via Assistive Technology

During November, Accessible Tests and APH Pre-Production staff contracted with AIR® and accomplished tasks related to online testing and checking access via assistive technology. During this month, we also contracted with CASAS® to respond to a list of questions they had regarding access to one of their online assessments.

During December, Accessible Tests and APH Pre-Production staff contracted with CTB McGraw-Hill and accomplished tasks related to online testing and checking access via assistive technology.

Traditional Test Work

During November 2014, Accessible Tests worked on 18 unique tests or test-related materials; 105 copies were produced/shipped for a net sales value of $15,320. During December 2014, Accessible Tests staff worked on 71 different tests or test-related materials; 490 copies were produced/shipped for a net sales value of $79,380. Customers during Nov./Dec. included ACT® Central Services, Ballard & Tighe, DRC, Measured Progress™, NCS Pearson, Inc., Questar Assessment, Inc.TM, and The College Board®.

Professional Development

All or some Accessible Tests staff participated in the following for professional development:

Participated in following webinars:

January and February 2015

Braille Improvement Plan – Four of five Test Editors (Priscilla Knight, Daria Moschowsky, Tom Dunn, and Katherine Padgett) completed the Australian UEB course.

Dynamic Learning Maps Project – The Dynamic Learning Maps™ (DLM®) Project offers an innovative way for all students with significant cognitive disabilities to demonstrate their learning throughout the school year via the DLM® Alternate Assessment System. Traditional multiple-choice testing does not always allow students with significant cognitive disabilities to fully demonstrate their knowledge. By integrating assessment with instruction during the year and providing a year-end assessment, the DLM® system maps student learning aligned with college and career readiness standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics.

The DLM® system is accessible by students with significant cognitive disabilities, including those who also have hearing or visual disabilities, and/or neuromuscular, orthopedic, or other motor disabilities. DLM® assessments are flexible. They allow for the use of common assistive technologies in addition to keyboard and mouse and touch-screen technology.

Accessible Tests and Production worked on developing and producing hard copy versions of online tests. We provided BRF files for Kansas to emboss. APH may emboss files at a later date for select states. Oklahoma recently expressed interest in having APH emboss DLM® assessments for them.

Staff worked on approximately 500 DLM® testlets; they condensed files, edited hard copy, communicated with the test publisher for edit approvals, conducted a quality control check on those files that were ready, provided completed files to Contract Administration, and maintained a DLM® spreadsheet.

Traditional Test Work – From January 1-February 17, 2015, a total of 290 (183 Jan.; 117 Feb.) unique tests and test-related materials were reviewed/edited/produced/proofread/shipped. This does not include test-related consulting work as no invoices were submitted to customers during this period of time. Test customers included ACT® Central Services, AIR®, Cheeney Media Concepts2, DRC, Measured Progress™, Measurement Incorporated®, Metritech Inc., NCS Pearson, Questar Assessment, Inc.TM, and The College Board®. A full range of state, district, alternate assessments including the DLM® testlets, assessments for English Language Learners who are blind and visually impaired, assessments for students with severe cognitive impairments who are also blind or visually impaired in grades 3-12, and four California teacher exams were produced. Approximately 5,700 copies of the 290 unique tests and test-related materials were produced and shipped to customers. Nearly all members of Accessible Tests, including consultant Paul Ferrara, assisted pre-production staff with proofreading/copy holding in order to complete several tests by their due dates.

Professional Development

Some or all members of Accessible Tests engaged in the following professional development activities:

March 2015

Hard Copy Tests and Electronic Test Files Produced and Delivered

In March 2015, 360 unique tests were reviewed, edited, transcribed, proofread, and produced; 5,457 total copies were shipped in March. Customers included Cheeney Media Concepts2, Educational Testing Services® (ETS®), Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, Jacqui Norman with the NCSC to develop national alternate assessments, McGraw-Hill Education, Measured Progress™, Measurement Incorporated®, NCS Pearson, Questar Assessment, Inc.TM, SBAC/UCLA, College Board®, and the University of Kansas (KU) at Lawrence/Center for Educational Technology & Evaluation (CETE).

April 2015

In April 2015, 175 unique tests were reviewed for output in accessible media, edited, transcribed, proofread, and produced; 1,744 total copies were shipped in April. Customers included DRC, Jacqui Norman with NCSC to develop national alternate assessments, Measured Progress™, Measurement Incorporated®, NCS Pearson, Oklahoma Department of Education, and Questar Assessment, Inc.TM

From March-May, 2015, 1,795 consulting hours were worked on reviewing, editing and producing electronic files for accessible online testing accessed via assistive technology and/or hard copy as needed. The customer was KU/CETE to make DLM® accessible to students with visual impairments.

May-July 2015

During the 3-month period of May through July of 2015, the number of unique tests completed each month was 68, 77, and 54, respectively. Test customers included AIR®, Center for Educational Testing, Cheeney Media Concepts 2, College Board®, DRC, ETS®, Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, McGraw-Hill Education, Measured Progress™, Measurement Incorporated®, NCS Pearson, Oklahoma Department of Education, Questar Assessment, Inc.TM, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies/Smarter Balanced, University of Kansas Lawrence Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, and the University of Kentucky.

Summary of FY 2015

As has been the trend, test business continued to increase; in FY 2014, 1041 total unique tests were produced and made available in accessible media while 1,141 unique tests were produced and made available in accessible media during the first 10 months of FY2015. With two months remaining in this fiscal year, traditional test business increased nearly 9%.

In the first 10 months of FY 2015, Accessible Tests staff provided 2,148 hours of consultant time on tasks related to online assessments; this far exceeds the 1,270 consultant hours provided during FY 2014. We anticipate a 50% increase in consulting hours from FY 2014 to FY 2015.

Access to Smarter Balanced and PARCC Test Items with Varying Assistive Technology

At the time of reviewing access to online practice items, 19 states utilized Smarter Balanced tests while 10 states and the District of Columbia participated in PARCC assessments. Both groups test students using online assessments thus creating a need for a review of these sites for accessibility concerns. Since students who are blind and visually impaired are expected to take these tests online, it is imperative that all aspects of the online tests are accessible with varying types of assistive technology.

Staff reviewed sample test items and practice tests at each level included on the SBAC and PARCC sites, from third grade through high school. Assessments included mathematics tests and language arts/English language items. Staff reviewed these sites in a timeframe from November 2014 through January 2015 using JAWS® for Windows® versions 15 and 16, multiple refreshable Braille displays including the Focus 40, the Braille Edge, and the APH RefreshaBraille18. Both sites are dynamic, and changes were made to both even as staff conducted the assessments.

Staff noticed significant changes in the overall accessibility of both sites as time passed. In both instances, accessibility improved to the point where all or nearly all English items were accessible and many mathematics items were accessible, especially if tactile graphics were available. Staff offered suggestions for improving accessibility on both platforms at varying times throughout the process, and the results were especially good as both groups put forth tangible efforts to improve accessibility.

Work planned for FY 2016

The overall goal of the Accessible Tests Department is to provide timely delivery of test materials in high quality accessible media, including full-color large print assessments; to provide timely reviews of test items; and to provide text-based alt-tags and scripts of iconic and graphical information and mathematical/scientific equations, formulas, and symbols for output via assistive technology such as speech synthesizers and refreshable braille displays. Guidelines and recommendations of most promising practices for accessible test production and assessment of individuals who are blind or visually impaired will continue to be refined and disseminated. Sample test items will be reviewed, revised, and produced in various media such as braille, tactile graphics, large print, and audio formats, and also in electronic media for output as needed via speech synthesis, refreshable braille displays, tactile graphics produced on demand in the high stakes testing environment, and more.

A primary focus of the Accessible Tests Department in FY 2016 will continue to be collaboration and education of test publishers, test developers, school psychologists, state assessment personnel, test administrators, parents/caregivers, and test takers regarding issues specific to assessing students who are blind and visually impaired on Common Core Standards, state standards, and making test items accessible in a wide range of media and via various assistive technology for visually impaired students of all ages. Parents, caregivers, and students will be given information on the Individual Education Plan (IEP), assessment processes, accommodations, assistive technology, and select handheld devices so they can advocate for themselves and their children. Position papers, new and revised guidelines, online publications, catalogs, brochures, etc. will be developed and disseminated to these stakeholders and to other interested parties.

Accessible Tests staff will continue to collaborate on test-related research efforts and various projects, and provide assistance and consultation to SBAC and PARCC on state and local assessments which include summative, formative, interim, end-of-course, graduation, and through test assessments. We will also work with ILSSA and others on assessments for severely cognitively impaired students who are blind and visually impaired. Accessible Tests staff will continue to review test items for their accessibility as computer-based tests, online assessments, online open source assessments, alternate assessments, assessments for blind individuals with limited English proficiency, and assessments for adult students with visual impairments.

Expanded core curriculum areas directly impact blind and visually impaired students' performance on standardized tests. Therefore, assessment of expanded core curriculum areas which are disability-specific curricula that go beyond the academic skill areas and are needed by students with visual impairments will continue to be examined and promoted.

Accessible Tests Department goals for FY 2016 include the following:

Expected outcomes as a result of addressing these goals include the following:

EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT RESEARCH

Kate Herndon, M.S.L.I.S.

Director

ADULT LIFE

Adult Life Needs

(Ongoing)

Purpose

To develop adult life products and services that are affordable, user-friendly, and consumer driven and that address the diverse needs of the blind and visually impaired population

Project Staff

Background

Product development in the area of Adult Life was initiated at APH in the summer of 1998. The first products derived specifically from this effort were made available during FY 1999. Product research, along with consumer and professional networking, has continued to characterize the development of products for adults.

Work during FY 2015

APH Adult Life products and their applications to specific populations were presented by the Adult Life Project Leader as follows: Parenting With A Visual Impairment: Advice for Raising Babies and Young Children, Poster Session at the Annual Meeting of the American Printing House for the Blind, Louisville, KY, October, 2014; (With Sandra Rosen, Ph.D.), Step-by-Step: An Interactive Guide to Techniques for Mobility, Poster Session at the Annual Meeting of the American Printing House for the Blind, Louisville, KY, October, 2014; (With Sandra Rosen, Ph.D.), Step-by-Step: A Comprehensive Text and Interactive Video Tool to Learn Mobility, Product Training Session at the Annual Meeting of the American Printing House for the Blind, Louisville, KY, October, 2014; Parenting with a Visual Impairment, Exhibit/Discussion at the Conference of the Association of Vision Rehabilitation Therapists, Colorado Springs, CO, November, 2014; APH Adult Life Products, Presentation to University of Kentucky Personnel Preparation Program Students, Louisville, Kentucky, June, 2015; Adult Life Product Demonstration and Information for New Ex Officio Trustees, Louisville, KY, August, 2014; What American Printing House for the Blind Can Do for You, Presentation at the Blinded Veterans Convention, Louisville, KY, August, 2015; (With Tristan Pierce, MS) AVRT Wisdom: Help APH Know What Adult Consumers with Multiple Disabilities Need, Presentation at the Conference of the Association of Vision Rehabilitation Therapists, Louisville, KY, August, 2015

Work planned for FY 2016

Investigation and development of new products for adults will continue. The Adult Life Project Leader will continue to seek input from the field by networking with APH Ex Officio Trustees and consumer and professional groups. Focus groups will be conducted as needed.

Parenting With a Visual Impairment: Advice for Raising Babies and Young Children

(Completed)

Purpose

To provide parents who are visually impaired with support and information about parenting techniques that have been effective for other parents with visual impairments

Project Staff

Background

Janet Ingber, a mother who is blind, submitted a draft outline and three chapters of a parenting book based on interviews with 17 effective parents who were visually impaired. Janet stated that she had not been able to find helpful resources as she parented her daughter.

Preliminary Research

A literature review conducted at APH confirmed that very little information was available for parents with visual impairments regarding issues related to visual impairment and parenting. The need for an informational parenting book was further assessed through a survey of professionals in the field of visual impairment and blindness. Survey results indicated that training was not available for professionals in the area of parenting and visual impairment, there were a significant number of parents with visual impairments who could have benefited from information related to blindness and parenting, and a self-help informational book could maximally benefit many such parents or parents-to-be. Of particular concern among survey respondents was the need for support and information to counteract the negative stereotypes about blindness, such as the belief that persons with visual impairments could not be effective parents.

Although the literature search yielded several articles and books on the subject, examination of these materials convinced the project leader that an in-depth elaboration of techniques for child-rearing found to be effective for parents with visual impairments had not yet been developed. Because of their useful but incomplete information, the following materials supported the need for the development of this product:

Arsnow, G. F., et al. (1985). Blind parents rearing sighted children. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 79, 193-198.

Betker, J. (1988). Parent tips: A guide for blind and visually-impaired parents.

Betker, J. (1989). Parent tips: The challenge years.

Conley-Jung, C., & Olkin, R. (2001). Mothers with visual impairments who are raising young children. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 95, 14-29.

Cranston, R. (1982). Parenting without vision in 1000 easy lessons. Oakland, CA: Bananas, Inc.

Ware, M. A., & Schwab, L. O. (1971). The blind mother providing care for an infant. New York: American Foundation for the Blind. Reprinted. New Outlook for the Blind, June, 1971.

Initial Product Development

To meet the need for accurate information and support for parents with visual impairments, the development of an expanded version of Ingber's work was undertaken. A database was developed to record, store, and manipulate information obtained from questionnaires and phone interviews. Parent volunteers were recruited through APH Ex Officio Trustees, the APH monthly newsletter, e-mail list announcements, contacts with staff and/or relevant committees of the American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind, and word-of-mouth. Parent participants either had reared or were rearing at least one child when the parent was legally blind. Parents were also selected because of their interest in and commitment to parenting and because of their desire to share what they had learned with other parents.

Ingber contacted and conducted phone interviews with 62 parents with visual impairments. She recorded results of these interviews in a database and submitted this material to the project leader. The project leader completed content analysis and results summaries for the data. Ingber and the project leader wrote, edited, and rewrote all chapters of the book based on information obtained from the parent sample. Photos were obtained from Ingber for inclusion in the book.

During FY 2009, all chapters were reviewed and edited for consistency of style. Additional photos were sought from all participating parents, and photos were received from seven parents. Permissions for use of photos were sent to and received back from all parents who sent photos.

During FY 2010, the resources chapter was completed and reviewed, and the book was made ready for field review. Six expert field reviewers were located.

During FY 2011, field review was completed, revisions were made to the book based on field review results, cover art was selected, and layout for final printing was initiated.

During FY 2012, cover art was improved, a layout design was developed and approved for the book, additional photos were selected for inclusion, and a template chapter was laid out and corrected until the desired look was achieved.

During FY 2013, graphical layout of the entire text was completed. Braille translation and recording of the book for audio files began.

During FY 2014, braille translation and recording of the book was completed, all tooling files were posted to appropriate servers, the Specifications Meeting was held, and the print version was made available for sale in September 2014.

Work during FY 2015

The braille version of this book was made available for sale in October of 2014.

Work planned for FY 2016

Because this product was made available for sale in FY 2015, no work on this project is planned for FY 2016. This product is now completed.

CORE CURRICULUM

BUSINESS AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION

For FY 2015, there are no active Business and Vocational Education products to report.

FINE AND PERFORMING ARTS

Color-by-Texture Marking Mats

(Ongoing)

Purpose

To provide a variety of textured rubbing plates that offer immediate tactile feedback during coloring activities and educational tasks

Project Staff

Prototype cover art on front cover of instruction booklet

Background

As conceptualized by the project leader, the Color-by-Texture Marking Mats will offer a variety of textures made from durable, heavy-gauge plastic for the purpose of placing underneath coloring pages or braille worksheets for immediate tactile feedback as crayons are rubbed across the sheets. Textures represented in the set will consist of at least four discriminable, bold patterns (e.g., rough, bumpy, striped, and wavy).

The primary target audience for this set of coloring mats will include students with visual impairments and blindness who participate in recreational coloring activities, completion of worksheets/activities (e.g., drawing lines to matching images/words), and/or selection and marking of answers on tests.

These sheets will broaden APH's product line of art-related materials and complement the use of existing coloring pages included in issues of SQUID: Tactile Activities Magazine, Lots of Dots Coloring Book Series, and Building on Patterns. There is potential to develop "Color-by-Texture" coloring books, similar to paint-by-numbers books, to encourage a student's tactile discrimination skills and creativity.

In July 2012, the concept was considered and approved for development by both the Product Evaluation Team and Product Advisory and Review Committee. The presentation of the idea was supported by the project leader's demonstration of actual samples that represented expected textures for the coloring mats. The product transitioned to the active timeline by the end of the fiscal year.

Significant progress was made in the prototype development arena by the project staff throughout FY 2013. Specifically, the project leader worked with Model Shop staff to create possible rubbing textures for coloring purposes. After various textures were generated and tested in various thicknesses of vinyl, the project leader narrowed the selection to six tactually discriminable samples described as the following: bold bumpy, small bumpy, diagonal striped, wavy, zigzag, and coarse/rough. It was noticed that depending upon which side of the sheet is placed under a coloring page, the resulting texture varied some, consequently expanding the number of producible textures. The textures afforded by a given sheet could also be expanded by how a crayon was either rubbed across the texture as a whole or glided within the grooves of the textured plates.

Once the final textures of the Color-by-Texture Marking Mats were determined, multiple copies of the 8½ x 11-inch textured sheets were vacuum-formed using a heavy gauge, blue translucent vinyl. Concurrently, the project leader designed 25 coloring pages providing large areas of coloring space to adequately capture rubbed textures. Coloring pages reflected an assortment of objects such as a tree, teddy bear, boat, mitten, and butterfly. Each coloring page was produced via an established, oft-used in-house thermography method. Although coloring pages will be provided, the textured marking mats can be used for open-ended coloring activities as well. The package of coloring pages and textured sheets will be accompanied by a starter package of triangular-shaped and twistable crayons.

The first quarter of FY 2014 was dedicated to the refinement and expansion of the prototype components in preparation for field test activities. After authoring the content for the accompanying instruction booklet, the project leader assumed the responsibility of designing the graphic layout of the document and related photography. The product instructions provide an overview of the available textured mats and possible uses.

Images of six textures represented in the coloring marking mats: rough/coarse, wavy, bold bumpy, diagonal striped, small bumpy, and zigzag

As planned, 25 coloring pages were included with the six textured coloring mats. Anticipating that young children might experience difficulty keeping a textured mat in place while coloring, the project leader adapted the 8.5 x 11-inch tray currently used in the Sense of Science kits from a clear to opaque white vinyl; a non-skid backing was added. Field test results later revealed that this component was very popular and did indeed provide a sturdy working surface.

Photo shows a two-step process of inserting a blue textured mat into the non-skid tray and then overlaying with a coloring page (heart).

The instruction booklet also provided a variety of tips, techniques, and activities for expanding the use of the textured coloring mats. Examples included the following:

Photo of aluminum diagramming foil with embossed zigzag pattern

All of the prototype components, including six textured coloring mats, 25 coloring pages, two types of crayons (triangular and twistable) pre-labeled with brailled color names, and the non-skid tray were housed in a cardboard carrying box.

A field test announcement was posted in the December issue of the APH News www.aph.org/advisory/2013adv12.html. Over 40 teachers expressed interest in participating in the evaluation of Color-by-Texture Marking Mats. From this sample, 16 field evaluation sites were selected based upon geographic location, number of available students, and type of instructional setting; preference was given to those who have not recently field tested an APH product. Prototypes were mailed on January 8, 2014 and evaluators were asked to return their completed evaluation forms, along with student artwork samples, by the end of March.

By mid-April, completed evaluation forms were completed by 15 of the originally selected field test sites; some teachers requested and were allowed additional time to review the materials. The project leader compiled the feedback into a final report.

Field evaluators represented the states of Alabama, California, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan (2), Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. The majority (87%) represented itinerant settings.

Type of Educational Setting (N = 15)
Itinerant Residential Resource
AL, CA, KS, OK, MI(2), MN, ND, NE, NY, PA, SC, TX IL OH

Participating evaluators varied in their teaching experience with the largest percentage (40%) reporting 1-5 years teaching experience, 33% had 11-15 years teaching experience, 13% reported 6-10 years teaching experience, and another 13% reported 16-20 years teaching experience. Various titles and professions were represented in this teacher sample (e.g., special education teacher, teacher of the visually impaired, certified orientation and mobility instructor, and certified occupational therapist assistant).

Nearly 75% of the teachers reported that prior to field testing their students either "frequently" (27%) or "occasionally" (47%) engaged in coloring activities; the remaining 27% of the evaluators indicated that their students "seldom" colored. Clarifications provided by evaluators of their current uses of coloring activities with students with visual impairments and blindness reflected a diversity of approaches and materials, from adaptations to coloring pages with minimal enlargement, hot glue, or Wikki Stix®, to coloring tools such as screen boards and scented markers. Purposes for coloring activities ranged from merely recreational (e.g., art and free time) to academic (e.g., creating bar graphs and class worksheets/projects). Some coloring activities were used to hone specific functional skills and concepts (e.g., fine motor development) for students with multiple disabilities.

Collectively, the field evaluators used the prototype of Color-by-Texture Marking Mats with a total of 92 students. The map below illustrates the distribution of students by state with the largest numbers located in Michigan (14), Alabama (11), Illinois (10), and South Carolina (10).

The student sample (N = 92) was nearly evenly divided between males (52%) and females (48%). Cultural diversity was represented by 63% White, 14% Black, 12% Hispanic, 4% Asian, 4% "two or more races," and 2% "Other."

The distribution of students by grade level spanned from pre-kindergarten (14%) to high school (18%). Noticeable percentages were in grades K-2 (28%) and grades 3-5 (24%), with a smaller percentage (15%) in grades 6-8; one student was ungraded.

Similar percentages of students were between the ages of 3 and 5 (21%), ages 6 and 8 (24%), and ages 9 and 11 (25%); 14% were between the ages of 15 and 17 and slightly fewer (11%) were between the ages of 12 and 14. Only 5% were adults between the ages of 18 and 20.

The largest percentage (43%) of students were reported as either large print readers or print readers, 26% were braille readers, 10% were auditory learners, and 11% were dual readers (e.g., reported combinations of braille/print, auditory/tactile, or auditory/visual). Smaller percentages of students were reported as prereaders (5%) or nonreaders (3%); one student utilized sign language.

The majority (61%, n = 56) of the total population of students were reported as having additional disabilities (e.g., cerebral palsy, cognitive delays, autism, developmental delays, epilepsy).

The field evaluation form invited teachers to rate each and every feature of the prototype. The table below provides the average rating of each product feature.

Design Features Number of Evaluators Average Rating % for each rating
5= Excellent to 1 = Poor
5 4.5 4 3 2 1
Overall presentation of entire product N = 15 4.87 87% 13%
Size of texture marking mats (approximately 8.5 x 11) N = 15 4.67 87% 7% 7%
Number of available texture marking mats N = 15 4.87 93% 7%
Texture difference between marking mats N = 15 4.73 73% 27%
Color (translucent blue) of texture marking mats N = 14 4.57 71% 21% 7%
Thickness/durability of texture marking mats for repeated use N = 15 4.60 80% 13% 7%
Use of texture marking mats on a variety of working surfaces N = 14 4.64 71% 21% 7%
Possible uses and applications of the texture marking mats N = 15 4.53 73% 20% 7%
Inclusion of crayon package(s) N = 14 4.86 86% 14%
Tactile coloring pages N = 15 4.33 60% 13% 27%
Non-skid coloring tray N = 15 4.83 80% 7% 13%
Accompanying instruction booklet N = 15 4.70 67% 7% 27%

Although the average rating was high for the tactile coloring pages, this component did garner the most "3" ratings. A closer look at the related comments revealed not so much dissatisfaction with coloring images themselves, but with the thickness of paper that sometimes prevented ideal tactile feedback after coloring.

The textural differences between the marking mats were appreciated. Supportive comments ranged from "differences were easy to notice and feel" to "the choice seemed to increase interest (in coloring)." The size and number of marking mats were ideal (a rating of "5") according to 87% and 93% of evaluators, respectively. Teachers indicated that "some students had preferences for which texture mats they used" and that "when given a choice of two, the students were able to choose their favorite mat." All of the provided textured marking mats were used to some degree, either "frequently" or "sometimes" as reported in the following table:

Texture Mat Frequently Sometimes Never
Rough/Coarse 50% 50% --
Wavy 64% 36% --
Bold Bumpy 50% 50% --
Diagonal Striped 57% 43% --
Small Bumpy 36% 64% --
Zigzag 57% 43% --

Although an afterthought during prototype development, the addition of the non-skid coloring tray was well received and one of the most popular items; 73% of the teachers requested it as a standalone product available for separate purchase. As one teacher clarified, "Love the tray, easy to use, stays in place, gives student great working space."

All but one of the field evaluators (93%) indicated that the Color-by-Texture Marking Mats offered specific advantages over other materials and tools previously used for coloring activities by students with visual impairments and blindness. Notably the kit "allowed more independence" and "students were given greater control over their coloring by allowing them to pick a texture." As one teacher indicated, "These tiles (mats) are safer, fun, interesting, and more pleasant to touch than the old window screens which are still being used for coloring." The majority of evaluators (87%) indicated that their students were more interested in coloring after using the prototype with the specific explanations given:

There was reported evidence that teachers and students used the textured marking mats in combination with other materials and paper types (e.g., foil, commercially-available coloring pages, play dough) for additional craft activities (e.g., adding texture to pinch pots, designing greeting cards) and with various APH products (e.g., Building on Patterns coloring pages and Lots of Dots Coloring Book Series). One hundred percent of the evaluators who experimented with aluminum diagramming foil reported excellent results.

The majority of the evaluators (93%) recommended that Color-by-Texture Marking Mats be made available from APH; only one evaluator was uncertain and encouraged some tweaking. The most appropriate target populations for the kit as identified by at least 80% of evaluators included braille readers in preschool/kindergarten (80%), low vision students in preschool/kindergarten (87%), braille readers in grades 1-3 (80%), students with multiple disabilities (80%), and students with Cortical Visual Impairment (80%). To a lesser degree, the prototype was assessed as appropriate for low vision students in grades 1-3 (73%), braille readers in grades 4-8 (73%), low vision students in grades 4-8 (53%), and sighted peers (53%).

As requested, many of the evaluators returned student artwork and coloring pages created with use of the Color-by-Texture Marking Mats; examples are shown:

Photos of student coloring pages from field testing are shown including balloons with written/brailled text, T-shirt, butterfly, tree, kite, tulip, and teddy bear. Different rubbing textures (e.g., zigzag, bumpy, diagonal striped) are utilized in the artwork samples.

In September 2014, the project leader conducted a Product Development Committee meeting to review the field test results and review expected product components.

Work during FY 2015

Final design changes for Color-by-Texture Marking Mats were directly guided by field test feedback. Planned improvements included refinements to coloring pages (e.g., lighter weight paper, if possible), addition of a single textured mat with fun patterns and shapes (e.g., swirls, stars), inclusion of an ideal crayon package, and a sturdy housing box. Quota approval was requested and received from the Educational Products Advisory Committee at the 146th Annual Meeting in October.

Initial project tasks during the first quarter of FY 2015 involved the fabrication of sample layouts of two additional coloring mats—the Fun Shape Mat and another that mimicked a screenwire (or crosshatch) texture. After the project leader selected and approved the two new mat designs, Tom Poppe constructed the vacuum-form masters (a total of two 4-up patterns) to accommodate the production of the eight unique marking mats for inclusion in the final kit. Production tooling for the non-skid coloring tray, including the vacuum-form pattern and silkscreen art, was also built. An unplanned bonus to the tray was the discovery that the non-skid material applied to the underside of the tray provided an ideal drawing surface in combination with APH's DRAFTSMAN film. Using a standard ballpoint pen or stylus, a student can create freehand drawings (e.g., tactile lines and shapes) on the non-skid material. This drawing tip will be added to the accompanying product documentation.

The manufacturing specialist acquired additional samples of the translucent blue vinyl for the coloring mats. Actual production parts using the vinyl were formed for verification of the desired outcome of the eight distinct rubbing textures. The type and thickness of the vinyl was approved by the project leader. A sturdy storage/carrying box was also submitted by an outside vendor.

Work planned FY 2016

Project staff efforts during FY 2016 will target documentation completion and the graphic layout of the instruction booklet and related braille translation. The project leader will prepare the final CorelDRAW® files of the 25 coloring pages. The manufacturing specialist will finalize the product specifications and formally present the document to the Production and Purchasing staff; timeline goal dates for pilot and the initial production runs will be set. The project leader will assist in monitoring the product through the final steps leading to product availability. Brochure content will be readied.

Paint-By-Number Safari

(New)

Purpose

To provide an art product that gives a fun and educational glimpse into how subjects in the world look, live, eat, and function

Project Staff

Product Description

Paint-by-Number Safari is a series of paint-by-number books that are divided into five animal locations: tropical rainforest, jungle, under the sea, desert, and backyard animals. Each print tactile drawing has information relating to core subjects, (e.g., size – math, habitat – social studies, etc.). The product includes a removable plastic protective sheet, paint, short paint brushes, and color mixing instructions to create "real-world colors." The target market is K-12 students who have visual impairment and blindness.

Background

Paint-by-Number Safari was submitted by Joyce Lopez, a product developer for PlayAbility Toys™, LLC. PlayAbility Toys™ is an established vendor for APH (Rib-It-Ball, Paint Pot Palette). As with the other PlayAbility Toys™ products that APH sells, Paint-by-Number Safari will be made exclusively for APH and APH will be the sole distributor in the United States.

Relevance

APH made the decision to produce this product based on a standardized process of product selection. The product submission form was submitted on September 5, 2014. The Pre Product Evaluation Team (PET) committee forwarded it to the project leader for review. The project leader submitted the Product Submission Review Form on October 10, 2014. The project leader presented the new product idea to the PET on November 18, 2014. It passed and was assigned the category of Fine Arts and sent to the Product Advisory and Review Committee (PARC). PARC accepted the product idea and assigned the grant number 569.

This product will be fully accessible to the population who will use it. Each drawing will be in bold black lines and embossed to a height approved by APH. All documentation will be in large print and UEB braille. The paint brushes will be shorter than standard paint brushes, as this was determined to be best for young painters with visual impairment when APH field tested another APH and PlayAbility Toys™ joint product, the Paint Pot Palette. Each tube of paint will have a braille label.

This product follows APH guidelines for determining relevance of a product. A quick search on the Internet proved that painting-by-number is a popular activity, enjoyed by people of all ages. This product submission was not the first time that a paint-by-number product was submitted to APH. APH received a previous new product submission, also in 2014, but that one suggested that APH add tactile attributes to an existing, commercially available product. Creating a new product affords APH the opportunity to design illustrations that follow large print and tactile graphic guidelines as opposed to retrofitting something that was originally designed for visual use, not touch. The product developer consulted with the art teacher at the California School for the Blind (CSB), who used samples with students who are blind and with low vision (all braille readers). She wrote a letter of support for the product submission citing her observations and the educational benefits of the product. It is also relevant because in the world of art, we are taught that we can make anything whatever color we want; however, children who are blind often want to know the real colors for things. Paint-by-Number Safari will use the "real world colors" for each image presented, along with fun facts that describe the images and explain why and how things live and function. This blending of creativity, fun, and learning is an ideal combination for all children.

There is evidence of an examination of the need for this product. This product was suggested to PlayAbility Toys™ by an individual who is blind. APH posted a short product specific needs survey on the Internet. It was announced in the APH News. Respondents were individuals who are visually impaired or blind (VI/B) and teachers of students with VI/B. APH received 39 responses over a 25-day period. In short, 97.4% stated that they (if VI/B) or their students with VI/B want to know the "real colors" for things in nature, would use fun facts about animals as an opportunity for students to practice braille-reading skills, and believe that using a paint-by-number product provides an opportunity to practice following instructions (e.g., painting a section of the drawing with the correct color, mixing colors). All (100%) agreed that the drawing should include fun facts about how the subject looks, lives, and functions. Most respondents (92.3%) would use fun facts about animals as an opportunity for class discussion and to promote understanding of vocabulary and concepts.

APH sought opinions of knowledgeable individuals to determine the need for this product. Prior to accepting the new product submission, APH staff considered the letter of support from the CSB art teacher. It was this experienced teacher who suggested that the product would be most beneficial and a meaningful experience for students who have visual impairment if it was designed in thematic units.

This product addresses an identified need for a person who meets the definition of "visually impaired." In her letter of support, the CSB art teacher wrote that the potential product offers students the opportunity to practice braille reading skills. She found the subject matter engaging and the content (i.e., fun facts about animals) great for class discussion and learning new vocabulary and concepts. She stated that the practice and mastery of tracking raised lines may benefit children who encounter tactile graphics in other reading materials.

Work during FY 2015

APH conducted a product specific needs survey. APH and PlayAbility Toys™ discussed the locations for the five thematic books. APH staff reviewed the pencil sketches for the tropical rainforest book.

Work planned for FY 2016

The artwork for the first book will be completed and reviewed.

MATHEMATICS

AnimalWatch Vi Suite

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide a fun and interesting iPad® mobile device application for students with visual impairments in grades 5-9 to build math problem solving skills using scientific information and data about endangered animal species

Project Staff

Background

AnimalWatch Vi Suite (AWViS) uses data and information about 12 endangered species in a series of 24 lessons designed to develop math skills of grade 5-9 students. This product includes an iPad® mobile device app, User's Guide, tactile graphics and braille materials for braille reading students, tactile graphics for students with low vision, and a storage container. All items, including the iPad® app, were developed by the consultants; the braille and tactile graphics for preliminary field testing were produced by an outside vendor. After a local study at the University of Arizona was completed in December 2013, the consultants approached APH for production of the braille and tactile graphics and ultimately the distribution of the entire kit as an APH product. While the product idea was under consideration by APH, the consultants conducted a feasibility study throughout the state of Arizona, which took place from January 13 through April 25, 2014.

Two project leaders (Zhou & Hoffmann) reviewed the product submission in December 2013, and AWViS became an official product under development in July 2014. The results of the Arizona state-wide study (mentioned above) conducted by the consultants were positive, confirming the outcome of the local study and supporting APH's endorsement for product development. Feedback from the Arizona study recommended the following changes in the iPad® app: enhanced scratch pad capability (for math calculations) with a setting for gridlines, replacing help videos with a solution for each math problem, reworking hints for all problems to provide scaffolded information, inclusion of units in the answer pad, audio feedback during keystrokes, audio read back of entered answers, inclusion of Nemeth code display for use with refreshable braille, introductory screens to familiarize users with the app, and a login screen that includes icons indicating a student's progress within the unit. The product was also streamlined by the elimination of a print screenshot book and the miniature models of 12 endangered animals included in the original product design.

Work during FY 2015

An outside vendor (Tactile Vision Graphics, which moved to Windsor, Ontario, Canada, as of April 2, 2015) was selected to produce the high-quality color tactile graphics that complement images in the AWViS app. The tactile graphics were designed with large print titles and labels for low vision students and with literary braille and Nemeth for students who read braille; these versions were used in all field test studies. In light of new UEB regulations, the tactile graphics will be offered in UEB as well when the product is sold by APH. To that end, translation of the tactile graphics to UEB by the APH Braille Department took place between April and August 2015. During this time, single samples of all large print and literary braille/Nemeth tactile graphics were ordered and received from Tactile Vision Graphics for review by APH. A set of sample UEB tactile graphics were ordered in August 2015 from Tactile Vision Graphics.

The consultants conducted a nationwide intervention study (field test) of the revised AWViS app with accompanying braille and tactile graphics during the 2014-2015 school year. In all, 44 teachers and 66 students in 22 states participated in the study.

The technical data transfer necessary for programming and maintenance of the AWViS app took place in June 2015 from Tom Hicks at the University of Arizona to Lawrence Lovelace at APH.

Work planned for FY 2016

Field test evaluations from the nationwide pool of teachers and students obtained by telephone interview will be analyzed by the consultants. Recommended changes to all aspects of the product will be considered. The three sets of tactile graphics (large print, braille/Nemeth, UEB) will be evaluated by APH staff and the consultants. Recommended edits to the files will be implemented before production runs by Tactile Vision Graphics begin. The User's Guide will be edited by the consultants and APH staff emphasizing brevity without compromising clarity. The User's Guide will be offered as a downloadable EPUB® or braille file (BRF) when the app and tactile graphics parts of the product are purchased. The AWViS app will be made available for purchase through the APH shopping site.

AnyMath Kit

Formerly Math Graphing Kit

(Continued)

Purpose

To develop an adaptable, accessible kit that allows blind or visually impaired users to graph and label a wider variety of math problems and functions than currently available kits do

Project Staff

Background

The idea for the kit took shape when the Core Curriculum Project Leader proposed reworking APH's Graphic Aid for Mathematics (GAM) to allow for easier graphing of curves and easier labeling. Eventually discussions led to the need for using low-profile hook material as the base of the board with grid lines represented by narrow gaps in the material. This allows users to apply certain kinds of string or cord to represent the curves and shapes. Also envisioned were a variety of pre-made geometric outline shapes, raised dots to represent points, and print/braille labels with letters and numerals, all backed with loop material to hold them to the board. The project came over time to be called Math Graphing Kit (MGK) and assumed the grant number previously assigned to the GAM product revision.

Project co-leaders obtained numerous samples of low-profile hook fabric and many kinds of cords, string, laces, and rope to try out. At length, a combination of a black background board, a white hook material, and two types of nylon cord in contrasting colors proved to offer good adhesion, reusability, and tactual readability.

The model makers produced a few sample boards, labeling tiles, and geometric shapes to aid in the in-house evaluation, and later 18 sets for the field evaluation.

The evaluation period was March through May, 2014. Fifteen educational sites were selected for the field evaluation, some with multiple teacher reviewers for a total of 18 evaluations. Sites were located in the following states: Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio (two sites), Oklahoma, Pennsylvania (two sites), Texas, and Virginia. Nine of the sites were residential schools, and six were public school settings.

In all, 80 students participated in the field test. Here is a breakdown of their demographics:

Responding to a question on the overall utility of the kit, 17 evaluators (one of the 18 evaluators did not answer this question) said that MGK would be highly useful in their classroom exactly as envisioned in the evaluation kit (n = 5) or MGK would be highly useful if their suggested revisions were incorporated (n = 13) (one evaluator chose both).

As part of the evaluation, teachers were asked to devise three graphing or calculation tasks for each student to try on the MGK and to report whether students performed each task with more or less ease than when using other tools. A Likert-type scale was used for reporting these outcomes. The data indicate that of 196 tasks performed by 80 students, 125 (64%) were done with more ease on the MGK than on other graphing materials. Some evaluators, however, voiced strong support for both the Graphic Aid for Mathematics and Math Window® in specific situations, and the overall opinion was that all three products have their place in the math classroom.

Only one evaluation site expressed reservations about the grid board format (i.e., raised squares with gaps between them to form the grid), and even with those reservations had largely positive experiences with the kit components. Most of the changes recommended by evaluators involved preferences (such as more or different geometric shapes) rather than problems with the concept or basic design of the kit.

Work during FY 2015

In the late summer of 2014, another opportunity to receive feedback about the kit arose when a teacher in Michigan asked to demonstrate it at a professional in-service. Project leaders sent her a prototype kit along with a simple questionnaire to gather impressions about the kit's potential usefulness. The responses to the questions were added to those gathered from the earlier field evaluation.

Because several evaluators had mentioned that the usefulness of the kit extends beyond graphing, and to reduce the possibility of confusion with the GAM, project leaders decided to change the product name to AnyMath Kit.

The project leaders decided on final design changes and additions to the kit and worked with the Model Shop and Technical Research to get the production tooling made. The most significant changes were the following:

Project leaders made the User's Guide content final, and the graphic designer created the art for the booklet and storage box.

Front cover of AnyMath Teacher's Guide

The manufacturing specialist worked with a local carton vendor to create a carrying box that will be durable and appealing.

An emphasis has been given to designing tooling and procedures in the most efficient way to reduce time and waste of materials. It came to light during the year that laser cutting, which was assumed to be the best way to make the labeling tiles and shapes, would not work for the type of vinyl specified for these parts. Technical Research staff obtained new samples from a local vendor using a water-jet cutting process, and it now appears that this will be used for the majority of the pieces.

Work planned for FY 2016

Final production specifications will be written by Technical Research staff once any uncertainty with the vendors is resolved. A pilot run should be completed during the year, and any lingering difficulties with coordinating manufacturing processes will be addressed.

Common Core Math Kits

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide teachers with manipulatives to teach and reinforce the concepts identified in the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics

Project Staff

Background

Forty-five states and three territories have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Students in these states will be tested on the reading and math standards in the 2014-2015 school year. Traditionally, students who are blind and visually impaired do not perform well in math or math assessments due to the visual nature of math. APH has developed the MathBuilders series for grades K-3 but has no formal collection of manipulatives and tools for other grades.

A math survey was sent to all Ex Officio Trustees for input as to the need for math products. Respondents were asked to rank a list of eight items as to their greatest need. These eight items were recommended by attendees at a "Meeting of the Minds" held in Louisville, KY; product submissions; and/or informal request received during product displays. Two of the three highest rated needs were Student Math Kits for Common Core Grades 4-5 (3rd place) and Student Math Kits for Common Core Grades 6-8 (2nd place).

Preliminary Research

In FY 2012, a product submission form was developed by the project leader and approved by the Product Evaluation Team and Product Advisory and Review Committee. A Product Development Committee meeting was held to get input from other project leaders. A group of eight TVIs met for 4 days in July 2012 to begin work on the project. It was determined that there was a need for two different tools for TVIs:

  1. A website that would identify existing products and manipulatives available to teach the standards for grades K-8 and high school
  2. Kits with tools and manipulatives for grades 4-5 and grades 6-8 The committee identified materials for grades 4-5 and for geometry for all grades 4-8.

In FY 2103, a website was developed to provide TVIs with a reference tool to determine currently available math products for grades K-8 that may be used to teach the standards identified in the CCSS or to share with classroom teachers who have a braille student in their classes. Additionally, the site links to other resources for TVIs including the Maryland Common Core State Curriculum Framework for Braille. Components for the kits have been outlined. Manipulatives were identified for kits for grades 4-5, and development was started by Technical Research. Tactile graphics needed to teach the standards for grades 4-5 have been identified.

In FY 2014, the website was completed for math products for the high school level CCSS. APH products are now linked to all CCSS for Mathematics grades K-12.

Work during FY 2015

The website was monitored and updated as new math products became available from APH.

Work planned for FY 2016

Project staff will complete prototypes of Common Core Math Kits Grades 4-5 for field evaluation. The website will be monitored and updated as new math products become available from APH.

Feel 'n Peel Stickers: Basic Math Symbols

(Completed)

Purpose

To provide new packages of Feel 'n Peel Stickers featuring basic math symbols (i.e., plus, minus, multiplication, division, and equal signs) in both Nemeth and Unified English Braille (UEB) formats, paired with their print equivalents

Project Staff

Insert cover of Feel 'n Peel Stickers (Nemeth package)

Background

For more than a decade, various types of Feel 'n Peel Sticker packages (a series originated by the project leader in 1999) have been produced by APH. Available kits offer point symbol stickers, reward statement stickers, alphabet stickers, color name stickers, smiley/frowny face stickers, and assorted adhesive-backed textures. After years of availability, the sales of these sticker packages have remained popular and steady; several types consistently appear among APH's "Top 25" selling products. The most recently-introduced sticker collection, Nemeth Braille/Print Numbers 0-100 (1-08876-00), experiences one of the highest sales with 1,673 packages sold in FY 2014 and 835 packages purchased during the first three quarters of FY 2015.

APH frequently receives requests for additional Feel 'n Peel Sticker packages. The latest such request came from Kate Dilworth, Teacher of the Visually Impaired/Orientation and Mobility Instructor in Portland, OR, for the provision of basic math symbols, a request echoed by the original field evaluators and mentioned in previous product submission forms from the field. The development of a basic math symbol package was assessed by the project leader as a natural complement to the existing number stickers.

In May 2014, the development and production of Feel 'n Peel Stickers: Basic Math Symbols was presented to the Product Evaluation Team and in July 2014, to the Product Advisory and Review Committee. Both committees approved the product idea for further development; concurrent production of separate Nemeth and UEB packages was encouraged. Formal field testing was deemed unnecessary since the production methods, materials (e.g., clear .005" vinyl sheets), and expected customer uses mirrored those of earlier Feel 'n Peel Sticker packages.

In June 2014, the project leader's initial design step, prior to formal presentation of the product idea to the aforementioned committees, was the creation of the layout and design of the expected silkscreen and die-cut setups of the math symbols (for both UEB and Nemeth versions). Within the file setups (2 total), she indicated the location and size of the print symbol, braille symbol, and die-cut lines for eventual kiss-cutting of the sticker sheets. She set up each sheet to accommodate a full selection of all five math symbols in a 13 x 13 arrangement.

In August 2014, the project leader provided Technical Research with the expected layouts and quantities of each sticker sheet. Forecasting of the expected sales quantities for UEB versus Nemeth packages proved the most challenging with anticipation that initial sales of the Nemeth version will be more brisk. However, once teachers become versed in UEB, a reversal of purchase pattern is expected to occur between the two package styles over the coming years.

Work during FY 2015

New catalog numbers were assigned to the separate Nemeth and UEB packages—1-08892-00 and 1-08893-00, respectively. During the first quarter of FY 2015, the project leader worked with an in-house graphic designer to design an attractive insert with suggested uses of the stickers. Unique inserts (in both print and braille) were prepared for both the UEB and Nemeth Basic Math Symbol packages. The braille translation of each insert was initiated and finalized in January 2015.

Insert cover of Feel n' Peel Stickers (UEB package)

Additional tooling tasks were completed in-house and by the outside vendor including the following:

In early March, the final product specifications were presented to Production staff and production timelines for both Basic Math Symbol packages were established. It was anticipated that the production of the two sticker packages would occur during the fourth quarter of the fiscal year.

During the last quarter of FY 2015, the project leader and Technical Research staff monitored the quality of parts received from the vendor and subsequent in-house packaging of the two new sticker products.

Feel 'n Peel Stickers: Nemeth Basic Math Symbols (1-08892-00) and Feel 'n Peel Stickers: UEB Basic Math Symbols (1-08893-00), like all previous Feel 'n Peel packages, are available with Quota funds. Each package includes the following:

The project leader assisted in readying related brochure content.

Work planned for FY 2016

Feel 'n Peel Stickers: Nemeth Basic Math Symbols (1-08892-00) and Feel 'n Peel Stickers: UEB Basic Math Symbols (1-08893-00), like all previous Feel 'n Peel packages, will be available with Quota funds. Each package includes the following:

The project leader will assist in readying related brochure content. Development of additional packages of Feel 'n Peel Stickers will be pursued if repeated requests for particular types of stickers are received. If needed stickers are identified, new grant numbers and catalog numbers will be established for future packages.

Flip-Over Concept Books: FRACTIONS

Formerly Flying Through Fractions

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide teachers with a tool, in the form of a flip-chart type booklet, that will assist primary and intermediate students in learning fractions

Project Staff

Front cover of Flip-Over Concept Books: FRACTIONS (prototype version)

Background

The product submission for this product came from a teacher of the visually impaired. The original product idea was to develop a pin screen that could be explored tactually. The pins would be stable enough to remain in position during tactile exploration, yet loose enough to depress with a template. Templates would be created for fractional sections of common shapes. The templates would be pushed onto the pin board, and the sections of the fraction would appear. A full-sized plate would be used to "clear" the pin screen. This tool would provide students who are blind and visually impaired with an instant tactile representation of the fractions that their sighted peers are seeing.

In January 2010, this product underwent product review. It was determined that the cost to develop and produce it as originally presented would be prohibitive. APH staff came up with two different potential options. The project leader at the time contacted the teacher who had submitted the product idea to discuss these options. After consulting with Technical Research and the teacher, a low tech option was chosen. For each fraction, there would be a small booklet. The booklet would be hole-punched in the upper corner with a ring binding. On the first page would be a circle divided into the appropriate fractional part with the fractional name; the pages that followed would include a tactile representation of the fraction as well as the fraction written in braille and large print. The teacher or student could then quickly flip to the correct fraction for identification or comparison. The book could be taken apart at the ring binding to easily compare fractions.

The project was turned over to project leader Sandi Baker in October 2011. It went to the Product Evaluation Team and the Product Advisory and Review Committee in November 2011. A Product Development Committee meeting was held in January 2012. After much discussion, it was decided that this product will become part of the Flip-Over Concept Books series and utilize the format of the previous Flip-Over books, the exception being that this book will have two possible display options: flat or easel style. It will be an interactive print and tactile booklet that will provide support for students who are beginning to learn about and understand fractions, decimals, and percents, and will focus on halves, thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, eighths, and tenths. This product will consist of a series of print/tactile panels and two booklet covers on which to display the panels. The print/tactile panels will be divided into five categories: Piece of the Pie, Pie Chart, Fractions, Decimals, and Percents. Fractions will utilize the same special binding as the previous Flip-Over books, and will include one 4-panel-wide booklet cover and one 2-panel-wide booklet cover.

In June 2011, the project leader met with Technical Research to present the layout design for the panels. In July, the project leader met with Technical Research to review the vacuum-form and line art. Also in July, the project leader completed the first draft of the teacher's guide and submitted it to the research assistant for review and editing.

In FY 2012, the content of the teacher's guide was finalized and turned over to Terri Gilmore for design.

The project was turned over to current project leaders in January 2014. After project staff met and reviewed previous product design, some changes were made. For example, easel style as a display option was dropped. Instead of providing two booklet covers, only one 3-panel-wide booklet cover would be provided. The teacher's guide was revised to reflect the changes.

Work during FY 2015 Provision of print/tactile panels was revised after checking related math standards. Changes included dropping the Piece of the Pie category, reducing the number of panels in the Decimal and Percent categories, and adding a Comparison Sign category. Print and tactile graphics of the Pie Chart panels were revised to increase readability.

To increase the pace of the prototype stage, as well as to enhance the quality of the tactile presentations of the pie charts, the Tactile Graphics Project Leader encouraged a shift away from CNC-router generated parts. Instead, tactile masters of the pie charts were generated via the Roland® UV printer and were later used by Katherine Corcoran to make vacuum-form masters. By mid-summer, vacuum-form patterns of all needed panels were constructed. Print and tactile covers of the booklet were designed as well.

The project leaders finalized the content of the teacher's guidebook. By the end of July, Anthony Slowinski had prepared the professional layout and design of the Teacher's Guidebook. Field test sites were chosen. Field testing will begin in September 2015 and end in November 2015.

Work planned for FY 2016

Field testing of this product will be completed. Test data will be analyzed and revisions of this product made according to field test findings. Project staff will complete final tooling and product specifications for this product.

Geometro

(Completed)

Purpose

To provide teachers with a tool (manual, student workbook, and manipulatives) that utilizes tactile images and 3-D manipulatives to teach students the basic concepts of geometry

Project Staff

Background

The submission for this product came from the previous project leader, who was the project leader for the Geometro tiles that APH has sold since 2010. The tiles have been wildly popular since that time, but teachers asked for instructions for using these tactile manipulatives. This product idea was to work with the author of two existing print workbooks, Building 3-D Solids Using Geometro and Nets of 3-D Solids, to adapt them for use with braille readers. The adapted books would function as instructional guides to teach geometric concepts using the Geometro tiles. The product would consist of an adapted student workbook with consumable tactile worksheets. The workbook would instruct the teacher and student to build solids, identify sides and vertices, and develop "nets" for the various forms using Geometro tiles. The graphics on the tactile worksheets would help students better understand how to use the Geometro tiles as well as to better understand the basic concepts of geometry. While intended to be used with Geometro tiles, the workbooks would be sold independently of Geometro. The workbook would be used by braille readers at the elementary level. Many standardized tests have questions about "nets" for geometric 3-D solids, but students who are blind struggle with this concept. The activities in the Student Workbook, along with its manipulatives (including Geometro tiles), would assist the classroom teacher and the elementary student to meet the Geometry Standards set forth by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

In October 2011, this product was turned over to the current project leader. Some initial discussions with the workbook's author took place at Annual Meeting in October, at which time a contractual agreement was established. The project leader had a 2-day meeting with the consultant in Louisville in December, at which time the project began to take shape. Meetings were held with the Director of Research, Core Curriculum Consultant, Technical Research Manager, Materials Manager, and others to discuss various ideas for the project. At the end of the 2-day meeting, the project leader and consultant had developed a plan. This project will consist of the following: Teacher's Manual, Student Workbook that will include both tactile and magnetic pages, and two sets of manipulatives (rod models and magnetic tiles). Outlines for both the Teacher's Manual and Student Workbook, including timelines, were developed.

In January 2011, a draft of the Introduction to the Teacher's Manual was written by the project leader; by March, the drawings of the tactile images were created by the consultant and turned over to the manufacturing specialist at APH. In July, the consultant submitted the first draft of the Teacher's Manual. Editing of the Teacher's Manual continued as did regular phone conversations and sharing of information via a file hosting service. The consultant began to write the Student Workbook.

During FY 2011, the consultant worked with local manufacturers (in Canada) to develop and produce the rod models and magnetic tiles to complete this product. In FY 2012, it was determined that another component would be added to this product. A Teacher's Guide, to provide step-by-step instructions for the student activities, would be included and placed in the 3-ring binder with the tactile pages. The Teacher's Guide and tactile pages, along with the magnetic pages, would make up the Student Workbook. The content of the Teacher's Guide, Teacher's Manual, and Student Workbook was completed; working prototypes of the rod models and magnetic tiles were produced for field testing; and the product was field tested in the spring of 2012. Analysis of field test results began.

In December 2012, analysis of field testing was completed. Thirteen field reviewers used the Student Workbook for Geometro with 29 students, ages 5 to 16 years. One hundred percent of teachers who previously used Geometro with their students (5) said they found these materials make instruction more meaningful; and 100% of teachers said that based on their training and experience as a teacher, the product is an effective teaching tool. One hundred percent of teachers recommended that APH produce the Geometro Teacher's Manual and Student Workbook with manipulatives.

As a result of comments about problems experienced by students when using the manipulative materials, an additional survey was sent to all 13 field reviewers. Analysis of field testing results and responses to the additional survey resulted in the following changes to the product: 1) revision of the rod model construction to permit smoother movement of the thinner rod within the thicker rod; 2) the addition of a roll of APH's Graphic Art Tape for labeling the rods, as deemed necessary by teacher; 3) replacement of the four magnetic pages with one magnetic board, as well as an APH 11.5" x 11" Braille Pocket Folder for use with the magnetic tiles; 4) a change in the labeling system for photographs in the Teacher's Manual; and 5) polygon names at the top of the tactile pages presented in contracted braille vs. uncontracted braille.

The rod models were revised in the spring of 2013 and field reviewed with seven of the original field testers. Seven field reviewers used the new rod models with 13 students. Eighty-six percent said the construction of the revised rod models is acceptable for their intended use, 91% said they feel their students benefited from using the Student Workbook and manipulatives, and 86% said based on their training and experience as a teacher that the rod models are now an effective teaching tool.

Edits and revisions to the Teacher's Guide and Teacher's Manual, including new photos, took place in the spring and summer of 2013. In the fall of 2013, the Teacher's Guide was turned over to the Braille Department for translation. Finalization of the content for the Teacher's Manual was completed in July, and a Specifications meeting was held on July 29, 2014.

Work during FY 2015

The Student Workbook Kit for Geometro became available for purchase.

Work planned for FY 2016

No further work is planned on this product.

Math Robot™

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide math flash card style functionality for both speech and braille feedback in a fun and compelling environment for iOS® devices

Project Staff

Background

APH has shifted its technological focus to portable devices, such as those running on iOS® and Android™ platforms, in response to requests from teachers and students. One such request was for an iOS® version of Math Flash. (See tech.aph.org/mf_info.htm.) Math Flash provides drill, practice, and tests for simple, configurable math problems with speech and braille feedback.

To respond to this request, APH began work with the following tasks:

Work during FY 2015

The following project tasks were completed:

Work planned for FY 2016

Project staff will work to complete the following tasks:

MathBuilders

(Continued)

Purpose

To develop instructional math materials for use with students in the primary grades who are blind and visually impaired as either a supplement to the classroom math program or as a core curriculum

Project Staff

Background

Math achievement of blind students has been consistently behind that of their sighted peers. In recent years, very little research and product development has been done to improve this situation. Teachers of students who are blind, however, have continuously requested special braille curricular materials for math similar to those in the Patterns program developed at APH to teach braille reading. Because of the dramatic increases in the number of blind students mainstreamed, the use of the itinerant special education teacher model, the math priority stated in GOALS 2000, and new teaching standards adopted by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, it became critical to focus once again on math materials for visually impaired students. This project received special funding as part of a 3-year research initiative to develop new products in math, science, and geography.

During the Mathematics Focus Group Meeting in September 1994, this program was discussed and specifications were determined. During FY 1995, work on the project included a review of the research and literature on math instruction for visually impaired students; analyses of math curriculum guides; thorough analyses of current textbooks to determine mathematical symbols, terms, and concepts being taught; a search of the catalogs for commercially-available math related products; and a review of programs on abacus instruction. By 1996, prototypes of eight Primary Math Units and a general guidebook began to take shape with guidance from William E. Leibfritz, math consultant. In July 1996, a group of teachers of the visually impaired met at APH to share ideas they found to be particularly effective for developing math concepts and practice materials for their visually impaired students in the primary grades.

In July 1997, project consultants, Leibfritz and Susan Millaway, met at APH and reviewed in detail the teaching strategies for the kindergarten and first grade Primary Math Units. A draft of an introductory book that presents the philosophy and overview of the program was developed by the project leader later in FY 1997. In FY 1998 and 1999, worksheets were developed to supplement the Lessons for Unit 1: Matching, Sorting, and Patterning for kindergarten through third grade.

In FY 2000, the decision was made to field test by units rather than waiting for the program to be finished in its entirety. Tooling of Unit 1 prototype worksheets for field testing began. In FY 2001, evaluation forms for the introduction and Unit 1 were drafted. Tooling of the prototype worksheets continued with coordination of the print and braille requiring much more time than originally planned.

In FY 2002-2003, Jenny Dortch completed the final draft of the introductory book and Unit 1. The evaluation forms for the book, lessons, and worksheets were developed. During FY 2004, the evaluation forms, Guidelines (introductory material), and Unit 1 Lessons for kindergarten through third grade were finalized and prepared for field testing. Materials were placed with teachers having braille reading students in kindergarten through third grade for approximately six to eight weeks and then returned to APH for compilation and analyses of data. Results were extremely positive with only a little revision required. Dortch continued work on Units 2, 3, and 4 during FY 2004 and 2005. These units cover Number Concepts, Place Value, and Number Operation. Eleanor Pester served as project leader during this phase of development.

In FY 2006, the project was assigned to Jeanette Wicker, Core Curriculum Project Leader (a newly created position). Revisions were made to Unit 1, Matching, Patterning, and Sorting and to the General Guidelines based on the feedback from the field testing. MathBuilders was selected as the name for the series. Manipulatives were added to Unit 1 based on feedback from field testing. Graphic design and braille translation were completed. Tooling for worksheets began. A consultant, Derrick Smith, was hired for Unit 6, Geometry and Unit 8, Data Collection, Graphing, and Probability/Statistics. Objectives were reviewed for alignment with Principles and Standards for School Mathematics from the National Council of Teachers of Math for Units 6 and 8.

In FY 2007, Unit 1 and the General Guidelines became available for sale. A prototype of the Geometry Unit was completed and field tested at 10 sites for 3 months in the spring of 2007. The text for Unit 8 was written, and the development of a prototype was initiated.

In FY 2008, revisions based on field reviewers' comments were completed for Unit 6, Geometry. Production was completed, and the Unit became available for sale in May 2008. Field testing of Unit 8, Data Collection, Graphing, and Probability/Statistics was completed, and revisions were made based on field reviewer's comments. A prototype of Unit 7, Fractions, Mixed Numbers, and Decimals was completed.

Unit 8, Data Collection, Graphing, and Probability/Statistics became available in September 2009. Unit 7, Fractions, Mixed Numbers, and Decimals was field tested in FY 2009. The development of Unit 5, Measurement began in FY 2009.

In FY 2010, revisions to Unit 7, Fractions, Mixed Numbers, and Decimals were completed. A specification meeting was held on May 3, 2010. Production was scheduled for February 2011. Unit 7, Fractions, Mixed Numbers, and Decimals became available for sale in April 2011.

Unit 5, Measurement was field tested from February to May 2010 at 13 different sites. An analysis of the evaluations provided feedback as to the needed changes to the prototype. Revisions to Unit 5, Measurement were completed, and manipulatives were finalized. Specifications were written.

In February 2012, Unit 5, Measurement became available for sale. Five of the eight units are now available for use in the classroom. The objectives for the last three units of the series were developed and organized in a series of meetings with the consultant for this project, Derrick Smith. Work on the last three units, Number Concepts, Place Value, and Number Operations was started. Some lessons were written and some worksheets designed. Technical Research began work on some of the manipulatives.

In FY 2013, project staff continued working on the last three units. Li Zhou was hired as the Core Curriculum Project Leader and will assist with this project. Lessons were drafted for Unit 3, Place Value, and work continued on Unit 2 and Unit 4. Technical Research created prototypes of several manipulatives and continued work to complete the remaining pieces.

A working session was held in June 2014 to complete revisions to Unit 3. Work began on writing and revising Units 2 and 4 during this work session. Prototypes of all three of the last units will be field tested together as the concepts of Place Value, Number Concepts, and Number Operation overlap. One set of manipulatives will be used for all three units.

Work during FY 2015

Work continued on Unit 2, Number Concepts, and Unit 4, Number Operation. Derrick Smith had work sessions with the project leader in February and May to write lessons for the two units.

Work planned for FY 2016

Project staff will complete the remaining lessons for Units 2 and 4. Staff will develop prototypes for field testing of all three remaining units including manipulatives and worksheet.

Nemeth Code Reference Sheet for Basic Mathematics [Modernization]

(Continued)

Purpose

To revise and expand the Nemeth Code Reference Sheet for Basic Mathematics, a quick reference sheet of basic Nemeth Code

Project Staff

Background

Ex Officio Trustees have requested additional supports for teachers and students using Nemeth Code. Additionally, with the advent of Common Core State Standards, the emphasis on high stakes testing, and the increased emphasis on STEM classes and careers, staff at APH reviewed existing products that needed updating. The current Nemeth Code Reference Sheet for Basic Mathematics is very general in the Nemeth Code listed. Some of the code would be taught in an elementary class while some would be taught in an advanced mathematics class.

In FY 2014, a Product Modernization form was submitted. The revised Nemeth Code Sheet will be three individual bi-fold sheets: Beginning Level, Intermediate Level, and Advanced Level. The Maryland Common Core State Curriculum Framework for Braille, Mathematics outlines the Nemeth Code needed by grade level to participate successfully in math classes. This document, the work of Gaylan Kapperman, and the work of Susan Osterhaus were used to identify the symbols to be included at each level. Osterhaus and Derrick Smith agreed to be reviewers, and to make recommendations as to the final content.

Work during FY 2015

The project leader developed a draft listing of the three levels of Nemeth Code using the Maryland Common Core State Curriculum Framework, the APH Nemeth Tutorial developed by Gaylan Kapperman, TSBVI Nemeth Code Reference Sheets, and the APH Nemeth Code Reference Sheet for Basic Mathematics. These were sent to Osterhaus and Smith for review. Their suggestions for additions and revisions were incorporated. Additionally, Cathy Senft-Graves, Braille Literacy and Technology Project Leader, reviewed the listings for appropriate groupings of the Nemeth Code Symbols. The project leader finalized the content for the Beginning Level and the Intermediate Level.

Work planned for FY 2016

The project leader will finalize the content for Advanced Level of the Braille Reference Sheets. Project staff will begin graphic design and braille translation of the three sheets in preparation for field evaluation.

Nemeth Tutorial

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide a device-independent method for learning the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics that is both visually appealing and operates with refreshable braille displays for learners who are blind

Project Staff

Background

Nemeth code is a humanly readable markup language that uses a system of symbols and rules to let technical literature be presented and read in braille. It is designed to give as accurate a representation as possible to help facilitate communication between a user who is blind and his classmates, colleagues, and the world.

Designed by Abraham Nemeth, a Mathematics professor who was blind, this code was officially adopted for the United States in 1952. The official Nemeth Codebook was published by APH shortly thereafter.

The University of Northern Illinois (NIU) created a comprehensive Nemeth code training course that ran on Windows® based computers. It logically presented concepts in learning order along with exercises for the learner.

Later, a team of programmers modified the software to work with the Braille Lite from Freedom Scientific® and the BrailleNoteTM from HumanWareTM. As those hardware devices became obsolete and trying to maintain the code to continue working on Windows® became burdensome, the project creator sought a means of making the material available to more people and to find a platform that could be maintained easily.

In 2012, NIU staff and APH proposed creating a Web-based learning environment that could work on a variety of devices and would look good to a sighted teacher. Staff began investigating what interfaces could be used to work with Windows®, OSX, iOS®, and AndroidTM that would both be visually appealing and show proper braille content on a refreshable braille display connected to a device running a screen reader on one of those platforms. Taking advantage of the screen reader's braille interface meant the user could run the tutorial without the requirement of installing any software, but getting proper Nemeth code braille to show up for each screen reader became a challenge.

During the first phase of the research, project staff worked to complete the following:

Work during FY 2015

Work planned for FY 2016

Orion TI-30XS MultiView™ Talking Scientific Calculator

(Continued)

Purpose

To develop an accessible scientific calculator based on a top commercial calculator for use in STEM studies and high stakes testing by students in grades 6-12

Project Staff

Background

Texas Instruments™ is no longer producing the TI-36X, the only accessible scientific calculator sold by APH. Students with visual impairments will soon be without a talking scientific calculator. (A limited supply of Orion TI-36X Talking Scientific Calculators is still available from APH.)

There is an increased emphasis on STEM classes and high stakes testing in education today. Without a talking scientific calculator, students with visual impairments will not be able to participate fully in STEM classes, and will face difficulties in testing situations that allow calculators. In addition, EOTs and TVIs have asked for an accessible scientific calculator available on Quota.

In FY 2014, project staff evaluated possible replacements for the Orion TI-36X Talking Scientific Calculator. The TI-30XS MultiView™ is accepted on the SAT®/ACT®/AP® exams. The ExamCalc™ software from Texas Instruments™ features the TI-30XS. This software is used in many classrooms and in many of the online high stakes tests.

Project staff submitted their recommendation of adapting the TI-30XS to the Product Evaluation Committee and the Product Advisory and Review Committee for approval. The project staff will seek Quota approval from the Educational Products Advisory Committee.

Orbit Research and Texas Instruments™ were outstanding partners in the design, testing, and development of the Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator. Orbit Technology signed a contract to adapt the TI-30XS in June 2014. Four students and 28 TVIs reviewed a mechanical prototype provided by Orbit Research to APH. Orbit Research will develop and deliver the first Functional Prototype to APH in September 2014 with a design based on information received from the reviewers.

The Director of Grants for the Development Department has been able to procure three grants totaling $445,000 for the development costs of the Orion TI-30XS MultiView™ Talking Scientific Calculator.

Work during FY 2015

Project staff evaluated the first prototype of the Orion TI-30XS MultiView™ Talking Scientific Calculator. Project leaders shared the prototype with Ex Officio Trustees at the 146th Annual Meeting, staff and students at Kentucky School for the Blind, Minnesota Teachers of the Visually Impaired, and Outreach Consultants from across the US to get input on placement of accessibility keys, speech rate, and the options for slide covers. Orbit Research modified software and hardware based on the feedback from APH staff. On December 1, project staff took a prototype to the Indiana School for the Blind to begin Alpha Testing. Project leaders trained teachers and students on the use of the calculator. This first prototype connected to a PC to provide speech output and visual feedback.

Orbit Research began the work of developing a standalone prototype. Production was delayed due to a holdup in receiving necessary parts from a vendor. The first units for field testing were not available until April. A request for field evaluators was announced in the March APH News. Eleven sites were chosen to complete a field evaluation with students. Field testing began in April and continued to the end of the academic year. Students and teachers using a prototype may not have an opportunity to use all of the functions of the calculator during a field evaluation. Therefore, a second review by experts in the field of vision, mathematics, and/or accessible technology was completed. Due to a limited number of prototypes available, schools received the units first and as the prototypes were returned they were then sent to eight sites for expert review.

Field Evaluators/Expert Reviewers: The Orion TI-30XS was sent to 19 field evaluators and/or expert reviewers in 17 states.

Field Evaluators: The Orion TI-30XS was sent to 11 sites for review by teachers and students.

Expert Reviewers: The Orion TI-30XS was sent to eight experts in the field of vision, mathematics, and/or accessible technology.

Students: Thirteen students used the Orion TI-30 XS in the field test.

Evaluation: All students were asked to complete five tasks using the calculator. The field evaluator determined the student's success in completing the task and reported the results.

Task Yes No
Is the student able to successfully use the accessibility keys? 100% (13)
Is the student able to use the calculator to perform the basic math functions of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division? 92% (12) 8% (1)
Is the student able to insert data and/or delete data from an equation? 100% (13)
Is the student able to enter fractions and perform basic math functions involving fractions? 92% (12) 8% (1)
Is the student able to perform a calculation involving a percentage? 77% (10) 23% (3)
Is the student able to calculate the square of a value? 85% (11) 15% (2)
Is the student able to use the calculator to complete math problems appropriate for the class in which he/she is enrolled? 69% (9) 31% (4)

Teachers were asked to list other grade level problems that the students were able to complete. The following examples were given:

Calculator use: Teachers were asked to respond to questions concerning the use of the calculator in math classes.

Functionality: Teachers were asked to report the features that they used with the student and to rate the function.

Function Good Adequate Needs Improvement Did not use
Learn mode 31.4% (4) 23% (3) 23% (3) 23% (3)
Screen review function 15% (2) 38% (5) 15% (2) 31% (4)
Basic math functions 62% (8) 38% (5) 0% 0%
Powers, roots, and reciprocals 54% (7) 15% (2) 31% (4) 0%
Angle settings and conversions 0% 8% (1) 8% (1) 84% (11)
Scientific Functions 38% (5) 8% (1) 0% 54% (7)
Statistics 0% 8% (1) 0% 92% (12)
Memory and stored variables 8% (1) 0% 0% 92% (12)
Function tables 8% (1) 0% 0% 92% (12)

The expert reviewers received their prototypes after the teachers and students had completed their reviews. The prototypes used by the expert reviewers had three software updates that were not used by all the teachers. It should be noted that four teachers (36%) never updated the software on their prototype and were still using a first version when they completed their evaluation. Expert reviewers also received four software upgrades during the expert review process. These upgrades were not available for evaluation by the field reviewers.

Functionality: Expert reviewers were asked to report the features that they reviewed and to rate the function.

Function Good Adequate Needs Improvement Did not use
Learn mode 87.5% (7) 0% 0% 12.5% (1)
Screen review function 87.5% (7) 0% 0% 12.5% (1)
Basic math functions 100% (8) 0% 0% 0%
Powers, roots, and reciprocals 100% (8) 0% 0% 0%
Angle settings and conversions 75% (6) 0% 0% 25% (2)
Scientific Functions 87.5% (7) 12.5% (1) 0% 0%
Statistics 50% (4) 12.5% (1) 0% 37.5% (3)
Memory and stored variables 87.5% (7) 0% 0% 12.5% (1)
Function tables 87.5% (7) 0% 0% 12.5% (1)

Function Good Adequate Needs Improvement Did not use Learn mode 87.5% (7) 0% 0% 12.5% (1) Screen review function 87.5% (7) 0% 0% 12.5% (1) Basic math functions 100% (8) 0% 0% 0% Powers, roots, and reciprocals 100% (8) 0% 0% 0% Angle settings and conversions 75% (6) 0% 0% 25% (2) Scientific Functions 87.5% (7) 12.5% (1) 0% 0% Statistics 50% (4) 12.5% (1) 0% 37.5% (3) Memory and stored variables 87.5% (7) 0% 0% 12.5% (1) Function tables 87.5% (7) 0% 0% 12.5% (1)

When asked to rate the Orion TI-30XS, nine of the field evaluators rated the calculator as good (82%), one rated the calculator as adequate (9%), and one noted the calculator needs improvement (9%).

When asked to rate the Orion TI-30XS, five of the expert reviewers rated the calculator as good (62.50%), one rated the calculator as adequate (12.50%), and two noted the calculator needs improvement (25%). The two who noted "Needs Improvement" asked for changes in the audio recordings of spoken math.

During the field evaluation/expert review, there were two mechanical prototypes with four different button layouts, three different functioning prototypes, and 11 different software upgrades. Following the end of the evaluation period, there have been two additional software upgrades to improve math vocabulary and software performance requested by staff, teachers, and expert reviewers. Some of these changes include the following:

Field evaluators and expert reviewers were very positive about the new scientific calculator.

"We're planning to get one for each of our students who needs one with or without APH funds."

"Visually impaired students can use a scientific calculator on an equal par with their sighted peers. This model is very common and easy to use. I was so glad when you chose it for this reason."

"It will allow our students to use and learn the same functions as regular ed students in a mainstream classroom."

"The calculator is very similar to what is being used in the general education math class. This means the teacher can provide assistance on computation questions."

"It's an excellent replacement for the 36X which was needed for a long time now. This calculator will be popular for middle school students because they are not allowed to use a graphing calculator at that point."

"I am glad that they add extra buttons at the top for command functions so that other buttons on the calculator keypad had to be abandoned for those features. (Such as some talking calculators remove the square root key for the "repeat" key.) The fact that is has almost all the functionality connected to speech is impressive and thus creates a tool that students will be able to use over time."

"This is going to be an awesome addition to our math toolbox, and I anxiously await its availability for our students."

"I think this will be an exciting and welcoming product, particularly to upper elementary and middle school students who are not ready for the graphing calculator. It will also be nice for students with mild cognitive disabilities who may never be able to use an advanced calculator."

The Orion TI-30XS received Quota approval in May 2105 and is scheduled for release in August 2015.

Work planned for FY 2016

Staff will monitor the shipments of units for quality control, provide workshops and training sessions on the new calculator, and update software as needed.

Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator – Software Upgrade

(New)

Purpose

To provide software upgrades to the Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator

Project Staff

Background

The Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator, released in July 2013, has been a game changer in the STEM fields for the students who are blind and visually impaired. APH has sold over 2,500 units. Based on customer feedback gathered through e-mails, phone calls, and presentation at conferences, APH and Orbit Research determined a need for a software upgrade.

Work during FY 2015

APH staff has worked with Orbit Research to develop Version 2.0 Software Upgrade. The beta version of the software was offered to any Orion TI-84 user through the TI-84 List Serve. The software was also demonstrated at COSB STEM conference, the NFB National Conference, CSUN, and the IsLAND Conference. Feedback from beta users and conference participants was used to develop the additional features and modifications to Version 1.1.

The final Version 2.0 Software Upgrade was announced in the August APH News. The upgrade is a free download and can be found on the Orion TI-84 document page. The software enhancements and improvements include the following:

Work planned for FY 2016

Project staff will continue to provide maintenance and updates to Version 2.0. Additionally, Orbit Research and APH will begin the design of Version 3.0 to include direct connection to a printer/braille embosser, improvements on the Sonograph functionality, and introduction of multiple languages.

Place Value Setter

(New)

Purpose

To give early elementary school students with blindness or low vision a quick, fun, and hands-on way to learn about and develop a firm understanding of the basic math concept place value

Project Staff

Background

Place value is a positional notation system in which the position of a digit determines its value. For example, in the base 10 number system that we use every day, each place has a value 10 times that of the place to its right. As the basis for students' understanding of numbers, place value is a fundamental concept that must be acquired prior to moving onto more complex math skills and concepts.

To fully understand place value, students must gain knowledge of conceptual models of place value and then connect that knowledge with written representations. To facilitate number setting with written digits for students with blindness and low vision, a teacher of students with visual impairments in Manahawkin, NJ, submitted the idea of a new product Place Value Setter: In Braille and Large Print to APH in July 2014. After a thorough evaluation, APH accepted that idea and assigned it to the current project leader.

The Place Value Setter is designed to have number strips installed on a base board. Strips have written digits in both large print and braille, which allows braille students to work together with non-braille readers. Sliding the strips allows students to show place value digits. With that refreshable and concrete display, the Place Value Setter will give students with blindness and low vision as well as their teachers a prompt way to represent numbers using written digits. Designed for elementary school students, especially 1st to 3rd graders, this tool will be particularly useful for the following groups:

Work during FY 2015

Prototypes for use in field test were designed and made. The teacher's guide for field test was completed. Field test sites were identified. Field test began in September 2015.

Work planned for FY 2016

Field test of this product will be completed. Test data will be analyzed and revisions of this product made according to field test findings. Project staff will complete final tooling and product specifications for this product.

Tactile Algebra Tiles

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide math students who are visually impaired with an accessible version of the algebra tiles, a well-known math manipulative in elementary, middle, and high school algebra study

Project Staff

Background

Algebra tiles are known as a mathematical manipulative that provides students with concrete models for abstract algebraic concepts and procedures. With tiles representing variables and constants, algebra tiles can be used by students from elementary to high school for adding, subtracting, and multiplying integers; simplifying expressions; solving linear and quadratic equations; and multiplying and factoring polynomials. Giving students a graphical way to solve algebraic problems in addition to abstract manipulation, algebra tiles are seen as a helpful tool to meet students' diverse needs in algebra study.

Preliminary research has found that algebra tiles are commercially available through many vendors of educational manipulatives. However, these are not readily accessible for students who are visually impaired. For example, students who are blind cannot distinguish colors. These tiles are often small, which makes it difficult for students with visual impairments to manipulate them. Physically touching tiles interferes with laying them out into graphical patterns because tiles are not fixed on a desktop. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has also developed a free online illumination of algebra tiles, which is also not accessible for students with severe vision loss.

In the summer of 2011, APH Core Curriculum Project Consultant, Jeanette Wicker, and Core Curriculum Project Leader, Sandi Baker, surveyed about 70 math teachers and teachers of students with visual impairments about potential math products. Algebra tiles were found to be one of the top three products that these teachers wanted the most for their students.

Therefore, the project leader submitted this product idea to adapt this helpful teaching and learning tool for students with visual impairments.

In 2014, the project leader presented this new product to the Product Evaluation Team and Product Advisory and Review Committee. Approval was received. Project staff began designing this product.

Work during FY 2015

Design of the prototype for use in field test was completed. Model Shop and Technical Research have been making prototypes for the field test. The project leader prepared field test documentations including a user's guide and evaluation forms.

Work planned for FY 2016

Field test of the Tactile Algebra Tiles will be completed. Test data will be analyzed and revisions of the product made according to test findings. Project staff will initiate work on final tooling and product specifications for this product.

Tactile Compass for Math & Art

Formerly APH Tactile Compass

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide elementary, middle, and high school math students who are visually impaired with a tool to draw tactile circles on braille paper and plastic films

Project Staff

Background

Drawing circles is a required skill for elementary, middle, and high school math students. However, limited by their vision loss, students with blindness are unable to use regular compasses. Tactile Compass for Math & Art is an assistive tool designed to enable students with blindness to draw tactile circles in their math and art classes.

The project leader submitted this product idea with recognition of some limitations of an existing product currently available through APH named Three Spur Wheels and One Compass with Spur Wheel. The existing product does not allow users to draw large circles, and its spur wheel is not sharp enough to draw on braille paper. The new Tactile Compass in development adopts a different design to avoid such limitations. Online research, as well as talking with several math teachers of students with visual impairments, helped confirm that a quality compass from APH was needed.

In 2014, design of prototypes for use in field test was completed. During the design phase, opinions of teachers of students with visual impairments were gathered using convenient opportunities (e.g., the APH 2013 Annual Meeting), and their suggestions were incorporated into product design when appropriate. In addition, a preliminary prototype was shipped to the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired for a review by math teachers and for testing by students. Some of their suggestions were also included in the design.

Work during FY 2015

Field test of the Tactile Compass for Math & Art was conducted during September and November 2014. Nine teachers completed the field test. They were from nine states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. Participants were selected based on the number of available students, with preference for braille-reading students, and diversity of setting and geography.

Eight teachers were certified teachers of students with visual impairments, and one was an orientation and mobility teacher. Their years of teaching students with visual impairments ranged from 6 to 41, with an average number of years being 18.5. Four teachers worked in itinerant positions, two at residential schools, one in a resource classroom, and one in a day program (one teacher did not answer this question).

In all, the participating teachers worked with 29 students in this field test. Below is a breakdown of students' demographics:

Of all 29 students who participated in the field test, 18 (62.07%) could successfully draw circles using this compass, nine (31.03%) could somewhat draw circles, and two (6.90%) could not draw circles. Eighteen students (62.07%) could successfully set up circle radii using measurement marks on the compass, eight students (27.59%) could somewhat do that, and three (10.34%) could not do that. For students who did not use this compass successfully, some explanations provided by teachers were the following:

Teachers were asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed that "this product meets the need for students who are visually impaired to draw circles." The scale ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree). Of all nine teachers, five teachers answered "5, agree"; three answered "6, strongly agree"; and one answered "4, somewhat agree." The average was 5.22.

Five of the nine teachers had, in the past, used at least one other compass for users who are blind. When asked how this new product compared with others, four teachers selected "this compass is much more functional than other compasses for students who are visually impaired." The remaining teacher selected "this compass is about the same as other compasses for students who are visually impaired."

During the field test, teachers' opinions regarding each part of this compass were collected. A few revision ideas were suggested, and of the ones suggested, these are the most significant:

  1. Offer additional spur wheel posts, so that students can draw circles in different textures. This is helpful for drawing graphics such as Venn diagrams.
  2. Change the name of this product because the old name "APH Tactile Compass" might sound like an O&M tool to some consumers.
  3. Make the pinpoint less sharp so that it does not tear paper easily.
  4. The maximum length of a radius (6 inches) could be reconsidered.

The changes below were made according to field test findings:

  1. A post with a double spur wheel was added.
  2. Title of this tool was changed to Tactile Compass for Math & Art.
  3. Pinpoint of the compass was revised so that it was not as sharp as before.

User's guide of this product was completed. Project staff has worked on the tooling and specifications of this product. A local contractor for manufacturing the compass was contacted, and a request for samples was made.

Work planned for FY 2016

Product tooling and specifications will be completed. The project staff will monitor the quality of samples during the pilot and initial production run. Production will be completed, and the product will become available for purchase.

Two-Dimensional Cross Sections of Three-Dimensional Objects

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide students who are visually impaired with three-dimensional models to gain a better understanding of two-dimensional figures that result from slicing three-dimensional figures

Project Staff

Background

The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics require middle school students to be able to "describe the two-dimensional figures that result from slicing three-dimensional figures" and high school students to "identify the shapes of two-dimensional cross-sections of three-dimensional objects." Recognizing limitations of using 2-D tactile graphics to convey 3-D information, the project leader submitted this product idea to provide students who were visually impaired with real 3-D models so that they could explore the aforementioned math concept in a relatively more genuine way. Lacking visual input, it is important for these students to get such alternative tactile experience to develop their understanding of 3-D relationships and expand their spatial imagination.

According to the submission, this product consisted of two cones showing all four conic sections and two cubes showing five polygons as 2-D cross sections. Preliminary online research found a commercially-available cone model showing the conic sections, but no products were found showing cross sections on cubes. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has developed free online illumination to demonstrate how to get various 2-D figures by slicing 3-D figures, but it is not accessible to students with blindness. The project leader also talked with several math teachers of students with visual impairments informally, and they thought this product would benefit their students.

In 2014, 3-D models were designed. In the final design, this product consisted of two cones and two cubes: cone 1 showed cuts of a circle and a hyperbola; cone 2 showed cuts of an ellipse and a parabola; cube 1 showed cuts of a triangle, a hexagon, and a trapezoid; and cube 2 showed cuts of a parallelogram and a pentagon. Textures were to be added to help with orientation for students with visual impairments. During the design phase, opinions of teachers of students with visual impairments were gathered using convenient opportunities (e.g., the APH 2013 Annual Meeting) and their suggestions were incorporated into the design when appropriate.

It was determined by the nature of the models that an injection molding process was to be used to produce them. After the final design became available, a local vender was contacted to get an estimate of production cost. Based on that estimate and a projection of future annual sales of this product, a consensus was reached among the project staff that cost to produce this product was too high for APH to continue pursuing it as a real, physical product.

To find an alternative way to still make this product available for teachers and students, downloadable models for 3-D printing were considered in the context that advances in technology would make 3-D printing more available to schools and teachers. Outside of the initial design cost, printable 3-D models presented as online files would not involve production cost. They would also be customizable, which added flexibility into teaching and learning. Both advantages made the development team decide to use printable 3-D models instead of real physical models with this product.

Initial printable cone and cube models for 3-D printing were designed. An online survey was also conducted examining current availability of 3-D printers among teachers of students with visual impairments as well as asking their opinion about APH providing printable 3-D models.

Work during FY 2015

Technical Research revised the printable 3-D models of this product. The focus is to improve connection pins. Initial designs of models were posted online at Thingiverse, a 3-D design sharing website (www.thingiverse.com).

Work planned for FY 2016

Revision of the printable 3-D models of this product will be completed. This product will be introduced to students and teachers in the field of visual impairment education. Users' feedback will be collected to make informed decisions on similar practices in the future.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION / HEALTH

Count Me In: Motor Development in a Box

(Continued)

A young boy runs on the prototype of the tactile guidebar.
The boy activates the motivator switch at the end of the guidebar.

Purpose

To provide a product to help early interventionists and parents teach and encourage locomotor skills and object control skills prior to young learners entering school

Project Staff

Product Description

Count Me In is a box of adapted sports equipment with quick-step instructions.

Background

Count Me In: Motor Development in a Box was conceived after Lauren Lieberman, The Brockport College at SUNY, presented to a standing-room-only crowd at the 2011 APH Annual Meeting of the Ex Officio Trustees in Louisville, KY. Attendees and APH's Early Childhood Project Leader requested that the Gross Motor Development Curriculum be made to include preschoolers. Because children who are 3 years old require physical and motivational supports that older children may not, the Physical Education Project Leader and the consultants decided to create Count Me In to meet the specific needs of very young children who are just learning to move independently in their environment. The product "box" will include adapted equipment for children 3 years old and up to learn locomotor and object control skills.

Relevance

APH made the decision to produce this product based on a standardized process of product selection. Lieberman and Pamela Haibach (also a professor at The Brockport College at SUNY) submitted the project idea on October 17, 2011. The project leader presented the product submission to the Product Evaluation Team on November 3, 2011. The Product Evaluation Team voted to move the project forward. On November 9, 2011, the Product Advisory and Review Committee approved the project, and it was assigned grant #507.

This product will be fully accessible to the population who will use it. The Count Me In instruction cards will be available in print, BRF, text file, HTML, and DTB to meet APH requirements for accessibility. Online links will be provided to access the Motor Development videos. (See report on Gross Motor Development Curriculum.)

This product follows APH guidelines for determining relevance of a product. The consultants conducted research with over 90 children with visual impairments throughout the United States. (See report on Gross Motor Development Curriculum.) Motor skill activities help to improve agility, balance, motor coordination, manipulation skills, and eye-hand and eye-foot coordination (Lieberman & Pecorella, 2006). These skills promote independence, self-esteem, and a feeling of competence.

There is evidence of an examination of the need for this product. The most prevalent barriers for children with visual impairment to participate in general physical education are professional preparation, equipment, programming, and time (Lieberman, Houston-Wilson, & Kozub, 2002). Count Me In will help address professional preparation and equipment so very young children will have an opportunity to develop gross motor skills prior to entering school.

APH did not seek opinions of knowledgeable individuals to determine the need for this product because the need was voiced by attendees at the 2011 APH Annual Meeting of the Ex Officio Trustees. (See Background section of this project.)

This product addresses an identified need for a person who meets the definition of "visually impaired." The adapted equipment in the "box" will include items that are not available on the commercial market. The custom-made items will help young children with visual impairment and blindness feel more comfortable and be motivated to move in their environment. Items being explored for possible inclusion in the kit are a beep-t-stand, a tactile guidebar, and motivational switches.

Research

Initial piloting of the guidebar at Visually Impaired Preschool Services in Louisville, KY, resulted in a new prototype with a tactile surface. The prototypes of the beep-t-ball, motivational switch, and tactile guidebar were made in the APH Model Shop and in Technical Research. The beep-t-ball was run through a battery of tests (hits with an aluminum bat), and multiple prototypes with housing and foam variations were tried. At the National Family Conference in Boston, MA, and at the Center for Courageous Kids in Scottsville, KY, young children used the beep-t-ball and running guidebar; the project leader took photographs at both venues. The beep-t-balls were played with by students from the Kentucky School for the Blind and several adults with blindness at Louisville Slugger Field in Louisville, KY. Manufacturing specialist Andrew Dakin researched a better fastener (than glue) for the tactile covering on the running guidebar.

The project leader, manufacturing specialist, and the model maker were not happy with the weight and performance of the prototype beep-t-ball. Research has been redirected to explore the possibility of a beep-t-stand. The tactile running guidebar and the motivator switches were used in a simulation activity at the 2014 AER International Convention in San Antonio, TX.

References

Lieberman, L. J., & Pecorella, M. (n.d.) Activity at home for children and youth who are deafblind. Retrieved from http://mtdeafblind.ruralinstitute.umt.edu/MainMenu/InformationalResources/ArticlesMonographs/Lieberman_Activity.pdf

Lieberman, L. J., Houston-Wilson, C., & Kozub, F. M. (2002) Perceived barriers to including students with visual impairments in general physical education. Kinesiology, Sport Studies and Physical Education Faculty Publications. Paper 21. Available from http://digitalcommons.brockport.edu/pes_facpub/21

Work during FY 2015

The project was on hold pending the completion of its sister product, Gross Motor Development Curriculum.

Work planned for FY 2016

The project leader will continue to test prototypes of adapted equipment and create the quick-step instructions from the completed Gross Motor Development Curriculum.

Gross Motor Development Study and Curriculum

(Continued)

A coach uses verbal instruction and physical guidance to teach a young runner proper arm movement for running. A teacher instructs a child who practices the underhand roll using a rope attached to the top of two cones as a cue to release the ball when the wrist touches the rope.

Purpose

To determine major needs areas in motor development for children who are visually impaired, and to develop a comprehensive curriculum to teach locomotor skills and object control skills

Project Staff

Advisory/Review Team

Product Description

Gross Motor Development Curriculum is a book written for teachers, parents, and specialists.

Background

In 2011, APH funded motor skill ability research of over 90 children who attended sports camps or residential schools for the blind summer programs. The children were filmed while they performed 12 gross motor skills: six demonstrated object control, and six demonstrated locomotor ability. Data was collected from Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. The research showed a large motor skill deficit in all levels of vision and a significant deficit in children who are blind at all ages. This was the foundation to create the Gross Motor Development Curriculum.

Relevance

APH made the decision to produce this product based on a standardized process of product selection. The product idea was submitted by Lauren Lieberman, Professor, The Brockport College at SUNY, on March 15, 2011. The project leader presented the product submission to the Product Evaluation Team (PET) on April 6, 2011. PET voted to move the project (study, curriculum, and video) forward. On April 13, 2011, the Product Advisory and Review Committee approved the multi-phase project, and it was assigned grant #490.

This product will be fully accessible to the population who will use it. In order to meet APH requirements for accessibility, the Gross Motor Development Curriculum will be available in print and electronic formats for use with screen readers and refreshable braille devices. The video will include closed-captioning and narrative description.

Gross Motor Development Curriculum follows APH guidelines to determine relevance of a product. The nine components of the expanded core curriculum (ECC) can be met with physical activity, sport, and recreation. Fundamental motor skills are the foundation of the components that drive the ECC. For example, recreation and leisure skills for students with visual impairment must be planned and deliberately taught, and should focus on the development of life-long skills. Social interaction skills are not learned casually and incidentally by persons who are blind as they are by persons with sight; skills must be carefully, consciously, and sequentially taught. Before a student can play goalball, he or she must learn the motor skills of a three-step approach: the lunge, the underhand throw, and the slide. Social interaction skills are practiced during instruction, training, and when playing on a team.

APH examined the need for this product three ways. 1) The project leader talked with the co-author who submitted the product idea. Lieberman explained that various motor skill assessments that are available on the commercial market are not validated for students with visual impairments. The TGMD-2 (Pro Ed) is validated for students with visual impairments; but when teachers use it, they do not have the adaptations and modifications to pre-teach students with visual impairment. Without the opportunity to learn the skill before they are tested on it, students with visual impairment are at a disadvantage. 2) The authors and project leader sought the opinions of knowledgeable individuals to determine the need for this product. The product idea and sample outline were given to university professors, teachers of students with visual impairment, and parents. Seven of these individuals—one a 2X Olympian—agreed to participate as curriculum reviewers. 3) The authors and project leader conducted a literature review.

Houwen, S., Hartman, E., & Visscher, C. (2009). Physical activity and motor skills in children with and without visual impairments. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 41, 103-109.

Houwen, S., Hartman, E., Jonker, L., & Visscher, C. (2010). Reliability and validity of the TGMD-2 in primary-school-age children with visual impairments. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 27, 143-159.

Houwen, S., Visscher, C., Lemmink, K. A. P. M., & Hartman, E. (2008). Motor skill performance of school-age children with visual impairments. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 50, 139-145. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8749.2007.02016.x

The need for a curriculum was reinforced when the TGMD-2, 2nd ed. (Pro-Ed), dropped the balance skill from its assessment tool. Balance—a fundamental skill—is required for most other motor skills. The project leader then conducted another literature review on perceptual motor skills.

Jazi, S. D., Purrajabi, F., Movahedi, A., & Jalali, S. (2012). Effect of selected balance exercises on the dynamic balance of children with visual impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 106, 466-474.

Winnick, J. P., & Lavay, B. W. (2005). Perceptual—Motor development. In J. P. Winnick (Ed.), Adapted physical education and sport (pp. 359-372). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

This product helps to address an identified need for a person who meets the definition of "visually impaired." Persons with sight learn motor development skills casually and incidentally by first seeing and then watching other people perform these skills. This curriculum provides teachers with the step-by-step approach to pre-teach their students locomotor and object control skills prior to assessment day. The research conducted by the authors in 2011 (see Background of this product report) confirms the need for students with visual impairment to be pre-taught motor skills prior to assessment. In 2012, the authors completed the manuscript, and it was reviewed by the advisory panel. A draft of the video manuscript was created. The curriculum photography was taken at Camp Abilities (NY), the National Family Conference (MA), and Center for Courageous Kids (KY). The video was filmed at camp.

Research

In 2013, initial editing of the video was complete. Development of the project was on hold pending completion of other products. The following article, in which the authors acknowledged the American Printing House for the Blind for financial support of this research project, was published.

Wagner, M. O., Haibach, P. S., & Lieberman, L. J. (2013). Gross motor skill performance in children with and without visual impairments—Research to practice. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34, 3246-3252. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2013.06.030

Before the expense of captioning is added to the video, it was posted on the APH Web site for volunteer feedback from the field. The authors showed the video at four conferences and to two graduate classes. The authors had the following articles published from the research on this project:

Haibach, P. S., Wagner, M. O., & Lieberman, L. J. (2014). Determinants of gross motor skill performance in children with visual impairments. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35, 2577-2584. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2014.05.030

Lieberman, L. J., Haibach, P., & Wagner, M. (2014). Let's play together: Sports equipment for children with and without visual impairments. Palaestra, 28, 13-15.

A fourth article has been submitted to the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.

Work during FY 2015

Volunteer feedback on the video was minimal; thus in 2015, the project leader identified two adapted physical education professors, Dr. Patricia Hacker, South Dakota State University, and Dr. Rebecca Lytle, California State University at Chico to review the video. The design and layout of the book was completed.

Work planned for FY 2016

Field testing is scheduled in the fall of the 2015-2016 school year. Captioning will be added to the video. The curriculum will become available for sale.

Health Education for Students With Visual Impairments Teachers Manual

(New)

Purpose

To provide teachers of the visually impaired (TVIs) and classroom teachers with a manual that assists in the adaptation of teaching health education curricula to students with visual impairments

Project Staff

Background

Gatherings of professionals over the past 5 years (Meeting of the Minds, 2011 & 2014) established an identified need for teacher assistance when teaching the various aspects of health education to students with visual impairments. Recent published research and input from educators at residential and public schools has confirmed this need. The Health Education for Students With Visual Impairments Teachers Manual is designed to assist K-12 teachers to adapt existing health education curricula for students with visual impairments. Because of the sensitive nature of the curriculum content (e.g., human anatomy, reproduction, etc.) and the teaching challenges presented by visual impairment, health education curricula require special adaptations in order to remain appropriate for the audience of visually impaired students. While not a curriculum itself, this manual is organized to include pre-teaching lesson plans for all content areas, video vignettes demonstrating peer-to-peer social interaction, tactile diagrams, and a resource guide for appropriate anatomical models and reliable information sources. The curriculum areas for adaptation include diet and nutrition; mental health; safety and first aid; disease and its prevention; alcohol/drug use and abuse; and human anatomy, reproduction, and birth control.

Work during FY 2015

Work began on this project in February 2015. Tiffany Wild, Visual Impairment Coordinator at The Ohio State University, along with five other consultants drafted chapters covering Diet and Nutrition, Personal Health, Sex Education (including reproduction, birth control, and sexual identity) and wrote video scripts (food safety, preparation, and shopping; hand washing). Members of the team also compiled resources, researched health education curricula, and searched for appropriate anatomical models for the sex education chapter. All chapters for the prototype manual and video scripts were completed in the fall of 2015.

Work planned for FY 2016

During the fall of 2015, the prototype manual will be edited and prepared for field testing. One or two videos will be prepared during this time as well. Field testing of the prototype manual and the videos will take place between January and May of 2016. Revisions to the manual including new photographs will be incorporated, and additional videos will be filmed during the spring and summer of 2016. Layout of the manual by APH graphic designers will begin in the fall of 2016.

Hop-A-Dot Mat

(New)

Purpose

To provide a durable foam floor mat in the shape of a braille cell to encourage young children to learn, through movement and physical activity, the braille cell and dot configurations for each alphabet letter (or single-cell contractions), especially in recreational contexts with peers

Project Staff

Child makes the braille letter "G" by placing his left hand on dot 1, his right hand on dot 4, his left foot on dot 2, and his right foot on dot 5.

Background

The idea for Hop-A Dot Mat occurred to the project leader while attending a presentation by Dr. Penny Rosenblum at the 2014 Ohio AER Conference; the session outlined ways to provide a braille-rich environment for tactile readers. The project leader shared the idea of the Hop-A-Dot Mat with a teacher of the visually impaired who was attending the conference and who regularly works with young students. The teacher encouraged the project leader to submit and pursue the idea after quickly citing many benefits of the braille mat for her young braille learning students and adding that her "little ones love taking their shoes off and touching textures with their feet." This casual conversation sparked a variety of ideas for possible games and activities to enhance the use of the mat, including braille-learning sing-alongs.

The primary objective of the Hop-A-Dot Mat is to encourage young children to learn the braille cell and dot configurations for each alphabet letter (or single-cell contractions) through movement and physical activity with peers. As described in the product submission form, the product will likely consist of six interlocking EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) foam floor mats that can be displayed in the configuration of a large braille cell. Each interlocking square will have six removable foam circles. The removed circles will provide large openings in the mat into which the child can place a foot/hand when locating dot numbers/positions. The removable circular pieces will also be printed with the dot numbers and constructed so they are elevated slightly above the rest of the mat to form short "steps." The child can then tactually locate these steps with his/her foot or hand when identifying dot positions. The anchor/standing position will be located near dots 2 and 5. Fun, "Twister® game-like" contortions would be accommodated (e.g., letter "b" formed by placing left foot (or knee) on dot 2 and left hand on dot 1 simultaneously). As a variation, the student can hop or step on the elevated circles to build a braille letter/single-letter contraction. As another option, the student can insert the foam circles into openings of the mat to build a chosen letter. Note: EVA foam is a non-toxic material that is safe (does not contain plasticizers), waterproof, and washable, thus suitable for use with young children.

The Hop-A-Dot Mat will allow young children to become acquainted and enthused about learning braille in a very active way. Many methods and tools currently offered by APH present braille learning through sedentary, routine tools and materials. Learning through movement and kinesthetic reinforcement appeals to young children because they learn experientially through play, experimentation, exploration, and discovery. Young students with visual impairments and blindness especially need opportunities to be physically active to reinforce important skills related to body awareness and spatial concepts (e.g., top, bottom, left, right, next to, between). The following image from an online slide presentation posted by the New Mexico School for the Blind in 2010 illustrates the importance of movement specific to learning braille and is accompanied by the following quote: "The Arts are not meant to replace the traditional methods of teaching braille. Instead, they should be used along with teaching the contractions to increase motivation and learning. You will find the Arts make teaching and learning more enjoyable and meaningful." Movement stimulates the brain and strengthens memory.

Image from New Mexico School for the Blind's slide presentation. "The Arts" (the central hub) is surrounded by four areas including (clockwise) Visual, Drama, Movement, and Musical. www.nmsbvi.k12.nm.us/WEB/NEWS_HandoutDownloads/NMVisionBee_TeachingBrailleThroughTheArts_20Sept2010.pdf

www.nmsbvi.k12.nm.us/WEB/NEWS HandoutDownloads/NMVisionBee TeachingBrailleThroughTheArts_20Sept2010.pdf

The product submission form was shared with outside expert reviewers. Their ratings, according to specific criteria (e.g., overall need, appropriate target populations, originality), were collected prior to presentation of the product idea to in-house product review committees. Many of the reviewers' comments alluded to anticipated benefits of the Hop-A-Dot Mat including the following:

Work during FY 2015

On March 24, 2015, the product idea of the Hop-A-Dot Mat was considered and approved by the Product Evaluation Team who assessed its product development difficulty as "medium" and production difficulty as "high." The estimated yearly volume for the first 3 years is 800 units. On April 3, 2015, the Product Advisory and Review Committee reviewed and approved the development of the product. The product transitioned immediately to the active timeline and was assigned the grant number 583.

Throughout May and June 2015, rapid progress was made by the project staff with regard to prototype development. Specifically, the project leader located and acquired EVA foam in a variety of colors and worked with the model/pattern maker to create the first prototype options of the Hop-A-Dot Mat. Attention was given to making the removable braille dots/circles sit higher than the mat itself to make locating the foam braille dots within the entire mat easier by hand or foot. Choices were made related to best foam colors, and sizes, for the interlocking frames and circles.

The remainder of the fiscal year was focused on the creation of suggested activities for the Hop-A-Dot Mat, as well as the development of accessory items (e.g., print/braille alphabet spinner) as suggested by the expert reviewers. Structural options for linking multiple Hop-A-Dot Mats were explored and tested as well.

Work planned FY 2016

Project staff efforts during FY 2016 will be devoted to the preparation of multiple field test prototypes of the Hop-A-Dot Mat and related accessories/materials. It is likely that actual field test activities will be underway during the second quarter of the fiscal year. Once field test results are compiled, the project leader will regroup the Product Development Committee to plan revisions to the product (if any) based on evaluator feedback. If field test results support the production and availability of the Hop-A-Dot Mat, Quota approval will be requested from the Educational Products Advisory Committee in May 2016.

MyPlate

(Completed)

Purpose

To develop a visual and tactile model of MyPlate, the nutrition guide created by the Nutrition Center at the United States Department of Agriculture

Project Staff

Product Description

MyPlate graphics are free, downloadable graphics from the APH Tactile Graphics Image Library with which teachers can create custom-made tactile graphics.

Background

The U.S. Government—with the help of First Lady Michelle Obama—introduced MyPlate in June 2011 to replace MyPyramid. MyPlate is the official nutrition icon of the First Lady's "Let's Move!—America's Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids" initiative. APH manufactured tactile versions of MyPyramid because students are tested on the nutrition information on MyPyramid. Students will now be tested on MyPlate nutritional information.

The project leader conducted a Product Development Committee meeting on January 4, 2012. Staff from research, field services, and tactile graphics attended the brainstorming session. Physical Education Consultant Lauren Lieberman, Professor, The College at Brockport, SUNY, attended the meeting while she was at APH working on another project.

To meet the immediate needs of students who would be required to identify and use MyPlate on state testing, the project leader worked with the APH Tactile Graphics Image Library (TGIL) to produce nine drawings for download use. A survey was conducted to determine if the drawings in the TGIL meet the needs of tactile learners or if additional products are needed to teach the MyPlate curriculum.

The survey received 64 response, which revealed that only 5% had used MyPlate from the TGIL. Of the 64 responses, 36% had accessed the www.choosemyplate.gov website, 14% had used the activity sheets on the MyPlate Kids' Place webpage, and 5% had used Serving Up MyPlate: A Yummy Curriculum. When asked if they plan to use the websites in the future, 48% said yes, 6% said no, and 45% were undecided. Because so few people were aware of the images available on the TGIL, it was decided to run a social media campaign and then to offer a follow-up survey. Postings were released on the APH social media pages and Fred's Head Blog. Features were created on the APH PE Web site cross marketing MyPlate with the USDA's food safety icons (also available in the TGIL) and announced in the APH News. After several months a second survey was released. It was announced in the May 2014 issue of the APH News. By mid July, only six people submitted a survey, of whom four were aware of the MyPlate images available on the TGIL. None of the respondents had used the MyPlate images. At this time, APH decided to continue to promote the TGIL and to consider the MyPlate images on the TGIL as a free, downloadable product. Teachers are encouraged to use a real plate if a student is unable to use tactile graphics. A 9-inch dinner plate can be divided into protein, grains, and vegetables/fruits using tape. Dairy can be represented using a small bread plate or a cup.

Work during FY 2015

APH promoted MyPlate, including the government websites with free downloadable curriculum and graphics, the TGIL downloadable files, and the Features pages on the http://www.aph.org/pe/nutrition.html.

PE Web Site

(Ongoing)

Purpose

To provide individuals with visual impairments and blindness, parents, and teachers with a resource list that promotes health, physical education, and recreation

Project Staff

Background

APH funded a 3-year study on parent-child physical activity intervention among families of children with visual impairments. The investigators who conducted the study were Moira Stuart, Ph.D., Northern Illinois University; Lauren Lieberman, The College at Brockport; and Nicole Riscica, The College at Brockport. During year three of the study, APH produced a resource manual for the participating families. Upon completion of the study, it was recommended that APH make the information available on its website. The original resource manual was updated and made available on the APH Web site. Viewers can navigate between PE programs, nutrition, organizations, articles, books, equipment, events, magazines, mailing lists, national services, regional and state services, sport camps, switches, toys and games, videos, and websites. This is a live document; viewers can submit items to be reviewed for placement on the PE Web site: www.aph.org/pe/index.html.

Since the launch of the PE website, two new pages have been added to the site's menu: videos and nutrition. The site has been given a complete review and updated several times. Each January, project staff posts the sport camps for that year. New features are created and posted throughout the year. In addition, the site provides links to help teachers and parents understand the recent federal guidelines to provide athletic opportunities for students with disabilities, including visual impairment.

Work during FY 2015

Staff posted the 2015 winter and summer sports camps in January. Monthly updates were posted as they were submitted by camp directors. The Events page was updated to include 2015 events, such as the 2015 Beep Baseball World Series. The Toys and Games page was updated with current hyperlinks. Twelve new videos were posted on the Videos page. A story on the Team USA Mobile Coach App was added to the Features page. Research was conducted on three new possible features, still under development. Work is underway for an electronic book of personal, recreational stories told by individuals with deafblindness to be housed on the website.

Work planned for FY 2016

Work will continue to launch new material and to keep the PE Web site up-to-date.

Physical Education and Health Special Projects and Needs

(Ongoing)

Purpose

To research, identify, and develop products that promote physical activities, good health practices, social interactions, and self-advocacy

Project Staff

Background

APH recognized the need and began to develop products and fund university research in the area of physical activity in relation to students and adults who have visual impairment, blindness, and deafblindness. The positive feedback from the field prompted a new designation in the budget for Health and Physical Education. The APH physical education website was created. APH has since produced one book for teachers, one book for middle school students through adulthood, and one storybook at 4th grade reading level; three kits to teach and promote walking/running, jumping rope, and playing tennis; a variety of sound emitting balls; and a portable source.

The project leader continues to maintain the PE Web site and to work on Gross Motor Development Curriculum (GMDC) and Count Me In: Motor Development in a Box. Initial work began on a new book titled, Possibilities: Recreational Activities for Individuals Who Are Deafblind.

Work during FY 2015

After initial editing of Possibilities, this project was transferred to Core Curriculum; but the electronic book will be housed on the APH PE Web site. The Physical Education Project Leader continues to advise on the project. Design and layout continued on GMDC, which will field test in the fall 2015. Count Me In was on hold, waiting the completion of GMDC.

Work planned for FY 2016

Work will continue on the PE Web site, GMDC, and Count Me In, and Possibilities.

SPORTS COURTS: Touch and Play

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide a variety of interactive sports courts and fields (e.g., basketball, tennis, football, bowling) with interactive pieces to demonstrate player positions and game rules. The tactile displays will be accompanied by reference booklets coauthored by a team of experts who regularly provide instruction in this content area to students with visual impairments and blindness.

Image of binder art used for prototype of SPORTS COURTS: Touch and Play

Project Staff

Background

The prospect of developing an interactive set of tactile sports courts and fields was originally explored by the Tactile Graphics Brainstorming Committee in August 2002. Over the years, the project leader consistently incorporated the development of such a product into her annual budget reports. However, the project was repeatedly sidelined due to higher priority research projects. The product idea gained some careful consideration after repeated product submissions were received from teachers in the field, especially from those who routinely teach physical education to students with visual impairments and blindness.

SPORTS COURTS is expected to address the following needs and requests from the field:

Feedback regarding the need for SPORTS COURTS was most directly indicated by 32 respondents to a product-specific survey conducted by the project leader in February 2012. The following are the results of that study.

Survey respondents represented the following states, as well as one Canadian province: Washington (2), California, North Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico (2), Minnesota (2), Iowa (2), Missouri (4), Illinois, Indiana, Alabama (2), Florida (4), Pennsylvania (2), New York (2), Massachusetts (2), Alaska (2), and Calgary, Alberta (1).

As the following graph illustrates, the respondents reflected a dynamic group with a variety of titles including Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Rehabilitation Teacher, Braille Specialist, Vision Specialist, and Physical Education/Recreation Specialist.

Survey respondents indicated a multitude of barriers to a student's involvement and understanding of sports if he or she is visually impaired or blind. The top three barriers related to 1) adequate instruction time, 2) others' attitudes regarding the student's ability/interest, and 3) available time for instruction. Instructor's knowledge/background and availability of sports equipment were additional obstacles. The student's own attitude toward sports and scheduling conflicts seemed to have the least negative impact.

The survey respondents' reported frequency of teaching concepts related to sports courts and fields to students with visual impairments and blindness was nearly equally distributed across the continuum of "frequently (two times a week or more)" to "occasionally (once a month)" to "seldom (two or three times a year)"—31%, 28%, and 34%, respectively. The remaining percentage of respondents reported "never," "depends on grade level," "one time a week," or no response was given.

The following graph reflects the "Top 10" most needed sports courts/fields based upon the respondents' rankings. The "Top 10" included (from most to least), soccer, basketball, baseball/softball, bowling, beep baseball, goalball, track and field, football, volleyball, and tennis. Diminishing in demand were swimming, bocce, hockey, golf, badminton, speedball, lacrosse, and rugby.

Respondents were asked to indicate the overall need for SPORTS COURTS on a scale from 5 = extremely needed to 0 = not needed. Collectively, the respondents gave an average rating of 3.98. Nearly half (47%) of the respondents thought the product was extremely needed, 31% gave it a "4" rating, and 28% gave it a "3" rating. Only two of the respondents thought it was unneeded.

The results of the SPORTS COURTS survey were presented at APH's 144th Annual Meeting during a product input session. Although the session was attended by a small audience, a lively discussion addressed possible structural formats from magnetic to VELCRO® brand-compatible platforms and from mostly ready-made (static tactile presentations) to very interactive 3-D models. To spark conversation, the project leader presented an interactive tennis court she fabricated with moveable players, tactile court lines/boundaries, braille labels, and a 3-D net.

On May 8, 2013, the project leader submitted a formal product submission form describing and recommending the development and production of SPORT COURTS. The product idea was approved by the Product Evaluation Team on May 29, 2013, and by the Product Advisory and Review Committee (PARC) on June 13, 2013. The product development difficult was rated as "high," as well as the production difficulty. An estimated development time (PARCing Lot to stock) of 2.5 years was forecasted.

Appropriate target populations for SPORTS COURTS will encompass the following:

Components proposed by the project leader for inclusion in the kit include the following:

Toward the end of the fiscal year, the project leader and Tom Poppe fabricated some possible 3-D pieces (e.g., bowling pins, two sizes of goal posts, basketball goals) for consideration, as well as a thermoform pattern of a tactile tennis court.

Significant updates on SPORTS COURTS occurred throughout FY 2014, characterized by the continued development, design, and generation of the first court layout—tennis. Multiple copies were produced using a prepared vacuum-form pattern and silkscreen art. The project leader devised a way to produce the 3-D net with a commonplace needlepoint canvas material. Strong magnetic tabs were located and tested for secure placement of the 3-D parts on a metal surface (i.e., APH's ALL-IN-ONE Board). The colors of the pedestrian pieces from Tactile Town updated to include a red player.

Prototype of tactile tennis court layout prepared for SPORTS COURTS

In early January 2014, a team of consultants, some who had previously submitted similar product submissions for tactile court and field layouts, joined the project. The lead consultant, Lauren Lieberman, worked directly with the project leader to decide on planned courts and fields and related components, based upon earlier survey results. A magnetic platform, based on the initial tennis court layout, was deemed the right direction for the courts versus a VELCRO® brand style surface. The foldable feature was also advantageous for convenient storage in a binder.

The project leader and consultant outlined the purpose, target populations, and expected product components of the kit for the Product Development Committee. It was decided that the following 11" by 17" tactile/print layouts would be readied for field test purposes:

Additional sports chapters, minus tactile/print layouts, would be provided for Softball (reviewed in combination with the Baseball layout), Ultimate (played on a flat grass field), and Speedball (usually played on a soccer field or basketball court).

Tentative template and logo design for sports chapters of SPORTS COURTS; the front cover of the "Tennis" chapter is shown.

Ideal field test times were discussed and tentatively planned, as well as probable field test sites—five summer camps and 15 academic settings. The co-authors/consultants were contacted, contract agreements were signed, and delineation of authoring tasks was determined via a teleconference call. Per the consultants' request, the project leader developed an initial design of the Tennis chapter that could serve as a starting point for later refinements; a complementary tennis logo was designed to match the basketball motif. Eventually, final content headings were determined by the authoring team and shared in a Google DocsTM template; regular updates were made to each sport chapter throughout April and May.

Concurrent with the aforementioned project-related activities, the project leader assisted APH Development Staff in pulling together product information and budget estimates for grant submission purposes. Several positive outcomes resulted from this mutual effort. Initially, after reviewing a grant application and taking a tour at APH's research and manufacturing plant, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Southern granted $1,000 to APH for the development of the SPORTS COURTS kit consisting of 15 different interactive, tactile sports models and guidebook www.aph.org/development/thanks/. Secondly, APH was notified that the development of SPORTS COURTS will be featured in the September 2014 issue of TENNIS magazine, a national magazine that goes to every USTA member in the United States; complementary photo(s) of students with visual impairments and blindness exploring the tactile court layout will be included. The project leader assisted with the photo shoot taken at the Kentucky School for the Blind.

Photo of two middle-school students with visual impairments tactually exploring the prototype of the tennis court included in SPORTS COURTS (prototype version)

Throughout June and July 2014, the project leader and Tom Poppe concentrated on design of the actual court and field layouts. Because of higher project priorities in Technical Research, the project leader personally assumed the complex task of creating a matrix to accommodate and ensure minimal silkscreen setups using a limited number of ink colors; she also outlined the vacuum-form master setups with a total of eight 2-up patterns needed. This matrix served as a roadmap for all subsequent work on the prototype versions of the courts/fields. Each court/field design was planned taking into account proper dimensions, typical court/field features, visual contrast, texture application, and print and braille label placement. A unified look and feel for the overall presentation of all of the courts and fields was maintained throughout the design process.

Prototype development also encompassed the original molding and fabrication of related three-dimensional manipulatives such as goal posts, bowling pins, basketball nets, and players. Separate thermoform patterns were built to produce magnetic X and O pieces to demonstrate defensive and offensive player positions of team sports (e.g., football, volleyball, soccer). Andrew Dakin and Andrew Moulton generated the basketball backboards via a 3-D printer; Tom Poppe fabricated the remaining 3-D parts and embellishments.

In August 2014, the project leader took the opportunity to gather additional names and contact information from those attending the 2014 International AER Conference in San Antonio, TX, who might be interested to serve as field evaluators. The field test opportunity was announced at a general session presented by Lieberman. A total of 20 teachers completed and submitted forms that also captured their ideas for product components. Many of the requested design features echoed the planned blueprint for the product with emphasis on appropriateness for both students with low vision and blindness, portability, simple-but-functional presentation, durability for indoor/outdoor use and by multiple users, easy to share, proper dimensions/ratios of courts, foldable, and different shapes for offensive and defensive players.

Although originally optimistic that the field test stage might begin during FY 2014, it became apparent that the complexity and scope of prototype development, as well as the project staff's involvement in other project endeavors, would dictate a lengthier timeline.

Work during FY 2015

A steady pace of activities and tasks by the project staff characterized the first two quarters of FY 2015. Significant strides were made in the preparation and design of the dual tactile/visual layout of each sport court or field layout. First, the dimensions and important features of each field/court were researched; the most tactually meaningful way to show each layout was then determined. Effort was made to incorporate interesting textures and varying elevations of graphic elements into all of the sports layouts (e.g., water texture in Swimming layout, rough sandy bunkers in the Golf layout).

After the tactile layouts were established, complementary silkscreen art was created to generate the print counterparts. Attention was given to utilizing and juxtaposing high-contrast colors within a given field or court layout, always with the low vision reader in mind; large print text was incorporated as well.

To generate multiple copies of each layout for field testing purposes, 2-up images of the sports layouts were screen printed in-house. The printed sheets were then vacuum-formed to create the final combined tactile/color layouts and were trimmed to finished size. Each layout was captured on a single 11" x 17" sheet and hinged slightly off center and three-hole punched for inclusion in a binder.

Photo shows Model/Pattern Maker vacuum-forming a printed Swimming pool layout.

The design of the accompanying 3-D features (e.g., players, nets of various lengths, goal posts, bowling pins, basketball nets) was concurrent with the development of the tactile/print sports layouts. The 3-D parts were created using a variety of mold-making techniques (e.g., liquid resin process or 3-D printer). Hook material and/or magnetic attachments were added to each manipulative for eventual positioning on the corresponding sport field or court. Careful attention was given to the incorporation of high-contrast colors, textures, and recognizable features. For example, the three-dimensional players contrast in both color (red versus yellow) and texture (smooth versus rough). Additionally, the three-dimensional pieces accommodate multiple uses across all of the court and field layouts. For example, the two sizes of goal posts can be used as supports for nets (as in Tennis and Volleyball), goal posts (as in Football), hoops (as in Basketball), or flags (as in Soccer and Golf).

Under the corners of each sports layout are four corner magnetic tabs that secure the layout to a metal surface such as APH's ALL-IN-ONE Board (as shown in the photo) or to a cookie sheet. The three-dimensional pieces have magnetic bases that can be used in combination with the sports layouts. The layouts can also be used as stand-alone displays on a flat desk or table surface.

Basketball layout is on APH's ALL-IN-ONE Board with 3-D players and basketball goals positioned on the court.

Following the construction of the tangible parts (court/field layouts and 3-D items), the project staff's attention shifted to the editing and layout design of the accompanying sport chapter booklets. Using the chapter content previously submitted by the consultants/contributing authors, the project leader performed the following tasks:

Each sports chapter was printed separately as a saddle-stitch booklet and 3-hole punched for inclusion in the binder with its corresponding tactile/print sports layout. Chapter subheadings include the following:

A field test announcement was posted in the April 2015 issue of the APH News, www.aph.org/advisory/2015adv04.html; it included a link to a short Google Docs™ survey goo.gl/forms/1gu7j9MUpZ that each interested field test evaluator was required to complete to be considered for selection. Besides basic contact information, the survey gathered feedback regarding each respondent's student population (number and grade level), preferred testing session (summer or fall), types of fields and courts most likely needed, and reason(s) for desiring to field test. Responses to the latter question illuminated the obvious need for the product as demonstrated by the following statements:

Survey respondents' indication of which sport court and field layouts they would likely use during field testing reinforced the need for particular layouts. As illustrated in this graph, basketball, track and field, and soccer were among the most needed; conversely, badminton, lacrosse, and golf were among the least in demand.

A total of 40 teachers and parents expressed interest to participate in the evaluation of SPORTS COURTS: Touch and Play by completing the initial survey. A spreadsheet of possible field test sites was generated. The titles of survey respondents included teachers of the visually impaired, orientation and mobility instructors, adapted physical education teachers, a goalball specialist, a braille specialist, program directors, a vision rehabilitation therapist, and one parent. From this sample, five summer camp sites and 12 fall session field test sites were selected. Participants were selected based upon geographic location, number of available students, and type of instructional setting; preference was given to those who had not recently field tested an APH product.

A total of 20 complete prototypes were built and available for field testing by mid-June 2015. On June 17, five prototypes were mailed to five summer camp evaluators who represented the states of Louisiana, New York, Florida, Ohio, and Alaska. On September 1, 12 prototypes were mailed to the fall-session evaluators who represented the states of Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Washington, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Texas, and Missouri, as well as Canada. Two prototypes remained at APH for tooling and in-house reference, Quota approval, and product display purposes. The remaining prototype circulated among the co-authors for their review.

Each prototype of SPORTS COURTS: Touch and Play included the following components:

Three photos show an assortment of 3-D manipulatives in combination with the sports layouts—flag on golf green, football goal, and bowling pins at end of alley.

Each prototype was accompanied by an extensive Product Design Evaluation Form, as well as a Student Outcome Form (to be completed for each student involved in the field test activity). Summer camps were asked to return their completed forms by September 1, 2015, and fall-session evaluators were asked to return their completed forms by November 20, 2015.

Work planned for FY 2016

If the pace of the project continues as planned, compilation of field test results will be available by January 2016. Enhancements to SPORTS COURTS will be influenced and guided by both teacher and student feedback/outcomes. Project staff will usher the project through the remaining goals of documentation completion, tooling construction, and specifications for eventual production. Due to the complexity of the product's design and number of related components, final product availability will not likely occur until FY 2017.

READING AND LANGUAGE ARTS

All Aboard! The Sight Word Activity Express

Formerly Magnetic Dolch Word Wall

(Continued)

Purpose

To offer a magnetic set of Dolch words (or sight words) for a myriad of activities performed by large print and braille readers. The size of the labels would be much smaller than APH's existing Expanded Dolch Word Cards that measure 3.5" x 2" and serve primarily as flashcards. This "downsizing" will facilitate the presentation of an interactive "word wall" on a magnetic surface. Note: This product is not intended to be a replacement for APH's existing Expanded Dolch Word Cards.

Photo shows the cover art of teacher's guidebook for the All Aboard! The Sight Word Activity Express

Project Staff

Background

Note to reader: The original product title, Magnetic Dolch Word Wall, is retained for the Background, FY 2012, and FY 2013 sections of this report. Thereafter, the newly-assigned, final product name, All Aboard! The Sight Word Activity Express, is used throughout the remainder of the report. In July 2013, copyright/trademark issues necessitated a change to the product name prior to production.

Dolch words are the 220 most common words found in children's literature based upon research conducted by Edward Dolch. These words are often called "sight words" because some of them cannot be sounded out and need to be taught by sight. There is also an additional set of 95 common nouns. Since these words are extremely common, learning them helps children increase their fluency (words read per minute). Students with high fluency have better comprehension and are more successful readers.

The project leader submitted a Product Idea Submission for this product in November 2010. The idea was inspired by feedback received from evaluators of the ALL-IN-ONE Board, one of whom handmade a magnetic set of Dolch Word labels for use with the board. The planned magnetic braille/print words will duplicate those words included in APH's Expanded Dolch Word Cards set. The smaller, magnetic format will accommodate a variety of interactive reading activities. Target populations will include teachers and parents who work with beginning readers (low vision or blind).

The Magnetic Dolch Word Wall will address the following primary skills and concepts:

In July 2011, the Product Submission Form was reviewed by other APH staff, particularly those working on the Building on Patterns (BOP) series. One important observation was the significant variance in presentation order between the Dolch Words within BOP and the original classifications of the Dolch Words: Pre-Primer, Primer, First Grade, Second Grade, and Third Grade. This determination indicated that there was no need to sell the word labels according to their original classifications within separate packages; users of BOP would benefit from all of the word labels supplied as one single, comprehensive kit (in both contracted and uncontracted braille). One BOP author noted, "This set of magnetic words would make it easy for a teacher or parent to create activities to supplement the Dolch Word activities in BOP. For drilling, the words could be presented at one time and in less space than using the (current) Dolch Word Cards." This brainstorming group discussed additional possibilities such as color frames with guidelines for neatly positioning the labels in rows, columns, or groupings; an activity booklet; providing a storage tray for labels; offering optional VELCRO® brand fasteners if used on the opposite side of the ALL-IN-ONE Board; and providing blank tiles. Expanded kits of just letters and numbers were discussed as well.

The product idea was approved for development by the Product Evaluation Team on July 27, 2011, and by the Product Advisory and Review Committee (PARC) on August 10, 2011. The product immediately transferred from the PARCing Lot to the active product timeline.

The preparation of print/braille labels needed for the field test of the Magnetic Dolch Word Wall was tackled intermittently throughout FY 2012 and often derailed due to higher priority products. Regardless, a significant portion of the tooling necessary to build multiple prototypes was accomplished. Initial efforts were undertaken by the project leader who developed CorelDRAW® layouts of the needed labels—both contracted and uncontracted. Text and background colors for the labels, as well as identifying orientation cuts (diagonal versus convex), were carefully assigned. Using the preliminary layouts developed by the project leader as reference, the manufacturing specialist created electronic files necessary for PED/clamshell generation. The project leader checked braille accuracy and location of braille and print on each label. Braille plates were tooled in August 2012 and used to cold form the braille into .005" clear and yellow vinyl. Formed sheets were then laminated to white-coated magnetic sheets. The project leader suggested a straight-rule die to cut the labels into strips to significantly reduce labor needed by the Model Shop staff. Strips of words were then hand trimmed to produce separate word labels of varying lengths; identifying orientation cuts were incorporated.

Less labor-intensive tasks involved the project leader ordering and collating other prototype components including three-ring storage binders, magnetic notebook pages, and zipper pouches. Two lengths of blue magnetic strips (eight of each type) were provided in the prototype kit to facilitate the building of sorting charts with multiple divisions and/or writing guidelines to allow students to neatly arrange the labels in straight rows on a magnetic surface as shown in the following examples:

Photo of Noun-Verb-Noun chart using magnetic strips Photo of "Opposites" setup using magnetic strips Photo of writing guide setup using magnetic strips

During the first quarter of FY 2013, the project leader focused on the written content and layout of the accompanying instruction booklet that gives basic starter ideas for using the magnetic Dolch words. The instruction booklet, which is complemented by photos illustrating possible activities and games, also includes a comprehensive list of all the Dolch words (in print and SimBraille), an Assessment Checklist to monitor a student's progress (also provided on an accompanying CD-ROM), and a list of related references and articles including the following:

Browder, D. M., & Lalli, J. S. (1991). Review of research on sight word instruction. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 12, 203-228.

Browder, D. M., & Xin, Y. P. (1998). A meta-analysis and review of sight word research and its implications for teaching functional reading to individuals with moderate and severe disabilities. The Journal of Special Education, 32, 130-153.

Day, J. N., McDonnell, A. P., & O'Neill, R. (2008). Teaching beginning braille reading using an alphabet or uncontracted braille approach. Journal of Behavioral Education, 17, 253-277.

Dolch, E. W. (1948). Problems in reading. Champaign, IL: The Garrard Press.

Koenig, A. J., & Farrenkopf, C. (1997). Essential experiences to undergird the early development of literacy. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 91, 14-24.

Sauer, L., & Risko, V. (1979). Teaching reading to mainstreamed sensory impaired children. The Reading Teacher, 32, 921-925.

Wormsley, D. P., & D'Andrea, F. M. (1997). Instructional strategies for braille literacy. New York: AFB Press.

A variety of Web sites were referenced as well [that were eventually used by 60% of the field test evaluators for additional Dolch word reading activities]. The Web sites included the following:

abcteach®: The Educator's Online Resource: Dolch® Word Cards
www.abcteach.com/directory/prek-early-childhood-abc-activities-dolch-word-cards-29-2-1

Apples4theteacher: Dolch® Sight Words
www.apples4theteacher.com/languagearts/dolch-sight-words/

Dolch Kit©
www.theschoolbell.com/Links/Dolch/Dolch.html

Enchanted Learning: Dolch® Words
www.enchantedlearning.com/dolch/

K12Reader: Reading Instruction Resources for Teachers & Parents: Dolch® Word List Worksheets and Activities
www.k12reader.com/dolch-word-list/

Mrs. Perkins' Dolch Words: Helping Your Children Read
www.mrsperkins.com/dolch.htm

The finishing touch to the prototype—an attractive binder insert—was created by the in-house graphic designer. Nineteen complete prototypes containing over 500 magnetic Dolch words were prepared.

Photo of field test prototype of Magnetic Dolch Word Wall

The field test opportunity for the Magnetic Dolch Word Wall was posted in the December 2012 online issue of APH News www.aph.org/advisory/2012adv12.html. The announcement, as repeated below, clearly described the product (with accompanying photo), field test expectations, and the criteria for field test selection:

APH is seeking field evaluators for Magnetic Dolch Word Wall. Field testing will begin in February 2013 and extend until the end of the school year. The prototype provides over 500 print/braille magnetic word labels (in both contracted and uncontracted braille), magnetic sorting strips, magnetic divider/storage pages, a housing binder, and suggested activities. [Note: The magnetic labels can be used in combination with APH's ALL-IN-ONE Boards].

Evaluators will be asked to a) use the prototype with as many students as possible within the given timeframe, b) complete a product evaluation form, and c) report student outcome data. After returning a completed evaluation form, the field test site will be allowed to keep the prototype for future use. Field test prototypes are limited. Field test sites will be selected based upon geographic location, type of setting, and the grade levels/ages of the students.

If you are interested in possibly serving as a field evaluator, please provide the following information: name, title, school/agency, complete contact information (phone number, mailing address, e-mail address), expected number of students, and the educational levels/ages of your students.

Over 50 teachers across the country expressed interest in field testing this product. From those interested, 17 were selected as evaluators. The prototypes were mailed to evaluation sites by the end of February 2013. The project leader sent intermittent reminders to field evaluators to record each student's monthly progress related to word recognition within the student's reading level(s) (e.g., Primer, First Grade, etc.), including the "Noun" category, if applicable. Instructions for documenting student outcomes were explained in the cover letter as so:

In order to collect student outcome data, use the Dolch Word Assessment Checklist (a Microsoft® Excel® file on the accompanying CD-ROM) before using the prototype to document each student's current recognition of the Dolch Words. To make this task less daunting, you don't need to indicate recognition for each and every word in the list. Begin by determining the current level of your student (e.g., Primer, First Grade, etc.), go to that section of the form, and indicate the student's recognition of the words listed in just that section. Then do the same within the "Nouns" section of the form. [If the student can only read the word in uncontracted braille, please insert a "U" next to that word.] The form automatically calculates the percentage of words known within each section. Save the form as a new file using the student's initials or first name only. You are asked to assess the student's progress on two more occasions over the course of field testing—at the end of March and at the end of April. (A sample is shown below.)

If you are working with an older student/adult who can already read all of the Dolch Words before the use of the prototype, complete an Assessment Checklist form that indicates recognition of 100% of the words within the first column under the "February 2013" date.

Partially-completed Dolch Word Assessment Checklist presented as a sample for field evaluators

Sixteen of the 17 participating field reviewers returned their evaluation forms by the end of June 2013. Although the return date was indicated as May 15, 2013, a few teachers needed and requested additional time to complete their evaluations; this extra time was allowed.

Product evaluations were completed by 16 teachers representing the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri (2), Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Virginia.

The evaluation sites represented a variety of instructional settings as detailed in the following table:

Type of Instructional Setting Percentage of Evaluation Sites
Residential 31%
Resource 19%
Itinerant 38%
Itinerant/Resource 6%
Day School/Mainstreamed 6%

Participating evaluators varied in their teaching experience with equal percentages reporting 6-10 years teaching experience (19%), 11-15 years teaching experience (19%), and 21 or more years teaching experience (19%). Newer teachers with 5 or less years of teaching experience comprised 25% of the evaluator population. Another 12% reported 16-20 years of teaching experience. Only one teacher did not indicate her years of teaching experience.

Additionally, evaluators varied in their knowledge of braille—from the novice to the expert with NLS Certification in Literary Braille. The evaluators' levels of braille proficiency are shown in the following table; in some cases, an evaluator's knowledge of braille fell within multiple categories/descriptions:

Level of Braille Knowledge % of Evaluators (n = 16)
NLS Certification in Literary Braille 12%
NLS Certification in Nemeth Braille 0%
NLS Certification in Textbook Formatting 0%
Completed university coursework in Literary Braille 69%
Completed university coursework in Nemeth Braille 50%
Read contracted braille fluently without use of a reference guide 25%
Read contracted braille fluently with occasional use of a reference guide 38%
Read contracted braille with frequent use of a reference guide 19%
Read uncontracted “letter-for-letter” braille without use of a reference guide 44%
Read uncontracted “letter-for-letter” braille with use of a reference guide 0%
I cannot read braille—contracted or uncontracted 6%
Level of braille knowledge not reported 6%

The student sample of 48 students ranged in age from 4 to 18 years of age with the largest percentage (53%) between the ages of 7 and 9; 19% were between the ages of 10 and 12; smaller percentages fell within the age range of 4 to 6 (8%), 13 to 14 (4%), and 18 years old (6%). The age of 10% of the students was unreported.

The student population was nearly evenly divided between males (46%) and females (44%); the gender of 10% of the students was unreported. The student population also reflected cultural diversity: 63% White, 10% Black, 6% Asian, 4% Hispanic, and 2% American Indian; the ethnicity of 15% of the students was unreported.

Reports of the students' grade levels indicated that a full 69% of the student population were in kindergarten through fourth grade; two additional students (4%) were in elementary grades (unspecified) as well. Smaller percentages were in preschool (2%), grades 5 to 7 (10%), and grades 9 or 12 (8%). The remaining percentage (6%) was defined as either in middle school or high school (grades unspecified).

The largest percentage (46%) of the student sample were reported as print readers who read either large print, regular print, or a combination of large and regular print. Another sizable percentage (29%) were reported as braille readers. An additional percentage (13%) were classified as dual readers—some combination of braille, large print, or regular print. Only one student was reported as an "electronic" reader. The primary reading medium of 10% of the student sample was unreported.

Over one-third (38%, n = 18) of the total population of students were reported as having additional disabilities (e.g., ADHD, cerebral palsy, deafness, speech impairments, anxiety disorders, dyslexia, learning disabled, and cognitive impairments).

Prior to using the prototype, 63% of the evaluators indicated that they had prepared or adapted large print and braille Dolch word labels for their students. Some of the documented adaptations included the following: * "I made flashcards using Braille paper cut into 3 x 3 squares with individual words on them." * "I created one large print and two braille sets (uncontracted and contracted) of Dolch Cards from Unique Teaching Resources; I modified the Word Wall resources." * "I bought a word wall bulletin board kit and brailled all of them (Dolch words) before putting it on a wall that is at an accessible height to my students."

The field evaluation form allowed teachers to rate each and every feature of the prototype. The table below provides the average rating of each product feature.

Overall Design of Magnetic Dolch Word Wall
Rating Scale: 5 = Excellent to 1 = Poor (or Unneeded)
Product Feature Number of Evaluators Average Rating 5 4 3 2 1
Overall design/presentation of the product N = 16 4.19 6 7 3
Instruction Booket N = 16 4.69 12 3 1
Print/braille Dolch labels N = 16 4.44 12 3 1
Contracted braille set (black text on yellow background with diagonal orientation cut) N = 15 4.73 13 2
Uncontracted braille set (black text on white background with rounded orientation cut) N = 15 4.60 13 1 1
Magnetic divider pages N = 16 3.88 6 5 3 1 1
Magnetic sorting strips N = 16 4.38 11 3 1 1
Clear-view storage pouches N = 16 4.25 10 3 3
Binder (for storage purposes) N = 16 4.25 8 5 2 1
Assessment checklist N = 16 4.88 14 2

Using a rating scale of 5 ("Very Well") to 0 ("Not at All), field evaluators indicated the degree to which Magnetic Dolch Word Wall facilitated a variety of skills/activities. The following table provides the average rating of each assessed item:

Skills/Activities Reinforced or Facilitated
Rating Sale: 5 = Very Well to 0 = Not at All
Skill/Activity Number of Evaluators Average Rating 5 4 3 2 1 0
Word wall display of new words to learn, identify, and read n = 16 4.56 11 3 2
Interactive reading activities n = 16 4.00 6 5 4 1
Review of various parts of speech n = 16 3.63 5 7 1 1 2
Sentence building or sentence completion activities n = 16 3.25 5 3 4 1 1 2
Alphabetization of words n = 16 4.63 12 3 1
Sorting activities (e.g., nouns vs. verbs) n = 15 3.87 7 4 2 1 1
Comparison of contracted and uncontracted braille n = 14 4.43 10 2 1 1
Review of braille contractions n = 14 4.79 11 3
Interactive games n = 16 4.25 8 4 4
Independent learning/reading n = 15 3.67 5 3 4 3
Shared reading activities with sighted peers in a classroom setting n = 12 3.17 5 1 2 1 1 2

A lengthy list of additional activities shared by the evaluators more than hinted at the product's versatility. Examples of extended tasks included the following:

A significant percentage (88%) of the evaluators indicated that Magnetic Dolch Word Wall offered specific advantages over other classroom tools that they had used in the past to teach sight words. Testimonials from evaluators clarified the advantages:

As the following table reveals, the most appropriate target populations for the product as assessed by the field evaluators were tactile and low vision readers in grades 1-3. However, application also extended downward to preschool students and upward to older students/adults learning to read braille. Sighted peers were also a likely audience.

Target Population Percentage of evaluators
(n = 16) indicating suitability
of product for target population
Tactile readers in preschool 56%
Low vision students in preschool 69%
Tactile readers in grades 1-3 94%
Low vision students in grades 1-3 88%
Older students/adults learning to read braille 81%
Sighted peers 63%

Apart from enjoying the use of the prototype, many students made reported strides in their recognition of Dolch words. As previously mentioned, the evaluators were asked to complete a Dolch Word Assessment Checklist for each student using the prototype. Completed forms were submitted for 71% (n = 34) of the 48 participating students. Only three of the 16 evaluators were responsible for the 14 unreturned forms, mostly because of student confidentiality concerns. The following table highlights the improvements made by subgroups of students within each Dolch word reading level.

STUDENT PERFORMANCE OUTCOMES
Assessment Conditions/Results Dolch Word Level
Pre-primer Primer First Grade Second Grade Third Grade Nouns
Student knew complete list of words prior to using prototype n = 5 n = 3 n = 3 n = 4 n = 2 n = 2
One trial completed with less than 100% of words recognized n = 1 n = 1 n = 1 n = 1 n = 0 n = 0
Multiple trials completed (2 or 3) n = 17 n = 15 n = 18 n = 10 n = 11 n = 14
No trials completed n = 25 n = 29 n = 26 n = 33 n = 35 n = 32
Improvement of word recognition after multiple trials n = 17 n = 14 n = 17 n = 9 n = 8 n = 14

One hundred percent of the evaluators recommended that APH produce the Magnetic Dolch Word Wall. Among the reported strengths were the following:

With regard to the last reported strength, at least half of the field evaluators expected to use the Magnetic Dolch Word Wall in combination with the following APH products:

ALL-IN-ONE Board (50%), Student Model ALL-IN-ONE Board (50%), Braille Contraction Cards (69%), Building on Patterns (69%), Expanded Dolch Word Cards (63%), Word PlayHouse (56%), Braillable Labels and Sheets (69%), and Feel 'n Peel Stickers (56%).

In July 2013, the project leader carefully reviewed the field test results to determine necessary revisions based upon evaluator feedback. These planned revisions were shared and discussed with the Product Development Committee, as well as with in-house braille readers. Notable improvements to the prototype included the following:

An unexpected, but significant change to the final product involved a change to the product name itself. Although 100% of the field evaluators approved of "Magnetic Dolch Word Wall," as well as the attractive cover design, separate trademarks on the word(s) "Dolch" and "Word Wall" precipitated a shift to a completely different title—"All Aboard! The Sight Word Activity Express." The new title was thoroughly searched and deemed free to use by APH's Resource Department staff.

The remainder of FY 2013 was characterized by efforts related to preparing documentation and tooling needed for the final product.

In mid-October, Quota approval for All Aboard! The Sight Word Activity Express was requested and received from the Educational Products Advisory Committee during APH's 145th Annual Meeting. The product and related field test results were shared during the Annual Meeting's poster session event.

Efforts related to this project throughout FY 2014 targeted the completion of the teacher's guidebook content, design, and construction of production tooling, and the development of product specifications. Specific tasks encompassed the following:

Image of new UEB Compliant logo

In early April 2014, a product structure meeting was conducted to verse Production staff with the planned product components and to determine the status of each, whether it was an expected catalog number, replacement part, or raw material item. An exhaustive list was developed as a production blueprint.

The original plan to include three-hole punched magnetic pages in the binder for label storage purposes was disrupted by the unexpected discontinuation of the part from the commercial source. In response, the project leader conceptualized and fabricated a partial mock-up of a possible, custom-made double-sided pocket page that would ensure secure housing of the many labels in an organized fashion. In June, a vendor was contacted and several renditions (and related costs) of the pocket page were furnished and reviewed for final selection.

To expedite the preparation of the vacuum-form masters in the Model Shop, the project leader conceived and proposed the idea of outputting the multi-up braille label arrangement via the Roland® UV printer and circumventing the traditional metal pin insertion process for construction of the fiberglass master patterns. Technical Research and the Model Shop staff recognized this as a very possible route that would significantly reduce labor by half. Experimentation of this alternate process was underway in July; if successful, it could be utilized for the production tooling for this product and future products laden with braille (and potentially full graphic images).

By the end of FY 2014, tooling efforts were focused on the final approval of all related art files, construction of the vacuum-form masters, preparation of the silkscreens, HTML conversion (for inclusion on accompanying CD-ROM) and braille translation (for free download) of the teacher's guidebook, development of the final product specifications, and identification of vendors for parts related to the custom-made pocket folders and the magnetic/dry-erase board.

Work during FY 2015

Significant project milestones were met throughout the fiscal year for the eventual production of All Aboard! The Sight Word Activity Express. Notable accomplishments by project staff included the following:

Photo of All Aboard Magnetic Dry-Erase Board

The project leader conducted regular meetings throughout the year with pivotal project staff to keep all informed of the status of related tooling. By June 2015, the manufacturing specialist presented an overview of the product specifications to the project leader for review and approval. A formal Specifications meeting was then held with other APH department staff to review the intended production and assembly of the kit. Goal dates for the initial pilot and production runs were determined.

Work planned for FY 2016

The availability of All Aboard! The Sight Word Activity Express will likely occur in the second or third quarter of FY 2016. The project staff will monitor the quality of parts received from vendors and produced in-house during the pilot and initial production run. The project leader will also participate in post-production activities such as readying the product brochure content and demonstrating the product at workshops/training sessions.

Early Braille Trade Books

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide emergent and beginning braille readers with a wide selection of small books that provide practice and reinforcement of early reading skills and aid in the development of reading fluency

Project Staff

Background

The need for Early Braille Trade Books (EBT) was identified by the Early Literacy Focus Group conducted by Suzette Wright in the summer of 2005. These small books for emergent readers are used in classrooms to support the reading curriculum and are available from several publishers. In the winter of 2006, APH conducted a reading survey to determine the types and series of leveled reading materials used by teachers of the blind and visually impaired.

Using information gained from the 2005 Early Literacy Focus Group and the customer surveys, the Wright Group Books were chosen for the first project. Cay Holbrook, Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia, agreed to serve as the consultant for this project. In July of 2007, Holbrook along with five of the original members from the Early Literacy Focus Group of 2005 met in Louisville, KY, to review and select books to be included in the kits.

Members of the work group included the following:

The group developed a rubric based on the work of Holbrook for selection of the books. They also reviewed 90 books from the Wright Group Sunshine Kits and determined the type of information about the book to include for the teacher. Hassman agreed to serve as a consultant to complete a text analysis of each book. One set of 13 books was selected for the development of an initial prototype to be used in field testing and review.

In FY 2008, the prototype of a kit of commercially-available leveled books adapted for braille readers was completed. The initial design of the prototype included a commercially-available book with braille overlays and a guide for the teacher. The teacher's guide would include the number and frequency of the braille contractions in the book, punctuation marks, and composition signs, as well as the theme of the book with connections to the core curriculum and expanded core curriculum.

In the development of the prototype for field evaluation, the format for the teacher's guide changed from a print document to a website hosted by APH. The EBT Web site allows the teacher to continually update the student record and access records of books. Anna Swenson became a consultant for the project and wrote the follow-up activities for each book.

The prototypes, including the website, were field tested from September 2008 to March 2009 at 15 sites with 22 different students. The evaluations were positive, and teachers unanimously recommended that APH produce the book with braille label sets and make the website available to customers. Changes and modifications were made to the materials and the website based on reviewers' feedback.

A work session with the original six members was held in the spring of 2009. Additional books were reviewed, and three new sets were chosen to add to the series. The first set of Books, Sunshine Kit 2, became available for sale in 2009.

In FY 2010, the second set of books, Sunshine Kit 1, became available for sale in November. A total of 26 books were now available to teachers and emerging braille readers. Work began on two sets of nonfiction books at the first grade level. Books were analyzed for contraction type and count. Information on each book as well as activities to use with each of the books was added to the EBT Web site. A specification meeting for the two sets of nonfiction books, TWiG 1 and TWiG 2, was held in September 2010. The EBT Web site was updated to include a connection to the Patterns Reading Series from APH. As a teacher prepares for a lesson in Patterns, he/she may search the EBT Web site for commercially-available books in braille to supplement the new lesson.

In FY 2011, the first set of nonfiction books from Wright Group, TWiG 1, became available for sale in January and TWiG 2 became available for sale in February 2011. With the addition of the two new sets, a total of 46 books became available to emerging braille readers.

The committee selected Rigby Publishing for the next two sets of books. The committee met in June 2011 and reviewed books; they selected 15 fiction books and 14 nonfiction books to add to the EBT collection. Books were analyzed for contraction type and count. Titles were added to the website and the books prepared for braille translation.

Two new sets of books from Rigby were made available for sale in May 2012 adding 29 new titles to the collection. The website was updated to include the two new sets of books including a link to Books to Use with Building on Patterns. Seventy-five books at the first grade level are now available for TVIs to use with emerging braille readers.

In FY 2013, three books from the various collections went out of print. Project staff reviewed other books from various publishers to replace these books. Books were selected, and modifications to the kits and the website were completed.

In FY 2014, project staff continued to monitor the existing kits for books going out of print. The website was updated to include the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) level of each existing book. The Wright Group, the publisher of four sets of books, was purchased by another publisher; a decision was made by the new publisher to eliminate the Sunshine and TWiG series.

Work during FY 2015

With the implementation of UEB and with the loss of the Wright Group Books, a new grouping system of the existing books was developed. Each set will now contain five or six books based on the leveling system used by Fountas & Pinnell and DRA. All existing Rigby books will be retranslated into UEB. The existing website will be retained to support books already in the field. A new link will be established for the books translated into UEB.

New sets of Rigby books were ordered for review. In May 2015, Anna Swenson, Jeanie Brasher, Susan Spicknall, and Dawn Wilkinson met with the project leader to review a selection of books. Thirty-three new books were selected to add to the existing 30 books for a total of 63 books. There will seven fiction sets and six nonfiction sets for braille readers in late kindergarten through first grade.

Work planned for FY 2016

All books will be translated into UEB, and the website will be updated to reflect the new books and the new grouping system.

Tactile Editing Marks Kit

Formerly Editing Kits

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide teachers of the visually impaired a consistent system and materials to use during the writing process with young braille writers

Project Staff

Background

The writing process is an integral part of language arts instruction. It is also a major Strand of the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards. The process includes five major steps: planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Revising and editing often involve a peer or an adult. During these phases of the writing process, a standard set of editing marks are used to denote the need for changes to the written draft.

The product submission came from a teacher of the visually impaired from Maryland. She noted the use of the Maryland Common Core State Curriculum Framework for Braille and specifically Appendix E: Tactile Editing Marks. As she worked with braille students, she created a kit to use during the revising and editing steps of the writing process. She requested that APH develop an editing kit for teachers and students as this is a time consuming process.

Preliminary Research

In FY 2013, the project leader evaluated the product submission, completed preliminary research, and submitted the findings to the Product Evaluation Team and the Product Advisory and Review Committee for approval. The project leader contacted Swenson again for a formal agreement to begin work on the project. Swenson met with the project leader and Technical Research staff in June 2013 to outline the kit components. Swenson submitted her first draft of the teacher's guide in July 2013.

In FY 2104, a final draft of the teacher's guide was completed and proofed. A design for the tactile editing marks was completed, cutting dies were ordered, and sets of materials were purchased for field testing.

Work during FY 2015

A call for field evaluators was announced in the November APH News. Participants were selected for the evaluation, and prototypes were shipped in January 2105. The evaluation period began in January and ended April 10, 2015. The prototypes included the listed components.

Prototype Components Quantitiy
Teacher’s Guidebook 1
Tactile Editing Marks Chart 1
Sheets of Tactile Editing Marks 4
Sheets of Braillable Labels – 2 inch 4
Sheets of Braillable Labels – 3 inch 4
Roll of Thin-Width Graphic Art Tape 1
Roll of Medium-Width Graphic Art Tape 1
Braille Eraser 1
Roll of Masking Tape 1
Package of Commercial Stars 1

Field Evaluators: The Tactile Editing Marks Kits were sent to 14 teachers in 10 states.

Students: Twenty students used the Tactile Editing Marks Kit in the field test.

Evaluation: All students were asked to complete five tasks using the materials in the kit. The field evaluator determined the student's success in completing the task and reported the results.

Task Yes No
Is the student able to read and interpret the tactile editing marks for the period, question mark, exclamation mark, and quotation marks? 100%
Is the student able to read and interpret the tactile editing marks for the capital letter and the comma? 100%
Is the student able to discriminate between the narrow-width and the medium-width graphic art tape and interpret their meaning? 85% 15% (3)
Is the student able to locate spelling labels, omitted words, and other edits placed above the line when reading through the edited draft? 95% 5% (1)
Is the student able to write a final copy from a draft that includes tactile editing marks? 95% 5% (1)

Teachers were asked to evaluate the Teacher's Guidebook, the Tactile Editing Marks Chart, and the related materials included it the kit.

Teacher’s Guidebook Yes No
Are the directions for use of the kit clear and concise? 100% (14)
Were the pictures of student writing samples helpful? 100% (14)
Were the sample Revising and Editing Checklists helpful? 100% (14)
Did the two Levels of Support help you determine how to work with the student? 100% (14)
Tactile Editing Marks Chart Yes No
Is the weight/thickness of the chart sufficient to allow for day-to-day use? 78% (10) 22% (3)
Is the information included on the Tactile Editing Marks Chart clear and concise? 93% (13) 7% (1)
Is the Tactile Editing Marks Chart useful when working with students? 100% (14)

A set of materials was included in the kit for teachers and students to use to edit the written work.

Tactile Editing Marks Stickers

Braillable sheets and labels

Masking Tape

Braille Eraser

Of the 13 teachers responding, eight wanted the braille eraser included and five did not want the eraser included in the kit.

One hundred percent of the teachers felt that their students benefited from using the kit. Some of the teacher responses are listed below.

"I simply liked that this is a great introduction to a flexible system that can be used with students to allow them to have input on they like to edit their papers."

"It gave them independence in reading others marks on their work. It also gave them a method to mark their own work without having to stop and immediately make corrections as they go."

"She really enjoyed the process and the kit. She asked if we got to keep it after we finished our last project for the field test. She often asks to write and use the kit. She has struggled in the past and has had to make corrections multiple times in order to move on. She was able to make them the first time and have no errors most of the time with the kit. It is now one of her favorite activities."

The project leader and Swenson met May 26 and 27 to review the field evaluations and make changes in the kit.

Work planned for FY 2016

New cutting dies for the labels and the stickers will be designed and ordered. The teacher's guide book and the editing marks chart will be revised to reflect the changes in the kit. A specification meeting will be held and a production scheduled developed.

Wilson Reading System

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide a remedial reading program for students with visual impairments

Project Staff

Background

The Wilson Reading Program, with its well-developed multi-sensory approach, is one of the most respected programs used to teach reading in the United States. This program has been used to teach reading to students with visual impairments who experience reading difficulties, but the program is not available for sale in large print or braille. Teachers working with students at Perkins School for the Blind, Arizona School for the Blind, and North Carolina Schools for the Blind have reported good results.

The project was approved by the Product Evaluation Team and the Product Advisory and Review Committee in July 2006. Three teachers from Perkins School for the Blind, Justine Rines, Mary McCarthy, and Roz Rowley, were contracted as consultants for the project. A contractual agreement was reached with the Wilson Reading Systems to produce the materials in braille and large print.

As there are many components to the system, it was decided to produce the Readers Levels 1, 2, and 3 in braille as quickly as possible since the readers required no modification.

The Student Readers 1, 2, and 3 became available for sale in braille in February 2008. The consultant from Perkins developed supplemental worksheets that reinforce braille skills and knowledge of braille contractions.

The first three readers and the first six workbooks were reformatted for large type editions. The Readers and Workbooks became available in October 2009.

In FY 2009, prototypes of the first six workbooks were translated and the supplemental worksheets were revised and translated for use in field testing. A set of six modified workbooks was developed and translated for field evaluation. Work started on the prototypes of the Print/Braille Word Cards, Syllable Cards, Sound Cards, and Magnetic Tiles to be used in field testing.

In FY 2010, prototypes of the remaining components of the Wilson Reading System were completed. A call for field evaluators was sent to Ex Officio Trustees in May 2010 and also appeared in the June and July APH News. A 3-day Web Training was held on August 30, 31, and September 1. The three consultants from Perkins (Rowley, McCarthy, and Rines) with the trainer from Wilson provided training to 30 participants on the use of the Wilson Reading System and the modified and adapted braille materials. Dr. Hannan trained teachers in the use of data collection tools that would be used to evaluate the effectiveness of these braille materials.

In 2011, field evaluators were recruited from the 30 participants in the Web-based training. Participants were to use the materials daily with their students to determine the effectiveness of the modified/adapted Wilson Reading System. Students were given a pretest, a posttest, and completed weekly DIBLES assessments. The yearlong evaluation of the modified/adapted Wilson Reading materials was completed in May 2011.

In FY 2012, Dr. Hannan, Dr. Jane Erin, and two graduate assistants completed the disaggregation of the data from the field evaluation and presented the results at the Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference in Louisville and the National Council for Exceptional Children Conference in Colorado. The data showed positive results and reading gains for braille readers using the Wilson Reading System.

Information from the field evaluation and the expert review were used to begin the revisions and modifications to the many prototypes of the components of the Wilson Reading System. In December 2011, the project leader and the three consultants from Perkins traveled to meet with Ed Wilson and staff at the Massachusetts office. The prototypes as well as the planned changes and information from the field testing were shared with Wilson Staff. Representatives from Wilson reviewed the materials and in March made suggested changes and approved the work. The project leader, the Perkins staff, and APH staff began revisions of prototypes.

In FY 2013, project staff completed the revisions to the readers, workbooks, modified workbooks, supplemental worksheets, letter tiles, and word cards. Revisions were sent to Wilson Reading for approval in November 2012. A final request for revisions and approvals was received from Wilson Reading in March 2013. Project staff implemented these revisions to all print and braille files. Specifications for production were partially completed.

In FY 2014, project staff completed the written specifications and a product specification meeting was held in February. A production schedule was developed for the remaining pieces. The Wilson Card Sets and the Wilson Letter Tiles with Magnetic Journal became available in July 2014. The production schedule of the Wilson Student Braille Kits was staggered. Braille Student Kit Step 1 was scheduled for August 2014, Braille Student Kit Step 2 was scheduled for September 2014, and Braille Student Kit Step 3 was scheduled for October 2013. All items will be available on Quota.

Work during FY 2015

On October 27, 2015, both the Wilson Reading System Braille Student Kit 2 and Wilson Reading System Braille Student Kit 3 became available for sale. Project staff continued to update files of existing products as changes, and revisions were made by Wilson Reading System.

Work planned for FY 2016

While all of the planned components have been completed in both large print and braille, all braille materials will be reviewed and updated to be UEB compliant. The updates will include the Wilson Letter Tiles, the Wilson Card Sets, the WADE, and Wilson Reading Student Braille Kits 1, 2, and 3.

SCIENCE

Adapted Science Materials Kit (ASMK)

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide a set of science tools adapted for use by K-12 students who are blind or visually impaired, allowing them to participate in science activities alongside their sighted peers

Project Staff

Background

The Adapted Science Materials Kit (ASMK) consists, in part, of science measurement tools originally devised by educators at LHS (Berkeley, CA) and Delta Education® (Nashua, NH) in the mid-1970s. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, these tools and a set of corresponding curriculum modules constitute the SAVI (Science Activities for the Visually Impaired) program that was field tested by LHS from 1976-1979. Since then, these educational materials have been available from LHS and used in association with the SAVI, SELPH (Science Enrichment for Learners with Physical Handicaps), and FOSS (Full Option Science System) programs. Nevertheless, access to these tools has lost visibility, which was brought to the attention of APH by more than one TVI. APH plans to kit all of these time-tested science measurement tools into one product along with other measurement aids; advertising them as such should correct this apparent invisibility.

ASMK will consist of a booklet and flash drive with short videos that describe and demonstrate, respectively, the following 16 items and their use: 1) Balance; 2) set of 100 one-gram pieces; 3) set of 35 mass pieces (5, 10, and 20 grams); 4) 100-milliliter (ml) modified tripour beaker; 5) 1000-ml modified tripour beaker; 6) two 50-ml graduated cylinders with braille float scales; 7) two 100-ml graduated cylinders with braille float scales; 8) large print braille tactile meter tape; 9) 50-ml syringe with stop; 10) 50-ml syringe modified with notches; 11) large print tactile histogram board; 12) funnel stand; 13) two tray inserts of the APH Multi-Section Tray; 14) talking Fahrenheit/Celsius thermometer; 15) one pack of APH's Genetic Code Large Print Braille; and 16) APH's Adapting Science for Students With Visual Impairments (ASSVI).

Most of the items in ASMK available from Delta Education® have been field tested and used successfully by students with visual impairments and TVIs for more than three decades. These include the balance, set of 100 one-gram pieces, set of 35 mass pieces, 100-ml tripour beaker, 1000-ml tripour beaker, 50-ml graduated cylinders, 100-ml graduated cylinders, 50-ml syringe with stop, 50-ml syringe modified with notches, and the funnel stand. The original 35-piece mass set from Delta Education® was discontinued and replaced by a set imported by Delta Education®, LLC, from another vendor. The replacement item complies with CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) standards for lead. All other items obtained from Delta Education® are made in the USA. APH will include a cautionary statement in the product booklet stating that all items are to be used by students under adult supervision.

Other items are established APH products: The talking Fahrenheit and Celsius thermometer from ThermoWorks, Inc., is available for separate purchase in the APH catalog. ASSVI has been available from APH since 2006 and details the adaptation of science measurement devices for students who are visually impaired. Two inserts of the APH Multi-Section Tray replace the sorting tray originally made for LHS by Marshall Montgomery. Genetic Code Large Print Braille was released as a separate product in March 2013.

The large print tactile histogram board will be custom made at APH as will the adaptation of the 100-ml and 1000-ml tripour beakers. The tooling for these items is complete; they will replicate the same items from the original SAVI program kits from LHS.

The remaining items including the large print braille meter tape and the 50-ml and 100-ml graduated cylinder braille float scales will be custom made by Montgomery. Appropriate plastic and foam material for manufacture of the 50-ml and 100-ml cylinder braille float scales has been identified.

ASMK will be produced without additional field testing.

Work during FY 2015

Several types of plastic for the 50-ml and 100-ml braille float scales (to be packaged with the corresponding graduated cylinders) and the large print braille meter tape were shipped to Montgomery for testing with his thermoform equipment. A foam material was also sent to Montgomery for testing with his float cutting equipment. Tests with prototype 50-ml and 100-ml float scales manufactured by Montgomery with the materials sent to him were satisfactory to the project leader. The plastic and foam materials for the braille float scales were tested and found to conform to CPSIA compliance for lead and phthalate levels. Montgomery has a new thermoform heater large enough to produce the large print braille meter tape. He is in the process of testing it with the plastic samples provided by APH.

Work planned for FY 2016

Identification of material for production of the large print braille meter tape will be completed. Pending manufacturing approval by Montgomery, plastic for the meter tape will be tested for CPSIA compliance. Montgomery will produce a new thermoform mold for a 100-ml graduated cylinder braille float scale, as well as make prototypes of the large print braille meter tape from plastic materials provided by APH. When prototypes are approved by the project leader, Montgomery will produce enough braille float scales and meter tapes for a first run of the product. The accompanying materials making up the kit will be ordered from Delta Education®. The project leader will prepare short video clips to introduce and demonstrate the use of each item in the kit for a flash drive as part of the product. An accessible booklet will also be prepared, describing all items in the kit and their use.

Earth Science Tactile Graphics (ESTG)

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide a set of color tactile graphics of diagrams and illustrations found in current high school Earth Science textbooks. The intention is to assist the classroom teacher or TVI in providing ready-made tactile representations of typical Earth Science visuals for their students who are visually impaired.

Project Staff

Background

Since the release of APH's Life Science Tactile Graphics in 2010, the project leader received requests from TVIs in the field for an Earth Science product rendered in a similar way. Science textbooks are filled with visual images of all types (graphs, diagrams, illustrations, and photographs), many of which are not accessible to students with visual impairments, particularly those who are blind. Current technology now permits renderings of well-designed thermoformed images with varying tactile heights and high-contrast colors. This process inspired the concept behind Life Science Tactile Graphics and ensured its success; the project leader intends to replicate this for Earth Science Tactile Graphics.

A product input session during Annual Meeting 2012 provided a platform to gather ideas and interest levels for color and tactile presentation of Earth Science diagrams. Responses from attendees indicated a clear need for such a product and provided direction.

Work during FY 2015

The project leaders selected 40 images for tactile rendering using Earth Science textbooks, the Next Generation Science Standards, and online educational resources. Fred Otto prepared each image in CorelDRAW®, modifying the original two-dimensional images as appropriate for tactile rendering yet still conveying the intended Earth Science concept. Four graphics of varying complexity were selected for actual tactile rendering for the field test process. Patterns for the four graphics were begun with the Roland® Large Format printer and completed by Katherine Corcoran in order to make the final thermoform molds for this set of graphics. Rosanne Hoffmann wrote the Teacher's Guide that will accompany the set of 40 graphics.

Work planned for FY 2016

The project leaders will field test the 36 two-dimensional images (Corel drawings) along with the four tactile graphics described above in the fall of 2015. Feedback regarding image selection and scope, and tactile rendering will be solicited from TVIs and classroom teachers in the field. Pending evaluation responses, tooling for the remaining 36 graphics and Teacher's Guide editing will take place.

Light In-Sight: Reflection & Refraction Kit

Formerly Light Reflection & Refraction

(Continued)

Purpose

To give middle and high school science students who are visually impaired a tool to construct ray diagrams and to gain a better understanding of light reflection and refraction

Project Staff

Background

As important properties of light waves, reflection and refraction knowledge is required for middle and high school science students. For example, the Next Generation Science Standards require students to develop and use models to describe that light is reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials. Although lacking visual input, students with blindness can learn about light through their sense of touch, such as using tactile graphics. However, since pre-made tactile graphics are static and difficult to manipulate, their use makes it hard to teach and learn in an interactive and dynamic way.

Recognizing the limitation of using tactile graphics, the project leader submitted this product idea to give students a new tool. This tool can be used in teaching and learning a variety of reflection and refraction related topics in science and physics classes (e.g., law of reflection, Snell's law of refraction, total internal reflection, formation of images in plain mirrors, apparent and real depth phenomenon, reflection by concave and convex mirrors, transmission through concave and convex lens, and index of refraction). Different from pre-made tactile graphics, it allows teachers and students to construct their own graphics from scratch and therefore leaves more room for exploration, discussion, and collaboration. It helps teaching and learning to occur in interactive and dynamic ways.

In 2014, the project leader presented this new product to the Product Evaluation Team and Product Advisory and Review Committee. Approval was received. A model maker and a manufacturing specialist were assigned. Design of prototype for use in field test was completed. During the design phase, the project leader consulted a science teacher of students with visual impairments; some of his suggestions were incorporated into the design.

Work during FY 2015

Field test of this product was conducted during September and November 2014. Seven teachers completed the field test. They were from California, Michigan, New York (2), Oklahoma, Virginia, and Calgary (Canada). Participants were selected based on the number of available students, with preference for braille-reading students, progress of students' science curricula, and diversity of setting and geography.

Of the seven teachers, six were certified teachers of students with visual impairments, and one was a teacher consultant for students with visual impairments. Their years of teaching students with visual impairments ranged from 5 to 38, with the average number of years being 14. Five teachers worked in inclusive settings, one at residential schools, and one in a resource classroom.

In all, teachers worked with 10 students in the field test. Here is a breakdown of the students' demographics:

During the field test, teachers were given a list of light reflection and refraction topics that this product covered. They were asked to select the topics that were appropriate for their students' science curricula and then use this product to teach those topics. Sample teaching objectives addressed and activities performed by the teachers and students during the field test were reported as the following:

Then, for each of their participating students, teachers were asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed that this product was helpful to that particular student for achieving his/her learning objectives. The scale ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree). Out of 10 students, teachers answered "5, agree" for five students and "6, strongly agree" for five students. The average was 5.5.

Responding to a question on the overall usefulness of the kit, all seven teachers either said that the kit would be highly useful in their classroom exactly as presented in the evaluation prototypes (n = 1) or would be highly useful if their suggested revisions were incorporated (n = 3). The remaining three teachers chose both.

Some sample comments made by teachers were the following:

A few revisions were suggested by the teachers and students; of the suggestions, these are the most significant:

  1. Offer two storage boards rather than one to give users more space to store drawing pieces.
  2. Offer more pieces of the longer arrows, such as the 5 in. and 7 in. arrow pieces.
  3. Offer more dashed-line pieces.
  4. Include drawing pieces of some other shapes to represent objects such as cars and buildings.
  5. Include a braille copy of the teachers' guide in addition to a large-print copy.
  6. List, in the users' guide, some online resources where teachers can get information about light reflection and refraction.

Revisions as suggested in items 1, 2, 3, and 5 were incorporated into the final design of this product. In addition, the title of this product has been changed to Light In-Sight: Reflection & Refraction Kit. Tooling of this product was completed. Ninety percent (90%) of product specifications were finished.

Work planned for FY 2016

Product specifications will be completed. The project staff will monitor the quality of samples during the pilot and initial production run. Production will be completed, and the product will become available for purchase.

Protein Synthesis Kit (PSK)

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide students who are visually impaired with an interactive model of translation, or the process of protein synthesis, which involves the decoding a sequence of messenger Ribonucleic Acid (mRNA) to a sequence of amino acids

Project Staff

Background

The general educational materials market lacks suitable interactive models of molecular biology processes for students with visual impairments. These models are often made with inappropriate colors, are difficult to assemble, fall apart with tactile exploration, and are not tactually accessible to students who are blind. The PSK is designed to continue the concepts introduced by the DNA-RNA Kit, which demonstrates DNA structure and replication, and transcription of a single strand of DNA to mRNA. Both the DNA-RNA Kit and the PSK are interactive models that reflect the principles of universal design; when used together, they demonstrate the fundamentals of protein synthesis. The first part of the process, or transcription of a segment of DNA to mRNA, is demonstrated by the DNA-RNA Kit. The PSK demonstrates the second part of the process, or how mRNA is translated to a sequence of amino acids. Each product is indispensable to the other; the use of both products together enables all students (not only those with VI) to demonstrate the formation of single and double strands of DNA, replication of double-stranded DNA, transcription of a single strand of DNA to mRNA, and translation of mRNA to a strand of amino acids (protein).

The project leader and model maker designed an interactive model consisting of jigsaw puzzle-like pieces that represent individual subunits, or nucleotides, of transfer RNA (tRNA), start and stop subunits, and amino acids. Ten prototype sets were prepared for field testing that began in the summer of 2013 and was completed in the fall of 2013. Like the DNA-RNA Kit, the PSK subunits are made of die-cut, 1/4-inch thick foam pieces covered with thermoformed laminate of different colors and textures. A draft guidebook explaining how to use the PSK was included in the field test materials.

Field test results helped the project leader decide how many of each type of subunit (tRNA, Start, Stop, Amino acids) to include with the product and the numbers of replacement parts (subunits) to make available for purchase separately. Field testers made several suggestions for improvement of the model itself. Start subunits were redesigned to have a thermoformed raised line around the perimeter in addition to a triangle symbol preceding the word "Start" in print and braille. These features enhance the distinction between the similarly shaped Start and Amino Acid subunits and allow a student without vision to know she is handling a Start subunit immediately upon picking it up. Likewise, redesign of the thermoformed laminate of the Stop subunits includes a rough texture across the entire surface, except in the center where a square symbol is followed by the word "Stop" in print and braille. When a student without vision handles a Stop subunit, it will be immediately apparent by the rough texture. In response to field test comments, the project leader designed a color tactile graphic illustrating the final phase of mRNA translation, which will be included in every kit.

Work during FY 2015

The artwork and the tooling required for the color mRNA translation tactile graphic was completed. Cutting dies and thermoform molds that reflect suggested changes from field testing were designed, ordered, and made. Layout of the accompanying Guidebook including photos of the actual product was also completed. The Guidebook was made accessible by translation to braille (BRF) and as an EPUB®; both file types will be made available for free download with purchase of the product.

Work planned for FY 2016

This product received Quota approval in October 2013. The project leader expects the first production run and release of this product to take place before the end of calendar year 2015.

Submersible Audio Light Sensor (SALS)

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide a device that allows K-12 students who are visually impaired to participate more fully in scientific experiments and promote their interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) related fields of study

Project Staff

Background

The SALS device detects changes in light during appropriate applications (e.g., chemical reactions) and converts this signal to equivalent changes in sound. This instantaneous feedback allows students who are visually impaired to "see" the same information as typical students in real time, allowing them to be active participants in science experiments rather than passive observers.

The first prototype of SALS was developed in 2005 by a team led by Cary Supalo as part of the Independent Laboratory Access for the Blind (ILAB) project at The Pennsylvania State University, funded by a 3-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Supalo was inspired to design the device after years of experience in the laboratory as an undergraduate and graduate student during which he was dependent upon others to conduct chemistry experiments. SALS was field tested with students who participated in the ILAB project over a 3-year period. During this time, feedback from student field testers was incorporated into five subsequent generations of SALS, each one with design improvements. A second NSF grant beginning in 2007 provided funding for continued development and refinement of SALS.

The SALS device consists of a light-detecting probe (photocell contained within a glass wand) connected to an output box. Detected changes in light intensity due to chemical reactions taking place in a beaker or test tube, such as precipitate formation or pH indicator color change, are immediately converted to pitch changes of sound output over a range of several octaves. For example, as a solid precipitates within a solution, less and less light is detected by the probe. Within the tone output box, this response is converted to lower and lower frequencies of sound waves and the device emits sound of decreasing pitch. Data collection is therefore in real time, which allows the student with visual impairment to make the same scientific observations as sighted peers. The output box of the preliminary prototype allowed the user to listen to and store pitch data and compare a current pitch to a reference pitch. Voice output capability further enhanced data retrieval and manipulation. In spite of many improvements over several years, the need for a more versatile and state-of-the-art device was clear, prompting a redesign effort.

SALS is not intended to provide precise quantitative data; rather, it indicates whether a reaction is taking place. Preliminary field test results show that when used by students who are visually impaired, SALS both increases independence and promotes interest in STEM related fields.

As detailed in the SALS Redesign Proposal submitted by Mark Swain in April 2011, APH supported the following engineering changes in the SALS tone output box: improved audio, a simplified user interface, improved manufacturability to facilitate mass production, improved battery longevity, and interface capability for future applications using the same audio output technology (using sensors other than a light-detecting probe, such as pressure, temperature, acceleration, etc.). A July 2011 update to the proposal added modification of the SALS tone output box for Universal Serial Bus (USB) capability, thus permitting the use of an external flash/thumb drive. This feature facilitates speech data programming, mass data storage during an experiment and exportability to Microsoft® Excel®, software upgrades, eliminating the need to return units for reprogramming, and access to USB communication from SALS to a personal computer (a future capability not included in this project). Although this engineering change impacted both the development time and final prototype cost ($14.00 per unit), it was deemed appropriate given the benefits.

Contract negotiations between Independence Science and APH were complete in November 2011, allowing Swain to begin work on a redesigned prototype. Mechanical, electrical, and software requirements were defined in December 2011. Most of the mechanical and electrical designs, including CADD (computer-assisted design and drafting) renderings of the device housing, were completed between January and May 2012. Preliminary software development, including USB, speech, and tone generation, were completed by August 2012. Using code from hardware verification, the software for basic functionality of the light conversion to sound application was completed and speech capability perfected. A tool and die shop was identified for custom-machining of the prototype device housing. After some of the circuit boards were reworked and the housing was delivered, a first new prototype of the SALS device was constructed. The light-detecting probe was assembled and housed in a clear plastic test tube. The project leader received a video demonstrating basic functionality of the first prototype of the SALS device and light-detecting probe in June 2014. The internal parts needed to build five light sensors were ordered by Swain. Difficulties finding an appropriate light probe housing as well as software and hardware issues set back completion and delivery of the five prototypes needed for field testing.

Work during FY 2015

It was not possible to find over-the-counter glass tubes of the correct size (rather than plastic, which float and thus interfere with device functioning) to house the light probes. This problem was solved in January 2015 when custom made glass tubes of the correct size were ordered and received. Five light probes were constructed at APH with the internal parts ordered by Swain and the custom made glass housings. Five prototypes of the SALS device built by Swain were delivered to APH in April 2015. The project leader collaborated with Supalo in writing an Instruction Manual and Activity Guide for field evaluation with the SALS units and light probes. The project leader identified nine field testers over a wide geographic distribution via a call-out in the April 2015 APH News. Evaluations were received from the nine field testers who worked with a total of 25 students in May, June, and July of 2015. Appropriate changes suggested by field evaluators were incorporated into the final design of the SALS units and the Instruction Manual. The Activity Guide for incorporating SALS into the science classroom and laboratory was expanded. APH technical specialists began the search for a manufacturer of the SALS internal circuitry and for the SALS device housing in the fall of 2015.

Work planned for FY 2016

When identified, the housing and circuitry manufacturers will produce sample units for evaluation by the project leader, consultants, and APH technical specialists. The SALS Instruction Manual will be edited and when complete, translated to braille. The Instruction Manual will be made accessible as downloadable BRF and EPUB® files available with the purchase of the SALS device.

Touch, Label, and Learn Poster: Human Skeleton (Anterior View)

Formerly Tactile Science Posters/Puzzles

(Continued)

Purpose

To create interactive tactile/color science posters and puzzles for students with visual impairments and blindness

Project Staff

Image of anterior view of human skeleton as shown in poster as used for field test prototype

Background

In April 2008, the project leader submitted a product submission form for the adaptation of commercially available science posters and/or puzzles for tactile adaptation. This product submission was written following the project leader's review of various types of science wall charts and interactive puzzles purchased from Delta Education® and other popular school supply sources. Posters/puzzles illustrating the lungs, skeleton, brain, heart, skin, eye, ear, kidneys, digestive system, tongue, and so forth, were of particular interest for seeking permission to adapt for students with visual impairments/blindness.

The original goals of this project were 1) to utilize existing science posters/puzzles commonplace in the regular classroom, 2) to alleviate APH's burden of creating original print artwork and contribute their tactile expertise by preparing raised-line counterparts, and 3) to provide braille awareness to sighted peers who are using the same posters/puzzles.

The product idea was approved in April 2008 by the Product Evaluation Team and in May 2008 by the Product Advisory and Review Committee.

Initial efforts by the project leader involved identifying and selecting ideal science posters to adapt. The considered posters for adaptation presented realistic and full-color layouts and were of a convenient size for capturing the detailed features via the use of a variety of tactile textures, line heights, and contours. The main concern was obtaining the poster(s) in bulk quantities, in a flat condition for convenient attachment of the tactile counterparts.

The project leader located one particular anatomy poster to serve as a starting place for adapting an existing, commercially-available science product. The goal was to prepare a tactile overlay to affix to the printed poster of the anterior view of the human skeleton and to supply a 3-D skeleton model to complement and reinforce the poster's content. Although contact with poster's manufacturer was made, and copyright permissions sought, delivery of multiple posters from the vendor took nearly a year. Unfortunately, once the posters were received, it was obvious that the original artwork had been significantly altered from a realistic style to a very cartoonish presentation; the new application of colors and changed perspective were unsuitable for tactile graphic duplication. At this point, the project leader decided to abandon pursuit of this particular poster for adaptation and search for other posters (or puzzles) for tactile adaptation.

During the first quarter of FY 2011, the project leader continued to review commercially-available posters and puzzles for tactile adaptation by searching common educational/science catalogs and online sources. However, given the apparent risk of adapting a commercially-available poster, the design of which could unexpectedly change down the road by the vendor and consequently affect established APH production tooling, the project leader decided to create a poster design from scratch. The design would serve as a basis for both the print and tactile presentation.

In February 2011, the project leader met with Model Shop staff to determine ideal poster size, type of poster material, and method of producing the tactile and print components. The project leader decided to incorporate an interactive feature into the poster (i.e., moveable print/braille labels with which the student could build a key or legend). In addition, the teacher could use the poster to assess the student's knowledge of the location of each bone within the human skeleton.

Using CorelDRAW®, the project leader created a preliminary layout of the general layout of the poster, indicating overall dimensions, position of the skeleton image, and the needed labels. This file was provided to the outside graphic designer in April to create original artwork. Various versions of the poster art passed back-and-forth between the project leader and outside graphic designer throughout April and May; by early June, a final colorized version was approved for prototype development. Multiple, full-size printouts of the poster were generated onto .010" white vinyl using the newly acquired Roland® UV printer/cutter. These printouts were then supplied to the Model Shop for the creation of the tactile counterpart. Katherine Corcoran sculpted a tactile skeleton that registered with the print artwork.

Throughout FY 2012, project staff's efforts focused on printing, vacuum-forming, and assembling the tactile/print posters for field test purposes. The generation of multiple prototypes was greatly impacted and delayed by the learning curve involved in Production staff using the Roland® printer for wide-format printing on heavy-gauge vinyl sheets (later ordered as rolls) and compounded by webbing issues experienced using shrink-controlled vinyl. The first stock of printed posters, minus one, was completely lost because of poorly-formed parts due either to misaligned print/tactile elements or stray tactile lines.

In May 2012, the posters were reprinted on a continuous-roll version of the thick vinyl material. Tom Poppe then cut the posters to needed size and vacuum-formed the posters. By the end of June, a total of 20 posters had been trimmed with radius corners and mounted to sturdy chipboard; a die-cut hole was added for optional wall hanging. The project leader added VELCRO® brand strips to each poster next to the numbered key. To pick up the pace of prototype development, the project leader hand-brailled nearly 700 print/braille labels to avoid a long delay in Technical Research and Production areas. Other tasks accomplished by the project leader included designing the print/braille layout of the accompanying answer key and brailling multiple laminated copies, locating and ordering a 3-D human skeleton model to complement the use of the poster, and authoring the accompanying instruction guide highlighting specific features of the poster and basic facts about human bones.

The field test opportunity for the Label & Learn Poster: Human Skeleton (Anterior View) was posted in the September 13, 2012, online issue of APH News www.aph.org/advisory/2012adv09.html. The announcement, as repeated below, clearly described the product (with accompanying photo), field test expectations, and criteria for field test selection:

APH is seeking field evaluators for Label & Learn Poster: Human Skeleton (Anterior View) that provides an interactive presentation for reviewing the names, locations, and relationships of major skeletal bones. The dual tactile/color design is intended for students with visual impairments and blindness in classroom settings with sighted peers. Using provided print/braille labels, a student can build a key that corresponds to numbered parts of the tactile/print skeleton. The poster is accompanied by a 3-D display model of the human skeleton.

Field testing will begin in late October or early November and extend until the end of January 2013. Evaluators will be asked to a) use the poster with as many students as possible within the given timeframe, b) complete a product evaluation form, and c) report student outcome data. After returning a completed evaluation form, the field test site will be allowed to keep the prototype for future use. Field test prototypes are limited.

Field test sites will be selected based upon geographic location, type of setting, and the grade levels/ages of the students.

Over 40 teachers across the country expressed interest in field testing the product. From the pool of interested evaluators, 18 field test sites were selected. Prototypes were mailed to field test sites ahead of schedule on September 19, 2013. The prototype included the following components:

Prototype Components Quantity
Human Skeleton Poster 1
3-D Skeleton Model 1
Print/Braille Labels 2 sets of 17 labels
VELTEX® Brand Storage Panel 1
Print/Braille Answer Key 1
Print Instructions Sheet 1

The prototype was accompanied by an 18-page evaluation packet to be completed and returned by January 25, 2013. As appreciation for their time and effort, the evaluators were allowed to keep the prototype materials for future use with their students.

Product evaluations were completed by 19 evaluators representing the states of Alabama (2), California, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. Representation by residential versus itinerant settings was nearly evenly split—47% and 42%, respectively; resource settings accounted for 11% of the involved educational settings.

Participating evaluators comprised an eclectic assortment of teachers of the visually impaired, math and science teachers, health and adapted physical education instructors, vision therapists, and special education teachers. Nearly one-third (32%) of the evaluators had 5 or fewer years of teaching experience, while 26% represented the opposite end of the spectrum with 21 or more years of teaching experience; 21% had 11 to 15 years of teaching experience; and the range of teaching experience was evenly represented by those with 6 to 10 years of experience (11%) and those with 16 to 20 years of experience (11%).

The student sample consisted of 148 students—a number of students that far exceeds typical field test populations encountered in other APH field test endeavors. The student sample was nearly equally divided between females (53%) and males (47%).

The student population reflected cultural diversity: 42% White, 37% Black, 13% Hispanic, 4% Asian, 3% "two or more races," and 1% Other.

The students' reported ages ranged from 4 to 24 years of age, with similar percentages between the ages of 10-14 (45%) and 15-19 (43%). On either end of the age continuum, 5% were between the ages of 4 and 9 and 4% were between the ages of 20 and 24. The ages for 3% of the students were unreported.

Slightly over half of the students (51%) were in high school; 30% were in grades 7-8; and 11% were in grades 4-6. Very small percentages represented grade levels that were not consistent with the anticipated populations for the product: 2% pre-kindergarten/kindergarten, 5% grades 1-3, and 1% college level.

The primary reading media reported for the student population was diverse, with the largest percentage (48%) reading large print; another 13% read print of an unspecified size or with magnification; and over one-third (34%) read braille, and 4% were dual readers (combination print and braille). The reading medium for one student was unreported.

A significant percentage (72%) of the students were reported as having additional disabilities including speech impairments, reading disabilities, learning delays, autism, and hearing loss.

The evaluators were also asked to report each student's prior experience with tactile graphics and/or 3-D models of the human skeleton. Astonishingly, despite the involvement by mostly older students, nearly half (46%) had no previous experience with either presentation format of a human skeleton—tactile graphic or 3-D model, about one-fifth (21%) had experience using both, and the remaining students either had experience just using 3-D models (24%) or just using tactile graphics (6%). Previous tactile experience was unreported for 3% of the students.

The field evaluation form allowed teachers to rate each and every feature of the prototype. Although high ratings were received for all of the design elements, evaluators were particularly pleased with the usefulness of the moveable print/braille labels, the overall size of the poster, and the appropriateness for use with sighted peers. The following table reflects the evaluators' average ratings for each assessed feature of the poster:

Skeleton Poster Feature Number of Evaluators % for each rating
5 = Excellent to 1 = Poor
5 4.5 4 3 2 1
Overall visual presentation n = 19 4.66 63% 5% 32%
Overall tactile presentation n = 17 4.47 47% 53%
Types and numbers of bones identified on poster n = 17 4.41 47% 47% 6%
Position of numbers (and associated lead lines) within the graphic n = 17 4.12 29% 59% 6% 6%
Location of key/legend within the poster n = 17 4.47 76% 12% 6% 6%
Usefulness of movable print/braille labels n = 17 4.94 94% 6%
Overall size of poster n = 17 4.82 82% 18%
Durability of poster n = 18 4.39 56% 28% 11% 11%
Ease of hanging poster (if desired) n = 16 4.69 75% 19% 6%
Appropriateness within an inclusive classroom setting with sighted peers n = 16 4.75 88% 6% 6%

Despite the overwhelmingly positive assessment of the poster's structural presentation, the project leader utilized the following graph to pinpoint where improvements could be made. Poster features not receiving an "Excellent" rating by at least 60% of the evaluators received closer attention (e.g., durability, lead lines, type/number of bones identified, and some tactile elements). Appropriate target populations for the poster were indicated as the following by field evaluators:

TARGET POPULATION Percentage of evaluators (n = 18) who indicated that the Skeleton Poster was suitable for target population
Tactile readers in grades 4-8 94%
Low vision readers in grades 4-8 89%
Tactile readers in high school 83%
Low vision readers in high school 78%
Sighted peers 61%
“Other” populations identified
  • Older students with developmental delays
  • Lower functioning students
  • Students below 4th grade level
  • College students

Evaluators indicated that the skeleton poster accommodated a variety of skills and activities. Receiving average ratings of no less than 3.7 on a scale of 5 (excellent) to 0 (not at all), the activities/skills assessed included understanding the names and locations of main skeletal bones, transition from a 3-D model to a 2-D graphic, independent study and review of main skeletal bones, interpretation of a tactile display, shared learning experiences with sighted peers, and increased interest in learning more about the human skeleton. The following table provides average ratings and distribution of evaluators' ratings.

Skill/activity facilitated by use of poster # of Evaluators % for each rating
5 = Excellent to 1 = Poor
5 4.5 4 3.5 3 2.5 2 1 0
Independent study and review of main skeletal bones n = 18 4.42 50% 39% 5% 5%
Understanding of names and locations of main skeletal bones n = 19 4.55 63% 26% 5% 5%
Interpretation of a tactile display n = 19 4.34 58% 26% 5% 5% 5%
Transition from a 3-D model to a 2-D graphic n = 19 4.08 42% 37% 5% 5% 11%
Shared learning experiences with sighted peers n = 14 3.99 50% 43% 7%
Increased interest in learning more about the human skeleton n = 19 3.74 47% 5% 16% 16% 5% 5% 5%

Student performance outcomes were assessed by asking the evaluators to document each student's correct identification of skeleton bones across three successive trials during the field test stage:

Trial 1: Ask the student to identify the bones of the skeleton using only the 3-D model.

Trial 2: Ask the student to identify the skeleton bones using the tactile poster after a brief overview of the poster—that is, a general overview of the graphic layout, key location, and direction on how to apply the word labels to the poster.

Trial 3: Ask the student to identify the skeleton bones after extended instruction and familiarity with the poster layout.

The following graph reveals that during the first trial, more than 80% of the students were able to identify the skull (cranium), ribs, hand bones, and foot bones using the 3-D model. Upon introduction of the tactile/print skeleton poster, noticeable increases in students' correct identification other human bones, including the clavicle, scapula, sternum, humerus, ulna, radius, pelvis, femur, patella, tibia, and fibula were noted.

After thorough instruction of the human skeleton using the tactile/print poster, significant strides were made in the students' identification of the clavicle, scapula, sternum, humerus, vertebrae, ulna, radius, pelvis, femur, patella, tibia, and fibula. The skull, ribs, hand bones, and foot bones continued to be easily identified across Trial 2 and Trial 3. As the following graph illuminates, more students improved in their identification of the skeletal bones between Trial 2 and Trial 3; while only 45% of the students improved between Trial 1 and Trial 2, 77% of the students improved between Trial 2 and Trial 3.

Apart from the reported outcome performances, the majority of students (89%) were reported as enjoying the use of the skeleton poster and related components. Specific accolades included the following:

One hundred percent of the field evaluators recommended that APH produce and make available the skeleton poster. Among the reported strengths were the following:

Reported weaknesses are being addressed via significant enhancements to the final product. Specifically, the durability of the poster is being upgraded by replacing a chipboard backing with a closed-cell foam substrate; this will prevent the poster from warping over time because of humidity. As requested by several evaluators, additional bones are being identified with new lead lines (e.g., mandible, carpals, metacarpals, tarsals, metatarsals, and phalanges). As preferred by 89% of the evaluators, additional braille/print labels are being added as well to reflect both the scientific and common names of each bone (e.g., sternum and breastbone, scapula and shoulder blade, patella and kneecap, etc.). As requested by 100% of the evaluators, a duplicate set of the labels will be included in the kit in case parts are lost. A better quality, larger storage panel will be provided to organize print/braille labels before application to the poster.

Two reported, seemingly unrelated issues were addressed with a single alteration to the poster. The first issue was related to the fact that students tended to memorize which number in the key corresponded to a labeled bone within the skeleton image. For example, #2 (permanently labeled in the skeleton image) always represented the clavicle, #3 always represented the scapula, and so forth, consequently negating true assessment over time. Unrelated to this issue was a second, oft-repeated concern that the braille numbers imbedded within the interior portion of the skeleton (i.e., #4 the sternum, #5 the ribs, #7 the vertebrae, and #11 the pelvic bone) were difficult to tactually locate because of the absence of lead lines. Lead lines, of course, could not be added for these bones because it would impose the intersection of lines within multiple areas of the skeleton, thus complicating the tactile presentation of the overall poster.

As previously mentioned, one major modification addressed both aforementioned issues. By making braille/print number labels moveable, like the name labels, the teacher could choose which bone was labeled #1, #2, and so forth. The hook-backed circular number labels could then be affixed to soft, loop VELCOIN® brand tabs, consequently making the locations of the interior bones more tactually apparent; the soft, loop tabs are more conspicuous by touch than the originally embedded braille numbers within the "busy" tactile areas.

Complementing the kit will be a simplified version of the poster with permanent print/braille numbers and name labels to serve as the Answer Key. Originally presented as an 8.5 x 11 laminated page, the upgraded format of the Answer Key will ensure the incorporation of large print and tactile/visual consistency with the poster image. In field testing, this Answer Key was used by both the teachers and students.

In late April, after the field test data was compiled and revisions determined, the project leader assembled the Product Development Committee to review the expected components and production methods/materials for manufacturing the final kit. To alleviate the burden of applying so many hook tabs to the back of the name labels by either the customer or APH Production staff, the project leader devised a way to apply a minimum number (5 total) of hook strips to the back of the screen printed/vacuum-formed name labels. Hook strips can be strategically applied to overlap just the ends of each label (and the middle of longer labels), thus avoiding full-coverage that would make it difficult for students to remove the labels from the poster and possibly damage the poster as a result. The project leader rendered a die-cut layout that was minimally adjusted by Technical Research staff prior to production.

An unexpected product name change occurred after field testing due to copyright issues related to both "Label & Learn" and "Learn & Label" options. An extended series title—Touch, Label, and Learn Posters—was available for use. The final name of this product will be Touch, Label, and Learn Poster: Human Skeleton (Anterior View).

The latter part of FY 2013 was devoted to tooling efforts by the entire project team. Together a plan was created to produce the poster entirely with in-house manufacturing resources—the Roland® UV printer and large-scale vacuum-forming. This approach has never been utilized for the production of APH tactile/print products; therefore, "baby steps" were taken to ensure accurate registration between the print and tactile images. Adjustments to both the print and tactile versions of the poster were completed by the end of August.

In mid-October, Quota approval for Touch, Label, and Learn Poster: Human Skeleton (Anterior View) was requested and received from the Educational Products Advisory Committee during APH's 145th Annual Meeting.

The project staff's primary focus during the first quarter of FY 2014 was on the layout and design of the accompanying Answer Key, the presentation of which significantly changed from the prototype version. The updated, foldable version is larger (14" wide by 23.5" long) and incorporates permanent print and braille labels within a vacuum-formed graphic. The relief image of the skeleton in the Answer Key is identical to that encountered in the poster itself, minus small adjustments (e.g., repositioning of lead leads) to accommodate print and braille labels. Corcoran finalized tooling on this part in November. Bryan Rogers then created silkscreen art to align the print image with braille labels and tactile lead lines.

After completion of the tooling necessary for the production of the Answer Key, master vacuum-form patterns for the skeleton bone labels and the number labels were fabricated by Tom Poppe. The manufacturing specialist worked in tandem with the Model Maker to prepare registered screen art and related cutting dies. The project leader gave direction of font size, text color, and background colors. Timing was ideal for updating one label—mandible—to be consistent with the newly adopted Unified English Braille (UEB). As a result, this poster will be one of the newest APH's products marketed as "UEB compliant."

Project staff held occasional meetings throughout the first and second quarters of FY 2014 to address and problem solve various issues related to the production of the poster such as needed quantities of vinyl for production, 2-up printing style, scoring of the vinyl during the printing process, elimination of static electricity to prevent ink-ghosting on high-coverage areas, and so forth.

By the end of March 2014, the project leader had approved all related tooling for producing the tangible components of the product, leaving only the content for the instruction booklet to update and finalize for production purposes. However, consistent work on the instruction booklet was curtailed by the project leader's involvement in other prioritized projects (e.g., Quick & Easy ECC), multiple field test activities, and tactile graphic workshops provided locally and nationally in the spring. Attention to the authoring of the content and layout of the instruction booklet resumed in late summer.

Work during FY 2015

Remaining tooling activities continued throughout the first and second quarters of the fiscal year. Specific highlights of the project staff's efforts included the following:

In July 2015, definite production dates were still forthcoming due to long-term planning for the acquisition of rolls versus sheets of GPA .010" vinyl. Multiple meetings were conducted throughout the remainder of the year to address this issue, not only for this product but for future products requiring the same material.

Work planned for FY 2016

Availability of the Touch, Label, & Learn Poster: Human Skeleton hinges on the successful outcome of the procurement of needed vinyl for output on the Roland® UV printer. Pending related solutions to this issue, product availability is targeted for the second half of the 2015-2016 school year. Depending upon the feasibility and popularity of this first poster, the project leader will initiate development of additional tactile/print posters targeting concepts (e.g., structure of the eye, brain, heart, etc.) as suggested by field evaluators.

SOCIAL STUDIES

Address: Earth – Large Format Atlas, Section 3

(Continued)

Front cover of Section 2 of Address: Earth, Large Format Atlas, Maps & Charts

Purpose

The Large Format Atlas provides guidelines for the creation, format, and appearance of large print maps. Working relationships with the University of Louisville Geography Department, National Geographic, and experts in the fields of geography and history were established for the purpose of development and testing of the guidelines. Highly trained consultants have provided useful input in the production of a truly accessible, enhanced format (i.e., large print with additional, specific formatting for accessibility) atlas for students with low vision. These efforts will ultimately lead to an atlas that will be visible, understandable, and useful for the student with low vision who is a large print reader. Section 1 was made available in 2007, and Section 2 became available in February 2014.

Project Staff

Background

APH received a strong recommendation from the Publications Committee in 2001 and in previous years to produce a world atlas in large format. Previous attempts to create such an atlas met with poor results. It was decided to convene a focus group of people who had expertise in both low vision and geography, as well as people with experience in literacy issues and student use issues to develop guidelines for maps. The guidelines were developed in 2001 and 2002, and a work group was convened in order to learn to use mapping software. In 2003, the consultants began to write the chapter content for the atlas, while APH staff checked facts, made edits, and maintained good communication among all parties.

Vice President in charge of Public Affairs, Gary Mudd, and his administrative assistant, Nancy Lacewell, met several times with officers of National Geographic in Washington, D.C. They opened a dialogue between APH and National Geographic to explore the potential for a joint effort in producing a large print atlas. During these conversations, it became apparent that APH processes and National Geographic processes were not compatible and collaboration for production was not feasible. The decision was made to continue work on the atlas at APH with the expert help available from the University of Louisville, Geography and Geosciences Department. Two years later, National Geographic offered to review maps after they were developed by APH in collaboration with the University of Louisville, Geography and Geosciences Department. To date, National Geographic has reviewed maps for both Section 1 and Section 2 of Address: Earth; their reviews have been very useful. Changes were made to maps based upon recommendations from National Geographic.

With information about the latest technology, guidelines for the content and a proposed format of the atlas were shaped. The consultants and APH staff undertook work on the Section 1; it was completed and made available in September 2007. In 2007, the project leader and department director decided to engage geography and history experts to write the units. Most were professors of geography and social sciences at both U.S. and foreign universities. Ten experts joined the project. They wrote the units and some sidebars for Russia, Continental Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Central America, and Meso-America. This writing continued through the first half of 2009. In 2009-2010, after the consultant units were written, APH staff continued to edit, find photos, request permissions, do layouts, refine maps, and prepare Section 2 for expert review.

Field testing of Section 2 took place, and content was refined based upon field test data. Final content of all print chapters was approved. Final content of the Maps & Charts books was approved. Braille translation on Section 2 took place in late 2012 and was completed in February of 2013. Clean files were generated from the Braille Department and used to develop the HTML file. The HTML file was completed in July of 2013 as were the content checks of all chapters and map books. The printing was completed in January 2014. The product was ready for sale in February 2014. After completion of Section 2, a new iGEN printer was purchased.

Work during FY 2015

Numerous maps had to be reassigned colors because of the purchase of the new iGEN printer, which used CMYK colors instead of RBG. Expert cartographer on the project, Carie Ernst, spent the first quarter of 2015 redefining the colors and replacing them in already existing maps of Section 3. Edits and layout of the chapters of Section 3 continued with the Caribbean countries and South America being nearly complete. Thirty-seven sidebars have been written and edited; permissions were obtained for hundreds of photos. All maps for South America, the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico are complete.

Work planned for FY 2016

Focus will be on writing and editing Central America and Mexico during 2015, as well as the countries of northernmost Africa. Photo searches, development of permissions information, edits, and writing of sidebars will continue. Development of African and Polar maps and charts will continue as well.

Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide an interactive color/tactile map of the United States in combination with cutting-edge Talking Tactile Pen (TTP) technology that is usable by students with visual impairments and blindness in both residential schools for the blind and inclusive educational settings

Photo of prototype of Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen. Pen touches on Arkansas and state capital, Little Rock, is announced.

Project Staff

Background

In August 2012, the project leader was asked to submit a review of the STEM Binder: Audio-Tactile Apps for the Talking Tactile Pen (Version 2.00) produced by Touch Graphics, Inc., and The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute. The developers of the product, Steve Landau and Joshua Miele, were impressed with the project leader's critique of the product. The project leader's assessment of the product consisting of color/tactile graphics with audio feedback documented the strengths and possible drawbacks to the presentation; the strengths far outweighed the negatives.

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

In late January 2013, Landau visited APH and met directly with staff from Educational Research, Technical Research, Production, and Marketing areas, as well as executive-level staff, to explore collaborative projects; Miele was part of these discussions via multiple conference calls.

Consideration was initially given to applying the Talking Tactile Pen (TTP) technology (i.e., a modification to a popular commercially-available smartpen, www.livescribe.com/en-us/smartpen/) to a PARC-approved project—Detailed State Map Overlays. After much discussion, the generation of 50 individual pieces of tactile/print artwork and related programming of the penlet seemed a bit daunting for an unexplored process between the vendors and APH; delineation of tasks (e.g., printing, vacuum-forming) was uncertain and yet to be determined. As a result, the potential collaborative effort was scaled back considerably to the generation of a single, full-color, and tactile interactive map of the United States. The accompanying penlet would house recordable layers of information (e.g., capital, surrounding areas, points of interests, major cities) for each state. The mere tap of the pen to any state on the map would provide a wealth of information for a student's independent exploration and learning. The content area of the product seemed applicable and far reaching to many grade levels, thus ensuring high volume sales to accommodate an affordable product. The project leader provided early guidance regarding ideal map size, recordable "state" layers, and tactile presentation.

In February 2013, a prototype purchase agreement with the vendor was finalized. A total of 20 workable prototypes of the Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen were planned for field test purposes. The map will be dot-printed for TTP functionality[1] and vacuum-formed on a rigid vinyl substrate. The final design of the map will reflect mutual effort by the vendor and APH with respective logos visible on the final product.

On April 1, 2013, the product submission, more generally titled, "Talking Tactile Classroom Maps with Talking Tactile Pen" (with anticipation of future maps), was approved by both the Product Evaluation Team (PET) and Product Advisory and Review Committee (PARC).

Throughout May, the project leader and Landau made decisions about the best visual presentation of the map. Details related to color assignment, thickness of state boundary lines, font style for the state abbreviations, discernible print symbols for the national capitol and state capitals, positions of inset boxes for Hawaii and Alaska, and menu icons were carefully scrutinized and chosen. By the end of the month, drafts of the tactile counterpart to the print map had been generated by the vendor and edited and approved by the project leader. Again, specific features were addressed such as tactile point symbols, tactile lead line styles, and elevation of land area, and so forth. The refinement of both the print and tactile features was guided by input from large print and braille readers at APH.

In late June, the consultant visited APH and worked directly with the project leader on the map's design with actual tactile masters "at hand" for verifying chosen elements. Improvements were determined including a plateau effect to the land mass to set it apart in elevation from surrounding oceans and lakes, as well as more distinct tactile symbols for the state capitals that would ensure accurate pen contact and activation. The project leader and consultant also focused on determining needed state layers of information; they worked with APH's Resource Department to identify public domain sites for obtaining state fact information without copyright concerns. By the end of the month, the consultant was beginning to populate the spreadsheet with the content for the penlet.

[1] ^ Dots are printed in a special color on the surface of the pane. The dots have no visual effect other than imparting a slight gray tone to white areas. Dots are used by the TTP to determine locations of taps on the map surface. Touch Graphics’ use of dot pattern has been authorized by Anoto Corp. of Lund, Sweden, through its licensee, LivescribeTM Corp. of Oakland, CA.

In July, new tactile samples of the right half of the foldable map arrived from Spain (where the final prototypes will be fabricated). These samples reflected a variety of state capital symbols in three different shapes (i.e., cone, dome, and flat disk) in varying elevations. Guided again by feedback from tactile readers, an ideal shape was selected. Also incorporated was a new STOP icon for the user to conveniently interrupt speech.

The first quarter of FY 2014 was focused entirely on the final refinements to the tactile/print map and the preparation of audio content for each state and other features of the map (oceans, menu bar, mileage scales). The progression of the spoken state layers, prompted by consecutive taps of the touch pen to the map, was determined as follows:

The project leader was responsible for checking and approving the content captured and organized into a Microsoft® Excel® spreadsheet. Multiple drafts were reviewed and needed corrections were provided to the consultant. In November 2013, a complete tactile map with a fully-programmed pen was sent to APH for final approval prior to fabrication of multiple prototypes. The spoken content was checked against the approved spreadsheet content, and pronunciations of cities, proper names, and so forth, were verified; Denise Snow Wilson assisted with the latter task. During this editing process, the project leader also prepared a list of necessary functional updates to address issues related to speech activation by the pen.

On January 8, 2014, a total of 20 complete prototypes (tactile maps and penlets) were available for field test purposes. The project leader authored and prepared the final layout of the instruction booklet; braille translation of this document was readied. The project leader also prepared an extensive field test evaluation packet that included a student outcome form with 25 assessment tasks to evaluate the functionality of the pen with the map and to assess each student ability to access the information he/she is seeking.

The field test opportunity for the Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen was posted in the January issue of APH News www.aph.org/advisory/2014adv01.html. The announcement described the product (with accompanying photo), field test expectations, and the criteria for field test selection as repeated below:

APH is seeking field evaluators for the US Map with Interactive Talking Tactile Pen, the outcome of a collaborative effort between APH and Touch Graphics, Inc. This interactive color/tactile map of the United States works in combination with cutting-edge Talking Tactile Pen technology. With a simple, light touch of the pen to the map, a student has access to multiple spoken layers of information for each state including the state capital, 10 largest cities, immediate surroundings, land and water area, population estimate, statehood, nickname, state symbols (bird, tree, flower, and song), motto, famous people, points of interest, and interesting facts. The names of oceans, the Great Lakes, bordering countries, and mileage scales are also spoken. A dynamic menu bar at the base of the foldable map allows adjustments to volume, repeated information, and lockable layers of information; a convenient "Stop" button permits termination of speech and a "Help" button orients the user to the map's layout and proper use of the pen. The audio content can be listened to through the pen's own speaker or, for better quality sound, standard headphones or external speakers can be plugged into the audio jack near the power button. The Talking Tactile Pen comes with a USB cable to recharge the pen's batteries after several hours of use.

Field evaluators will be asked to use the prototype with multiple students with visual impairments and blindness. Students may range in age, grade level, and primary reading medium (large print, braille, and/or auditory). Student outcome data will be collected by asking each student to perform specific tasks using the interactive map. Evaluators will then complete and return a product evaluation form at the end of the testing period.

Field test sites will be selected based upon geographic location, number of available students, and type of instructional setting. Preference will be given to those who have not recently field tested an APH product. The number of prototypes is limited. Field testing will begin in February 2014 and extend through the end of April 2014.

Over 30 teachers across the country expressed interest in using the prototype with their students. From those interested, 18 were selected as field test evaluators. On February 5, 2014, the prototypes were mailed. Some evaluation forms trickled back before the deadline, and some evaluators needed and requested additional time. All but one selected field test site returned a completed evaluation packet. By the end of June 2014, the project leader had compiled field test results and Laura Zierer had created an electronic spreadsheet with student performance outcomes for 63 students and related information. All results were combined into a final 155-page report prepared by the project leader.

Field test sites represented the states of California (2), Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York (2), North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma (2), Oregon, Utah, and Washington. These sites represented a variety of educational settings (itinerant, self-contained, residential, day schools).

The teaching experience of the field test evaluators varied from 0-5 years (28%) to 21 or more years (33%); 33% had taught for 6-10 years and the remaining 6% had provided instruction to students with visual impairments and blindness for 16-20 years. Fewer than one-fourth of the evaluators (22%) reported addressing geography/map skills with their students at least 2-5 times a week; the majority (78%) taught these skills once (or less) a week. Most of the evaluators (78%) had used other tactile/print maps with their students prior to field testing including APH-produced maps (e.g., US Puzzle Map and World at Your Fingers), as well as teacher-modified and/or acquired commercially-available maps.

Based on direct observations prior to field testing, the field evaluators reported the following map skills/concepts as the most challenging for their students:

The prototype of the Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen was used with a total of 63 students and adults representing nearly equal percentages of females (52%) and males (48%). Cultural diversity was reflected: 62% White, 19% Hispanic, 10% Black, 3% Asian, 2% American Indian, and 2% "two or more races."

The largest percentage (44%) were between the ages of 10 and 14; another 19% were teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19. Opposite ends of the age spectrum were represented by 25% between the ages of 5 and 9 and 11% who were 30 or older. The age of one student was unreported.

The largest percentage of students (38%) were in grades 4-6. The percentage of students in grades 1-3 nearly mirrored that of students in high school—19% and 17%, respectively. A smaller percentage (8%) were in grades 7-8. Because a sizable number of subjects were adults, grade level classification for 13% was not applicable. Only one preschooler and one kindergarten student participated, as well as one student in a special education class.

Braille was reported as the primary reading medium for 41% of the students. Sizable percentages of the student population were either large print readers (24%) or print readers (14%). Students using primarily audio materials composed 10% of the population. Four students were reported as dual readers and the reading medium for three students was unreported.

One-third of the students (n = 21) were reported as having additional disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, learning disabilities, ADHD, seizure disorders, hearing impairment, and cognitive delays.

The subject sample varied with regard to their familiarity with US geography, their use of tactile and/or print maps prior to field testing, and their degree of interest in tactile and/or print maps prior to field testing. The tables below highlight these differences:

Familiarity of US Geography (N = 63)
Unfamiliar 15 24%
Somewhat familiar 35 56%
Somewhat familiar/unfamiliar 1 2%
Very familiar 8 13%
No Response 4 6%
Prior use of Tactile/Print Map (N = 63)
None to date 16 25%
Occasional use 39 62%
Frequent use 5 8%
Unknown 1 2%
Frequent/occasional 1 2%
No Response 1 2%
Prior Degree of Interest in Maps (N = 63)
Uninterested 10 16%
Somewhat interested 34 54%
Very interested 17 27%
Unknown 1 2%
No Response 1 2%

The degree to which the subjects' interest and past experience of maps played into their success with the Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen is unclear, but the results for each performance task, as reported in the Student Outcome Forms (and documented in the chart below), were positive and encouraging.

TASK Yes % No % NR % Y/N % TOTAL
1. Listen to the Introduction 1. 56 1. 89% 1. 7 1. 11% 1. 0 1. 0% 1. 0 1. 0% 1. 63
2. Activate HELP 51 81% 10 16% 2 3% 0 0% 63
3. Touch any state without lead line 56 89% 6 10% 1 2% 0 0% 63
4. Touch any state with lead line on East coast 51 81% 12 19% 0 0% 0 0% 63
5. Touch CO capital 53 84% 10 16% 0 0% 0 0% 63
6. Touch DC 50 79% 13 21% 0 0% 0 0% 63
7. Touch Gulf of Mexico, then REPEAT 56 89% 7 11% 0 0% 0 0% 63
8. Touch SC's coastline 52 83% 11 17% 0 0% 0 0% 63
9. Touch 300 mile marker 44 70% 18 29% 1 2% 0 0% 63
10. Touch both location of Canada 54 86% 9 14% 0 0% 0 0% 63
11. Activate 2nd layer of Hawaii 46 73% 17 27% 0 0% 0 0% 63
12. Activate "Population Estimate" layer of Hawaii 46 73% 17 27% 0 0% 0 0% 63
13. Activate "Largest Cities" layer of GA 50 79% 12 19% 1 2% 0 0% 63
14. Listen to all layers of state without lead line 51 81% 12 19% 0 0% 0 0% 63
15. Listen to all layers of state with lead line 47 75% 13 21% 2 3% 1 2% 63
16. Activate TX, STOP speech during "Surroundings" 45 71% 17 27% 1 2% 0 0% 63
17. Activate CA, Stop speech during "surroundings"; then resume 43 68% 18 29% 2 3% 0 0% 63
18. Increase the volume 54 86% 7 11% 1 2% 1 2% 63
19. Decrease the volume 55 87% 7 11% 1 2% 0 0% 63
20. Activate CT's "State Symbol" layer 46 73% 16 25% 1 2% 0 0% 63
21. Activate IA's "State Motto" layer by skipping 45 71% 15 24% 3 5% 0 0% 63
22. Touch two of the Great Lakes 51 81% 11 17% 1 2% 0 0% 63
23. Activate "Famous People" layer of VT 48 76% 14 22% 1 2% 0 0% 63
24. Activate "Land/Water Area" layer of KY 50 79% 12 19% 1 2% 0 0% 63
25A. Activate "Nickname" layer, LOCK, listen to 3 states 46 73% 15 24% 2 3% 0 0% 63
25B. Undo the LOCK feature 38 60% 21 33% 4 6% 0 0% 63

A closer look at the student population's experience with the prototype revealed that most (59%) needed at "occasional assistance" and direction from the instructor during the use of the map, 22% required "continuous assistance," and 19% required "no assistance." It was also reported that over half (54%) experienced some difficulty using the pen with the map. Posed challenges, however, did not prevent 81% of the students from being motivated to use the product beyond usual class instruction time. In fact, 100% of the students were reported as enjoying the use of map.

The field evaluators were invited via the field test packet to evaluate and comment on each and every feature of the Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen. Based on a rating scale from 5 (Excellent) to 1 (Poor), the following average ratings were received:

Design Features Number of Evaluators Average Rating % for each rating
5 = Excellent to 1 = Poor
5 4.5 4 3 2 1
Overall design/presentation N = 18 4.44 56% 33% 11%
Visual presentation of the map N = 18 4.44 67% 22% 6% 6%
Tactile presentation of the map N = 18 4.25 39% 6% 39% 17%
Pen—Ease of activating audio by touching a selected map feature N = 18 3.83 17% 50% 33%
Pen—Quality of narration/synthesized speech N = 18 4.22 50% 33% 11% 6%
Available number of recorded layers of US state information (13 total) N = 17 4.35 71% 5% 12% 12%
Usefulness of recorded layers provided for all states N = 17 4.23 59% 18% 12% 12%
Usefulness of recorded information related to oceans, lakes, bordering countries, mileage scales N = 17 4.18 47% 24% 24% 6%
Types of menu options (e.g., Volume, Help, Repeat, Lock, and Stop) N = 17 4.71 76% 18% 6%
Functionality of menu options (e.g., Volume, Help, Repeat, Lock, and Stop N = 16 4.38 56% 31% 6% 6%
Durability of map N = 17 4.24 41% 41% 18%
Folding capability N = 16 4.69 75% 19% 6%
Product Instructions N = 17 4.65 71% 23% 6%
Carrying/storage box N = 18 3.78 33% 33% 17% 11% 6%

As reflected in the following table, the layers of state information were accessed and utilized to varying degrees with Layer 1 (State name) and Layer 2 (State capital) being the most popular and Layer 3 (Ten largest cities), Layer 5 (Land area, water area, and percentage of state that is water), and Layer 6 (Population estimate) being the least accessed. This outcome was later apparent in the percentages of evaluators who indicated that Layer 1 and Layer 2 were most consistent with the information that students are expected to learn—88% and 82%, respectively. Conversely, smaller percentages indicated that Layer 3 (29%), Layer 5 (24%), and Layer 6 (35%) were important. Layer 10 (State motto) and Layer 11 (Famous people) were also not critical for students to learn as reported by 18% of the field evaluators.

Layer of State Information Frequently Occasionally Usually Skipped
Layer 1: State name 89% 11%
Layer 2: State capital 83% 17%
Layer 3: Ten largest cities 17% 72% 11%
Layer 4: Surroundings (land and water) 22% 61% 17%
Layer 5: Land area, water area, and percentage of state that is water 5% 39% 56%
Layer 6: Population estimate 17% 33% 50%
Layer 7: Statehood 22% 39% 39%
Layer 8: State nickname 33% 39% 28%
Layer 9: State symbols 44% 44% 11%
Layer 10: State motto 22% 50% 28%
Layer 11: Famous people 56% 28% 17%
Layer 12: Points of interest 33% 50% 17%
Layer 13: Interesting facts 56% 33% 11%

The majority of evaluators (89%) thought the state layers were presented in a logical sequence. Although more than half (56%) of the evaluators thought no additional layers of state information were needed, some suggested additional data related to geographical landforms and terrain. Regardless of each layer's use, the plethora of state information was reportedly one of the motivating features of the map; one teacher indicated that her student was "astounded at all the information available at her fingertips," and another student thought the map was "not as boring as (other) tactile maps."

Evaluators were asked to evaluate the tactile presentation and visual presentation of the map separately. This delineation helped to narrow and target needed improvements to the map for both the braille reader and the low vision reader. Results of these separate evaluations are as follows:

Tactile Presentation of the Map (N = 18)
Question YES NO N/A or N/R
Was the braille on the map readable? 100%
Is repositioning of any braille labels needed? 33% 44% 22%
Was it helpful to have the land area elevated higher than the water areas? 94% 6%
Were the raised lines used for state boundaries easy to tactually trace and discriminate? 72% 22% 6%
Were the state capital dots/bumps easy to tactually locate? 89% 11%
Was the symbol (flat round disk) for the District of Columbia tactually distinguishable from the state capital symbols? 61% 33% 6%
Were the tactile lead lines easy to locate and follow from the braille abbreviations to the location of each corresponding state? 56% 44%
Should any lead lines be readjusted in position and/or length? 33% 39% 28%
Were the inset maps of Alaska and Hawaii ideally positioned on the map? 89% 11%
Did the three mileage scales clearly correspond with their specific regions for tactile readers? 72% 6% 11% (N/R)
Did the dotted boxes ideally separate Hawaii and Alaska from the contiguous 48 states? 100%
Was the tactile bar separating the map area from the lower menu helpful? 100%
Were the tactile icons (e.g., Volume, Help, Repeat, Lock, and Stop buttons) in the menu bar easily identified and located? 94% 6%
Did any of the tactile icons pose any difficulties for tactile readers? 50% 33% 17%

Likewise, questions were posed to specifically assess the visual presentation of the map for print readers. Outcomes are reported in the following table:

Visual Presentation of the Map (N = 18)
Question YES NO N/A or N/R
Was the print text readable? 89% 6% 6%
Is repositioning of any print text needed? 11% 67% 22%
Are the colors utilized for the land and water areas ideal? 83% 11% 6%
Does the text color ideally contrast against the background colors? 94% 6%
Are the black lines used for state and country boundaries ideal? 89% 11%
Are the black state capital dots/bumps easy to visually locate? 100%
Is the symbol (flat round black disk) for the District of Columbia visually distinguishable from the state symbols? 67% 28% 6% (yes/no)
Does the dotted inset boxes ideally separate Alaska and Hawaii from the contiguous 48 states? 100%
Is the black bar separating the map area from the lower menu bar helpful? 100%
Are icons in the menu bar (Volume, Help, Repeat, Lock, and Stop) easily identified and located? 100%
Did the dotted boxes ideally separate Hawaii and Alaska from the contiguous 48 states? 100%
Do any of the visual icons pose any difficulties for visual learners? 11% 78% 11%

The location of the menu buttons (at the bottom of the map) was approved by 94% of the evaluators, 78% thought the sequence of the icons from left to right was ideal, and 89% thought it was helpful to have the braille word to the immediate right of the icon it identifies. However, 67% reported some difficulty in touching the tactile icons (versus the corresponding braille words) with the pen to activate the menu options.

The degree to which each menu button was utilized varied. REPEAT was the most popular option; it was used "frequently" as reported by 61% of the evaluators. Interesting, the HELP button was the least accessed. The LOCK button was reported as one of the students' favorite features. The frequency use of all the menu buttons is reported in the following table:

Menu Buttons—Frequency of Use
Menu Button Frequently Occasionally Never
VOLUME 28% 72%
HELP 17% 39% 39%
REPEAT 61% 28% 11%
LOCK 33% 56% 11%
STOP 11% 78% 11%

Ninety-four percent of the field evaluators indicated that the Interactive US Map with Tactile Talking Pen offered specific advantages over other tactile/print maps of the United States. The instant auditory feedback, student's independent use, and wealth of information about the states were among the most oft-repeated benefits. Additional strengths noted included the following:

The majority (94%) of the evaluators prodded APH to develop and make the Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen available, with supportive statements such as "I will be using it in many geography lessons," and "This product is easily accessible for students of all ages and disabilities and would be one of the better products from APH." The most ideal target populations for the product, as assessed by the field evaluators, were tactile and low vision readers in grades 4-6. The table below reports the map's appropriateness for various target populations:

Target Population Percentage of evaluators (N = 18)
who indicated the US Map with
Talking Tactile Pen is suitable
for target population
Tactile readers in kindergarten 17%
Low vision students in kindergarten 22%
Tactile readers in grades 1-3 61%
Low vision students in grades 1-3 72%
Tactile readers in grades 4-6 94%
Low vision students in grades 4-6 94%
Tactile readers in grades 7-8 78%
Low vision students in grades 7-8 78%
Tactile readers in high school 72%
Low vision students in high school 72%
Adult tactile readers 61%
Adults with low vision 61%
Students with additional physical disabilities 50%
Students with cognitive disabilities 50%
Sighted peers 67%

In August 2014, Landau visited APH to work with the project leader to determine product revisions based on field test outcomes. Some of the revisions discussed included enhancing pen activation on some areas of the map, including a north arrow indicator/compass rose, minimizing recorded information for a few state layers (e.g., largest cities and famous people), adjusting location of lead lines, including a separate state abbreviation reference sheet, allowing easier volume control, providing a more durable/portable box or carrying case, and anticipating provision of future updates to the penlet via downloadable files. A meeting was conducted with the Product Development Committee to discuss the eventual production of the map and related pen and to delineate production responsibilities between APH and Touch Graphics, Inc.

Work during FY 2015

Quota approval for the Interactive U.S. Map with Talking Tactile Pen was received from the Educational Products Advisory Committee at APH's 146th Annual Meeting. At the Annual Meeting, Steve Landau, Josh Miele, and the project leader presented the prototype map/pen and related field test results during a Product Input Session Download MP3. This session also garnered ideas from the audience for additional applications of the touch pen technology for future tactile products.

Momentum toward completion of production tooling by Touch Graphics, Inc., and APH for the Interactive U.S. Map with Talking Tactile Pen characterized the first three quarters of the fiscal year. Specific tasks included the following:

Work planned for FY 2016

During the production stage, the project staff will monitor the quality of parts received from the vendor, as well as components produced at APH for the Interactive U.S. Map with Talking Tactile Pen. The project leader will be involved in post-production tasks such as readying the brochure and marketing materials, as well as showcasing the new product at local and national workshops/conferences. The vendor will partake in similar activities to advertise the availability of the new product. Consideration will be given to the development of additional products using the touch pen technology and continuing related product endeavors and collaborations with the vendor.

Recognizing Landforms (revision)

(Continued)

Purpose

To revise and streamline this longtime APH product and make it more suitable for self-guided use or use in integrated school settings

Project Staff

Background

Recognizing Landforms has been in the APH catalog for more than 30 years; but, although it is dated in its outer presentation, it still fills a vacancy among products for conceptual and spatial development. The kit makes use of 10 thermoformed, multi-colored models to teach blind and visually impaired learners about landforms and the terminology associated with them. A series of lessons take students from the simplest tactile presentation (raised body of land surrounded by water) through increasingly complex representations of features such as mountain ranges, plateaus, basins, bays, inlets, river deltas, and so on. A slim booklet of instructions for teachers is provided, but the main instruction is carried by audio recordings on CD featuring a cast of amusing characters who solicit the user's help in tactually exploring the models. Informal review and quizzes are built into the audio narrative. The audio component was added on shortly after the models and instructional guide were developed and tested as a way to make the course more interesting for students.

Although some of the references in the audio files are long out-of-date, the project leader believes that a self-guided format for the presentation is still valid and might be retained.

The product was developed at a time when more blind students were taught at residential schools and were more likely to receive specialized instruction. As currently offered, the kit also suffers from unwieldy packaging and an outdated appearance. The goal of the present project is to revive Recognizing Landforms by trimming unnecessary content, freshening the audio, revising the packaging, and re-introducing the product with appropriate kinds of promotion.

The project leader solicited instructors, via e-mail discussion groups, to record their own audio files at various kinds of locations studied in the Landforms kit and submit them for possible use in the revised kit.

Two of the original landform models were identified for omission from the revised kit, one because it is a near duplicate of another model and one because it contains items related to content that is to be deleted.

Discussions were held with Steve Landau of Touch Graphics about the possibility of incorporating sound chips or scan coding to the landform models so that, when the student touched the desired feature with a scanning pen, audio feedback would be produced. The first such avenue pursued by the project leader, involving programmable Near-Field Chips and a wand for reading them, did not appear to be a practical option for adding audio directly to the tactile models; but the idea continues to be of interest if an appropriate and affordable technology arises.

Work during FY 2015

Discussions were held among staff to decide if the best approach to revising the physical models would be to repair the existing patterns and tooling, which show significant signs of age and wear, or to remake them from scratch. A primary concern with the latter approach was the amount of Model Shop staff time that would be needed, which needed to be weighed against the potential demand for the product. Staff also suggested that the molded parts could be hole-punched for storage in a large binder, addressing the issue of the unwieldy storage box.

The project leader conducted an online survey to gauge teachers' level of interest in and experience with the existing Landforms Kit, and to see whether the concepts it teaches are valued today. The survey was announced in the APH News and posted to electronic mailing lists for TVIs in Science and Social Studies classes.

Seventeen teachers responded; of these, all stated that they believe the concepts to be important for their blind or visually impaired students to learn. Respondents' levels of experience with the Landforms kit varied, and among those who had used it, response to the audio tutorial feature was varied as well. The project leader has interpreted these results to indicate that the kit still has validity and serves a good purpose, but that the audio aspect of the kit is not universally seen as necessary.

Recent discussions point to the project continuing as a product revision rather than an overhaul.

Work planned for FY 2016

The project leader will work with Model Shop and Technical Research staff to repair and improve the physical tooling of the old vacuum-form patterns. The written materials for teachers will be revised and put into accessible formats. The project leader will work with a graphic designer to make appealing artwork for the storage binder and guidebook.

Staff will continue to investigate cost-effective possibilities for adding audio output to the models as part of a future upgrade.

The design of the revised kit will be made final, and the project leader will confer with Technical Research staff to have new specifications written.

Tactile World Globe

(Continued)

Purpose

To update APH's Globe: Tactile and Visual by applying a topographical relief and braille labels for continents, oceans, and latitude/longitude lines

Project Staff

APH Globe: Tactile and Visual

Background

APH has a long history of designing and producing excellent tactile world globes for use by students and adults with blindness and visual impairments. Past models are showcased in the APH Museum. Among the most fondly remembered of these tactile globes is the 30" Floor Pedestal Globe that was first introduced in 1955. According to APH's Museum collection database, the globe is described in the 1956 edition of the APH product catalog like so:

30-inch diameter, overall height of 51 inches; hollow-plastic construction; painted in contrasting blue and yellow to highlight land and sea areas; with brown stippling for mountainous areas; raised latitude and longitude lines; sturdy metal base
Cost: $225.00

The February 13, 1955, issue of The Courier-Journal Magazine, commemorating APH's 100th anniversary, described this globe as "the first 'accurately-exaggerated' relief globe in the United States. The altitudes are exaggerated 30 times to the flat surface. With such a globe, the world will be at the fingertips of the blind student."

APH 30-inch Relief Globe

The 30-inch Floor Pedestal Globe, produced in conjunction with the Panoramic Studios of Philadelphia, was still available in the 1980 product catalog, although few were apparently sold. Production between 1975 and 1979 averaged 17 units per year. By 1984, the floor model had been removed from the catalog. Some of the original production copies of this globe are still displayed and used throughout the country in residential schools for the blind.

APH Geophysical Globe

In 1959, APH introduced two 12-inch plastic relief globes—the Panoramic Model Globe and the Geo-Physical Model Globe. These globes were painstakingly hand-painted by APH production staff; they featured topographical detail, and their visual simplicity was ideal for low vision students. Only slight differences distinguished the two globes—type of base (cup-shaped versus tripod), equator design (indented versus a thin lip), and degree of elevation in comparison with horizontal distances (32 to 1 versus 50 to 1). In later years, only the Geophysical Globe was offered, and its base had been updated to a permanent metal stand (as shown in the photograph).

The painting effort required to produce the Geophysical Globe eventually proved too laborious and expensive in the midst of an ever-increasing number of new educational products manufactured in-house during the 1990s. At the sluggish production rate of two painted globes per day, and complicated by the extra step of epoxy reinforcement and limited floor space for drying, an alternative manufacturing approach was needed.

In 1993, the current project leader and model/pattern maker addressed the challenge of creating a new tactile globe that imposed less production time and translated into a cost-savings for the customer. Using a production approach conceptualized by the project leader—specifically, the application of two clear vacuum-formed hemispheres onto a commercially-available globe—the model/pattern maker undertook the tooling of a new "world" mold. The new mold featured a pebbly, braille-like texture for continental land masses with higher elevations noted by a slightly different areal pattern; raised latitude and longitude lines were formed as well. The two-part mold was used for vacuum-forming the northern and southern hemispheres out of clear thin vinyl; the two halves were then registered onto a purchased 12-inch table-top political globe. This manufacturing process translated into a 67% cost reduction and the introduction of a new globe—Globe: Tactile and Visual—in 1994.

The urgency to find a solution to the globe's production difficulties, followed by immediate implementation of the new process, prevented the project staff from conducting a formal field test study of its design. Although the current globe design has served its purpose for two decades, the project staff has always desired to revisit the mold and make improvements to its tactile quality. Prompted by many compliments about the former Geophysical Globe, paired with the arrival of talking globes on the market, globe design discussions surfaced periodically throughout the years. Although tactile adaptations of commercial talking globes were considered in 2003 and proposed in a formal product submission to the Product Evaluation Team and the Product Advisory and Review Committee (PARC), the discontinuation of such globes alerted APH that creating extensive production tooling for a potentially scrapped commercial product was a risky undertaking. In addition, talking globes have the disadvantage of presenting too many sight-dependent tasks, such as asking questions about very specific locations/landmarks; the detail required to perform the tasks cannot be adequately captured in a tactile counterpart.

In June 2012, the project leader visited PARC and proposed active development on the tactile globe. Her idea involved re-introducing the popular topographical relief style encountered in the Geophysical Globe and marrying it with the current print globe; inclusion of braille labels for continents, oceans, and latitude/longitude lines was planned. The model/pattern maker created a small sample of the anticipated globe design and shared it with the Product Development Committee on August 1, 2012. All attending supported the intended improvements. Production staff were copacetic with the suggested manufacturing procedures.

Significant progress was made on the design and development of the new Tactile World Globe throughout FY 2013. Guided by early feedback garnered during a Product Input Session at APH's Annual Meeting in October, the project leader and T. Poppe made numerous decisions about various globe features including the type of tactile latitude and longitude lines, braille label positions for all continents and oceans, and topography enhancements to replace the less-desired "pebbled" texture of the existing globe. The staff also located a desirable non-glare vinyl to use for the prototype model.

By the end of March 2013, T. Poppe had completed sculpting the Northern Hemisphere. The decision was made to field test only the Northern Hemisphere to verify that the presentation was ideal for student use before significant tooling effort was undertaken for the production of the entire globe. A fiberglass master for eventual vacuum-forming of the Northern Hemisphere was built and tested. The first attempt to form a part proved successful; the registration of the tactile part to the print globe was ideal, and proper fit was verified. By the end of April, 20 complete prototypes were assembled, each with the transparent, tactile hemisphere applied permanently to the commercial globe.

Anticipating that sufficient time was still available to field test in the spring, the project leader posted a field test announcement in the April issue of APH News. The announcement was also e-mailed to those in Research's field tester database who had expressed interest in evaluating social studies products. Although approximately a dozen teachers responded to request, it was decided to postpone the field test activity until the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year to give teachers a lengthier and more convenient timeframe for evaluating the product. The same teachers who expressed interest in field testing agreed to the updated schedule.

Prior to field testing, the project leader constructed an extensive evaluation packet with multiple rating opportunities for each main design feature of the prototype. Beyond just a product evaluation form, a student outcome form was created to assess each student's basic knowledge of a world globe prior to the use of the prototype. In addition, 25 assessment tasks were devised to test the readability of the new Northern Hemisphere. Carie Ernst reviewed the questions to check for clarity and accuracy from a cartographer's expertise.

On September 17, 2014, prototypes were mailed to a total of 18 teachers of the visually impaired representing the states of Missouri, Michigan, New York (2), Texas (2), California (2), Louisiana, Tennessee, Nebraska, North Carolina, Maryland, Utah, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Montana.

A total of 14 completed evaluations and 37 student outcome forms were returned from participating field test sites by January 2015. Some evaluators were unable to complete the evaluation process as expected. Nevertheless, sufficient data was collected to determine the effectiveness of the new bas relief design of the prototype globe. The project leader intermittently recorded data from these forms as time allowed between other ongoing projects. The research assistant created a Microsoft® Excel® spreadsheet to report the students' performance on the pre-quiz and 25 related assessment tasks.

The 14 field evaluators represented the states of California, Ohio, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan (2), Montana, Nebraska, New York (2), North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

Type of Educational Setting (N = 14) Itinerant Residential Resource
OH, MI (2), NC, NE, NY, TX, UT
57%
LA, MD, NY, TN
29%
CA, MT
14%

Participating evaluators varied in their teaching experience with the largest percentage (33%) reporting 21 or more years teaching experience; 27% had 0-5 years teaching experience, 20% reported 6-10 years teaching experience, and another 20% reported 11-25 years teaching experience. Various titles and professions were represented in this teacher sample (e.g., teacher of the visually impaired, social studies teacher, teacher consultant for the visually impaired, orientation and mobility instructor, vision specialist, and paraprofessional). All of the evaluators were Caucasian/White.

The majority (93%) of the participating evaluators were familiar with APH's existing globe and had used it with their student(s); 71% had the existing APH globe available for comparison purposes during the field test activity. All evaluators briefly described their current teaching strategies for teaching geography and map skills. Reported strategies included starting with handmade tactile maps of a familiar area (e.g., school, classroom) and then progressing to unfamiliar areas (e.g., globe, US map, world atlas), teaching cardinal directions, introducing concepts of keys and legends, presenting globes and maps in a systematic manner, and so forth. Over one-third (35%) indicated they teach geography/map skills to their students less than once a week. Equal percentages taught these skills/concepts either once a week (14%) or two or three times a week (14%). A smaller percentage (7%) indicated "more than five times a week." Among the most challenging concepts for the students to grasp were latitude and longitude lines/imaginary lines and points, location of continents and land features, where objects on a globe/map are in relation to other objects, understanding how the globe relates to a flat tactile map, and "seeing the whole picture and understanding where one part is in relation to another."

Collectively, the field evaluators used the prototype of Tactile World Globe (the Northern Hemisphere only) with a total of 37 students.

Note: The decision was made to field test only the Northern Hemisphere to verify that the presentation was ideal for student use before significant tooling effort was undertaken for the production of the entire globe.

As observed in the tables below, the 37 students varied in age, grade level, ethnicity, and preferred reading medium. A small percentage (16%) were reported as having additional disabilities besides visual impairments and blindness.

Gender
Female 19 51%
Male 18 49%
N = 37 100%
Age
6 2 5% 12 32%
7 2 5%
8 2 5%
9 2 5%
10 4 11%
11 2 5% 6 16%
12 3 8%
13 1 3%
14 6 16% 14 38%
15 5 14%
16 3 8%
17 2 5% 5 14%
18 2 5%
19 1 3%
N = 37 100%
Grade
1 3 8% 6 16%
2 2 5%
3 1 3%
4 3 8% 8 22%
5 5 14%
6 1 3% 6 16%
7 4 11%
8 1 3%
9 8 21% 17 46%
10 0 0%
11 7 19%
12 2 5%
N = 37 100% 100%
Ethnicity
White 16 42%
Black 7 19%
Hispanic 7 19%
Asian 4 11%
Two or More 1 3%
Other: Moroccan 1 3%
Unreported 1 3%
N = 37 100%
Preferred Reading Method
Braille 27 73%
Large Print 3 8%
LP/Braille 2 5%
Print 4 11%
Print/Braille 1 3%
N = 37 100%
Other Disabilities
N = 37 6 16%
Other Disabilities: ADHD, Cognitive Disabilities, Hearing Impairment, and brain tumor

As highlighted in the tables below, the 37 participating students also differed in their familiarity with world globes prior to field testing, their previous use of tactile maps prior to field testing, and their interest in tactile maps and globes prior to field testing.

Familiarity with World Globes Prior to Field Testing
Unfamiliar 7 19%
Somewhat familiar 22 59%
Very familiar 7 19%
Unknown 1 3%
N = 37 100%
Previous Use of Tactile Maps Prior to Field Testing
Frequently 4 11%
Occasionally 26 70%
None 4 11%
Unknown 3 8%
N = 37 100%
Interest in Tactile Maps and Globes Prior to Field Testing
Very Interested 12 32%
Somewhat Interested 23 62%
Uninterested 2 5%
N = 37 99%

The field evaluation form invited teachers to rate each and every feature of the prototype of the Tactile World Globe based on the mold of the Northern Hemisphere. The table below provides the average rating of each product feature. The ratings were complemented by specific comments and recommendations.

Design Features Number of Evaluators Average Rating % for each rating
5 = Excellent to 1 = Poor
5 4.5 4 3 2 1
Overall design/presentation N = 13 4.27 46% 38% 8% 8%
Readability of braille N = 14 4.93 93% 7%
Content labeled in braille (e.g., continents, oceans. latitude/longitude lines) N = 14 4.43 57% 36% 7%
Quality of topography (e.g., elevated/contoured mountain ranges) N = 13 4.35 54% 7% 15% 23%
Tactile contrast between International Date Line and latitude/longitude lines N = 14 4.71 79% 14% 7%
Tactile contrast between International Date Line and Prime Meridian N = 14 4.93 93% 7%
Tactile contrast of Tropic of Cancer and other latitude lines N = 14 4.71 93% 7%
Number and location of latitude lines labeled in braille N = 14 4.00 29% 57% 14%
Number and location of longitude lines labeled in braille N = 13 4.15 31% 61% 8%
Height of Equator N = 14 4.86 86% 14%
Coastline elevation above water N = 14 4.36 57% 29% 7% 7%
Visibility of printed content through clear overlay N = 14 4.00 64% 14% 14% 7%
Durability and rigidity of plastic overlay N = 14 4.43 64% 21% 7% 7%

Nearly 80% of the field evaluators indicated that the new tactile globe design had specific advantages over other globes used in the past, namely: "easier to locate areas," topography ("gentle bumps to represent hills/land and more pronounced mountains"), addition of braille labels, latitude and longitude degrees, easily-discriminated tactile line types, and minimal glare for students with low vision. Several comments alluded specifically to the beneficial quality of the braille labels:

One hundred percent of the students were reported as having enjoyed using the prototype globe with supportive, informal comments such as "Yeah, Braille words!" "Wow, it has braille on it," and "The bumpy land feels better than the prickly continents (in reference to APH's existing world globe)."

The students' performance on 25 outlined tasks using the prototype globe revealed specific successes with the globe, as well as highlighted more challenging concepts. Inability to perform a task was often attributed to a student's unfamiliarity with the concept, or that the concept/task was too advanced for the student.

Ninety-three percent of the field evaluators recommended that APH should replace its existing tactile world globe with the prototype's design, assuming that the Northern Hemisphere's tactile presentation is used as model for the construction of the Southern Hemisphere.

Based on field test feedback, anticipated improvements will include refinements such as the following:

By the end of FY 2014, the project leader prepared a comprehensive report of the field test results.

Work during FY 2015

Quota approval for the Tactile World Globe was requested and received from the Educational Products Advisory Committee at the 146th Annual Meeting in October. Due to the project leader's and model/pattern maker's involvement in the prototype development of SPORTS COURTS (see project report), active work was curtailed until the second quarter of the fiscal year.

Photo of model/pattern maker working on tooling for the Tactile World Globe

In early February, the project leader regrouped with Technical Research and Model Shop staff to review expected tooling revisions and review intended production processes and assembly procedures of the new globe. Due to Tom Poppe's continued work on SPORTS COURTS, tooling of the globe shifted to Andrew Dakin. Several world globes were provided to the Model Shop for reference during topographical construction/molding. Tooling work on the Northern Hemisphere was intermittent between March and June. In July, the project leader reviewed the current mold of the Northern Hemisphere and made a short list of needed inclusions (e.g., additional islands), as well as refinements to mountain elevations and a dashed line representing the International Dateline. In September, tooling tasks shifted to the construction of the Southern Hemisphere.

Work planned for FY 2016

Once the tooling for the Tactile World Globe is complete, the project leader will prepare a brief instruction booklet based on the globe's design. Both hardcopy print and braille versions of this booklet will be offered, thus necessary tooling efforts (graphic layout and braille translation) will be undertaken during the new fiscal year. The project staff will usher the product through the post-field test stages of production tooling and specifications. Production and introduction of the new globe will likely occur in FY 2017.

TECHNOLOGY AND MEDIA

For FY 2015, there are no active Technology and Media products to report. For related products, see the Assistive Technology section and the Technology Product Research section.

EARLY CHILDHOOD

Art Digitizing/Modernizing of On the Way to Literacy Storybooks

(Continued)

Purpose

To replace deteriorating film art with digital art, slightly reduce page sizes to enable in-house production of the books on iGen™ equipment, update to utilize sans serif fonts, modify the books' visual illustrations, and produce in Unified English Braille (UEB)

Project Staff

Background

The 18 storybooks in the On the Way to Literacy series were first produced in the early 1990s using film art, then standard in the printing industry. Because the original film art for these books has deteriorated with time and printers are reluctant to use it, Production asked that the print tooling for the books be recreated in digital file formats. Meetings with production staff defined additional objectives for the modernization effort. Since the cost of offset printing rises dramatically when fewer than 300 to 500 copies are printed, and books are not inventoried, Production staff recommended redesigning the books for iGen™ production. This would make it possible to produce smaller runs in-house. To make this change, the books' page dimensions are being reduced slightly. In addition, any serif fonts are being replaced with more readable sans serif fonts. Consumers and focus group members have noted the importance of providing read-aloud books that will also interest sighted peers. For this reason, print illustrations are being modified to make the illustrations more visually attractive for sighted audiences. The updated illustrations implement changes that add visual appeal but do not reduce visibility for low vision readers or introduce visual elements that are key to understanding the story. A change in binding may be considered for some books if a more "book-like" binding can be produced in-house. Some books must remain in binders due to the thickness of their content pages, but a less expensive binder with the book title identified on the book's spine will be provided. More recently, the decision was made to transition the books to UEB. This has been added to the previous list of modernizations.

Initially, the project leader and Director of Technical Research analyzed the 18 books in the On the Way to Literacy series and grouped them according to type and nature of the modifications to be made. Colors were chosen based on iGen™ swatches, and the Low Vision Project Leader was consulted regarding visual art modifications. The project leader worked with the in-house graphic designer and outside graphic designers, under the in-house designer's supervision, to begin the modernization of the first five books (Something Special, That's Not My Bear, Giggly Wiggly, The Littlest Pumpkin, and Jennifer's Messes). Two other titles began the process of modification. During FY 2011, the project leader, Technical Research, and Production staff reviewed test runs of the newly modernized art for Something Special, That's Not My Bear, and Giggly Wiggly, produced on iGen™ equipment. Some files were modified to address concerns with color consistency and margins. These required repeat testing.

Digitized art for The Littlest Pumpkin was also completed. Modernization of art for The Blue Balloon was designed by the project leader, and art files were completed. The graphic designer continued to work on digitizing and redesigning the art for The Longest Noodle. Because The Littlest Pumpkin, The Longest Noodle, and The Blue Balloon contain multiple large foldout pages, these books were not able to be resized for in-house iGen™ production.

Because of work on higher-priority projects, discovery of a "work around" for the deteriorating art, and time required to fit test runs into a busy Production schedule, a decision was made to suspend work on the art digitizing/modernization of the On the Way to Literacy series in FY 2013. Nevertheless, a spreadsheet was developed specifying each of the 15 steps in the redesign and testing process with space to record target dates and progress for each of the 18 titles.

In late 2014, work began again on the project. The progress spreadsheet was used to track progress as files were updated, provided to Production for test runs and embossings, and returned for approvals and modifications. Two books (That's Not My Bear and Giggly Wiggly) were tested again on the iGen™ and test embossed. The Emergent Literacy Project Leader and Braille Literacy Project Leader examined the braille but did not approve. Improved braille was provided and approved after a second test embossing using the requested paper stock. Alignment of the print and braille text was also checked and approved. Files for both books were ready to be posted to the Production server, requiring only that the graphic designer receive from Production information about the numbering and file setup for iGen™ production; this was delayed by negotiations related to the new iGen™ contract.

Work during FY 2015

Following negotiation of the iGen™ contract, Production supplied the necessary information for file numbering so that work could proceed. The new graphic designer was acquainted with the project, status of each book, and located the previous graphic designer's files. He was provided with templates to guide layout of print and braille interlined text. He numbered the modernized files for Giggly Wiggly and That's Not My Bear and posted them to the Large Type server for Production's use. Specifications for both books were provided to Production at a meeting in January. At that time, the possibility of in-house production of the books containing large foldout pages (too large for iGen™ production) was revisited. A sample was requested.

Purchasing was given a copy of the progress spreadsheet and later requested information on the order of modernization. With lowered order quantities being favored, costs from the outside vendor have increased. The forecast indicated reorders were needed for specific books, and project staff were asked to complete modernization of those books sooner, if possible.

In early FY15, the final decision was made to move all 18 titles to UEB. The project leader conducted an examination of all books to assess impact on each book's layout of text and graphics. Steps for UEB translation and production of new UEB braille plates were added to the progress spreadsheet. Beginning with the next book to be modernized, UEB changes are ongoing. Books already modernized will receive UEB updates later.

Modernized files (not UEB compliant) for Jennifer's Messes and Something Special had already been completed by the previous graphic designer; however, braille alignment needed to be checked. The art also needed crop marks and correction of a card insert and punctuation sign. The current graphic designer made these changes. The books were test printed, test embossed, and approved for placement on the Large Type server. Jennifer's Messes and Something Special are also now available for Production's use.

Work began on Geraldine's Blanket, the next book to modernize as Purchasing and Production requested. A UEB translation was made, checked, and approved. New braille plates were made. The print text with appropriate line breaks was given to the graphic designer with a graphic design job ticket and copy of the original book. The graphic designer and project leader met with InGrid Design to modernize the print background art and fonts for the book.

Work planned for FY 2016

The project leader will continue to work from a list provided by Purchasing and Production to modernize each book—incorporating UEB changes, updating print art and fonts, resizing the book for iGen™ production, and utilizing improved bindings.

Bright Shapes Knob Puzzles

(New)

Purpose

To assist preschool children with Visual Impairments and motor delays in developing fine motor skills, eye/hand coordination, as well as shape, color, and pattern recognition

Project Staff

Background

This product submission came to APH from Kristie Reitz of Pennsylvania on January 14, 2014. The submission form stated that based on comments expressed by multiple therapists, there was a need for shapes similar to those already sold in the materials kits for the light box, but with handles and thicker, rearrangeable frames. This would allow children with fine motor development delays to grasp the shapes easily and provide for easier insertions into the thicker frames. A Product Development Committee meeting was facilitated by the Early Childhood Project Leader on September 22, 2014, to discuss this product as a result of a need for more information. Attendees included project leaders in the areas of Multiple Disabilities, CVI, Low Vision, and others. The group discussed similar product submissions for such puzzles in the past and came to the conclusion that there is a definitive need for this product. Various attributes of the puzzles were discussed including the thickness of the shapes, knob design, and so forth. Technical Research agreed that we would be able to use many existing pieces, (e.g., the Plexiglas® shapes from the light box kits, handles from existing peg boards, and a foam that is already in stock for the frames). The target audience for the Bright Shapes Knob Puzzles includes therapists, early interventionists, parents, and teachers of the visually impaired.

Work during FY 2015

Mock-ups of pieces in the Bright Shapes Knob Puzzles were made by the Model Shop and presented at the 2015 APH Annual Meeting during an early childhood product input session. Attendees were shown two possibilities for handles, one cylindrical and one square-like. The participants unanimously chose the cylindrical handle and affirmed that this design would be easiest for small hands. The product was presented to the Product Advisory and Review Committee on November 20, 2014, and moved into active development.

The first prototypes of the interlocking foam frames were completed in February. After it was realized that the circle Plexiglas® shape could fit into the square frame, and vice versa, the project leader consulted with Technical Research and asked that the smaller Plexiglas® square be incorporated into the kit. This required new tooling, die cutting of the frame, a new part number, and new quotes from the vendor.

The project leader completed a simple "getting started" text for the product. The Model Shop worked to complete 10 kits for field testing. A request for field evaluators was posted in the August 2015 APH News. The APH Field Tester Database was also searched.

Work planned for FY 2016

Project staff will work to complete the following tasks for this project:

Early Childhood Needs

(Ongoing)

Purpose

To research and develop educational materials that meet the needs of early interventionists, teachers, and parents, which address the diverse needs of children birth to six years with visual impairments

Project Staff

Background

Product development in the area of early childhood has continually been a focus of the APH Research Department. Various project leaders have sought input from the field to develop products that meet the needs of early childhood across the curriculum. Dawn Wilkinson assumed the Early Childhood Project Leader position in March of FY 2014.

Work during FY 2015

The project leader continued to manage the early childhood projects currently under development and review new product submissions and product ideas from the 2015 Meeting of the Minds at APH, as well as submissions from the field, and feedback from the early childhood input session at the 2014 Annual Meeting. The project leader represented APH at multiple events and networked with APH Ex Officio Trustees, teachers, early interventionists, and parents.

Work planned for FY 2016

Investigation and development of new products for early childhood will continue, along with modernization of existing products. The project leader will collaborate with experts in the field, conduct literature reviews, and present to/attend conferences in order to determine appropriate educational products and materials to address best practices in the area of early childhood and visual impairment.

Emergent Numeracy Kit For Preschool

(Continued)

Purpose

To determine major needs areas in emergent numeracy for young children with visual impairments, and to develop a kit to be used by early interventionists and preschool teachers

Project Staff

Background

During the past few years, there has been a continual focus in many journal publications concerning teaching emergent numeracy concepts to very young children. There is evidence that combining math and literacy through the use of picture books in a meaningful situation can increase a young child's understanding of numbers in the real world setting. Since a great deal of research has focused on storybooks that are picture based and use math manipulatives that are color dependent, it is in the best interest of young children with visual impairments that some of these materials be adapted accordingly. The development of an early childhood numeracy product was subsequently ranked as a very high priority by the Early Childhood Focus Group held at APH in 2012.

On May 30, 2013, APH received a product submission idea form from Christine Moe, a teacher of the visually impaired, suggesting a product that would include a storybook and manipulative to teach specific early numeracy skills to toddlers/preschoolers with visual impairments. This product idea was taken to the Product Advisory and Review Committed on January 9, 2014, by Kate Herndon and moved into active development.

The project leader gathered relevant journal articles addressing best practices in early numeracy. Research included a comparison of the development of numeracy skills by children with and without vision. Top selling commercially available math manipulatives were evaluated for their usefulness and adaptability for children with visual impairments. Popular storybooks addressing math concepts were considered for relevance in this kit. Suggestions were sought from the field concerning teaching beginning numeracy skills to preschoolers. Numerous possibilities of components to be included in the kit were discussed.

Work during FY 2015

Project staff determined that the areas needing to be addressed encompassed such a wide range of skills that multiple kits would be required. At that time, the project leaders decided to develop from three to five kits with books, based on the five domains of the Common Core State Standards for math that are addressed in kindergarten. These include counting and cardinality, operations and algebraic thinking, number operations, measurement and data, and geometry. Since there are not Common Core standards nationally for preschool, the project leaders compared these domains addressed in kindergarten to several sets of Early Childhood and Pre-K standards from numerous states, determining this to be the most logical approach. Lists of the most popular books taught in general education classrooms were evaluated and the first book was chosen: Five Little Speckled Frogs. The first meeting was held with Technical Research in late January 2015 to discuss the multiple components of the kit for Five Little Speckled Frogs. This first kit will include a print/braille book with some tactile graphics, a storyboard with manipulatives and number tiles, frog and dragonfly manipulatives, and a short teacher guide.

The Early Childhood Project Leader began work on the teacher guide and continued reviewing more popular preschool books used in various early childhood curricula to determine the second book. Although each book will be released as its own kit, it is intended that these kits be released relatively close together as a series. Materials were sought to make the manipulatives for the prototypes of Five Little Speckled Frogs, but work on this project was slowed by other priorities.

Work planned for FY 2016

Project staff will work to complete the following tasks:

Fingers That Dream

Formerly Tactile Books/International Collection

(Continued)

Logo of Les Doigts Qui Rêvent, French tactile book publisher

Purpose

To collaborate in order to provide high-quality tactile illustrated books that support the emergent literacy skills of young students with visual impairments and to join the efforts of Les Doigts Qui Rêvent (LDQR) and other organizations in sharing information leading to improved quality and production of tactile books

Project Staff

Photo of the title page of the APH version of Chameleon, by Antje Sellig, published by LDQR and distributed by APH

Background

Philippe Claudet, director of LDQR, has been in communication with the project leader since 2005. The LDQR workshop, located in Dijon, France, has produced 37,000 tactile illustrated books since opening its doors in 1994. Claudet has made several presentations in the United States, including a presentation at APH in 2011, a presentation and display of tactile books at Getting in Touch with Literacy in December 2011, and a presentation with the project leader at the 2014 international conference of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. APH staff and conference participants have commented on the high quality of the books' construction, quality of the braille, and use of varied materials with rich textures that invite and encourage tactile exploration. Highly textured books meet a need identified by the Early Books Focus Group (2004) and Meeting of the Minds (2011) for books with diverse textures—"something besides raised line drawings and thermoforms." The method of tactile illustration used (most are collage style), the size, and binding of the books differs from most APH tactile storybooks, meeting a request from the Early Books Focus Group (2007) for a greater variety of types of early books for children who are tactual learners.

After gathering input from in-house staff and others, Little Breath of Wind was chosen as the first book that APH would seek to purchase from LDQR, translate, and distribute. A product submission form for Little Breath of Wind was completed; it was approved by the Product Advisory and Review Committee as a "pass through" product. In-house, decisions were made about preferred labeling and packaging methods, the need for safety testing, and issues related to shipping and passage through Customs. Claudet contacted Intertek, an international testing agency recommended by APH, to conduct all necessary safety tests. APH's Purchasing staff negotiated purchase and terms of delivery with LDQR. The book's text was translated into English and a braille file given to LDQR by the project leader. Permission to distribute the book as a Quota item was sought and received. All standard U.S. safety tests were passed. In March 2013, the first shipment of 250 copies arrived at APH's docks, labeled, shrink-wrapped, and ready to ship to customers. The second shipment of 250 arrived in May. By the end of September 2013, APH had sold all 500 copies.

Based on the successful purchase and rapid sales of the first LDQR book, including positive feedback from teachers and APH Ex Officio Trustees at presentations given by the project leader, it was recommended that a second book be purchased from LDQR for distribution on Quota. The project leader reviewed copies of many LDQR books to identify those best meeting needs identified by previous focus groups and consultants. She consulted with Claudet about the expense of producing each before selecting 14 books to submit to in-house staff and staff of the Building on Patterns PreK project to obtain their recommendations. Chameleon, a board book written by Antje Sellig, was chosen. It features collage-style illustrations of a chameleon shape cut from different textures and in slightly different shapes to illustrate opposites: soft/hard, rough/smooth, long/short, light/heavy, on/under, one/many, big/little. It was recommended the book be provided in contracted braille.

Photo shows the tactile illustration for "on"— a fabric cutout of a chameleon shape on a leaf-shaped cutout made of thick green vinyl—and the opposing illustration for "under." A similar leaf shape can be lifted like a flap to reveal the chameleon.

Another set of pages illustrates the concept of "light" by showing the chameleon shape cut from a stiff, thick, but extremely lightweight material. On the opposing page, the same shape, cut from heavy metal plating, illustrates "heavy." Rather than being glued to the page, both are attached with ribbon so the child can lift and compare their weights.

Light and heavy chameleon shapes

Chameleon is one of the most-purchased tactile books overseas (Italy – 1,000 copies, French – 500, Germany – 400) in less than three years. The book was recommended by the Hans Sauer Foundation (universal design expert) and received "Universal Design expert favorite 2015" and "Universal Design consumer favorite 2015." Out of 100 international entries across a variety of product groups, only 16 other entries received both awards. The book was also nominated in Germany for the Newcomer Innovation Award.

Approval to begin negotiations to purchase 500 copies of Chameleon began. The project leader provided LDQR with an English translation and UEB transcription of the braille text.

Intertek, the same international testing agency recommended by APH and used in testing Little Breath of Wind, conducted all necessary safety tests to ensure the book meets U.S. safety standards. LDQR identified a way to group materials on a page and succeeded to half the high cost of safety tests required to import the books into the U.S. LDQR provided a quote to Purchasing and agreed to produce the book for APH after completing earlier book orders for Germany.

During 2014, the project leader continued to communicate with LDQR about topics related to tactile books and research underway overseas regarding tactual learning and tactile illustration. She was invited to analyze a tactile book submitted by South Korea along with colleagues from Italy, France, and Germany and participated in the peer review of articles for the 4th issue of Terra Haptica, a journal on tactual learning published by LDQR.

Work during FY 2015

The project leader maintained contact with LDQR and communicated with APH's Purchasing Department concerning progress. Production of Chameleon began in January 2015. In April, the first shipment of 250 books was delivered to APH. These were quickly sold. The second shipment of 250 was requested and arrived in early August.

The project leader has reviewed and suggested tactile illustrations for a third book, an adaptation of Press Here, a very popular book for sighted preschoolers and recent New York Times bestseller written by Hervé Tullet. The print book was shared with the Braille Literacy Project Leader, who agreed the book held potential for tactile adaptation. Along with suggestions made by the project leader, two additional professionals have suggested tactile adaptations for the book.

LDQR staff and the project leader discussed these possible tactile illustrations, including shortening the text. LDQR obtained permission from the author and original publisher (French) Bayard, to adapt the book. LDQR provided a prototype based on joint discussions, and the project leader approved the prototype and completed English translation of the French adapted text.

The translated adapted text was examined and approved by APH for distribution as the third book in this series. A name was chosen for the book collection, Fingers That Dream, the meaning of Les Doigts Qui Rêvent. At the Pass Through meeting held in July, it was agreed a quote would be requested from LDQR for 500 copies of Press Here.

Another commercially available book, Four Corners of Nothing, by Jerome Ruillier, is also being considered by LDQR and the project leader for collaborative tactile adaptation. A tactile version made by the Spanish National Organization for the Blind (ONCE) was not favored, and an alternative adaptation made by LDQR has been discussed in detail.

On a related, though separate topic, APH's sponsorship of U.S. involvement in the 2011 and 2013 Typhlo & Tactus (T&T) tactile book competition was repeated in 2015. The project leader worked with Public Relations staff to publicize the contest and correspond with entrants. Judging of U.S. entries sent to APH took place in September 2015. Selected entries will be sent to Italy for the international level of the competition in November 2015. T&T was established to increase the quality and number of tactile illustrated books available to blind children in its eight member countries.

Work planned for FY 2016

A UEB translation of Press Here will be made and sent to LDQR, along with appropriate safety notations for the cover and copyright notices. The project leader will stay in contact with LDQR staff to facilitate safety testing, production, and shipment of the books. Work will begin to select and prototype a fourth book.

FirstTouch Books

(Continued)

Purpose

To develop read-aloud, tactile illustrated books with interactive features that support the development of emergent literacy skills for students birth to 3 years

Project Staff

Photo of the cover of the prototype for the board book, Holy Moly!, showing a center die-cut hole that identifies the book for tactual learners; colorful circles form the cover art for visual learners.

Background

Children take their first steps toward learning to read and write early in life. Reading aloud to a child, from infancy onward, has been cited as a key contributor to later success in learning to read. Early, positive experiences with books motivate children to become readers. Oral language skills, listening skills, and vocabulary are built as the adult reader and young child share a book and talk about its words and illustrations and relate these to the child's own experiences. Early experiences with books provide opportunities to encounter written words and to learn book-handling skills. Young children who will read braille, however, face a limited selection of books in braille, particularly print/braille books that enable a typically sighted adult to read aloud to the child. Even fewer books contain tactile illustrations, capable of adding interest and meaning to the words of a story. APH and other braille publishers have worked to expand the availability of print/braille books. APH's On the Way to Literacy books for children, ages 3 to 5 years, and the Moving Ahead Tactile Graphic Storybooks for ages 4 to 6 offer print/braille texts and tactile illustrations designed to introduce children to a range of types of tactile displays. Given the importance of books for young children who will read braille, APH continues to make strong efforts to poll the field to determine current needs and to seek help in prioritizing these needs. In an online survey, 140 of 156 respondents ranked very simple, early books for birth to 3 years as a high need. This need was also noted by focus groups.

The objectives for books for this target audience were defined in detail. The project leader examined current offerings of braille producers to determine what was already available in print/braille for children from birth to age 3. She searched commercially-available print books to identify titles that might be adapted, seeking books with high quality language that would lend themselves to the addition of simple tactile, interactive, or other multisensory components. Hundreds of books found through a wide variety of sources were considered. In addition, designs for a variety of kinds of tactile interactive components were considered and reviewed by in-house staff regarding their feasibility for mass production.

This information was submitted to two consultants with combined experience in teaching and in research regarding emergent literacy for children with visual impairments. The resulting recommendation was that APH develop both types of books for students ages birth to 3 years: adaptations of high-quality, commercially-available books with tactile components added by APH, and APH-created books with simple texts written to support meaningful tactile, interactive components.

The combined efforts of the project leader and consultants to locate a print book that would be excellent, once adapted, for children birth to 3 years were not initially successful. The project leader continues to monitor commercially-available print books for the birth-to-3 age group that could be adapted.

For books in the FirstTouch series, it was proposed that books be developed one at a time. The series will eventually include adaptations of commercially-available books, as suitable ones are discovered, as well as original books. The proposed project received the approval of the Product Evaluation Team and the Product Advisory and Review Committee and was removed from the "PARCing Lot" in late spring of 2009. In June, the first Product Development Committee brainstorming meeting was held. A number of good ideas regarding book construction were received. Individuals, including both parents and teachers, were encouraged to submit ideas and original drafts. As a result, four promising drafts and sketches or descriptions of accompanying tactile, interactive components were obtained.

These were submitted to the project consultant for a detailed review, including a rating of each draft and ranking of their suitability for the target audience. Two drafts were rated "excellent" as candidates for further development. The draft ranked first, Holy Moly!, was roughly laid out in electronic form by the project leader, including dimensions, materials, and tactile as well as visual illustrations. This file was sent to several current and past consultants for a preliminary, informal review and was examined by in-house staff regarding production methods that might be used.

The book includes a rhyming text and features textures, flaps to open, and die-cut holes on each page to be explored, counted, and compared. The braille text is embossed on clear labels applied over the print page. Brightly colored very simple background patterns form the print art. The large print text contrasts with the background colors and is in a san serif font.

Photo of pages featuring colorful liftable flaps for the child to manipulate. Under one flap, there is a hole to discover; the other flaps hide scented stickers. The text reads: "Holy moly! Here's a secret. There's a hole but you can't see it. Shh—Over on the other side, find the hole that likes to hide."

Various production methods for board books were examined and priced. Methods and materials for all of the book's tactile interactive components were determined and priced; relevant safety standards were investigated to ensure compliance. The text and all tactile interactive components for the book were finalized. The braille tooling for the book has been completed. The project leader provided the graphic designer with the files and information needed to work on the book's art.

The book was given out for bids, and a vendor was selected. The vendor agreed to provide the prototypes for the field evaluation. The graphic designer was given what was needed to produce print art files.

The braille files for the book were completed; the book is compliant with Unified English Braille (UEB). The graphic designer completed work on print art files. The textures, scented stickers, and cord for the book were selected. Field evaluation sites were sought and contacted. A questionnaire for the books was designed. Problems in obtaining all requested prototypes from the vendor and the winter holiday delayed the start of field evaluation by several months.

Work during FY 2015

Field evaluation began in January, and completed forms were due by March 31; additional time was offered as needed, and all forms were received by end of April. Participating teachers were mailed the book, a general questionnaire and child information forms soliciting each student's reactions to the book (level of interest, mode of exploration, level of prompts used as the book was read) and other student background information. In addition, a parent/caregiver form was provided to collect the parents' observations regarding their child's use of the book. Teachers were encouraged to leave the book in the home, when possible, for parents and caregivers to read to the child. Video footage was requested, if possible, of the first and second readings of the book.

Teacher evaluators were asked to read the book a minimum of 2 to 3 times with each student meeting the following criteria:

The book was used by 13 TVIs and 16 parents with 27 students, aged 10 months to 5 years (chronological age). Video footage was requested; videos of 11 students were submitted. For three students, videos of the first and second reading were returned.

Data collected from the Child Information Sheet shows that 15 female students and 12 male students took part. Their ages were distributed as follows:

Teachers rated students' interest from low (0=no interest) to high (3=very interested). Five students were rated "1" (19%). Seventeen students were rated "2" (63%); 5 students were rated "3" (19%).

In terms of interest as a function of gender, male students averaged a rating of 2.2 and females an average of 1.9. A possible mitigating factor in this difference is the fact that the 7 of the 12 youngest students in the evaluation were female, and all 5 of the youngest students were females.

Yet interest did not appear to be age-related in this small sample whose distribution was weighted in favor of children from 18 to 42 months. Of the students rated "3" or "very interested"—ages varied: 10 months, 24 months, and 36 months. (There was one student rated as very interested for whom a birthdate was not given). Similarly, for students rated a "1" ("not very interested")—ages also ranged widely: 20 months, 24 months, 36 months, and 60 months.

Teachers were asked to indicate how each child explored the book. Overall, 4 of the 27 students explored "only tactually," 10 explored "primarily tactually," 9 explored "equally tactually and visually," and 4 explored "primarily visually." Analyzing students' interest in the book as a function of mode of exploration, of students rated "very interested," 2 were primarily tactual learners, 2 explored equally tactually and visually, and 1 student was primarily visual in his exploration. Of students rated "not very interested," 1 student was only tactual, 2 students were primarily tactual, 1 student was equally tactual and visual in his exploration, and 1 was primarily visual. These results and observation of student videos inclined the project leader to believe the book may have been slightly less engaging for strong tactual learners. In addition, some of the teachers expressed the opinion that more textures were needed.

It was noted that only 9 of the 27 students received more than one reading of the book, less than the requested minimum of 2 readings. And it appears that many students receiving 2 or more readings were rated as having higher interest in the book. For several students, teachers commented that the child became more interested by the book after the first or second readings. This was observed in the videos of one student, for whom the teacher supplied videos of an initial and a later reading. In previous evaluations of other tactile books, teacher evaluators have also made this observation: Interest appears to increase over several readings. However, it is also possible that some students received more readings because they requested/accepted additional readings, and that teachers did not repeat readings if a student was initially uninterested.

Parents answered similar questions about their child's apparent interest in the book and mode of exploration. Their answers largely agreed with answers given by teachers on the teacher version of the Child Information Sheet. Separate analyses of parent answers are not provided here with the exception of two students, for whom only the parent version of the Child Information Sheet was returned.

Additional teacher input was collected via the Teacher Questionnaire, which asked the teacher to comment based not only on the current student(s) with whom he/she had used the book but on other students in the target audience with whom she/he had had experience.

Asked if the text was "interesting and appropriate" for children meeting the criteria set out for the field evaluation, 10 of 13 (77%) teachers responded "yes." Comments included the following:

Two evaluators indicated the text was "too long…babies want to move to the next page" and that "young toddlers" might not be ready for the book. A third evaluator indicated the text was not appropriate because children were directed to "see" but that otherwise, text was appropriate.

Ten of the teachers (77%) responded that the tactile/visual illustrations were "interesting and appropriate" for this population. Comments included the following:

Several evaluators indicated that depending on the child's visual diagnosis, colors could be "more stimulating." In addition, a longer cord was requested for the page that features lacing; however safety standards restrict the length to what was provided.

Construction of the book was approved of by all evaluators, who indicated the book's pages were easily turned and the book was durable. Two were concerned that flaps might be eventually torn.

Videos showed wide variation in how adults shared the book: length of time taken to read and explore the book, whether interactions surrounding the book were playful or "educational" in nature, and the extent to which the adult reader followed the child's lead or imposed a pace set by the adult. Videos showed the children covered a wide spectrum from being highly engaged and capably handling the book, to limited engagement and awareness of the activity. In some cases, environment may have contributed: Background noises were noticeably distracting in two videos, and the child was engaged in drinking while being read to, but appeared to need this to settle in the adult's lap.

Based on the field evaluation, the following revisions were planned and are being implemented: increasing contrast in indicated areas, adding texture to the spiral on page 1, and devising reinforcement for flaps. A brief "Read Aloud Tips" will be added emphasizing the reading should be fun and fitted to the child's attention span and level of interest. The target audience for the book will be defined as being for toddlers and preschoolers through age 3 years (developmental age).

Prototype for the book's opening pages shows large print text, interlined braille text, and what will be a softly textured arrow/path to track to reach the large die-cut hole in the center of the right-hand page. The text reads: "Holy moly! What is this? Here's a hole you cannot miss!"

During the FY 2015, work also began to select the second book to develop as part of the FirstTouch series. Several commercially available books and public domain rhymes were discussed for possible adaptation, along with the book ranked second by project consultants who ranked Holy Moly first for development. All are being shown to a small focus group for a final recommendation.

Work planned for FY 2016

Revisions to Holy Moly will be completed, final specifications written, and the vendor given the necessary files and partially fabricated materials (textures, cord, textured arrow shape, scented stickers, braille labels) to complete production of the book. The book will then be priced and made available.

Development of the second book in this series will proceed according to focus group recommendations.

Lap Time and Lullabies

(Continued)

Purpose

Based on current literature and research in emergent literacy, Lap Time and Lullabies (formerly Focus on Fingers Kit) is designed to assist family members, caregivers, and early educators in their quest to prepare infants and young children who are blind or visually impaired and may have additional special needs to enjoy tactile learning and literacy.

Project Staff

Background

A review of current literature and research on braille literacy reveals a growing body of information to guide our profession in meeting the braille literacy needs of young children and those with multiple disabilities. Present emergent braille literacy materials include lists of early critical skills areas (McComiskey, 1996) and "how-to" chapters and books for teachers of children who are visually impaired (Olsen, 1981; Wright & Stratton, 2007) with a primary focus on early braille reading and writing instruction for children ages 3-5. Strikingly absent are family-friendly materials that promote an overall parental understanding of the earliest skills necessary for tactile learning and literacy, while offering practical, engaging activities that parents may implement at home and with their infants and young children to support these skills. Lap Time and Lullabies is an innovative, initial attempt to meet this need.

Author Kay Clarke states, "It is well known that literacy begins at birth. In contrast to prior products, Lap Time and Lullabies (Focus on Fingers: Preparing Little Hands to Enjoy Tactile Learning and Literacy) addresses the earliest stages of tactile learning and literacy in a family-centered and developmentally-appropriate way, empowering families to play an active role in the beginning steps of their children's tactile learning and literacy. Lap Time and Lullabies additionally reflects a shift from traditional thinking about emergent braille literacy as 'learning ABCs' to a broader, research-based viewpoint that acknowledges the importance of a variety of early experiences that subsequently may contribute to competent, motivated braille readers and writers." Lap Time and Lullabies has the potential to make a significant difference for young blind or visually impaired children learning braille literacy.

The key is enjoyment! Young learners should have fun as they learn. Functional activities and literacy experiences that are developmentally appropriate and highly engaging best describe this product.

Clarke submitted this product idea to APH for consideration in FY 2010. The Product Evaluation Team recommended this product to the Product Advisory and Review Committee, which approved this product idea for development by APH. The author signed a contract allowing APH to be the sole distributor of Lap Time and Lullabies, and an initial timeline to complete the product was developed. In September 2011, the project staff met to discuss the product. They established more definite timelines and a work plan for the completion of the product.

During FY 2012, the author renamed her product "Lap Time and Lullabies." The new title better reflects the interactive nature of preparing infants, toddlers, and preschoolers for tactile learning and literacy. The author and project leader worked to have the product meet early childhood standards, braille literacy standards, and APH standards. The author submitted six initial storybook prototypes to APH staff and sought feedback on tactile and literacy components. In August 2012, the author presented the product to the Early Childhood Focus Group at APH. Discussion topics included whether all six storybooks should be included in the kit, or if only three storybooks should be included. It is possible the kit will be broken into an initial product (e.g., handbook and three storybooks) and a subsequent product (e.g., three additional storybooks). Because of the many tactile components of the storybooks in this kit, a significant amount of time will be needed by APH to ready it for field testing as well as production.

In FY 2013, the author worked to complete the handbook content and preliminary prototypes of the storybooks. The author visited APH in mid-August. During the visit, project staff worked to identify product components that are feasible for production by APH. The author has developed Literacy Fun Activity Cards for inclusion in the kit; these may take the place of some of the storybooks. Each storybook is labor intensive and will add greatly to the cost of the final product.

Burt Boyer retired from APH in March 2014, and Dawn Wilkinson commenced as project leader for this project. The author worked to complete the handbook content and mock-ups of storybooks and activity cards in the product; she submitted completed files in August 2014. Project staff began edits to submitted materials and provided extensive feedback to the author. The project leader and author worked with Technical Research to determine how the tactile components can be produced best in the field testing stage, with consideration for what materials are possible in final production. It is likely that the storybooks will be bound in three-ring binders similar to storybooks in the On The Way to Literacy Series; however, the binder size will be smaller and more appropriate for very young children to handle. Technical Research began work to design prototypes for two of the kit storybooks, Butterflies and Little Fuzzy.

Work during FY 2015

A prototype of the Little Fuzzy book was completed in early January and sent to the consultant for review. The project leader and Technical Research met to discuss feedback and make revisions. New materials were sent to the consultant to evaluate for use in the revised prototype. New mock-ups of the gate and door (which are objects in the storybook), and replacement possibilities for a sticky material all had to be obtained and designed by the Model Shop. The Model Shop also began work on the first prototype of Butterflies after decisions were made regarding materials for the butterflies. Specifications for the butterflies were given to Graphic Design to assist in the creation of this book. The binder option had to be changed, as the On The Way To Literacy binders are approximately $25 per binder as compared to the new binder used in Tactile Book Builder, which is approximately $5 but still gives a small 3-ring binder option as agreed upon.

The handbook was divided into a total of 15 small booklets that will be inserted into a large binder. Graphic Design completed over half of these booklets during 2015. A new timeline was established for completion of this project in order to field test in the Spring of 2016.

Work planned for FY 2016

Project staff will work to complete the following tasks for Lap Time and Lullabies:

Moving Ahead: Tactile Graphic Storybooks

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide print/braille storybooks for upper preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students featuring tactile graphics designed to encourage tactual exploration, refine tactual discrimination, and to introduce tactile symbols, simple keys, and maps in the context of a story

Project Staff

Background

Symbolic visual displays, such as maps and diagrams, play an increasingly important role in textbooks and computer displays for students with typical vision. They present a special challenge for students with significant vision loss, who are often expected to use a tactile equivalent in the course of their studies and in test-taking. Observers have suggested that difficulty interpreting tactile displays may be due, in part, to lack of early exposure. Storybooks developed in this project are designed to give young students opportunities to explore and interpret tactile illustrations that feature raised symbols, lines, and areal patterns. Of equal importance, the storybooks offer exposure to braille and foster key emergent literacy skills. The print/braille text of the books is intended to be read aloud by an adult reader. Embedded text (in large print and the user's choice of either contracted or uncontracted braille) offers opportunities for the student to explore and read single words and short phrases, just as they might read labels included in a tactile diagram.

Initially, project leader efforts focused on identifying objectives and selecting or creating story texts and graphic media to support these. Lois Harrell served as project consultant, authoring a book and reviewing drafts of other books. Based on input from expert reviewers, four stories were chosen from a large pool of drafts. A variety of tactile media were considered. Paper embossed graphics were selected for the first book. A combination of embossed braille and Tactile Vision graphics was selected for three books.

Multiple prototypes of each of the four books were hand-produced. Accompanying storyboards (featuring symbols from the story mounted to attachable pieces) were created to enable students to create their own tactile displays. A Reader's Guide including information about introducing the child to the book's tactile graphics and briefly discussing emergent literacy skills and development of tactual learning skills was written to accompany each book.

Seven teacher-evaluators at seven sites participated in an expert review and conducted the field evaluation of the books/storyboards with 23 students ranging in age from 4.5 to 11 years of age, spanning an 8 to 10 week period. Without dissension, teachers indicated texts and tactile graphics for all four books were interesting and appropriate for kindergarten and first grade students; a majority also extended the books' value upward to second grade students. Teachers reported 94-100% of the students, in their opinion, benefited from using the books during the evaluation period and would benefit from using the books for a longer period of time. Reasons given included the following: "increased motivation to read and exposure to braille and tactile exploration," "allowed student to experience tactile graphics with a purpose," "tactile graphics made the books more fun and motivated him to use his hands to explore and draw in information," and "helped tracking skills." The tactile graphics were also credited with enhancing understanding of the stories for 90% of the students. Accompanying storyboards were strongly endorsed by the teachers, who stated that their use improved comprehension, offered students an important opportunity to create their own graphics, and were highly motivating. A majority of teachers commented favorably on the Tactile Vision graphics. All evaluators rated the visual graphics in the books as a "very important" component of the books, promoting shared reading with typically sighted peers and adults and supplementing tactual information for the many braille readers with usable vision. The three project consultants also reviewed prototype books, provided favorable reviews, and suggested changes to specific tactile illustrations.

The four Moving Ahead storybooks and accompanying components received approval for sale on Quota. It was decided that each of the four books be produced separately to assist flow through the pre-production/tooling and production phases. Goin' On a Bear Hunt was produced first and is available.

In order to produce the second storybook (Splish the Fish), sample tests were run to ensure compatibility of the paper stock, the outside vendor's inks, and the Tactile Vision process; several problems with paper were encountered and resolved. It was necessary to design and add a special switch and tray to the Tactile Vision machine to accommodate the book's page size. An initial pilot run of 100 books revealed some inconsistency in registration. A debriefing addressed possible sources. Subsequent runs of the book have been problem-free.

In order to produce the second storybook (Splish the Fish, sample tests were run to ensure compatibility of the paper stock, the outside vendor's inks, and the Tactile Vision process; several problems with paper were encountered and resolved. It was necessary to design and add a special switch and tray to the Tactile Vision machine to accommodate the book's page size. An initial pilot run of 100 books revealed some inconsistency in registration. A debriefing addressed possible sources. Subsequent runs of the book and runs of similarly produced books (The Boy and the Wolf, Turtle and Rabbit have been problem-free.

The last of the books, Turtle and Rabbit became available for purchase in FY 2012. In FY 2013, the project leader, independently and through communication with the tactile books workshop Les Doigts Qui Rêvent (LDQR), began to look for commercially-available children's books suited to development as the next Moving Ahead book. The project leader also reviewed a highly textured, interactive version of Goin' On a Bear Hunt developed at LDQR and made suggestions regarding LDQR's addition of textures and interactive elements to this book and Splish the Fish.

The project leader worked to select a commercially available children's book to adapt as the next Moving Ahead storybook. Four commercially available children's books published in the U.S. were identified as promising for the type of tactile illustration used in this series. Four other books fit more appropriately in the On the Way to Literacy series of books for children from 3 to 5 years. In addition to U.S. titles, such as The Gruffalo, the project leader reviewed and suggested tactile illustrations for several commercially available titles from overseas. Two of these are particularly suited to development as Moving Ahead books. Dans la Cour de l'Ecole (From the Heart of the School) features symbols illustrating children's school activities as boys and girls line up to play games, sit in rows in the classroom, eat in the cafeteria, and so forth. Four Corners of Nothing, by Jerome Ruillier, uses shapes to illustrate the story of a child with special needs (depicted using a square) who is not able to attend school with his peers (depicted as circles) until the door of the school is altered to accommodate both circles and squares.

Work during FY 2015

The project leader proposed a tactile adaptation of The Gruffalo to in-house staff and LDQR staff. The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson, is a very well-known, bestselling children's book. First published in 1999, it continues to be widely read and carried in bookstores. The story is of a mouse, on a path through the forest, who must avoid being eaten by a Gruffalo. In rhyme, the Gruffalo is described with frightening features: "terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws." As the story continues, other features are added until the real Gruffalo is met. Working through several ideas, a possible adaptation with tactile parts that can be assembled has been proposed and multisensory elements, such as audio backdrop proposed by LDQR.

Work planned for FY 2016

Work will continue on the tactile design and layout of The Gruffalo. A prototype will be made and submitted for expert review. Field evaluation will be planned and carried out.

PAIVI: Parents and Their Infants With Visual Impairments [Modernization]

(Completed)

Purpose

To revise and modernize Parents and Visually Impaired Infants (PAVII), which has been sold on Federal Quota by APH since 1990. The new name of the product is PAIVI: Parents and Their Infants With Visual Impairments.

Project Staff

Background

PAVII (now PAIVI) addresses the need for materials focused on early intervention for infants and toddlers who are blind or visually impaired. These materials have been used extensively in early intervention programs serving families and infants and toddlers who are blind or visually impaired nationally and internationally. The target groups for these materials have been teachers of the visually impaired, O&M instructors, early childhood special educators, and early interventionists.

PAVII was developed and field tested in a federally-funded project that served families of infants and toddlers with visual impairments and was based on recommended practices of the time. These recommended practices have not really changed, although person-first language will be used (i.e., Parents and Infants with Visual Impairments). The revised edition of this product will draw on current evidence-based practices.

The project leader contacted the authors of PAVII and requested they consider modernizing this product. Deborah Chen agreed and submitted a Product Idea Submission Form for modernization. A contract was agreed upon by the authors and APH. The authors developed a work plan, and the project leader worked with the authors to finalize this plan.

The project leader worked with the consultants on the following tasks during FY 2011.

  1. Calvello commenced updates and revisions to the following:
  2. Chen commenced updates and revisions to the following:

During FY 2012, the co-authors completed their revision of the product content and submitted the files to the project leader. The project files were assigned to a research assistant for compilation and proofing; however, higher-priority projects prevented additional progress on this project.

In FY 2013, the project assistant completed extensive revisions to the two PAIVI manuscripts (i.e., the main PAIVI practitioner's manual and the Learning Together parent booklet). All revisions were shared with co-author Deborah Chen. She and the project assistant collaborated throughout the revision process. The project assistant recommended a name change to the product, which was approved by Chen. The new name of the product is PAIVI: Parents and Their Infants With Visual Impairments. In addition, the project leader and assistant worked with the APH graphic designer to enhance the illustrations for this product. Prototypes of the PAIVI manuscripts were developed and sent out for expert review; the prototypes included one sample illustration.

The PAIVI practitioner's manual and the Learning Together parent booklet were reviewed by seven experts in the field of visual impairment and blindness. Evaluation data were gathered using a survey designed on the Google Drive™ online storage service. In addition, reviewers marked necessary revisions directly to the electronic version of both PAIVI documents. Reviewers are experienced professionals who work in the field of visual impairment and blindness with marked expertise in the area of early childhood. All seven reviewers hold doctoral degrees. Four reviewers (57%) have worked in the field for more than 21 years, one (14%) for 16-20 years, and two (29%) for 11-15 years. Six of the reviewers have ongoing direct contact with children with visual impairments and blindness.

One hundred percent of the expert reviewers reported that the PAIVI documents reflect current research and evidence-based practices in early intervention services with families and their very young children (birth to 36 months) with visual impairments. Further, reviewers provided qualitative feedback about specific areas (including exact page numbers and sentences) that are helpful to practitioners and those that need clarification or improvement. Six reviewers recommended that APH produce PAIVI and the Learning Together booklet and make each available for purchase on Federal Quota. One reviewer was uncertain about this decision; comments by the reviewer indicated that the prototypes lacked graphical/artwork components and revisions to writing style and format were needed. The reviewer's concerns will be addressed prior to production. Specifically, InGrid Design will complete a graphical layout of the product, and an in-house artist is modernizing illustrations for use in the manuscripts. Further, the documents will be reviewed for writing style consistency and format errors.

Input from expert review was shared with the product authors, who addressed content changes and writing style revisions. In-house graphic designer Terri Gilmore added color and design enhancements to the line-drawing illustrations that were used in the original PAVII product. Yoshi Miyake, a freelance artist, was hired to design new illustrations. InGrid Design completed graphical layout of the practitioner's manual and parent booklets.

Based on expert reviewer input, the chapter titled "Getting Ready for Preschool," which was originally included in the PAIVI practitioner's manual, was reformatted as a separate booklet for parents. Thus, two parent booklets are included in the PAIVI product; these are Learning Together and Getting Ready for Preschool. It was determined that the PAIVI product will be sold as two catalog items and packaged accordingly:

Burt Boyer retired from APH in March 2014, and Dawn Wilkinson commenced as Early Childhood Project Leader. Throughout FY 2014, the project assistant and project leader worked to move PAIVI toward production.

Work during FY 2015 Project staff completed necessary steps to ensure that PAIVI is fully accessible to the population for whom it is intended. A CD of accessible files (BRF, HTML, and EPUB®) is included with the practitioner's manual and with the parent booklets. PDFs of the PAIVI assessment forms are included on the practitioner's manual CD.

Tooling was completed in February of FY 2015, and the final specifications meeting was held on March 18, 2015. Subsequently, production specifications were finalized, and the product was given an available for sale date of August 1, 2015. The product brochure was finalized.

Work planned for FY 2016

No further work is anticipated on this project. Project staff will present PAIVI at conferences and in-house trainings as requested.

Tactile Book Builder

(Continued)

Purpose

To develop a kit of book-making materials and an accompanying manual to facilitate and guide the creation of individualized tactile books for children; materials support inclusion of text in an appropriate medium as well as a wide variety of types of tactile illustrations including objects from the child's own environment, shapes, textures, collaged illustrations, and raised-line illustrations.

Tactile books made by TBB field testers

Project Staff

Background

The request that APH create a kit of materials enabling users to easily create a variety of individualized, custom-made tactile books has been expressed by focus groups and survey respondents. Because a young child's concepts and language are limited, individualized books that address familiar topics and include things the child has experienced firsthand are more likely to be meaningful than visually complex, commercially available books designed for a typically sighted child. In addition, when the child helps dictate and produce the written text, the adult is able to use this opportunity to build important early literacy skills. When the child also participates in illustrating the book, it broadens his/her awareness of how tactile displays can be used to communicate meaning. Creating custom-made books, whether done by the adult or in collaboration with the child (participative design), can increase the number of appropriate books available to the child and motivate interest in books and in reading.

The idea for a tactile book-making kit with guidebook received approval from the Product Evaluation Team, and proceeded to the Product Advisory and Review Committee. The project was approved and released for work to begin. A brainstorming session marked the first Product Development Committee meeting and yielded useful suggestions for materials that might be part of the kit. The project leader examined a wide range of materials that could be used for book-making by searching online and in stores. The list of kit components and how they would be grouped was finalized and sketches made to show expert reviewers. Dimensions and quantities for kit materials were selected, and costs were estimated.

The project leader completed a rough draft of a kit guidebook containing guidelines for tactile design and instructions for using the kit materials to construct books with a variety of tactile illustrations.

The basis for the Tactile Book Builder kit is a relatively low cost, reusable, polyblend binder (9" x 8") provided in two different spine widths: 2.5" to accommodate thicker textures and objects and a 1" binder for less bulky books. The binders feature plastic safety rings. The binders also include a "window" in the front cover for insertion of custom tactile cover art.

The photo shows the binder's front cover "pocket," which allows the user to insert any of the kit's pages to serve as a tactile cover page.
The photo shows the binder with a tactile cover page featuring a net bag of seashells and crayon attached to a needlepoint canvas background.

The remainder of the kit consists of blank pages, 3-hole punched, for insertion into the binders. A number of different page types are included for fitting into the binders: colorful board stock pages, polyblend pages, needlepoint canvas pages, polyblend "pocket pages," Ziploc® pages, magnetic pages, loop material pages, doubled braille paper pages, and clear page protectors used to protect print pages and create twin vision books. Clear, adhesive-backed braille label material in three sizes is included in the basic kit, as well as adhesive-backed hook and loop material attachments, and adhesive-backed magnetized strips. Also included is a version of the APH SoundPage with recording devices sized for the small binders in the kit.

Photo of two types of pages that feature pockets to house objects. One, formed of durable polyblend, has an open, gusseted pocket for larger items. The other is a resealable Ziploc® bag attached to a page for smaller items or inclusion of scented items.

Photo of an assortment of colorful and rugged board stock and polyblend pages, pre-punched to insert into the binder.

Photo shows black fabric loop pages designed to accept hook attachments. Objects can be backed with the kit's adhesive hook fasteners to attach objects quickly to the page, such as the paper flower, small rubber toy, and finger puppet shown in the photo.

Photo shows magnetic pages, pre-punched to insert into the binders. They are cut from special high-energy magnetic stock to accept magnetic attachments provided with the kit.

Photo shows the APH SoundPage, a thermoformed page that features slots holding three small recording devices. The TBB version is sized to clip into the TBB binders.

The list of suggested kit items and a draft of the manual were submitted to two consultants for evaluation. Overall, they were pleased with the kit items and contents of the manual. However, they recommended that the manual (Tactile Book Builder Kit Manual and the Guide to Designing Tactile Illustrations for Children's Books, a 35-page booklet available since 2008 as a free download from the APH website, be integrated into one document. Originally, the project leader had planned to include the second document as a separate piece.

Technical drawings were made of the kit's custom binders, pocket pages, and Ziploc® pages. A vendor for these was identified. Several alternatives were explored with the vendor as a means to strengthen the binder cover and retain its open window. The dimensions of the Ziploc® page were also reworked after consultation with the vendor. Drawings were revised and given to vendors for price quotes. Sample prototypes were delivered by the vendors in the last quarter of 2013. A variety of alternatives regarding both the material and fabrication method to be used for the metal/magnetic pages for the kit were explored and sampled with Technical Research staff, the model maker, and outside vendors.

A final design for the binder covers was completed. Finalizing the binder dimensions allowed staff to have needed dies made for cutting the internal pages for the binders. Special high-strength, double-sided magnetic sheeting was located by the project leader, providing a way to produce magnetic pages in a low cost manner. Packaging for the kit was chosen. The project leader and Technical Research staff worked together to locate and order material for all other kit items. A cutting die was made to produce all prototype pages, and 10 prototype kits were fabricated and assembled for field evaluation. Braille templates for the binder pages and label material were designed to assist in planning and aligning braille text.

Extensive work was done on the manual to blend the two documents and update source material. A Quick Start Chart was prepared to show users in a glance how each page type could be used to make a variety of types of tactile illustrations. Appendices list other products offered by APH that are useful in creating tactile books as well as an extensive illustrated list of suggestions for using available materials that are on hand in a classroom or home, or can be purchased at craft supply stores.

Tactile Book Builder Quick Start Chart

TBB Pages Real Object Illustrations Collaged Illustrations Raised-Line Illustrations
Pocket Pages Insert objects in pockets
Ziploc® Pages Enclose objects
Needlepoint Canvas Pages Attach objects with zip ties, "twisties" Lace yarn, string, pipe cleaners through the canvas to form lines & raised shapes
Polyblend Pages Attach objects: zip ties, hook/loop, magnetic attachments, glue Glue or attach textured shapes using hook/loop or magnetic attachments Glue string, yarn, or Wikki Stix®; apply puff paint to form lines & raised shapes
Board Stock Pages Attach objects with zip ties, hook/loop, magnetic attachments, or glue Glue or attach textured shapes using hook/loop or magnetic attachments Glue string, yarn, or Wikki Stix®; apply puff paint to form lines & raised shapes
Fabric Pages Attach objects with hook/loop attachments Use hook attachments to back textured shapes to apply to page Use hook attachments to back raised and outline shapes to apply to page
Magnetic Pages Attach objects with magnetic attachments Use magnetic strips or sheeting to back textured shapes to apply to page Use magnetic attachments to back raised and outline shapes to apply to page
Card Stock Pages Attach objects with hook/loop, magnetic attachments, or glue Glue or attach textured shapes using hook/loop or magnetic attachments Emboss; glue string, yarn, or Wikki Stix®; apply puff paint to form lines & raised shapes

The resulting 105-page manual was reviewed by Christine Moe, doctoral student at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). At her recommendation, a brief section on emergent literacy was added; more updates to the manual's references were provided by Moe; and the project leader drafted a detailed chart listing fine motor, tactual discrimination, cognitive, and language skills needed for effectively using different types of tactile illustration. The developmental chart suggests the illustration style and book genre appropriate for a child at each level. Data assembled from multiple sources by UNC provided the basis for the sequence of tactual discrimination, fine motor, cognitive, and language skills listed in the chart. The unformatted draft of the manual was then readied for field evaluation.

Field evaluation forms containing both closed and open-ended questions were written for the manual and kit items. Eight evaluation sites agreed to participate. In February through March of 2014, nine evaluators at six sites completed the evaluation. Two additional evaluators at one of the sites answered questions regarding kit items although they did not evaluate the manual. An evaluator at a seventh site delegated responsibility for the evaluation; although only parts of the questionnaire were answered, in its place a brief narrative impression of the kit and manual was provided. These results were recorded separately. The eighth site did not return an evaluation.

Map of United States shows the states in which evaluators participated in the field evaluation of the Tactile Book Builder kit. In Kentucky, Missouri, and Colorado private preschool programs took part. In Michigan and Virginia, the kit was tested by TVIs working in public school programs; in Maryland and Iowa, field evaluators were employed through the state residential school.

In all, nine TVIs, two TVI/COMS, a parent, and a teaching assistant took part. The TVIs ranged in years of experience from 2 to 24 years. The participating parent had also worked extensively in the field with 29 years of experience. The teaching assistant had been in the field for less than six months.

All nine evaluators completing the full evaluation indicated that each of the three sections of the manual would meet the needs of 80-100% of the TVI audience. Other data include the following:

Although parent use of the manual was not a primary objective of the project, 67% of the evaluators answered that all or almost all parents could use the manual; however, steps needed to improve the manual for parent use could, a majority indicated, limit its usefulness for the primary audience of TVIs.

Evaluators' comments about the manual were highly positive:

The Quick Start Chart, appendices, and developmental chart were considered useful by 89 to 100% of the field evaluators. Comments:

At the seventh site, some parts of the evaluation were completed. The TVI and teaching assistant indicated that most TVIs would or should already know the information contained in the manual. They recommended the manual be divided into two separate documents—a shorter "how to" booklet and a second longer manual for those lacking training and experience. In many respects, this is similar to the two documents submitted to expert reviewers before integration of the two documents was recommended. To address this concern, the Quick Start Chart is being expanded slightly and the manual's introduction suggests experienced tactile book designers skip the first section of the manual.

The majority of evaluators were pleased with the kit items:

Seventy percent stated the kit should be produced "as currently designed"; 30% indicated it should be produced with "a few but significant revisions" yet noted suggested changes were mostly a matter of adjusting colors and quantity of some page types.

The suggested additions to the kit were longer plastic banding ties, page reinforcers for the paper braille pages, and rings to clip pages together for storage.

About the kit, in general, evaluators remarked:

Work during FY 2015

In October 2014, the TBB kit and manual were approved for sale on Quota. Indicated revisions and additions to the Tactile Book Builder kit and manual were made. Final quantities and colors for all kit items were selected based on field evaluation results and consultation with other APH staff. A Product Structure Meeting was convened to discuss and approve these choices. Work continued on final specifications.

The manual received a final edit by the project assistant. Further illustrations were added to the manual, which now includes more than 80 photos providing examples of a range of types of tactile illustrations, a wide variety of tactile books from different sources, and materials used to construct them. Cover art suggestions were given to the graphic designer. Final copy of the manual (without photos, 120 pages in length) was given to the designer in February, and the project leader consulted with the designer as work proceeded.

The Emergent Literacy Project Leader shared the kit and manual with the new CVI Project Leader as a possible basis for a kit of book-making materials designed around the needs of students with CVI.

Work planned for FY 2016

Final specifications will be completed. Formatting of the manual will be completed. The kit will enter the production process.

VIPS@Home Parent Empowerment Program

Formerly VIPS@Home Parent University Series

(Continued)

Purpose

To offer courses to parents that allow them to gain valuable information aimed at helping them raise their children who are blind or visually impaired

Project Staff

Background

Research shows that family involvement in education is critical to children's success. It is even more important for young children who are blind or visually impaired. Since it is estimated that 80-90% of what a young child learns occurs through vision, knowledgeable and involved parents can help mitigate the developmental delays and/or differences that can accompany visual impairment. During the early intervention years, when services are very personal and family-friendly, it is imperative that families learn as much as they can to carry them through the many years ahead in educating their child.

Visual impairment is a low incidence disability. Therefore, a young family who has a visually impaired child may have never known anyone who is blind or visually impaired. Young families need information and support to accept their child's disability and obtain resources. The VIPS@Home product addresses these needs by offering a curriculum or courses for parents of blind or visually impaired children that can be taught by service providers or trained parent teachers.

The VIPS@Home: Parent Empowerment Program was developed as a partnership between VIPS (Visually Impaired Preschool Services) and APH to provide families of young visually impaired children with needed information in the comfort of their own homes. Parents who do not live in an area where such services are available, or who find it difficult to attend parent meetings, can benefit from short courses such as these to obtain valuable support for their families. VIPS@Home: Parent Empowerment Program serves as a tool for them to connect with other parents for networking and sharing of available resources. The courses have been written by professionals and/or parents of visually impaired children, and can be used individually or in group settings.

VIPS obtained a grant for $15,000 to develop VIPS@Home. The initial approach was to submit a grant proposal to the U.S. Department of Education, but it was not approved. Four courses were developed by VIPS: (1) Tour Through the Jungle, an overview of special education; (2) Emergent Literacy; (3) Power at Your Fingertips, an introduction to braille; and (4) Magical Moments, learning through daily routines. Because the Early Childhood Project Leader from APH was involved in the formation of this project, he recommended that APH take on this project and have it be a product APH could sell on Quota.

There is evidence that APH made the decision to produce this product based on a standardized process of product selection. The project leader presented the idea to the Director of Research, and then it was taken to the Product Evaluation Team. The team approved this request, and it was sent to the Product Advisory and Review Committee, who also approved the development of this product idea. APH purchased the rights to the product from VIPS. This took place in late FY 2009.

Each of the aforementioned courses in the VIPS@Home product needed revisions prior to their production and sale by APH. The project leader initiated work with consultants from VIPS, and the Emergent Literacy Project Leader from APH, to revise each of the four courses.

During FY 2010, the project leader worked with the APH research assistants on initial edits to the courses. In addition, the project leader worked with graphic designers to design each of the four courses, including cover art. Cover pages were designed for each course, and approved by the project leader. A brief description of each course follows.

VIPS@Home was presented in November 2009 at the Literacy Conference. In addition, a presentation was made at the International AER Conference in Little Rock, AR, in July 2010. Tremendous interest was shown in this product at both conferences.

In FY 2011, the project leader worked with the consultants, research assistants, graphic designers, and technical support to prepare the courses for field testing. Two of three modules in Magical Moments were written by consultant Terri Connolly.

During FY 2012, the course book and presentation tool for Power at Your Fingertips was prepared for field testing. The course book for Emergent Literacy was edited by the project assistant, and photos for the book were identified. InGrid Design completed the graphical layout of the course book. Due to scheduling constraints, the third module of Magical Moments was not completed. The project assistant edited the first two modules in Magical Moments.

In FY 2013, prototypes of Power at Your Fingertips and Emergent Literacy were made, field testers identified, and field testing occurred. A brief summary of field testing results follow.

Data were gathered using an appropriate method. APH sent out prototypes for field testing in April 2013. Field testing ended on July 16, 2013. Field testers completed an online product evaluation form developed in the Google Drive™ online storage service. Field testers also completed an online parent information form for parents with whom they used the prototypes.

The two courses were field tested by 16 professionals with 27 parents of children with visual impairments. Data were gathered from appropriately qualified professionals who work with the target population (i.e., parents and their infants/toddlers with visual impairments) including a developmental vision specialist, developmental interventionist, teacher of students with visual impairments, orientation and mobility instructors, and a braille instructor. The field testers are experienced professionals. Twenty-seven percent of field testers have worked with children with visual impairments/blindness for more than 21 years, 7% for 16-20 years, 13% for 11-15 years, 20% for 6-10 years, and 33% for 0-5 years. Data were gathered from a geographically diverse U.S. population. Field testers represented the following states: Colorado (1), Georgia (1), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Kentucky (1), Maryland (2), Missouri (2), New Mexico (3), Ohio (1), and Virginia (2).

Field testers (n=16) rated on a scale of 1–5 the extent they felt each VIPS course met the stated course objectives (1 = not at all; 5 = to a great extent). Mean ratings are reported here:

Emergent Literacy Course

Objectives:

Power at Your Fingertips Course

Objectives:

One hundred percent of field testers reported that the VIPS@Home series promotes parent involvement in the education of their children; 81% of testers recommended that APH produce these two courses and make them available for sale on Federal Quota. Field testers were also asked to rank order a list of topics for future development in the product series. The top three topics were Learning Through Everyday Routines, Orientation and Mobility, and Technology. Notably, Magical Moments, which is in development, focuses on children learning through daily routines.

Data were reported for 17 of 27 parents. Those parents (n=17) represented the following racial/ethnic backgrounds: Hispanic of any race (18%), White (71%), American Indian or Alaskan native (6%), and Thai (6%). Eighty-eight percent of parents felt that the Emergent Literacy Course is beneficial to help them educate and support their child's literacy needs—now and in the future. Eighty-eight percent of parents felt that the Power at Your Fingertips Course gives them a basic understanding of braille, and 71% said that after completing the course, they could continue to learn braille independently. Parents also provided constructive criticism and qualitative feedback. One parent wrote, "The [Power at Your Fingertips] course book really gives a lot of information without being wordy and confusing. I think it is great for a basic understanding and introduction to Braille. I'll definitely be using it and some of the other sources they mention to learn now and as he grows and begins to use Braille."

Demographic data were reported for 15 children whose parents were involved in field testing. These children ranged in age from 8 months old to 4 years old. Eye conditions of children were reported and included severe hydrocephalus, septo-optic dysplasia, optic nerve hypoplasia, bilateral retinoblastoma, Lebers, cortical visual impairment, esotropia, nystagmus, coloboma, and aniridia.

In FY 2013, work continued on the development of other courses in the VIPS series. The project assistant began to edit Tour Through the Jungle. It was determined that a stock photography source will likely be used for photos needed for this course book. Kay Ferrell completed a review of the course content and provided valuable input about special education services. Staff determined to forgo the third module of Magical Moments since the first two modules of Magical Moments provide sufficient content about learning through everyday routines.

The Educational Products Advisory Committee (EPAC) approved this product for sale on Federal Quota during the APH Annual Meeting in October 2013. Also during Annual Meeting, the project leader and project assistant conducted a product input session to gather feedback about field test results and a potential name change to the product. Subsequent to Annual Meeting, the project leader sought extensive feedback from leaders in the field, and it was determined that the product name would become VIPS@Home: Parent Empowerment Program.

In March 2014, Burt Boyer retired from APH, and Dawn Wilkinson commenced as Early Childhood Project Leader. Revisions were implemented to Power at Your Fingertips and Emergent Literacy based on the data collected during field testing.

Work during FY 2015

Because of the passage of UEB since the time Power at Your Fingertips was written, modifications were made to the course material by the project leader to follow UEB code. Project staff completed necessary steps to ensure that the two modules, Emergent Literacy and Power at Your Fingertips, are fully accessible to the population for whom they are intended. Technical Research completed final tooling and product specifications. The final specification meeting was held on June 12, 2015. Both of these products have a projected for sale date of October 2015.

Extensive edits continued to be made on Special Education: A Tour through The Jungle, including a name change to Special Education: Your Journey to a Successful IEP. This name change was proposed as a result of EPAC's recommendation to make titles specific to the product purpose and was made official during the new product meeting in July. In that same meeting, the VIPS@Home Magical Moments booklet was discontinued due to its similarity to newly released and upcoming APH products, specifically the parent booklet of PAIVI entitled Learning Together: A Parent Guide to Socially Based Routines for Very Young Children With Visual Impairments.

Work planned for FY 2016

The project leader will seek further expert review of the text of Special Education: Your Journey to a Successful IEP. Any additional revisions will be made accordingly. Project staff will complete steps to ensure that Special Education: Your Journey to a Successful IEP is fully accessible to the population for whom it is intended. Technical Research will complete final tooling and product specifications. The product will be made available for sale in FY 2016.

EXPANDED CORE CURRICULUM

Multiple Disabilities Projects and Needs

(Ongoing)

Purpose

To assess needs, plan research, and manage product development to better serve individuals who are visually impaired and have additional disabilities

Project Staff

Background

A Multiple Disabilities Focus Group met at APH in March 2001. The group identified a total of 48 product ideas and held detailed discussions on the revision of APH's Sensory Stimulation Kit (SSK), the development of a tactile (communication) symbol system, and the value of adaptable calendar boxes. The 48 product ideas were developed into a needs survey that was distributed nationally and received international participation. The results of the survey were presented at the 2002 Annual Meeting. Ten years later, in 2011, APH hosted two Multiple Disabilities Focus Groups: Children Birth to Grade 12 Multiple Disabilities Focus Group (March) and Adult Multiple Disabilities Focus Group (June). Each group identified product needs for the specific age group and helped design a product needs survey to facilitate prioritization. Group members recruited colleagues to pilot the two surveys. The final surveys were made available on the Internet that September. The project leader compiled the data and wrote the Report of the APH Birth to Grade 12 Multiple Disabilities Focus Group and Survey and the Report of the APH Adult Multiple Disabilities Focus Group and Survey. Both reports were announced in the APH News and posted on the APH Web site.

Work during FY 2015

In addition to working on product development, the project leader responded to nine customer service calls and e-mails to help customers with APH multiple disabilities products. The project leader provided training to APH staff on new products (e.g., Spangle Tangle). She presented the field test results of The Joy Player at CSUN. She presented APH multiple disabilities products to students visiting APH from Vanderbilt University, Western Michigan University, and University of Kentucky. The project leader attended the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities national meeting to research potential new product markets. Annually, the project leader participates in a program to help prepare community-based instruction students at the Kentucky School for the Blind with job interview skills. The project leader began organizing a focus group to identify needs of adults with visual and multiple impairments.

Work planned for FY 2016

The Multiple Disabilities Project Leader will continue to work on products recommended by the surveys and submissions from the field, and on existing APH products that need to be updated to meet current APH and educational standards.

Quick & Easy Expanded Core Curriculum: The Hatlen Center Guide

Formerly Adventure ECC: Hatlen Center Guide

(Completed)

Purpose

To provide teachers of students with visual impairments, certified orientation and mobility specialists, parents, and other members of the educational team with quick, creative lessons designed to teach skills related to the expanded core curriculum to secondary students in school, home, and community settings

Project Staff

Front cover of Quick & Easy Expanded Core Curriculum (prototype version)

Background

Although instruction in the expanded core curriculum (ECC) has been identified as an important goal of the National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youth with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities, teachers of students with visual impairments report that it is difficult to find the time and resources required to consistently and systematically address the plethora of skills contained in the following domains of the ECC: assistive technology/technology, career education, compensatory access skills, independent living, orientation and mobility, recreation and leisure, self-determination, sensory efficiency, and social interaction. This is particularly problematic because it is these specialized skills that allow students who are blind and visually impaired to access the core curriculum and to ultimately have the opportunity to attain the intended post-secondary outcomes afforded high school graduates. However, given the shortage of qualified personnel, oversized caseloads, the extensive time it takes to produce accessible instructional materials, the need for specialized knowledge of adaptive techniques, and emphasis on demonstrating adequate yearly progress on core-curriculum standards, instruction in the ECC is often provided in a haphazard fashion. Furthermore, it is often difficult to achieve generalized use of these skills due to time constraints that affect communication between teachers of the visually impaired, classroom teachers, related service providers, and parents.

In order to facilitate systematic instruction in the ECC for secondary students with visual impairments, it would be beneficial to provide ideas for lessons, including suggestions for adaptive strategies and aids, which could be easily executed across all the student's environments by any member of the educational team. Given the extensive heterogeneity among the population of learners with visual impairments, including those with additional disabilities, a sequential and leveled curriculum is impractical. A collection of lesson plans produced like recipe cards would create an individualized and dynamic curriculum that could easily be tailored to accommodate a variety of needs, interests, age levels, and ability levels. Given the fact that most middle and high school students do not have a scheduled daily class devoted entirely to mastery of the ECC, these specialized skills are often embedded within other content on an as-needed basis. Unfortunately, this can lead to the development of splinter skills that are not generalized across situations and environments. However, the availability of short, easy-to-implement lessons would increase the likelihood of direct instruction in the ECC being provided regularly by any member of the educational team in the most naturally occurring context. Furthermore, lesson plans produced in a recipe format would facilitate the understanding of adaptive techniques and the procurement of adaptive aids needed for the execution of the targeted skill. Hence, this type of curriculum would facilitate systematic instruction in the ECC while helping the student and the educational team realize that mastery of the ECC is essential to success in the core curriculum and in life after school.

In order to effectively prepare transition students with visual impairments to live independently, Patricia Maffei, Program Director of The Hatlen Center for the Blind, and Patricia Williams, Executive Director of The Hatlen Center for the Blind, have been forced to address their students' lack of proficiency in the ECC. Knowing that this is a concern for almost anyone working with this population, Maffei proposed that APH develop a guide containing lesson plans and suggested adaptive aids and techniques to facilitate instruction in the ECC across a variety of environments by all members of the educational team, including parents. Seeing the need for this product, APH officially approved this product for development in April 2009; Maffei and Williams served as project consultants.

During the 2009 Annual Meeting, Patricia Williams and Phil Hatlen, in conjunction with APH staff, conducted a product input session. The session was well attended, and participants expressed a need for this product. Based on the feedback obtained from this brainstorming session as well as input provided by staff at The Hatlen Center for the Blind, Patricia Maffei submitted a draft of 135 ECC lessons in February 2010.

Attendees of an ECC presentation at the Kentucky Chapter of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired were given samples of the ECC activity cards and were asked to provide input. Forty-seven surveys were completed in which respondents were asked to rate various components of the cards on the following five point scale: 0 = Poor or Unnecessary, 1 = Fair, 2 = Good, 3 = Very Good, and 4 = Excellent. The average rating of all the combined evaluated components of the cards was 3.21. Based on feedback, possibilities for indicating age levels, prerequisite skills, and specifying adaptations for students who are totally blind, who have low vision, or who have multiple disabilities were explored. In addition, consideration was given to including more lessons on career education and recreation and leisure as well as lessons that directly target orientation and mobility skills.

In October 2012, the Quick & Easy ECC: The Hatlen Center Guide was reassigned to the Tactile Graphics Project Leader. The project leader's initial effort was devoted to becoming acquainted with the status of the project and increasing momentum toward the field test stage. Significant strides were made to readying the field test prototype. The first item addressed was the visual presentation of the guide itself, including an overhaul of the front cover art that the consultant described as unsatisfactory. The original cover depicting a teacher in distress surrounded by stacks of books was swiftly replaced with a simple, yet professional cover incorporating newly-created icons representing each of the nine ECC areas. The visual icons (shown below) were eventually used to lessen the text-laden appearance of the lesson cards.

Assistive Technology Keyboard for Assistive Technology
Career Education graduate for Career Education
Compensatory Skills open book for Compensatory Skills
Independent Living house for Independent Living
Orientation and Mobility compass for Orientation and Mobility
Recreation and Leisure basketball for Recreation and Leisure
Self-Determination person with arms stretched upward for Self-Determination
Sensory Efficiency hand for Sensory Efficiency
Social Interaction two persons with communication bubbles for Social Interaction

Frequent communication was maintained with the consultant as cover art was finalized, recreation lessons were added, and the layout of the lesson cards was fine-tuned. The graphic designer prepared 10 sample lessons using the approved layout style. These were sent as a component of the field test prototype, along with a binder containing 140 lessons in their original layout presentation. The research assistant also prepared CD-ROMs with an electronic version of the Assessment Checklist. A thorough evaluation packet was then prepared with input from the consultant.

The field test opportunity for the Quick & Easy ECC: The Hatlen Center Guide was posted in the March 2013 online issue of APH News (www.aph.org/advisory/2013adv03.html). The announcement, as repeated below, clearly described the product (with accompanying photo), field test expectations, and the criteria for field test selection:

APH is currently seeking field evaluators for Quick & Easy Expanded Core Curriculum: The Hatlen Center Guide authored by Patricia Maffei. Ideal field evaluators are Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments and/or Orientation and Mobility Specialists working directly with transition youth in a mainstream setting. The guide contains over 100 lessons that address the most common gaps found with this population and require very little time or equipment to implement. It is the intent of the guide to have the student, the family, and educational team work together as partners to address the needs outlined in the Expanded Core Curriculum. The guide is complemented by a checklist to monitor the student's progress.

Evaluators will be asked to a) use the prototype with as many students as possible within the given timeframe, b) complete a product evaluation form, and c) report student outcome data. Field test sites will be selected based upon geographic location, type of setting, and the grade levels/ages of the students. The field test stage will extend from April through June 2013.

Over 70 teachers across the country expressed interest in field testing this product. From those interested, 19 were selected as evaluators. The prototypes were mailed to evaluation sites on March 26, 2013.

Sixteen of the 19 participating field reviewers returned their evaluation forms by June 10, 2013. A few of the teachers needed and requested additional time to complete their evaluations; this extra time was allowed.

Product evaluations were completed by 16 teachers of the visually impaired representing the states of Arkansas, California, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. One-fourth of the teachers were also orientation and mobility specialists.

Field test sites represented a variety of instructional settings, with greater participation by itinerant teachers. This demographic representation was ideal since the majority of legally blind students registered with APH are taught in mainstreamed classrooms.

Type of Instructional Setting Percentage of Evaluation Sites
Itinerant 75%
Residential 13%
Resource 13%

Participating evaluators were evenly distributed across three categories of teaching experience: 19% had 5 or fewer years of teaching experience, 19% had 16 to 20 years of teaching experience, and 19% had 21 or more years of teaching experience. The largest percentage (38%, n = 6) had 6 to 10 years of teaching experience. Only 6% had 11 to 15 years of teaching experience.

One hundred percent of the evaluators reported familiarity with the ECC prior to using Quick & Easy ECC with 56% being "very familiar" to 44% being "somewhat familiar." Nearly all (81%) thought the ECC was "extremely important;" 19% assessed it as "very important." One teacher expounded, "Although I am primarily an O&M Specialist, it is difficult for me not to want to address the needs of the 'whole child' when I recognize other needs." Additionally, evaluators were asked how frequently they provided instruction in each of the ECC skill areas. A convenient description of each ECC area was provided via the following Web site: www.familyconnect.org/parentsite.asp?SectionID=72&TopicID=382 The following table reflects the evaluators' responses to the question regarding the frequency of their individual instruction of the ECC:

ECC Area Number of Teachers Frequently (Daily) Often (Once/Twice Weekly) Seldom (Once/Twice Monthly) Never
Assistive Technology n = 16 37% 44% 19% 0%
Career Education n = 16 0% 44% 44% 12%
Compensatory Skills n = 15 47% 40% 13% 0%
Independent Living n = 15 27% 40% 27% 6%
Orientation and Mobility n = 15 40% 27% 20% 13%
Recreation and Leisure n = 15 0% 33% 53% 13%
Self-Determination n = 16 37% 44% 13% 6%
Sensory Efficiency n = 16 25% 37% 25% 13%
Social Interaction n = 16 31% 56% 6% 6%

The three most common obstacles to providing ECC instruction were identified by the evaluators as 1) children in full-inclusion and mainstream classrooms do not have the time (69%), 2) teachers and administrators are unaware of the need for the ECC (63%), and 3) teachers not only lack the skill, but also the time and resources (44%). Fewer teachers indicated additional barriers such as parents being unaware of the need for the ECC (31%), the ECC not being fully accepted (25%), and inadequate personnel preparation (19%). Another predictable constraint reported was that "the state mandated curriculum and testing are given priority by the state and school."

A total of 69 students received instruction from the prototype version of Quick & Easy ECC. They ranged in age from 9 to 20 years of age with nearly equal percentages between the ages of 13 and 15 and ages 16 and 18—35% and 36%, respectively; smaller percentages fell within the age ranges of 9 to 12 years (16%) and 19 to 20 years (10%). The age of 3% of the students was unreported.

The student population was composed of slightly more females (57%) than males (43%). The student population also reflected cultural diversity: 55% White, 23% Black, 2% American Indian, 7% Hispanic, 7% Asian, 3% "two or more," and 3% Other (e.g., Middle Eastern).

Reports of the students' grade levels indicated that the majority (61%) of the student population were in high school with 23% in grades 9 and 10 and 38% in grades 11 and 12. Another sizable percentage (29%) were in grades 6-8. The smallest percentage (10%) were in grades 3-5.

Similar percentages of the student population were reported as either braille readers (39%) or large print readers (38%). Another 10% read print—either regular size or an unspecified size. A smaller percentage (5%) was described as dual readers who read a combination of large print and braille or modified print while learning braille. The remaining students were either auditory readers (6%) or nonreaders (1%).

A sizable percentage (43%, n = 30) of the total population of students were reported as having additional disabilities (e.g., cerebral palsy, autism, profound deafness, intellectual disability, ADHD, speech impairments, etc.).

The field evaluation form allowed teachers to rate the overall content of the Quick & Easy ECC. The following chart provides the average rating of each assessed feature.

Overall Content of the Quick & Easy ECC
Rating Scale: 5 = Excellent to 1 = Poor
Content Feature Number of Evaluators 5 4.5 4 3 2 1
Variety of lessons n = 16 4.56 69% 19% 12%
Quantity of lessons n = 16 4.50 50% 50%
Organization of the lessons into two sections (e.g., “At Home or At School” and “In the Community”) n = 16 4.63 75% 13% 13%
Alignment with instructional goals of the ECC n = 16 4.75 75% 25%
Relevance to the skills needed by transition adolescents n = 16 4.94 94% 6%
Ease of implementation into an IEP n = 16 4.28 50% 6% 19% 25%
Appropriateness for short lessons n = 16 4.75 75% 25%
Clarity of expected goal(s) of each activity n = 16 4.69 75% 19% 6%
Appropriateness for transition students n = 16 4.69 75% 19% 6%
Appropriateness for a variety of instructional settings n = 15 4.53 60% 33% 7%

The field test version of the lesson binder reflected a no-frills format that was sufficient for evaluators to adequately critique the content and organization of the material. However, anticipating significant aesthetic updates to the final layout/design of the lessons, the evaluators were provided with 10 complete lessons with planned features incorporated [e.g., ECC visual icons, color bars/borders to denote sections—"At Home/School" or "Community," increased card size (two options provided for comparison), condensed headings, and font color application to needed materials]. Using a rating scale of 5 ("Excellent") to 1 ("Poor"), field evaluators indicated their satisfaction with each planned feature of the lesson cards.

Image of new lesson layout incorporating visual icons, color bar, and larger font

The following table provides the average rating of each assessed feature:

Design Features
Rating Scale: 5 = Excellent to 1 = Poor
Design Feature Number of Evaluators 5 4 3.5 3 2 1
Heading styles for main sections (e.g., subsection, Goal, Link-it, and At Home) n = 16 4.75 81% 13% 6%
Color identification bars/borders to distinguish “At Home/At School” and “In the Community” sections n = 16 4.63 69% 25% 6%
Large print style n = 16 4.88 88% 12%
Highlighting/bolding (in red text) of needed materials/equipment n = 16 4.75 75% 25%
Icon design for the nine ECC areas n = 16 4.28 56% 19% 6% 13% 6%
Placement of corresponding ECC icons within color bar n = 16 4.31 69% 13% 6% 6% 6%
Backed-up version of lesson cards (i.e., two lessons per card) n = 16 4.56 69% 18% 13%
Thickness/durability of activity cards n = 16 4.75 75% 25%
Hole-punched lesson cards included in a binder for portability n = 16 4.94 94% 6%

Related to the above query, evaluators were asked if the Quick & Easy ECC alleviated any of the obstacles encountered when attempting to implement the ECC. A less enthusiastic "Yes" was received, with only 44% of the evaluators saying it did so; emphasis on academic success continues to prevent ECC instruction regardless of provided curriculum/lessons. One teacher explained, "Time is a problem because of testing, core content, and student needing to be college and career ready." Another indicated, "The obstacle tends to be time" because in an academic setting, students are focused on grades.

As the following table reveals, the most appropriate "instructor" populations for the product as assessed by the evaluators were both new and veteran teachers of the visually impaired. A slightly greater recommendation for itinerant versus residential school teachers was noted—88% and 75%, respectively. Minimal differences in recommendations for target "student" populations were encountered, especially for blind students versus low vision students.

Target Population Percentage of evaluators (n = 16) indicating suitability of product for target population
Veteran TVIs 94%
New TVIs 100%
Itinerant TVIs 88%
Residential TVIs 75th>
Parents 88%
Members of the student educational team 56%
Transition students who are blind 100%
Transition students who are low vision 94%
Transition students with multiple disabilities 75%

Evaluators also suggested orientation and mobility specialists, vocational rehabilitation teachers, paraprofessionals, and younger students as likely users of Quick & Easy ECC. With regard to the latter group, one teacher explained, "Many of the activities are easily adaptable for students who are younger than transition age," and another teacher stated, "There is a great variety of activities for all ages, all abilities."

In order to collect student outcome data, evaluators were asked to complete an Assessment Checklist for each student receiving instruction using any of the provided Quick & Easy ECC lessons. Specifically, they were asked to select and implement at least five different lessons of any category—"At Home/School" and/or "In the Community"—with each student during the field test period. Selection of these lessons was to be based upon the individual's learning needs and IEP goals. Evaluators who were also orientation and mobility instructors were encouraged to address a greater number of "Community" lessons. Assessment Checklists were returned for 93% (n = 65) of the students.

Evaluators differed in their styles of completing and returning their Assessment Checklists; some completed lessons with a few students versus many students, some used just one versus numerous lessons with a single student, and some used the same lessons with the majority of his/her students. This variance prevented conclusive evidence of the product's impact on student progress. However, it was apparent that the students did indeed make strides within a short time frame. Eighty-four of the 104 attempted lessons were successfully completed by at least one student. Nearly 75% of the available lessons were tested by the instructors with at least one student. Apparently, progress for many of the specific goals/lessons required more than three months accommodated for field review; "on-going progress" was indicated for many of the lessons.

Some of the most frequently utilized ECC lessons included the following: "About jobs and careers," "Use paperclips," "Learn to menu plan," "Learn to make an accessible grocery list," "Measuring dry ingredients," "Respond to public comments about vision," "Link interests to jobs and careers," and "Fold a paper to fit into an envelope."

Of the evaluators, 94% recommended that APH produce Quick & Easy ECC; only one reported being uncertain, but nevertheless stated that it was a "good tool to gauge (the) ECC and gather ideas on lessons." Other reported strengths included the following:

All of the field test evaluators encouraged APH to continue the development and introduction of a series of Quick & Easy ECC lessons; this suggestion attested to the need for the product. An ample list of ideas for additional lessons shared by evaluators could certainly serve as reference for future editions; some of the recommended lessons included the following: making a doctor's appointment, filling a prescription, practicing job interviews, dressing appropriately for school/work, writing resumes, volunteering, filling out job applications, compiling phone directories, searching for online recipes, and adding coupons to a smart phone. The majority of evaluators (94%) were enthusiastic about the prospect of an online forum where teachers could share and post ECC lessons.

In late June, the consultant visited APH and worked with the project staff to determined needed revisions based upon evaluator feedback. Planned revisions were shared and discussed with the Product Development Committee (PDC), as well as with in-house braille readers and low vision staff to determine accessible versions of all components. As prodded by the evaluators, the most noticeable update will be to the presentation of the lesson cards; the final version will employ larger type, visual ECC icons, and color bars to denote sections—At Home/School or Community, and renaming of some headings (e.g., "Try it" instead of "Homework"). The consultant also made editorial changes to some lessons, as well as to the "Introduction." A significant addition to the product was the preparation of an ECC Matrix that provides a tidy list of all the lessons, each coded to indicate the primary ECC area addressed.

Given the equally shared project efforts and responsibilities at this point in the project, the research assistant was reassigned as co-project leader. Toward the end of the fiscal year, the project staff's time was devoted entirely to editing the lessons with approval by the consultant. Members of the PDC were regularly consulted regarding needed components and tooling setup of print files.

In mid-October, Quota approval for Quick & Easy ECC: The Hatlen Center Guide was requested and received from the Educational Products Advisory Committee during APH's 145th Annual Meeting. A poster session was also conducted at this event to acquaint the audience of Ex Officio Trustees and special guests to this coming-soon product.

All necessary production tooling was accomplished during FY 2014. The project leaders were responsible for finalizing edits to the ECC lessons and related content, working with the graphic designer on the final layout/design of the lessons, acquiring approval from the consultant on final content and layout, overseeing the braille translation of the binder contents, approving a binder sample with a magnetic closure fabricated by the outside vendor, readying the final Excel® spreadsheet layout for the ECC Checklist, providing files to the technology specialist for CD-ROM purposes, and assisting with the preparation of in-house product specifications.

On May 31, the product specifications were formally presented to Production staff. In June 2014, tooling samples with properly backed-up pages of the lesson cards and ECC Matrix were generated and approved for the expected production outcome. The production and availability of the Quick & Easy ECC: The Hatlen Center Guide was slated for August 2014.

Work during FY 2015

The Quick & Easy ECC: The Hatlen Center Guide (1-08204-00) was the first product introduced to APH's existing product line in FY 2015. The "Airplane" was launched on October 7, 2014, with a selling price of $45.00 (available with Quota funds). The product brochure was prepared and information about the product was posted on APH's online shopping site: shop.aph.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product_Quick%20and%20Easy%20Expanded%20Core%20Curriculum%20%20%20%20The%20Hatlen%20Center%20Guide_22693P_10001_11051

An APH Quick Tip video was also posted to give a snapshot of the product's purpose and the intended target population: www.youtube.com/watch?v=45FJ--MkopE

By June 2015, the product had sold 465 copies and was quickly approaching the estimated first-year sales of 500 units, placing it among APH's 50 top-selling products for the fiscal year. The finished product was demonstrated by Patti Maffei at the CTEBVI Conference in March 2015 in Burlingame, CA; approximately 20 teachers attended her session. A copy of the presentation slides can be accessed using the following link: slideplayer.com/slide/4406940/

Work planned for FY 2016

Formal work on the Quick & Easy ECC: The Hatlen Center Guide has concluded. However, attention will be given to assessing and determining the need for an EPUB® or downloadable app version of the binder contents, as well as the need for additional ECC modules published and authored by The Hatlen Center. Patti Maffei, as well as APH staff, will likely continue to present the product at workshops and conferences across the country. A product satisfaction survey will be posted online.

Visual and Multiple Impairments Website

(New)

Purpose

To provide parents, teachers, and support professionals with information and resources to help them serve individuals who have multiple disabilities in addition to visual impairment, blindness, or deafblindness

Project Staff

Background

APH Customer Service receives calls and e-mail messages from parents and teachers who ask questions about APH multiple disabilities products and services. Attendees of APH National Instructional Partnership workshops requested a location where they could look for information about multiple disabilities and APH products. Over the years, products that are stored at resource centers and shipped to various schools year after year may experience loss of documentation that would assist teachers in using the product. APH decided that a website that includes videos, questions and answers, sample assessments, downloadable forms, and more would greatly benefit teachers and parents.

Work during FY 2015

Parties involved agreed to create a new website dedicated to visual and multiple impairments. The project leader and consultant, Millie Smith, established an outline of possible menu topics. A meetings with the Director of Communications and the APH Website Coordinator determined that the new website would be created with WordPress® and would follow the same design template that is used for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Web site. APH research assistants began training on WordPress®.

Work planned for FY 2016

Preliminary pages will be launched.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

For additional products related to Assistive Technology, see the Technology Product Research section.

APH SMART Brailler by Perkins

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide a brailler that provides visual and voice feedback of what is being brailled in order to give immediate feedback to a student who is learning braille and to facilitate communication between a braille-using student and a sighted teacher or parent who does not know braille

Project Staff

Background

In 2011, APH and Perkins Products agreed to produce a brailler that provides visual and voice feedback of what is being brailled. Perkins Products chose the name SMART Brailler for this product. Product Development Technologies (PDT) was contracted by Perkins Products to develop the firmware for the brailler. Voices used in the brailler are provided by Acapela Group, and contracted braille translation is provided by Duxbury Systems.

The base unit of the APH SMART Brailler by Perkins is the Perkins-APH Brailler Version 2. The SMART Brailler has a removable, rechargeable battery; a power switch; a power adapter port; and a module attached to the front of the brailler that includes a 4-inch color video screen, a speaker, and the other items shown in the following diagram.

Diagram shows four Quick Buttons: (1) Screen Off, Screen On; (2) SimBraille Mode or Large Print Mode; (3) Uncontracted Mode or Contracted Mode; and (4) Speak Letters, Words, Letters and Words, Lines, Everything or Speech Off. Other features identified are Menu Button, Headphone Jack, Volume Buttons, USB Outlet, Select Button, and Navigation Buttons (Left, Right, Up, Down).

The video screen displays menus and visual feedback when someone is brailling. During braille entry, the screen can display SimBraille and large print, just large print, or be turned off.

Both modes display a full line of 28 print characters at the bottom of the screen in 12-point type. When the brailler is set for contracted braille, words containing contractions are underlined in this line.

The four Quick Buttons perform the following functions:

  1. Turn the screen on or off
  2. Toggle the screen display between SimBraille mode and Large Print mode
  3. Toggle the braille translation between contracted braille and uncontracted braille
  4. Change the speech feedback during braille entry to one of the following options: Speak Letters, Speak Words, Speak Letters and Words, Speak Lines, or Speak Everything

There are other settings that can be changed within the menus on the brailler. There are three text-to-speech voices available on the brailler and six color combination options for the display. The brightness of the display can be adjusted, and there are several options for the screen timer that turns the screen off if the brailler is not in use.

In addition to showing what is being brailled in print on the screen, the brailler stores the print in a text file. The text file can be saved in the brailler's internal memory or to a USB drive. The text file can be transferred to a personal computer via the USB drive and saved, printed, edited, or e-mailed as needed (e.g., to a teacher or parent). A file can also be printed directly from the brailler to a printer with a USB port via a USB cable compatible with the brailler (USB A type) and the printer.

Up to 30 user accounts can be created on the brailler through the User's Menu. The default user name and account is "Guest." Each user account can have its own settings as described above. A file saved in the brailler's internal memory can only be retrieved when the brailler is set to the same user as it was when the file was saved.

An audio tour, available in the Welcome menu on the brailler, provides an introduction to the brailler and most of the features and functions described above.

Relevance

The SMART Brailler provides immediate feedback to a child or adult who is learning braille via text to speech and a screen that displays SimBraille and large print of what is brailled in uncontracted or contracted braille. This audio and visual feedback also provides information about what a student is brailling for someone who does not know braille, including parents and general education teachers.

Research

During 2011, Research Department staff met to test the functions of prototypes of the brailler and recommend improvements to Perkins and PDT personnel. Members of the Research Department also took different prototype versions to the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) three times during the year to test with young students who are visually impaired. Perkins and PDT also began development of a software application (app) to provide additional exercises for students being instructed using the Building on Patterns (BOP) Kindergarten curriculum.

In January 2012, the BOP writers were asked to participate in testing and give input on the SMART Brailler. Three of the writers who had young students learning braille were shipped braillers that contained changes and improvements from the earlier prototypes. The writers gave feedback on the braillers' functions to Perkins. In June 2012, during the Building on Patterns and Braille Literacy Meeting, Perkins brought several SMART Braillers to APH. The BOP writers, consultants, and Research personnel worked with the braillers; a list of issues and comments was created for Perkins and PDT to address.

Two separate field tests were conducted with the SMART Brailler. The first field test was a Perkins and APH joint field test of the braillers begun the third week of August 2012, and continued through the end of October 2012. APH sent braillers to five teachers of students who are blind or visually impaired (TVIs), and Perkins sent braillers to three TVIs who are writers for BOP Second Edition. The TVIs are located in California (2), Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, and Oregon. All the field evaluators except one used the braillers with at least one student learning braille at the kindergarten, first, or second grade level. The evaluators were asked to complete a workbook of exercises themselves, work with a student to complete another set of exercises, work with a student and the BOP Kindergarten App, and provide comments about their experiences with the brailler. They were also asked to ship the electronic files and embossed pages from their work back with the brailler at the end of the field test. One update to the brailler's core firmware was provided to the field testers during their evaluation period.

Comments from the field evaluators were reviewed and compared to the electronic files and embossed pages where relevant. Issues with the braillers' performance based on these comparisons and the feedback from the field evaluators were compiled to be addressed in future updates to the brailler. Perkins and PDT made updates to the firmware based on the field test and discussions with APH personnel.

APH conducted a second field test late December 2012 through early February 2013 with braillers loaded with another updated version of the firmware. The TVIs for this field test were referred to APH by Ex Officio Trustees who are members or former members of the Educational Products Advisory Committee and are located in Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Vermont. These evaluators also worked with at least one student learning braille at the kindergarten, first, or second grade level. An updated brailler was also sent back to one of the BOP writers in California who participated in the first field test. This test process was similar to that of the first field test (described in the Research section of this project report), but also included instructions for the teacher to use the brailler with a student in day-to-day activities with a student. In-house testing was also done at APH. The field testers documented specific examples of instances where the speech or visual feedback did not match what was brailled.

Summarized Ratings from Field Testers on Feedback Features

Embossed Braille
Good 6/6
Satisfactory
Needs Improvement
Speech Feedback
Good 2/6
Satisfactory 1/6
Needs Improvement 3/6
Visual Feedback
Good 4/6
Satisfactory 2/6
Needs Improvement

The field evaluators also provided these observations about the benefits of the SMART Brailler features:

One of the in-house evaluators had this comment:

Comments from the field and APH in-house evaluators were reviewed and compared to the electronic files and embossed pages where relevant. Issues with the braillers' performances based on these comparisons and the feedback from the evaluators were compiled to be addressed in future updates to the brailler. Hardware problems were also noted, and units with these problems were sent back to Perkins for evaluation.

A field test of the SMART Brailler organized by Perkins was completed in October 2012. APH conducted a second field test in late December 2012 through early February 2013. More information on the field tests are provided in the Research section of this project report. Throughout this process, Perkins, PDT and APH shared information and discussed issues via e-mail and phone. Staff from Perkins came to APH on March 20, 2012, for a more thorough discussion. Perkins and PDT provided several more firmware updates after the March meeting that were tested in-house at APH; the last of these resolved most of the main issues with the brailler's core firmware functions.

APH tested updates to the BOP Kindergarten App in-house and discussed its performance with the BOP Second Edition writers and consultants. Thorough testing was done to document instances where the text to speech in the app was not clear enough for a student to understand, and this was shared with Perkins and PDT. Improvements were made to the app.

Work began on a quality control process to assess the braillers when they are delivered to APH. The brailler's recorded audio tour was re-recorded at APH to correct errors, update information, and improve the quality of the recording. Work continued on a user's manual begun in FY 2012.

In FY 2014, APH project staff and management prioritized the remaining issues in the core firmware and BOP Kindergarten App. Two issues caused by limitations in the electronic components were determined to be acceptable for the brailler's release. The remaining issues were resolved through multiple updates from PDT and thorough testing by the project leader with assistance from other APH personnel who know braille. Additional issues were found in some of the updates, and those were resolved as well. The versions of the core firmware and BOP Kindergarten App that were tested and found to be acceptable were received January 24, 2014.

The project leader worked with Frank Hayden, Larry Skutchan, and APH production personnel to develop and finalize the quality control procedures for the brailler. This included setting up a procedure to assure the pressure required to press down the keys on the brailler was within an acceptable range. This range was based on data from Perkins Products and APH on the pressure required to press down the keys on the Perkins-APH Brailler Version 2, which was designed to require less pressure than the standard Perkins Brailler®.

The first shipment of 10 braillers was received on February 11, 2014. Representatives from Perkins and PDT traveled to APH to observe the quality control check and to be on hand in case of any issues that might arise. During this check, test team discovered that the braille mode setting was not correct on any of the braillers due to one of the steps in Perkins's quality control procedure. This problem was manually corrected on the 10 braillers and Perkins's personnel said they would change their procedure to prevent this problem in the future. Two of the 10 braillers were rejected for other problems: both braillers failed to perform the erase function in the electronic file when the erase button was pressed, and key 3 stuck on one of these braillers. A few other minor problems were recorded and corrected.

After a second shipment of 50 braillers was received, it was determined that the electronic erase function did not work consistently unless the end of the erase button closest to the front of the brailler was pressed. Perkins determined that the solution to this problem was to "effectively increase the operating window between the magnet and the sensor" that activates the erase in the electronic file. Perkins's timeline to fully implement this solution lists December 1, 2014 as the Full Production date. In the meantime, Perkins agreed that in the braillers shipped to APH the erase function would work consistently when the erase button is pressed in the middle. The project leader performed 100% testing for this issue on the second, third, and fourth shipments. While performing these tests, the project leader found other problems that were created due to Perkins's quality control procedure. Perkins agreed to change their procedure to correct these. The APH quality control procedure was amended to check for these problems. Braillers that did not pass the APH quality control procedure or the 100% erase function test were shipped back to Perkins for repair or replacement.

The text of the user's manual was finalized and converted into HTML and EPUB® formats. Files in both formats were posted on the APH Downloadable Product Manuals Web page. A listserv dedicated to questions about product was also established.

The APH SMART Brailler by Perkins was released on June 30, 2014. An AC adapter and lithium-ion battery were released as replacements parts on July 24, 2014.

Work during FY 2015

The project leader and Ex Officio Trustee Stephanie Bissonette (Vermont), presented training sessions on the APH SMART Brailler by Perkins in October at the 2014 APH Annual Meeting.

An online survey on the APH SMART Brailler was conducted from October 2014 through January 2015.

Forty-seven survey responses were collected as of January 20, 2015, via mail and the Web. Most respondents (85.7%) purchased their unit in August, September, or October 2014. The survey was completed by 25.9% of customers who had purchased an APH SMART Brailler by Perkins.

The braillers were mainly used in elementary schools, by an average of 1.89 students each. The average student age was approximately 9 years with the most commonly reported ages being 6 and 8 years. Most of the students are blind, but approximately 30% have low vision. Seventeen respondents listed students using the brailler as having physical or cognitive disabilities.

Of 46 responses, 45.7% indicated their students used the BOP Kindergarten app. The feedback on the BOP Kindergarten app was generally favorable. There were several requests for more activities, including some for more advanced activities, and one comment that it was too slow.

On a scale of 1 (Low) to 5 (High), the average rating of the educational value of the brailler was 4.24. Of respondents, 57.8% gave the device a 5 rating, and 80% gave a rating of 3 or above. Positive comments on the educational value praised the motivational aspect of the brailler's immediate feedback and an increase in students' independence. Several respondents reported that their student was learning braille faster using the SMART brailler and that it helped with communication with classroom teachers and sighted peers. Negative comments noted that there were "glitches" that frustrate some students, that "it confuses the voice" when the same letter was typed, and that the voice feedback could be a "crutch" students rely on "instead of their knowledge of braille."

The average rating of design of the brailler on a scale of 1 (Low) to 5 (High) was 3.38. Of respondents, 15.6% gave a 5 rating, and 84.5% gave a rating of 3 or above. Positive comments on the design of the brailler included that the mechanical part of the brailler was a familiar design, and that the screen and buttons were good. Thirty respondents provided comments that included issues with the design. A majority of the negative comments contained concerns about mechanical issues with the brailler, including loading paper and the sturdiness of the brailler's body. Two comments reported problems with the battery.

Auditory feedback, visual display/output, and immediate feedback were cited as the most helpful features of the brailler. Comments praised the motivational aspect of the brailler's immediate feedback and noted an increase in some students' independence. The visual display was also noted as helpful for the regular classroom teacher.

Of 44 responses, 70.5% indicated they had downloaded the instruction manual. There were 24 respondents who said they found the manual to be helpful. Four respondents wanted more information.

Additional comments regarding the brailler thanked APH for making this product available, provided suggestion for improvement, and described problems with the device. Several people commented on problems with charging the battery. Two comments asked for the ability to use Nemeth code.

In conclusion, respondents indicated the electronic features of the SMART Brailler were significantly helpful for students learning braille, but continuing hardware and battery issues were a problem.

In December 2014, after multiple customer reports of problems with charging the battery, Perkins determined that their vendor had made an unapproved change to the battery safety circuit, which resulted in a configuration that was not compatible with the circuitry of the SMART Brailler. Personnel from several APH departments worked to get information about the problem out to customers and then with Perkins to provide replacement batteries to all customers with affected braillers. Due to the need to find another vendor to build hundreds of batteries, all affected batteries were not replaced until April 2015.

At a meeting in April, Perkins reported a hardware change to increase the hardness of the left and right drum end plates. This change "increased the material hardness on the drum endplates to eliminate the propensity of the drum pin to bend when excessive force is applied to the line spacer." The "Effectivity Date" of this change was December 23, 2014.

In May, the project leader received a firmware update for the brailler that fixed a few problems and provided a Unified English Braille (UEB) "Language" option. The project leader tested the new firmware with assistance from Research Assistant Jeremiah Rose and the APH Braille Improvement department. Several translation issues were found and reported to Perkins and PDT. As of August 6, 2015, the project leader had not received another version of the firmware to evaluate.

Work planned for FY 2016

The project leader and other APH personnel, as needed, will test firmware updates and mechanical improvements provided by PDT and Perkins.

The Joy Player

Formerly Personal Music Player

(Completed)

Purpose

To provide an adaptive device with which learners who have visual impairments and limited fine motor skills can select, play, stop, and control the volume of their selected music

Project Staff

Product Description

The Joy Player is a personal electronic device that allows individuals with visual and multiple impairments to access music and audiobooks in an MP3 or WAV format. It is not designed to play audiobooks from the NLS talking-book program.

The Joy Player (final product)

A boy smiles as he plays music on The Joy Player prototype.

Background

The Joy Player was conceived and designed at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) during the development of the Sensory Learning Kit (SLK). The SLK includes a personal music player routine that can be performed with any switch-adapted music player. The Joy Player differs from other music playing devices on the commercial market and from the National Library Service's Digital Talking Book Player because it is designed to accommodate individuals who have limited mobility, lack of fine motor skills, and cognitive disability in addition to their visual impairment. The product has snap-on caps (with accompanying rings) to temporarily reduce the number of button switches on the device; this reduces visual and cognitive complexity. The product features multiple modes of operation that accommodate a diverse range of cognitive and physical abilities and environmental settings.

The Joy Player features five button switches that operate the following tasks:

The Joy Player has a headphone jack that accepts a standard 3.5 mm plug.

Relevance

APH made the decision to produce the Joy Player based on APH's standardized process of product development. The Multiple Disabilities Project Leader submitted the New Product Idea Submission Form (under the name of the Personal Music Player) on October 19, 2011. The project leader presented the idea to the Product Evaluation Team (PET) on November 3, 2011. The committee approved it and forwarded the product submission to the Product Advisory and Review Committee (PARC). The PARC members approved The Joy Player on November 9, 2011. After teachers and students field tested the prototype, the project leader compiled the data for the field test report. The Quota Approval Form was submitted in March 2014.

This product is fully accessible to the population using it. The tactile button switches on the top of The Joy Player allow a child to play music or read a book independently. The player features a chute to help guide the child's hand when he or she loads a cartridge into the player. The device uses blank National Library Service (NLS) digital talking book (DTB) cartridges that have had WAV or MP3 files copied onto them. NLS cartridges are approximately the same size as cassettes, making them easy to manipulate. The hole in the cartridge forms a handle that a child can grasp, and it allows a tactile symbol (i.e., identification/object cue) to be tied to the cartridge. At one field test site, a student pressed his thumb against the cartridge to stabilize his hand when he used single digit activation of the button switches.

A thumb presses against the cartridge to stabilize the hand as a single digit activates a button switch (prototype photo).

APH examined the need for a product like The Joy Player. Routines are the best instructional strategy for students with severe disabilities (Chen, 1999). According to Smith (2005), the use of routines allows teachers, parents, siblings, and peers to provide instruction that minimizes stress and maximizes alertness. A routine is a special activity in the child's daily schedule that is chosen because important skills are worked on and developed during the activity, the activity can occur frequently, the learner enjoys the activity, and the activity is structured so it can happen the same way each time. Music is used in early childhood programs, preschools, elementary schools, and family homes to help teach and motivate young learners. The SLK includes a personal music player routine that can be performed at three different levels:

Advanced technology has helped make our daily lives more convenient and enjoyable, but unfortunately, it has brought about the demise of many low technology products that were very practical and useful to children with multiple disabilities. Teachers, parents, and children loved cassette players for their durability, ease-of-use, and resume playback feature (i.e., when the play button is pressed, the song picks up exactly where it left off when the pause button was pressed). Cassette players could be operated with a power control unit and switch without any adaptation made to the player. Cassette players were easy to adapt so they could work directly with a switch, bypassing a power control unit. Both options allowed children with very limited mobility skills and children who only have the ability to swipe sideways at a switch to enjoy playing and listening to music. As stated earlier, for a child with limited fine motor skills, cassettes are easier to grasp and manipulate than SD cards and flash drives. The cognitive "piece" of choosing one's music, actively placing it in a device, and activating a button to make it play is missing when one swipes a flat, smooth, electronic tablet.

Since 2003, APH sought distributors of cassette players and cassettes, and purchased all available to include in the SLK. When these items were no longer available for purchase, APH included the discontinued Handi-cassette player that APH had sold for many years. It was left to the consumer to locate cassettes or to use old cassettes that they already had. When APH depleted its Handi-cassette player stock, APH was forced to eliminate a personal music player from the SLK. There were no musical options left for children who have visual and multiple impairments unless someone else controlled a high-tech music device for them, which stripped them of an opportunity to explore, exercise, and advance their potential on a daily living activity that most of us enjoy—selecting our music and playing it as loud as we want.

Millie Smith (2005) states,

Sensory experiences that result in learning are those that are accessible to the sensory impaired learner. To provide experience and reduce stress, one should choose events the child enjoys and give the child maximum control by responding to his signals to continue or to stop the event. (p. 26)

The device plays two types of files: WAV files (typically used on CDs) and MP3 files (compressed version of WAV files). These two types of files are used on most recordings—talking and musical—that are purchased in stores and borrowed from public libraries. These files will play on an SD card, flash drive, or home-recorded DTB cartridge in The Joy Player; however, it does not play 3GS files used by NLS for talking books.

APH sought the opinion of knowledgeable individuals to determine the need for The Joy Player. APH staff, teachers, consultants, and Ex Officio Trustees of APH have had an ongoing discussion for many years since the realization that cassette players would soon be gone from the world market. The project leader visited classrooms while filming for SAM: Symbols and Meaning and the revision of the SLK and witnessed that teachers still conduct routines and play games using large boom boxes with cassettes and CDs. As more music is purchased over the Internet, boom boxes and CDs are becoming less available as well. In general, boom boxes are too large to place on wheelchair trays and they are difficult to stabilize on the tray to prevent them from being knocked over or possibly thrown off the tray by a student. Electronic tablets are magnificent devices for many students, including academic students who have visual impairments; but for students with visual and cognitive impairments and students who need the tactile experience that often accompanies active learning, an easy-to-use device is needed that gives immediate feedback—a device that demonstrates and reinforces that the student is in control. A USB controlled switch can be used on the NLS Digital Talking Book (DTB) player, but it does not provide immediate feedback. The NLS DTB player can take several minutes from the time it is turned on and cycles through various functions to the time when one hears the reading of a book or music playing. It has more technology options that result in more complexity (and complications) for the user to navigate, which is too difficult for the population that APH hopes to serve with The Joy Player.

The Joy Player addresses an identified need for a person who meets the definition of "visually [and multiply] impaired." The player's five button switches are colorful and have tactile symbols so that low vision readers and tactile readers can identify them. The color of the button switches were approved by the APH Low Vision Project Leader. Black was chosen for the main housing to accommodate children with cortical visual impairment (CVI). For students who need less visual and or cognitive complexity, the player comes with molded black caps that snap over the button switches. To remove the caps, simply twist and pull. The player uses SD cards, flash drives, and NLS cartridges to accommodate a variety of fine motor skill abilities. In addition to the button switches, the player has five jacks for external switches. This accommodates children whose motor skills require a larger contact area—possibly their entire hand—to play, pause, control volume, and select a song. The player can be used with the power cord (AC), batteries (DC), and a power control unit (SLK Power Select).

The Joy Player with five external switches
The Joy Player with the SLK Power Select and a sip and puff switch.

The player is designed to provide immediate feedback when a child presses a button switch. The song will play whether the child releases the switch or continues to press down on it. As long as a listener continues to press the switch, no other activation from another switch can occur. For example, if a child presses down on the reverse button switch with his left hand and does not release the switch and then he presses the forward button switch with his right hand, the forward switch will not activate. He must release the reverse button switch before activation of the forward button switch can occur. No two button switches can act simultaneously. The immediate feedback of pressing a switch helps prevent repetitive hitting. This was recommended by two teachers who attended APH Annual Meeting.

Research

APH gathered data using an appropriate method. Only one prototype was developed because of expense and limited materials. The project leader traveled to the first field test site and observed the teacher and students using the prototype player. The project leader filled out the survey per the teacher's responses. The on-site observation helped the project leader improve the instructions that were then shipped with the prototype player to the other three field test sites. Teachers at the remaining three sites completed the same survey by hand and shipped it back with the prototype.

The Joy Player follows APH research guidelines for determining relevance for a product. The project leader conducted a review of commercial products that would possibly meet the music and reading needs of students with visual, cognitive, and physical impairments. Enabling Devices, Independent Living Aids, and Mayor-Johnson produce and or sell electronic accessible products for said population; however, none of their devices enable a student, as mentioned earlier, to cross the cognitive bridge from attention to participation in an activity in which he or she has control. A small button-switch activated MP3 player was found (Enabling Devices), but it is small and requires fine motor skills to locate the button switches. The project leader conducted a review of existing APH products that revealed the Handi-cassette would soon be discontinued because of the discontinuation of cassette production in the world market.

APH's electrical engineer told the project leader to make a wish list of everything desired in a personal music player. The project leader wrote the list and created a conceptual drawing in graphic design software. The project leader conducted a brainstorming session with the research manufacturing manager and the electrical engineer. Each month the project leader reported at the Technical Research New Products Meeting and received feedback from attendees representing many departments within APH. It was during this time that a request was made to select a new name for the personal music player. The project leader then piloted the initial prototype during the Information Fair at the 2013 APH Annual Meeting. Throughout the process, the project leader stayed in touch with consultant Millie Smith, who is the author of the SLK and the personal music player routine.

The research method used collected sufficient information. Four of the five teachers (75%) said five DTB NLS cartridges should be included with The Joy Player. One teacher requested six (two for choices, two for routines, and two for activities). The project leader demonstrated the prototype during the Information Fair at the 2013 APH Annual Meeting of Ex Officio Trustees. Attendees at the Information Fair also requested that five NLS cartridges be included with the product. The survey did not ask if teachers want APH to sell the NLS cartridge as a replacement part because it is already an APH catalog item.

All the teachers requested that a USB cable be included with the product. This will allow teachers to easily download music from computers and the Internet onto the cartridges.

Teachers were asked if the product is sized to fit on the average wheelchair tray used by their students. They were given three options from which to choose: yes, too small (give better measurement), and too big (give better measurement). Three responded yes, with one teacher stating, "perfect for both wheelchair trays and standers." Unfortunately, two teachers responded with answers that were conflicting and thus voided their responses. One selected "yes" but then handwrote next to it "but it's too big." The other one selected "too big"; but under "give better measurement," she wrote "12-18 inches width." The prototype measures 13 inches, so it fits within the range she requested and is even on the smaller end of her suggested range.

Four of the teachers responded that the volume variability is good, and one teacher commented that the volume does not flow smoothly. The features of the prototype, such as volume, are controlled by many wires that electrical engineers refer to as "a bird's nest." This bird's nest is relatively fragile and can experience interrupted flow of power. The final product will have a production-quality circuit board to reduce the possibility of glitches.

All teachers agreed that the NLS cartridge, when inserted into the player, should override the other two sources of musical input (i.e., SD card and flash drive). One teacher wrote, "I like that feature."

All teachers agreed that the button switches on the player are adequately sized.

As stated earlier, there are multiple modes of operation for the player. Ten children used the button switches on the top of the player, four children used one or more external switches, and one student used the player in the SLK mode with the Power Select. No child used a sip and puff switch.

Data were collected from a geographically diverse population. The field test sites were located at four schools in four states: New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, Tennessee School for the Blind, and Hunt Middle School in Frisco (ISD), Texas.

Data were gathered from appropriately qualified individuals. Five teachers completed the survey. It is not uncommon for teachers who work with students who have visual, cognitive, and motor impairments to have dual certification, which was the case with our participating teachers. Certifications included teacher of students who have visual impairments (TVI), speech language pathologist (SLP), and special education (SP ED). The teacher in Texas is a SP ED teacher who teaches in an active learning classroom. She uses the SLK personal music player routine regularly with her students.

Data were gathered from an adequate number of sources. Fifteen children played music on the prototype: six children in Tennessee, three in New Mexico, three in Texas, and three in Pennsylvania. One student in Tennessee played an audio book.

Data were gathered on student/consumer outcomes. A copy of the SLK personal music player routine (all three levels) was shipped with the prototype. The routines describe how to layout the three NLS cartridges so a student can make a choice on what music he or she wishes to listen. The field test tool was designed with two tables. Both tables were designed to allow each student as many as five trials for each task. Not every student completed five trials. Some students rated the same score regardless of the number of trials, and other students showed improvement from trial 1 to trial 5.

A student selects a music cartridge from an array of three cartridges. Each cartridge has a tactile identifier.

On the first tool (see Table 1), which rated the student's ability to operate the player, teachers rated their students as follows:

One teacher consistently rated her student in between two choices; instead of circling a number, she circled the line separating the two choices (selecting 2.5 instead of 2 or 3). She explained she did this because the student reached independently but needed guidance to the external switch; the student then activated the switch independently. For data collection, only whole integers are entered; half numbers are rounded up.

A girl bends at the waist and uses her body weight to help her press the play button switch on The Joy Player. The girl slides her hand, with fingers extended, over the shaft of a plastic mushroom-shaped toy and presses the previous song button switch on The Joy Player.

One student did not have the strength in her arm to activate the button switches; but when she stood up and bent at the waist, she had enough weight to activate the switch. This same student holds her fingers in an extended state, making it difficult for her to push the buttons. She did better when her teacher provided a plastic, mushroom-shaped toy and held it on the button switch. Her fingers slipped over the shaft of the mushroom and allowed her palm to press down, activating the switch. With this adaptation, she could operate the player; therefore, her teacher rated her ability at 4. One teacher noted that even when her student needed assistance with guidance toward a switch, it was evident that the student acted with intent.

See Table 1: Student data on ability to operate The Joy Player, which shows how the 15 students performed when using the prototype. Not all the students completed five trials.

Table 1: Student data on ability to operate The Joy Player
Number of students per trial Rating
1 2 3 4 5
Could not operate Operates using
hand-under-hand
Operates with
verbal prompt
Operates Independently Operates fluidly from
button to button
(or switch to switch)
Trial 1 (15) TS, WP NA, DI, BG, OK, LD IG, DJ, HF, AH, PA LN, GH, EC
Trial 2 (15) TS, WP BG, OK, LD NA, IG, DJ, HF, DI, PA LN, EC, AH GH
Trial 3 (11) TS, WP OK, LD BG, PA LN, GC, AH
Trial 4 (9) WP OK TS, BG, PA LN, EC, AH, DI
Trial 5 (8) WP, OK TS, AH, PA LN, EC, DI

Eight students completed all five trials, and nine students completed four trials. To include the greater number of students, the scores of the nine students who completed four trials were used to register any improvement. Five students (55%) received the same rating on trial 1 through trial 4; they did not demonstrate improvement. The other four students (45%) improved from trial 1 to trial 4. Student TS progressed from a 1 rating (could not operate) to a 3 (operates with verbal prompt). Student BG progressed from a 2 rating (operates using hand-under-hand) to a 3 rating. Student DI progressed from a 2 rating to a 4 rating (operates independently). Student AH progressed from a 3 rating to a 4 rating. This shows that 22% of the nine students operated the player independently on trial 1 and 44% of the same students operated the prototype independently on trial 4. See Table 2: The ability of nine students to operate The Joy Player on four trials.

Table 2: The ability of nine students to operate The Joy Player on four trials
   Trial #    Rating
1 2 3 4 5
Could not operate Operates using
hand-under-hand
Operates with
verbal prompt
Operates Independently Operates fluidly from
button to button
(or switch to switch)
Trial 1 TS, WP DI, BG, OK AH, PA LN, EC
Trial 2 TS, WP BG, OK DI, PA AH, LN, EC
Trial 3 TS, WP OK BG, PA DI, AH, LN, EC
Trial 4 WP OK TS, BG, PA DI, AH, LN, EC

Fifteen students were rated using the second tool, which rated the student's ability to load the cartridge into the player. Teachers could rate their students as follows:

Some students never received more than a 1 rating while others progressed to a 5 rating. See Table 3: Student data on ability to load cartridge, which shows results of all 15 students.

Table 3: Student data on ability to load cartridge
Number of students per trial Rating
1 2 3 4 5
Could not load cartridge Loads cartridge using hand-under-hand Loads cartridge after tactile modeling Loads cartridge with verbal prompt Loads cartridge independently
Trial 1 (15) NA, LN, HF, TS, WP, EC, LD IG, DJ, DI, BG, OK, PA AH GH
Trial 2 (15) NA, LN, TS, EC, LD IG, DJ, WP, BG, OK, PA AH, DI HF, GH
Trial 3 (11) NA, LN, TS, EC, LD WP, OK, PA AH, DI, BG
Trial 4 (9) LN, EC OK, PA TS, AH, DI, BG WP
Trial 5 (7) LN EC, OK, PA AH WP TS

Seven students completed all five trials, and nine students completed four trials. Thus, as before, the scores of the nine students who completed four trials were used to demonstrate any improvement. See Table 4: The ability of nine students to load cartridge in The Joy Player on four trials, which shows that five students (55%) received the same rating on trial 1 through trial 4; they demonstrated no improvement. Student TS progressed from a 1 rating (could not load cartridge) to a 3 rating (loads cartridge after tactile modeling). Student BG progressed from a 2 rating (loads cartridge using hand-under-hand) to a 3 rating. Student DI progressed from a 2 rating to a 3 rating. Student WP progressed from a 1 rating to a 4 rating (loads cartridge with verbal prompt). This shows that no students loaded the cartridge independently or with a verbal prompt on trial 1 and one student (1%) loaded the cartridge with a verbal prompt on trial 4. The greatest improvement was shown when one student (11%) loaded the cartridge after tactile modeling on trial 1 and four students (44%) loaded the cartridge on trial 4.

Table 4: The ability of nine students to load cartridge in The Joy Player on four trials
   Trial #    Rating
1 2 3 4 5
Could not load cartridge Loads cartridge
using hand-under-hand
Loads cartridge
after tactile modeling
Loads cartridge
with verbal prompt
Loads cartridge independently
Trial 1 LN, TS, WP, EC BG, OK, DI, PA AH
Trial 2 LN, TS, EC WP, BG, OK, PA AH, DI
Trial 3 LN, TS, EC WP, OK, PA AH, DI, BG
Trial 4 LN, EC OK, PA TS, AH, DI, BG WP

There is evidence that research data are considered as part of decision-making in product completion. The project leader presented and demonstrated the prototype during the Information Fair at the 2013 Annual Meeting of Ex Officio Trustees. Feedback from the attendees resulted in the prototype being altered to include five jacks to accommodate five external switches instead of the original one jack. The attendees also recommended that APH include five blank NLS cartridges in the product. The revised prototype was sent out for field testing with three NLS cartridges.

After field testing, the project leader held a field test review meeting to make final decisions on the production of the product. Per the majority of teacher responses, the size of the final product will remain the same as the prototype, approximately 13" x 5" with the 3-inch cartridge chute. The button switches will remain the same size and designed with tactile graphics as shown on the artist drawing that was sent to each field test site. The majority of teachers agreed with the attendees of Annual Meeting, so the product will include five NLS cartridges.

One field test site highly recommended that APH incorporate a way to attach or strap the music player onto a wheelchair tray to prevent students from knocking it off the tray or possibly throwing it off. We will change the housing to add two buckle loops for a strap to pass through to help secure the unit to the wheelchair. The strap will be made of two-sided hook and loop material. The buckle loops are to span most of the case depth for stability and to have a recessed area for application of a strip of non-skid material. The object is to make the non-skid strip secure to the unit so it does not fall off. This was a concern, expressed at the APH Annual Meeting, about circular bumper pads.

Two teachers commented that when their students loaded the cartridge, the teacher had to push it farther to make the insertion complete. The students did not have the strength to push the cartridge in all the way. This is due to the friction at the USB port and not a case design. APH is unable to change the global design of USB ports.

Two teachers commented that when the button was on pause mode, hitting any other button would reactivate it. This is a functionality of the older cassette players that APH maintained in the new player. The difference is that one cannot hear the tape inside the cassette making the whirly noise as it slides through the grippers because the new player is digital. When the device is turned on, any of the button switches will activate when touched. To render a button switch inoperable, the device must be turned off.

One teacher noted that the music started immediately after the cartridge was loaded into the player without the student pressing the play button. This was addressed in the product guide, but the feature must remain in some part so the functionality of using a power control unit with a switch remains constant.

One teacher wanted to know if APH could make the button switches touch sensitive. Project staff discussed changing to touch sensitive switches (capacitance switches). It was decided not to go this direction due to 1) additional, complex circuitry; 2) the susceptibility of damage to the switches from static; and 3) capacitance switches have no tactile feedback when actuated. Mechanical switches, such as those used on the prototype, have tactile feedback.

Only one of the five teachers wrote that the device was not accessible for her students who have visual, cognitive, and motor impairments. She also felt a smaller device—approximately the size of a handheld MP3 player—with contrasting buttons would be more usable for higher functioning students. (As stated earlier, Enabling Devices already manufactures a smaller MP3 music player with button switches.) She said that students who function at a lower level need a device with a USB port and switch accessibility. The prototype did have a USB port and five jacks for external switches; these features will remain in the final product.

APH will sell two replacement parts for the product: an AC adapter (recharger) and the bag of button covers with rings. The 1.5" x 60" hook and loop strap will not be a replacement part unless APH receives consumer requests in the first 24 months. The product will come with AA metal hydride batteries (rechargeable). These batteries are available for replacement in local stores. The product will operate with alkaline batteries, but they will not recharge. Metal hydrate batteries are recommended.

Teachers were asked to submit possible names for the product. One teacher suggested Easy Player; three suggested incorporating the terms adapted, adaptive, or accessible into the product name; and one did not respond to the question. The new name of the product was chosen for several reasons. First, professionals who work in the fields of visual impairments and multiple disabilities promote the use of "person first" so individuals are not defined by their disability. Likewise, the project leader felt users of such an "adapted" personal music player should not be identified by the devices they use in their daily lives. Ownership of The Joy Player does not identify a listener as one with a disability. Second, a photograph taken of a student using The Joy Player during field testing showed an expression of "joy" on his face as he independently—for the first time—listened to his chosen music. The last reason is a coincidental bonus. The APH electrical engineer who did the splendid job of designing the circuitry of The Joy Player is happy that the player shares the name, Joy, with his wife.

Additional comments submitted by teachers that were not mentioned in this report include the following:

I love this device! My students all interacted with it on the initial presentation. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to present it to my students!

Thank you for allowing me to try this! It's a great idea!

It has to be easy to work and this is so easy we should call it the Easy Player!

References

Chen, D. (1999). Essential elements in early intervention: Visual impairment and multiple disabilities. New York, NY: AFB Press.

Smith, M. (2005). SLK guidebook and assessment forms. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind.

The illustration of The Joy Player below was sent along with the prototype for field testers to indicate suggested changes.

An illustration of The Joy Player; top view, back view, front view

In summary, the prototype was presented at the 2013 APH Annual Meeting during the Information Fair. The instruction guide was written and the prototype of the player was field tested. The product was submitted for Quota approval and the bid package was sent out to potential manufacturers. A sample housing from the manufacturing vendor was submitted for APH approval. Additional support was added it to the center of the case to make the player more structurally sound. Upon request from APH staff, the project leader researched and selected a new name for the product. The documentation was turned over to the graphic designer.

Work during FY 2015

APH staff completed the product guide (writing, editing, photography, design, layout, HTML coding, braille translation, and printing). The vendor submitted multiple production samples to APH for approval by the manufacturing specialist and the project leader. Upon approval, the purchase order was issued.

CAREER EDUCATION AND TRANSITION

For FY 2015, there are no active Career Education and Transition products to report.

COMPENSATORY AND ACCESS SKILLS

MATCH-IT-UP Frames (Large Set and Small Set)

Formerly Match-It Up Board

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide an interactive board that facilitates a variety of matching activities for young students who are visually impaired and blind in grades K-3

Project Staff

Photo of MATCH-IT-UP prototype with counting activity displayed

Background

In January 2009, the consultant submitted a product submission form, along with a handmade prototype, describing an interactive matching board that she had successfully used with her kindergarten student. Her design is a small, slightly raised, and table-like wooden board that fits on a desk or table. Two rows of squares (each with a VELCOIN® brand tab) are divided by a string of red yarn. A single hole is drilled above each of the lower squares and below each of the upper squares. Threaded through each lower hole is a cord with a peg attached; the cords are of various colors. The child matches cards in the bottom row to those in the top row by inserting the pegs in the corresponding holes. The consultant made a variety of matching cards to assist in the instruction of tactile shapes, braille letters, braille numbers, and braille words.

In January 2010, the project leader provided a review of the product submission form, rating it high in originality and appropriate target populations. The project leader's review documented considerations for making the matching board less problematic and expensive to produce.

The product idea was initially reviewed and evaluated by the Product Evaluation Team and officially approved as a viable product by the Product Advisory and Review Committee on January 14, 2010. Shortly after, the project leader hosted a Product Development Committee (PDC) "Brainstorming" Meeting with a wider audience of APH staff from various departments. The PDC supported the project leader's plan to design a one-piece "board" with open windows that attaches to a VELTEX® brand surface (e.g., ALL-IN-ONE Board); long drapery cords would be replaced by shorter nylon cords that stay in place on a VELTEX® brand band that spans the center of the board. The committee was especially concerned with the safety of the original design given the long cords and potentially detachable small pegs of choking size. The project leader also suggested supplying a "starter kit" of mounting cards (using those included in Tactile Connections) that teachers could use to design and construct matching cards.

Throughout March and April, the project leader and model maker experimented with various layouts of the board. Their search for an ideal nylon cord to securely stick to VELTEX® brand material was unsuccessful. The nylon cords were replaced by various lengths of matching strips cut from polyblend of various colors and backed with hook material; the band in the middle of the board was updated to a soft loop material. The board itself was changed to a bright yellow instead of white. The project leader built a variety of matching cards to use in combination with the board.

In May 2010, a complete prototype of the board was sent to the consultant for direct use with her student. Initial feedback supported the design of the board itself and the provision of the mounting cards, but the matching strips proved challenging for her young student when locating and selecting the correct length of strip to connect a card in the lower row with a card in the upper row.

The project staff continued to modify the prototype to best achieve the objectives of the consultant's original design. The construction of the first sample board was considerably simplified by eliminating the matching strips. The final prototype version incorporated 10 open "windows" in a two row by five column arrangement, with the two rows separated by a raised tactile bar. The board was sized to fit conveniently onto the VELTEX® brand side of APH's ALL-IN-ONE Board.

The project leader authored product instructions that provided a variety of ideas for creating matching cards. Examples focused on counting skills, O&M concepts, shape identification, line tracking, texture discrimination, story retelling, sequencing, patterning, braille letters, and calendar activities. Each suggestion was supported by a photograph. Although actual construction of matching cards would be the responsibility of the teacher/parent, a "starter kit" of mounting cards, VELCOIN® brand tabs and strips, and masking overlays (to minimize the number of windows) was included as part of the field test prototype.

By the end of January 2011, multiple copies of the prototype were built and available for field testing. The project leader then collated materials, prepared the final layout of the product instructions, identified field test evaluation sites, and readied an evaluation packet. On February 14, prototypes were mailed to field test sites. Each evaluator was encouraged to use the prototype with as many students as possible until the end of May.

Throughout June and July 2011, the project leader compiled field test data into a final report. The prototype was used by 20 teachers of the visually impaired with a total of 104 students. Evaluators represented the states of Arizona, California (2), Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma (2), Texas (2), Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The student sample of 104 students ranged in age from 2 to 21 years of age with 26% between the ages of 2 and 4, 30% between the ages of 5 and 7, 18% between the ages of 8 and 10, 17% between the ages of 11 and 13, 7% between the ages of 14 and 17, and 2% between the ages of 18 and 21.

There were noticeably more males than females—62% and 38%, respectively.

The student population reflected cultural diversity: 69% White, 15% African American, 8% Hispanic, 5% Asian, 3% "two or more races," and 1% American Indian or Alaskan Native.

One-third of the students were preschoolers, 10% were kindergarteners, 24% were in grades 1-3, and 17% were in grades 4-6; smaller percentages were in grades 7-8 (8%), high school (4%), or classified as "ungraded" (4%).

The largest percentage of students (27%) were reported as nonreaders; this percentage included subsets of students whose primary reading medium was reported as "nonreader/pictures," "nonreader/large print," and "nonreader/auditory." Nearly equal percentages (17% and 15%) were reported as braille readers and large print readers, respectively; 6% read regular print, and 1% was dual braille/large print readers. Eleven percent of the students were classified as "prereaders," while a similar percentage (9%) were reported as auditory readers or combinations of auditory/braille, auditory/visual, and auditory/tactile readers. A smaller percentage (8%) of the students were reported as "visual," "tactile," or "picture" readers. The primary reading media of the remaining percentage of students (6%) were undetermined or unreported.

A full 71% of the students were reported as having additional disabilities (e.g., cerebral palsy, cognitive/physical/language delays, ADHD, and autism). Nearly 40% had cortical visual impairment.

Evaluators' ratings of the overall design of the Match-It-Up Board were very encouraging. Based upon a rating scale from 5 (Excellent) to 1 (Poor), the following average scores were received for each design feature:

Design Feature Number of Evaluators Average Rating
Overall size n = 20 4.55
Color n = 20 4.35
Number of windows/cutouts n = 20 4.40
Size of windows/cutouts n = 20 4.45
Distance between windows/cutouts side-by-side n = 20 4.45
Distance between windows/cutouts top-to-bottom n = 20 4.35
Tactile/print divider line n = 17 4.47
Ease of mounting/positioning on a VELTEX® brand surface n = 19 4.79
Masking overlays n = 20 4.45

One hundred percent of evaluators especially liked how the board fits comfortably and conveniently on APH's ALL-IN-ONE Board. One evaluator clarified: "Perfect fit. Easy to adjust angle of board for student's needs."

Field results indicated that a variety of methods of matching were utilized when using the Match-It-Up Board with students. Eighty-percent of the teachers reported that they frequently (40%) or sometimes (40%) positioned all of the cards on the board in random order and then asked the student to rearrange them in corresponding pairs below and above the raised bar. Ninety percent of the teachers reported that they frequently (50%) or sometimes (40%) positioned only the cards in the top row then asked the student to insert each matching card below its counterpart. Ninety percent reported that they frequently (55%) or sometimes (35%) asked the student to merely point to the matching cards. Only 40% either frequently (20%) or sometimes (20%) played concentration games using the masking inserts. One teacher clarified that the matching method used depended upon the activity and the student's ability.

Using a scale of 5 (Very Well) to 0 (Not at All), teachers rated how well the Match-It-Up Board facilitated a variety of activities. Ratings supported the versatility of the board.

Activity Number of Evaluators Average Rating
Matching n = 20 4.90
Sequencing n = 19 4.89
Calendar Activities n = 11 4.12
Story Retelling n = 8 4.36
Matching Games n = 14 4.64

Eighty percent of the evaluators indicated that the Match-It-Up Board offered specific advantages over previously-used matching activities and tools. Among the most oft-repeated compliments was its success at providing a clearly-defined working space and placement for cards. Other comments included the following:

Ninety-five percent of the evaluators supported the provision of mounting cards in a variety of colors to help in the construction of teacher-created matching activities. Most thought 10 cards per color would be an ideal amount. One hundred percent of the evaluators recommended the inclusion of VELCOIN® brand tabs and a long strip of VELCRO® brand hook strips. The provided Sticky Dots™ package was used by fewer teachers (65%) to apply objects/textures/pictures to the mounting cards. Teachers reported a variety of other adhesive material that they acquired and used to build matching cards: glue sticks, twist ties, rubber cement, yarn/string, caulking, double-sided tape.

The following percentages of evaluators reported appropriateness of the kit for various target populations. Among the most appropriate were students with multiple disabilities, preschoolers, kindergarteners, tactile and low vision students in grades 1-3, and students with cortical visual impairment.

Target Population Percentage of evaluators who found the Match-It-Up Board suitable for target population
Preschoolers with visual impairments/blindness 90%
Kindergarteners with visual impairments/blindness 95%
Tactile readers in grades 1-3 90%
Low vision students in grades 1-3 85%
Tactile readers in grades 4-8 45%
Low vision students in grades 4-8 45%
Tactile readers in high school 20%
Low vision readers in high school 20%
Students with multiple disabilities 100%
Students with cortical visual impairment 90%

All of the students were reported as enjoying the use of the Match-It-Up Board. Noteworthy student comments included "Can I take this home?" "Can you leave this here in my class?" "This is fun," "I like the bright yellow," and "I can tell you the story using the board."

Ninety-five percent of the field evaluators recommended that APH produce the Match-It-Up Board because of its strengths: color, durability, ease of use, portability, spacing of matching windows, size, and versatility with regard to possible matching activities (as illustrated in photos and descriptions provided by evaluators).

Photo of Match-It-Up prototype used by a student with cortical visual impairment Photo of Match-It-Up prototype used as a counting activity for Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar storybook Photo of Match-It-Up prototype used as a nuts and bolts sorting activity

Throughout the remainder of the fiscal year, the project leader reviewed the field test results and outlined needed improvements to the prototype prior to production. Input from fellow Research staff and from the outside consultant was invited regarding necessary revisions. Plans included expanding the colors and types of available sorting frames and providing additional activity suggestions within the accompanying guidebook. Ideal shapes, colors, and quantities of matching cards were also determined. The name of the product, based upon the suggestion of one field evaluator, was changed to MATCH-IT-UP Frames.

The project leader conducted a Product Input Session on the MATCH-IT-UP Frames at APH's Annual Meeting in October 2011. The audience consisted of teachers of the visually impaired, a math teacher, program administrators, a school principal, and a librarian. Their feedback echoed requests from field evaluators, notably the need for various colors of frames and different sizes of frames (to fit both the ALL-IN-ONE Board as well as the new (SM)ALL-IN-ONE Board). Additionally, they encouraged the project leader to consider eventual provision of pre-assembled packages of matching cards such as letter cards and story sequence cards to supplement APH storybooks (e.g., Goin' on a Bear Hunt).

The project leader furnished Technical Research and Model Shop staff with layout drawings of the nine unique matching frames—six large and three small. Care was taken to a) reduce the distance between the windows/cutouts and the dividing bar, b) enlarge the window/cutout openings on the 5 x 2 frames, c) provide smaller frame options—3 x 2 configurations, and d) make each frame size available in three colors—yellow, black, and white. The yellow and white frames will be backed with hook VELCRO® brand tabs/strips for application to a black VELTEX® brand platform, and the black frames will be magnetic-backed to affix to a metal surface.

During the second quarter of the fiscal year, the model/pattern maker built needed vacuum-form patterns. In March 2012, one sample of each frame type was vacuum-formed and cut to size. The finished parts were reviewed to determine the appropriate application and positioning of VELCOIN® brand tabs and magnetic tabs. Other product components and production processes were planned, including the final color selection for the mounting cards, the salvage of die-cut windows for masking overlays, and the provision of two separate kits—Large Set and Small Set. In May, a Product Structure Meeting was conducted to review the anticipated product design with Production staff. Needed catalog numbers were assigned.

Active work on this project throughout FY 2013 was intermittent and mostly confined to the tooling construction and specifications for the nine separate MATCH-IT-UP Frames. The project leader, the model/pattern maker, and Technical Research staff met repeatedly to fine tune the expected position and amount of magnetic strips and VELCRO® brand tabs/strips for each matching frame. All of the magnetic applications to the white frames will be the responsibility of Educational Aids staff during production; the VELCRO® brand tabs and strips will be applied to the yellow and white frames by the customer. The descriptions of the matching frames are as follows:

With regard to the authoring and completion of the accompanying guidebook, the project leader's work on this component was curtailed by higher priority projects throughout FY 2014, including those inherited from other project leaders (e.g., Quick & Easy ECC) or newly-acquired projects (e.g., Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen and SPORTS COURTS: Touch and Play) with time-critical field test goals.

Work during FY 2015

The project leader's attention on higher-priority and/or time-intensive products (e.g., SPORTS COURTS: Touch and Play) continued to derail significant progress on the MATCH-IT-UP Frames during the first three quarters of FY 2015. However, in July, the project leader's focus returned to the preparation of content and photographs for the accompanying guidebook. Representative photos were taken to illustrate a variety of activity scenarios (e.g., matching, counting, sequencing, patterning, etc.). The project leader invited ideas from other Research staff to broaden the assortment of activities for ideal target audiences, particularly for students with cortical visual impairment. Rachel White assisted with editing of the prepared content prior to formal layout and design of the instruction booklet. The "Documentation" goal date is set for the end of September 2015.

A collection of photos shows activities facilitated by different sizes and colors of MATCH-IT-UP Frames in combination with APH's ALL-IN-ONE Boards. Activities include a calendar activity (yesterday/music, today/gym, tomorrow/art), a color matching activity using real objects (cups and balls), a counting activity using shapes from APH's Picture Maker, a science activity (identification of animal tracks using overlays from Sense of Science: ANIMALS), a shape recognition activity (circle, heart, square, triangle, star), and a continuing pattern activity (with alternating smiley and frowny faces).

Work planned for FY 2016

Pre-production tasks will continue and will encompass finalizing content of the guidebook, preparing the final layout of the print guidebook, readying braille files, outlining production specifications, and acquiring all needed tooling (e.g., cutting dies) to produce all components of the MATCH-IT-UP Frames. Production staff will establish a feasible goal for pilot/production runs. Availability of the product will likely occur in the last quarter of FY 2016.

Braille

Braille Buzz

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide young braille readers and writers with an engaging device for learning early braille literacy, and phonics skills, with auditory and tactile support

Project Staff

Background

Braille Buzz was adopted as a new product in August 2010. It was developed by engineering students, through the collaboration of Diane Brauner, a certified orientation and mobility specialist; Dr. Gary Bishop, a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina (UNC); and Dr. Richard Goldberg, a professor in the biomedical engineering department at UNC. Dr. Bishop teaches a course called Enabling Technology, in which students are required to create accessible games for individuals with disabilities. Brauner supplies the class with a list of game ideas that would be accessible to students who are blind and visually impaired. Each Spring Dr. Bishop hosts Maze Day, and students with visual impairments, their parents, and their teachers come to UNC-Chapel Hill to try out the games created by Dr. Bishop's and Dr. Goldberg's students. Braille Buzz is one of many prototypes developed through this collaborative effort.

The device submitted by Diane Brauner in December 2009 consisted of a plastic overlay that transformed a standard computer keyboard into a six-key entry device that emulated a Perkins Braillewriter. Each of the six keys that corresponded to a dot in the braille cell vibrated; the intensity of the vibration could be adjusted. The adapted keyboard was connected to any given computer through a USB port, thereby making it plug 'n play. The accompanying software consisted of a series of activities to teach the student to form and to recognize specific braille symbols and to associate letters with their phonetic sounds.

The original prototype of the Braille Buzz required special software drivers to operate a modified computer keyboard. There were a number of problems with the software that delayed the project. In addition, changes in APH staff inhibited progress. However, providing a device to support early literacy concept and skill development was a high priority of the Research Department. In August 2013, the Braille Buzz project was assigned to the technology consultant and project leader.

In FY 2014, a number of brainstorming/planning meetings were held to determine the scope and functionality of the machine. The decision was made to target the learning needs of young children with a low-cost, standalone device.

The technology consultant has worked diligently to design and develop hardware and software for the unit. Significant progress has been made. A scale model of the exterior is being constructed in order to refine features as needed. The working circuit board now produces speech output. The electronic components will soon be attached to the case for testing and modification.

A description of the emerging unit is as follows. Braille Buzz will be a toy-computer for young children. The case size will be that of a standard notetaker with textured stripes planned to resemble a cartoon bumblebee—thus retaining the name. Braille Buzz will have a Perkins-style keyboard, and two rows of alphabet buttons. When a braille letter is pressed, the letter will be spoken. Likewise, when the correct combination of keys are pressed, the letter name will be heard. Additional functions will make the device fun and enticing to use. Tamper-proof features will protect both the child and machine.

Specific pre-braille writing skills addressed by Braille Buzz include isolated and coordinated finger movements, tactual discrimination of different braille shapes, and coordinated use of both hands. Braille Buzz will not require the degree of strength and dexterity needed for successful operation of a mechanical brailler.

Braille Buzz will introduce and reinforce phonemic awareness by isolating a beginning sound and then pairing a sound with its corresponding letter. Simple games using words, with sound effects as clues, are being developed.

Work during FY 2015

A working prototype was developed and made available for in-house testing. Necessary modifications to hardware and firmware are in process. Models of the case (resembling a cartoon bumblebee) are being fashioned on a 3D printer. Work continues on the electronic boards. Evaluation forms for initial field testing have been developed.

Work planned for FY 2016

It is anticipated that Braille Buzz will be ready for field testing in early FY 2016. Revisions will be considered in response to the field test results. At that point, plans for manufacturing the device will be finalized.

Building on Patterns Unified English Braille Supplements

(New)

Purpose

To provide teachers and students with Unified English Braille (UEB) Building on Patterns (BOP) Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade materials for the 2015-2016 school year due to the January 4, 2016, implementation date for UEB established by the Braille Authority of North America (BANA)

Project Staff

Background

On November 9, 2014, BANA established January 4, 2016, as the date by which the United States will implement UEB. Because the BOP curriculum will take several years to completely revise for new educational standards and to teach UEB, interim materials are needed for teachers to instruct students who are learning UEB starting in 2015-2016 school year.

Relevance

Several states, including California, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington, have published UEB transition plans that include instructing students in UEB in 2015.

The BOP UEB Supplements project was approved by the Product Advisory and Review Committee in November 2014.

Work during FY 2015

The project leader; Cay Holbrook, consultant; Ralph Bartley, Executive Director of Research; and Kate Herndon, Director of Educational Product Research determined that the BOP UEB Supplements should consist of all BOP student materials retranscribed in UEB if any changes for UEB were needed and free downloadable supplements with information on the UEB changes for teachers. In order to be able to have materials available for customers for the 2015-2016 school year, the teacher's manuals and forms that only the teacher uses should not be updated. However, all the posttest materials for BOP First and Second Grade should be updated to UEB to help ensure these assessment could be administered smoothly. The BOP Kindergarten posttest materials do not need any changes for UEB. A timeline of August 2015 for the BOP Kindergarten and First Grade UEB materials to be available and December 2015 for the BOP Second Grade materials was set.

Using some information she had previously compiled, the project leader further examined the existing BOP materials to determine what student materials needed to be retranscribed. The project leader worked with Technical and Manufacturing Research to define the components and structure of the new kits. It was agreed that it would be less confusing for customers and would help Production to have a "Student Kit" containing just the materials needed for each student and provide the materials for teachers separately rather than continuing with the "Print Kit" and "Braille Kit" structure used for the existing BOP materials.

The consultants worked with the project leader via conference call and e-mail on the teacher supplements for BOP Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade. In addition to informing the teacher of the UEB changes in the student materials, some changes for the instructional text in the teacher's manuals had to be included in the supplements. The project leader worked with the Transcription department to have the student materials retranscribed as needed. This included changes to the tactile graphic plates. Information about changes to the student materials provided by the transcribers was used in the teacher supplements. The Kindergarten and First Grade supplements and transcriptions were completed.

The project leader contacted National Braille Press to determine if A Braille Spelling Dictionary for Beginning Writers would be available in UEB for the Second Grade Unit 4 UEB Student Kit. The UEB version became available in May 2015.

In March, an e-mail was sent to Ex Officio Trustees and Instructional Materials Resource Centers with a request that they place orders for Kindergarten and First Grade UEB materials for fall fulfillment in order to meet demand and ensure availability. These orders were used to determine estimated sales for the new materials. Production of the English Braille American Edition versions of the materials being updated to UEB was stopped.

In early August, the BOP First Grade Units 1 and 2 teacher supplements were posted to the APH Downloadable Product Manuals webpage and the UEB kits were released. Releases of the Kindergarten materials and the materials for the rest of First Grade followed.

Work planned for FY 2016

Work will proceed on the BOP Second Grade teacher supplements, student materials, and posttest. All items will be released by the end of December 2015.

Building on Patterns, Second Edition: Kindergarten Level

(Continued)

Purpose

To revise and update Building on Patterns (BOP): Kindergarten Level by creating a BOP Second Edition Kindergarten Level curriculum

Project Staff

Background

The Building on Patterns Kindergarten (BOP-K) Level is in need of revision because it will soon be 6 years old. At the April 2012 meeting, the Educational Products Advisory Committee recommended that there be a schedule for regular revisions of BOP.

Relevance

Since BOP-K was written, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have been developed and adopted by 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity. These standards include higher expectations in English Language Arts for young students. This edition of BOP will help students who are blind or visually impaired and will be braille readers to meet these new standards while learning braille.

Research

To inform the development of the BOP, Second Edition, APH gathered data on the first edition of Building on Patterns Kindergarten (BOP-K) through an online survey. Teachers of the visually impaired who have used BOP-K were asked to answer questions about how they used BOP-K, how the CCSS would affect their use of the curriculum, what changes and additions they would like to see in BOP-K, and what should be taught in a prekindergarten literacy program.

Data were gathered from qualified individuals. The majority of respondents are teachers of students who have visual impairments (97%). The remaining respondents include a reading specialist and a coordinator for visually impaired programs. Twenty-two respondents (29%) have taught students with visual impairments for more than 20 years, 22 (29%) for 11-20 years, 19 (25%) for 6-10 years, and 12 (16%) for less than 5 years. Of the 75 respondents, most used BOP-K with more than one child: 18 students were at the preschool level, 62 kindergarten, 35 first grade, and 24 at other levels. The other levels included students with additional disabilities and older students who needed to learn braille.

Data were collected from a geographically diverse population. Respondents are located in the United States Virgin Islands (1) and in 22 different states: Arkansas (1), California (2), Colorado (4), Connecticut (1), Illinois (11), Indiana (4), Kansas (6), Kentucky (4), Louisiana (5), Michigan (1), Missouri (5), Montana (2), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (1), North Carolina (4), North Dakota (1), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (2), South Carolina (3), Texas (6), and Virginia (5).

The majority of the respondents to the survey used BOP-K as a supplement (38) rather than a complete literacy program (16), but some used it both ways (16). Some stated specifically that they used other materials to supplement BOP-K (2), and a few used it to just teach braille (3).

Seventy-seven percent of respondents indicated that their school district was implementing or planning to implement the CCSS. Most comments about how the CCSS would affect the teachers' use of BOP-K indicated that they would still use the program and adapt the program to meet the standards required by their district.

Respondents' comments stated that additional practice activities (21.4%), capitalization (10.7%), and punctuation (10.7%) should be added to the braille instruction in the program. Comments about what is not taught in BOP-K but should be taught before the end of a kindergarten program included sight words (27.5%), punctuation (17.5%), capitals (10%), and more vocabulary (7.5%).

When asked what is taught in BOP-K that should be taught in a prekindergarten emergent literacy program, 41% of the respondents who gave opinions said that phonemic awareness and phonics, the alphabet, or an introduction to the alphabet contractions should be taught at an earlier level. And 12.8% said that at least the first 12 lessons of BOP-K should be taught earlier. Other specific skills that received multiple mentions are these:

Additional comments from respondents included several requests for more practice materials, more tactile diagrams, and stories and poems with language and concepts more appropriate for students at the kindergarten level.

The survey results were compiled. APH staff, BOP writers, and BOP consultants reviewed the information. The group agreed that a majority of the recommendations would be applied in the writing of the prekindergarten and kindergarten levels.

Additional research is described in the remaining sections of this project report.

In June 2012, a conference on Building on Patterns and Braille Literacy was held at APH. Special invitations were sent to Frances Mary D'Andrea, Kelly Lusk, Anna Swenson, Marjorie Ward, and Diane Wormsley. Conferees also included APH staff and the team of BOP writers and consultants. Experts from the general education field made presentations on the Common Core State Standards and A Mainstream Publisher's View of the Future of Literacy Education. A list of needed braille literacy projects was compiled and discussed, and the group chose the revision of the BOP Kindergarten Level as the number one priority. The BOP Second Grade writers all agreed to work on the revision, and Anna Swenson and Marjorie Ward agreed to join the group as consultants. Because research indicates that children begin the process of emergent literacy very early in life, it was decided that this product should provide instructional support for teachers of students with visual impairments, parents, and preschool teachers to guide braille-reading children ages birth through kindergarten through developmental activities that will strengthen their preparation for a program designed for the first grade level. The group immediately began to discuss and plan the content and format of the revision. Some of the conferees also began checking which Common Core State Standards are addressed and which are not addressed in the current BOP-K Level. A Trello account (an online management tool used for project collaboration) was set up for the group to share information.

Following this conference, periodic conference calls were held to further discuss the content and format of the new project. The group also began to gather current general education materials to reference.

The BOP Second Edition project was approved by the Product Advisory and Review Committee in August 2012.

The writing group met October 10-11, 2012, at APH. Regular conference calls were started after the October meeting to work on more details of the project. APH conducted a survey of teachers who have used the current BOP-K curriculum with questions developed by the group. The responses were reviewed and compiled to use as a reference for the writers.

Kay Ferrell agreed to join the BOP group in 2013 and began participating in the conference calls. During those conference calls, the group decided to have two separate curricula for the prekindergarten and kindergarten levels of BOP, Second Edition. General education "readiness" lists, assessments, and curricula for prekindergarten and kindergarten were explored. Suzette Wright shared multiple resources on emergent and early literacy with the group, including information from the 2013 International Preschool Symposium. Cay Holbrook shared information from the 2013 International Reading Association conference. A catalog of developmental skills that are typical precursors for formal braille literacy instruction was created. This catalog of skills was based on numerous existing emergent literacy lists that outline skills desired for children who are candidates to become braille readers. Prekindergarten and kindergarten scope and sequence charts were developed, and the Maryland Common Core State Curriculum Frameworks for Braille were matched up with the kindergarten scope and sequence to help the writers address the CCSS in their work.

The BOP group met at APH the last week in June 2013 for intensive work on the project. Presentations on the National Early Literacy Panel findings and APH early childhood products were given to the group, as well as a workshop on Unified English Braille (UEB). Because the Braille Authority of North America adopted UEB in November 2012, BOP Second Edition will be written to teach UEB

In FY 2014, the BOP group worked on BOP Prekindergarten during this time.

Work during FY 2015

The BOP Writing Group Meeting was held June 25-29, 2015. They discussed what will be needed to start writing for the kindergarten level once the writing groups have all their prekindergarten lessons turned in for editing: updated standards for children to start first grade, look at general education kindergarten curricula, revisit the kindergarten themes discussed in 2012, and organize the work that has already been done for the kindergarten revision. The group agreed that at least the Writing portion of the lessons should be done as a thread to keep them consistent. The Kindergarten level will not use trade books. The group planned to talk more about Kindergarten on conference calls and have a meeting following the Getting in Touch with Literacy conference in November 2015.

Work began to compile the existing Kindergarten revision files.

Work planned for FY 2016

Additional research for the BOP-K revision will be conducted and compiled. The structure of the curriculum will be determined, a lesson template will be developed, and writing will begin.

Building on Patterns, Second Edition: Prekindergarten Level

(Continued)

Purpose

To revise and update Building on Patterns (BOP): Kindergarten Level by creating a BOP Second Edition Prekindergarten Level curriculum

Project Staff

Background

The Building on Patterns Kindergarten (BOP-K) Level is in need of revision because it will soon be 6 years old. At the April 2012 meeting, the Educational Products Advisory Committee recommended that there be a schedule for regular revisions of BOP.

In FY 2013, as a result of the November-December 2012 BOP-K survey results, work on a possible joint prekindergarten and kindergarten curriculum, and research into general education curricula, the BOP writing group decided to have two separate curricula for the prekindergarten and kindergarten levels of BOP, Second Edition. See Building on Patterns, Second Edition: Kindergarten Level report for more background, relevance, research, and work during FY 2013 in addition to that listed in this report.

In FY 2013, the BOP group met at APH the last week in June for intensive work on the project. Presentations on the National Early Literacy Panel findings and APH early childhood products were given to the group, as well as a workshop on Unified English Braille (UEB). Because the Braille Authority of North America adopted UEB in November 2012, BOP Second Edition will be written to teach UEB. The Director of Education and a Developmental Interventionist from Visually Impaired Preschool Services joined the group during the first 2 days of the meeting and provided helpful input. More details were added to the prekindergarten scope and sequence chart. It was decided that most lessons for prekindergarten would be paired with an authentic literature book that would be included in the kit.

The group worked on a list of books to include in the prekindergarten kit. A writing guide is in development.

In FY 2014, work continued on a writing guide and on a lesson template. The group determined an order for introducing the letters in the alphabet based on the usefulness of the braille contractions that go with them and the configurations of the letters in braille. The Speaking and Listening portion of the template was written to incorporate elements of a research-based interactive read-aloud technique of reading books to young children (McGee & Schickedanz, 2010). This technique incorporates elements of shared reading that the National Early Literacy Panel (2008, p. 162) found "improves oral language skills and print knowledge" for young children.

The group finalized the list of authentic literature books to include in the prekindergarten level, and Resource Services began work to obtain permission for the books to be included in the project. The books were matched up with the lessons based on subject matter of the book, the letters introduced in the lessons, and other concepts in the lessons. Seven high frequency words were chosen to include in the second half of the prekindergarten lessons for richer reading; however, students will not be responsible for independent reading and writing of them at this level.

Members of the group researched and compiled information on the content of general education curricula and preschool/early childhood standards for reference for the program development. Several reference books related to teaching literacy to young students were also evaluated, and copies of the most relevant books were provided to the writing groups, including the following:

The writers began writing the prekindergarten lessons. Lessons 2, 3, and 4 were chosen as the starting point, rather than Lessons 1, 2, and 3, because APH received permissions to use the authentic literature books matched with those lessons when the writers were ready to start. The lessons will include activities and materials to build tactual skills needed for reading and writing braille, including tactile storybooks to provide meaningful tracking activities that do not require reading. A variety of age-appropriate writing activities will also be included that are built on writing support descriptions researched and developed by Anna Swenson. The target for the length of the lessons, 45 minutes to 1 hour, is based on the professional consensus on service delivery time for early formal literacy skills for students in braille literacy programs found in the Delphi study by Koenig and Holbrook (2000).

The project leader and Holbrook conducted a product input session at APH's Annual Meeting in October 2014. Some of the BOP group gave a presentation on the plans and work being done on the project, titled "Emergent and Early Literacy Instruction: The Construction of Revised Pre-K and Kindergarten Building on Patterns," at the 20th Anniversary Getting in Touch with Literacy (GITWL) Conference in Providence, RI, in December. Attendees at these presentations confirmed the need for a prekindergarten braille literacy program. The group also planned to consult with Dr. Mary Ehrenworth, who gave the keynote address at the GITWL Conference on the Common Core, when appropriate during the writing process. Lizbeth Barclay, former Coordinator of the Assessment Program at the California School for the Blind, joined the BOP group in June to provide internal expert review and assist with the development of assessment materials. Lea McGee from the Teaching and Learning Administration department at The Ohio State University was added as an early literacy consultant for the group.

A pilot field test was planned to get input on a few of the early lessons from teachers of the visually impaired who work with preschool-aged children at several locations around the country. This test was initiated.

References

Koenig, A. J., & Holbrook, M. C. (2000). Assuring quality literacy instruction in braille literacy programs. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 94, 677-694.

McGee, L. & Schickedanz, J. (2007). Repeated interactive read-alouds in preschool and kindergarten. The Reading Teacher. 60(8), 742-751. Retrieved from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/16287

National Early Literacy Panel. (2008). Developing early literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy. Retrieved from http://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/NELPReport09.pdf

Work during FY 2015

Research and writing continued on the BOP Prekindergarten lessons, reference materials, and assessment materials.

The project leader and Holbrook conducted the pilot field test between October 2014 and January 2015 at three prekindergarten sites: two centers in Kentucky and New Mexico and one itinerate setting in Florida. Seven teachers (four center-based and two itinerant) and seven children participated. The demographic information on the children is as follows:

The purposes of the pilot field test was to ask for feedback from pre-K teachers on Lessons 2, 3, and 4; get video examples of pre-K children working through parts of lessons; check length of lessons and activities within lessons; and to gather information about service delivery impact on completion of lessons.

Teachers were provided with the following materials:

The teachers recorded their thoughts as they orally reviewed Lessons 2–4 prior to teaching them. The teachers also took videos while teaching portions of the lessons, provided responses to questionnaires about each lesson after teaching them, filled out Pre and Post Skills Checklists for their students, and participated in interviews with Holbrook about the lessons.

The key findings of the pilot field test are listed here:

Holbrook presented the BOP writing group with the findings of the pilot field test at a special meeting held at APH in January 2015 attended by the lead writers and most of the BOP consultants. At this meeting, the group reviewed and discussed the results of the pilot field test and worked on making changes to shorten and/or reduce the number of activities within the lessons, consolidate activities and reassign them to other lessons to provide greater consistency and reduce lesson length, decrease the length of the curriculum by shortening the length of review and assessment lessons, and attend to needed practice in areas of concern to teachers. The pre-K level structure of 28 instructional lessons and 4 review lessons, set up in 2014, was retained.

At the January 2015 meeting, attendees also reviewed and discussed an outline for the pre-K Reference Volume developed by Liz Barclay, with assistance from Kay Ferrell and Deanna Scoggins, from the existing BOP First Grade and Second Grade Reference Volumes. In addition, the group reviewed the lessons and scope and sequence for BOP Pre-K against a list of Head Start and preschool state standards, and field test results of concepts tested by the Boehm-3 with children who are blind or visually impaired provided by Ferrell. Based on this review, some concepts were added to the scope and sequence and some were removed.

An extensive review of the common activities, or threads, in the first nine lessons was worked on by APH staff before and by the whole group during the January 2015 meeting. Members of the group reworded, rewrote, or moved some activities, especially the writing activities, based on this review in addition to the changes made due to the pilot field test.

During the period between the January 2015 meeting and the June 2015 meeting, the group continued writing and editing instructional lessons and working on templates for the lessons to be written. The project leader and Anthony Jones worked on finalizing the designs of the tactile graphics from the writers drawings and ideas for the completed lessons. Related to this, Technical and Manufacturing Research personnel assisted with creating templates and specifications for the graphics, with testing 0.010-inch vinyl as the thermoform material for that graphics, and obtained 50 3D printed copies of a manipulative for one of the lessons for field testing.

Resource Services personnel continue the pursuit of permissions to use the chosen trade books. Two of the books will not be available from the publisher, and APH obtained the rights to print them. Two other books were replaced with new titles because they went out of print. Permissions for all titles except one were obtained by July of 2015. Personnel in the Resource Services department began writing image descriptions to be included in the braille teachers' transcriptions of the trade books.

Lizbeth Barclay decided to leave the group; Frances Dibble, also a former Coordinator of the Assessment Program at the California School for the Blind, joined the BOP group to provide assist with the development of assessment materials. Susan Sullivan agreed to review some of the lessons based on her experience as a teacher of preschool students who are visually impaired.

The project leader and Robin Wingell presented a session, in part on the development of BOP Pre-K, at the CTEBVI conference in California.

The project leader turned over the first lesson for layout to InGrid Design in March. Some changes to the graphical layout of the lessons were made to distinguish BOP Pre-K from the lessons in the previous BOP teacher's editions.

The BOP Writing Group Meeting was held June 25-29, 2015. A review of the common activities, or threads, in the second set of six lessons was worked on by APH staff before and by the whole group during the meeting. Minor changes were made to the wording in some activities, but the Writing activities were almost all changed to improve consistency in length and make sure the writing could fit on the paper specified. Work also moved forward on the third set of seven lessons. Dibble, Holbrook, and Swenson began detailed work on the assessment materials; it was decided that the review lessons would incorporate a Language Experience Story. Ferrell, Scoggins, and Susan Spicknall discussed and presented a restructuring of the reference materials. The group agreed that these would now include a reference and resource manual and guidebooks for the teacher of the visually impaired, classroom teacher, and parents. In addition, a template for the last group of six lessons was created and plans for transitioning to work on the BOP Second Edition: Kindergarten level were made.

After the June meeting, writing, editing and layout work on the prekindergarten lessons continued. Draft of all the instructional lessons were completed. Writing and editing for the assessment materials and reference materials also continued. The image descriptions for the trade books were completed, and transcriptions for the braille-reading teacher began.

Work planned for FY 2016

Editing and layout of the instructional lessons will be completed. Writing and editing of the assessment materials and reference materials will be completed. Student and teacher transcriptions of the trade books, tactile graphics, and other materials for the field test kits will be competed or obtained. The project staff will develop tooling and product specifications for field test materials. An expert review and full field test of the lessons and other materials will be initiated. Decisions about online content of the curriculum will be made and implemented.

Individualized Meaning-centered Approach to Braille Literacy Education (I-M-ABLE)

(New)

Purpose

To provide an alternative model for braille literacy instruction to students with visual and additional disabilities

Project Staff

Background

The Individualized Meaning-centered Approach to Braille Literacy Education (I-M-ABLE) project was initiated in early 2014, to address the needs of students learning to read and write braille with additional disabilities. Diane P. Wormsley, Ph.D., developer and author of the I-M-ABLE program, agreed to collaborate with APH to design a kit of instructional aids and materials to accompany the Practice Guide. The project focuses on providing an ever-growing population of students an appropriate pathway to successful literacy. These students are often not well served by traditional instructional strategies or materials. An individualized approach, which focuses on a student's particular interests to provide relevance and motivation for learning, offers a positive alternative to existing programs.

The Practice Guide, which will be published by AFB Press in early 2016, will be packaged with instructional aids (listed below) and training materials/videos to support the TVI's efforts.

The I-M-ABLE Kit will contain the following:

Work during FY 2015

Numerous meetings were held to establish a working partnership between the American Foundation for the Blind® (AFB) and APH, to select and design components of the kit, to plan training videos/materials, and to develop a schedule and procedures for the field evaluation. An extensive survey was written with specific criteria for recruitment of field testers. Teachers and students were identified using predetermined profiles for the purpose of obtaining solid data. A teleconference has been held with the teachers to explain the schedule and procedure for field evaluation.

An I-M-ABLE training workshop was organized and presented to an audience of six TVIs. A video was made of the training for future use as a component of the kit. Final arrangements, such as completion of materials for the field testing kits, editing of training videos, and development of the evaluation forms are ongoing.

Work planned for FY 2016

The field evaluation for I-M-ABLE will be completed. Data will be reviewed; necessary changes to the kit components, including training materials, will be made. The product will be submitted for Quota approval. Production and sales of the I-M-ABLE kit is slated for early 2017.

Print to Braille: A Transition Tool Kit

(New)

Purpose

To address the need for a program that streamlines braille instruction for a student who has learned to read print, and is performing at or near grade level in a general education setting

Project Staff

Background

Print to Braille: A Transition Tool Kit will provide materials, strategies, and resources to support the instruction of braille to students in general education settings who have learned to read print in the primary grades. The program will incorporate current trends in literacy instruction and accepted standards for grade level performance. It will encourage the high expectations set forth in those standards, as teachers design effective instruction focused on a student's learning needs directed by the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Print to Braille will emphasize the importance of immersion learning of a new literacy medium. It will present an ordered introduction of braille symbols, homogeneous contraction groups, along with activities necessary for fluent tactile reading skills. It will provide a scaffold for developing individualized instruction with suggestions and resources for use of materials relevant to a particular student's age, grade level, and interest. It will promote the need for ongoing assessment of progress as the student maintains a typical academic workload.

There is strong evidence, supported by research and practice, that students demonstrate higher levels of proficiency when first immersed in learning the braille code, and then applying the acquired skill to relevant activities such as the completion of schoolwork.

When a determination is made that a transition to braille as the primary literacy medium will offer a student greater access to information, it often causes disruption. Learning to read and write in a new medium requires a student to divert time and energy from other schoolwork and activities. The importance of attending to a student's age, academic load, and emotional state cannot be overemphasized. The Print to Braille program will assist teachers to address students' learning needs and interests, thereby building confidence and motivation. When students are challenged to learn a new reading medium as a tool to increase independence, braille instruction becomes more relevant and meaningful.

The product will promote solid educational principles by targeting individualized instruction, teaching a literacy medium as a tool for gaining and communicating information, and demonstrating skill acquisition through the completion of daily work. The introduction to The Maryland Common Core State Curriculum Framework for Braille English Language Arts summarizes the goal of the Print to Braille instructional program. It states that students who read and write in braille must become proficient and fluent in the medium in order to access core curriculum content, meet grade level performance expectations on district and state assessments, and be prepared for future higher education and employment. The impetus behind this product submission is guided by a thorough review of current and past research evaluating instructional methodology in braille instruction; careful examination of existing braille instructional programs; informal surveys of TVIs at two professional conferences; responses to an article summarizing this instructional approach posted in the APH News; consultations with several respected authorities in the field of education of students with visual impairments; and the project leader's experience providing braille instruction, as an itinerant TVI serving students in public school settings.

Product Description

The Print to Braille program will offer a framework to guide the planning of sequential instruction with measurable outcomes. It will offer suggestions for goal-oriented lessons paced to challenge the student. The initial focus of instruction will address tactile discrimination, and hand position/movement in order to encourage efficient tracking skills necessary for fluency. The braille code will be introduced through a carefully structured order of symbols and contraction sets to promote efficient learning. Strategies, activities, and resources to develop automaticity and fluency will include the following: character/word recognition, decoding in a new medium, and efficient tactile reading skills. Techniques will be offered to increase a student's rate and fluency for improved comprehension. Attention will be focused on remediation of under-developed skills that often result when a student struggles to read print. A blueprint will follow with guidance for the use of grade level curriculum along with access to a variety of available age-appropriate reading materials to build and reinforce skills. The program will consist of a teacher's guide, and instructional and practice materials for students. The student materials will include activities, exercises, code study and reference, and so forth, in various formats in order to access technology devices.

Work during FY 2015

Initial work focused on planning and organizing the instructional program and engaging consultants who will participate in its development/writing. The project leader has continued to review current professional publications concerned with literacy instruction, particularly those concerning teaching trends in Language Arts Instruction for upper elementary/middle school students. She developed an extensive outline for the Print to Braille teacher's guide with chapter content in preparation for writing. She interviewed a number of respected individuals in the field of education of students with visual impairments and braille instruction for guidance. A team of practicing TVIs has been engaged and met with the project leader to begin the writing process in August.

Work planned for FY 2016

A draft of the Print to Braille teacher's guide and student materials is planned for completion in the Spring of 2016. Work on practice activities and resources, will be developed. Plans to field test the product will be considered for early FY 2017.

Quick Check: Index of Literary Braille Signs [Modernization]

(Continued)

The front cover of the Quick Check booklet

Purpose

To provide students, parents, and teachers, with an easy-to-use, reference booklet that contains the symbols and rules of the Literary Braille Code

Project Staff

Background

The goal for this project was to create an affordable and portable reference that could be used by persons learning braille or those who need an occasional reference. The accessibility factors that were considered, focused on the convenience of use for tactile readers, and clarity of the SimBraille for persons with low vision.

It was designed using a format similar to a dictionary. Symbols/words in contracted and uncontracted form could be located easily. Guide words were included at the bottom of each page for quick access. Symbols/contractions are listed alphabetically, and in homogeneous groups according to their rules for use. The information was organized into columns connected by guide dots to facilitate tracking.

Development of the initial prototype was completed in March 2010 after extensive consultation. The product was available for sale in March 2011.

Work during FY 2015

Quick Check: Index of Literary Braille Signs was identified for modernization in July 2015, in order to incorporate the changes necessary for Unified English Braille (UEB) implementation. Work will soon begin to update braille files used to emboss the booklet. In addition, content related to rules and format is being rewritten. Outdated material will be omitted. Print changes will involve updating print and SimBraille text to match the new braille text. A new cover reflecting the change to UEB has been designed. The title will be modified slightly to reflect terminology used in UEB.

Work planned for FY 2016

Production of the Quick Check booklet with modernizations will begin early in FY 2016.

Quick Pick Braille Contractions [Modernization]

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide practice materials for elementary students who are learning braille

Project Staff

Background

A survey was conducted in 2001, in order to determine a need for study materials, in uncontracted and contracted braille. Research verified that drill and practice in identification of contractions increases reading speed and comprehension. The Quick Pick Braille Contractions set was developed in the early 2000s. The kit contains two packets of cards and includes all contractions in literary braille. Each card displays a symbol/group of symbols in contracted form in the upper left-hand corner. Four possible uncontracted equivalents are listed across the card below. A hole under each spelled-out version of the contraction allows the student to choose his/her answer. The reader selects an answer by inserting a stylus into the hole beneath his/her choice. If he/she is correct, the card can be slid from the packet; if incorrect, the card cannot be removed. This format for practice materials had already been used successfully with five previous Quick Picks: Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, and Counting. Production of this product began in September 2005.

Work during 2015

Quick Pick Braille Contractions was identified for modernization in order to update the product to incorporate Unified English Braille (UEB). Work has begun on the revision, and should be complete by the end of September 2015. The updated kit will also include a flat stylus to prevent crushing of the braille on the cards.

Work planned for FY 2016

Production will begin. The updated Quick Pick Braille Contractions kit will become available for sale.

Handwriting

Printing Guide

(Discontinued)

Purpose

To develop teaching materials and printing templates to assist persons who are blind to learn to print legible capital letters according to positions of the braille dots in a cell

Project Staff

Background

Although computers are used as a means of written communication on the job and in social and recreational life, production of legible written communication still remains an essential skill. Jotting notes to colleagues, writing a quick comment on a page of printed material, leaving a note on the refrigerator for a family member, and filling in information on a check while shopping are only a few of the tasks that are accomplished more easily with a pen than with a computer.

Some persons who are congenitally blind have developed legible script and/or print styles. However, many adults who did not have functional vision during primary and elementary grades have not learned to produce print or script letters that sighted persons can read.

Linda Ray, a teacher of the visually impaired, submitted one print teaching method for consideration. With this method, students are taught to shape block print capital letters by connecting dot positions within a braille cell for each letter. Additionally, students are taught to print within a template of lines of rectangular openings. By using this template, cell boundaries can be detected when printing, print remains constant in size, and characters do not drift into one another.

Preliminary Research

Early research indicated that, though braille dot positions had been used to teach both printing and script writing throughout the blindness field, teaching curricula and materials had been developed primarily for script and not for print. Print samples from persons using Ray's print teaching method and from persons who had been taught to print using a variation on this method were examined. Preliminary data indicated that, with several significant exceptions, the connecting dots method of print teaching in combination with a printing template resulted in very readable block print. However, when printed with this method, several letters were indistinguishable or ambiguous. It was deemed desirable to develop a system that could eliminate as much ambiguity as possible. Additionally, it was deemed necessary to provide materials that could help students improve their production of diagonal lines.

To resolve ambiguity between block letters of D and O, attempts were made to teach students to draw curves by using templates with curved rather than sharp corners and tracing boards with curved letters. Tracing boards also included K, M, V, W, and Y, to help students learn to draw more complex diagonals.

Results of preliminary field testing showed that curved templates and tracing boards did not help students print curved letters; D-O and 8-B remained indistinguishable. Results also indicated that tracing boards might be helpful for teaching diagonals to some students, but a more streamlined approach to materials development was needed.

To resolve the D-O ambiguity, a Greek delta character was offered for D; this character is very recognizable and may be easier to produce than the curved D. The small Y and a restructured B were also included. The product was reconfigured to provide one learning page per letter. Each learning page will include a letter description (the braille dot combinations to be connected for that letter), a raised image of the letter shape, and an engraved, pencil-traceable letter. Additional feedback from the field was sought by consulting Sally Mangold and by conducting a focus meeting at the AERBVI International Conference in July 2004.

Initial Product Development

Feedback from the field was reviewed, and a plan for the project prototype was finalized. As a result of this input, an additional description of each print letter based on position in the cell and not on dot numbers will be included on learning pages. Letters will also be presented in an order that allows students to master simple strokes and then join them into multi-stroke letters. Placement of letter descriptions and of embossed and engraved letter shapes on learning pages was finalized.

The project leader's schedule constraints precluded further development of the product prototype during FY 2008 through FY 2014.

Work during FY 2015

This project was discontinued because of the lack of time and internal resources to complete it.

Work during FY 2016

This project has been discontinued. No work is planned for 2016.

Study Skills / Organizational Skills

Labeling, Marking, and Organization: A Self-Help Guide for Persons After Vision Loss

(Completed)

Purpose

To provide information to adults who have lost vision about how to identify objects and materials in their environment

Project Staff

Background

An Independent Living Specialist in Kentucky suggested that APH create a set of large print labels for canned foods and pantry items. Input from a focus group of rehabilitation teachers led to the expansion of this product to include a consumer-oriented book that provides guidance in organizational techniques as well as labeling. These materials will help visually impaired adults who are unable to access rehabilitation teaching services to understand and apply organizational and labeling principles. Vision rehabilitation therapists can also use these materials with students.

Preliminary Research

Because of the increasing numbers of aging "baby-boomers" who experience low vision and because of the limited numbers of professionals trained to help them learn new techniques, a book that could motivate and help individuals begin to learn labeling, marking, and organization skills was deemed essential. A review of the relevant literature indicated that no comprehensive self-help resource existed that would assist persons who had recently lost vision to learn to recognize household, recreational, and self-care items via organization, use of nonvisual senses, and creation of visual, tactile, or auditory labels.

Initial Product Development

During FY 2004, Lisa-Anne Mowerson produced materials based on her years of experience teaching these skills to individuals and groups of persons with visual impairments. Editing, restructuring, and reorganization of materials for the first third of the book were completed. During FY 2005, revision and editing of materials in the second third of the book was undertaken. During FY 2006, the project leader completed the editing/writing of the middle third of the book. The consultant and project leader redesigned the structure for the final third of the book. This portion of the book was originally based on structure and presentation style used in face-to-face teaching; consequently, the book's material required major reorganization in order to support learning without the aid of a teacher and student group. During FY 2007, the consultant rewrote the final chapters of the book, and the project leader expanded and edited them. Because the project leader's time was required for other projects, essential work on the Labeling Book was postponed during FY 2008.

During FY 2009, the project leader rewrote sections of the book to reflect advances in auditory labeling systems and to include new MagneTacher labels available for sale from APH. Information about MagneTacher labels is available on the APH Web site: www.aph.org/advisory/2008adv01.html#P3

During FY 2010, the project leader and consultant completed revisions to the final third of the book, and a draft was prepared for field review. Field reviewers were selected, and the field review process was begun.

During FY 2011, the field review process was completed. Revisions suggested by field reviewers were made to the book, cover art was acquired, and final book content was completed.

During FY 2012, additional photographs were collected for use in cover art. The Resources Chapter was updated to reflect newly available technology and other product changes.

During FY 2013, text was re-edited to conform to current policies about citation of trademarked products. Because initial photos lacked the clarity and focus needed for inclusion in a book, plans for new photos taken by InGrid Design staff were formulated and carried out. Photos of APH products to be included in the book were selected. Cover art was designed.

During FY 2014, photos of APH products to be included in the book were edited, cover art was edited to conform to consultant's input, and layout was completed. The book was submitted for braille translation and recording.

Work during FY 2015

During FY 2015, braille translation and recording of the book was completed, and a Specification Meeting was held. The product is scheduled to be available for sale in August of 2015.

Work planned for FY 2016

It is anticipated that the product will be available for sale during FY 2015. No additional work on this project is anticipated for FY 2016.

Tactile Graphics

Braillable Pin-Fed Clear Adhesive Labels

(New)

Purpose

To expand the existing assortment of APH's Braillable Labels and Sheets by offering a package of small, pin-fed clear adhesive labels

Project Staff

Front cover art of insert for Braillable Labels and Sheets

Background:

The proposed package of adhesive-backed perforated, clear pin-fed labels (measuring 7" x 2.4") will expand the assortment of existing APH Braillable Labels and Sheets. The selection of Braillable Labels and Sheets currently includes the following options:

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These clear, blank self-adhesive labels and sheets can be brailled and used to label items around the home, school, and office, such as household appliances, canned goods, greeting cards, adapted storybooks, CDs, folders, and more. The new package of small pin-fed labels would not replace or alter any of the existing Braillable Labels and Sheets packages; it would merely utilize an existing APH part number (15-016-005) that is currently used in-house to generate braille spine labels for guidebooks, textbooks, product binders, and so forth. It would also provide a new package that can be purchased by APH customers via Quota funds.

Work during FY 2015

In July 2014, the project leader was forwarded an e-mailed product request from an adult braille reader asking APH to offer labels in rolls that could be "perforated so that one at a time could be brailled in a braillewriter or slate." Upon reviewing the request, the project leader sent the braille reader samples of APH's current perforated braille spine labels to test out. The braille reader's response after using the provided labels was the following: "I'd like to see these sets of labels sold in packages where the labels can be torn apart instead of peeled off. I would certainly purchase any perforated label packs APH decided to sell." With this affirmation of the labels' usefulness, the project leader prepared and submitted a formal product submission form that explained the purpose of the new product like so: The perforated style of the smaller labels serves primarily as a convenient means for brailling self-customized labels with a braillewriter, slate/stylus, or braille embosser. The label size accommodates a maximum of 28 braille cells x 4 braille lines (via a slate and stylus). The labels can be trimmed smaller, if necessary. Target populations include braille readers of all ages, as well as teachers, braille transcribers, and parents who serve this population.

The product idea for smaller pin-fed adhesive labels was formally approved by the Product Evaluation Team on March 24, 2015, and supported by the Product Advisory and Review Committee on April 3, 2015. The product idea immediately shifted to the active product timeline and was assigned the grant number 584. Because the new package will be available as a separate label option, it was assigned the new catalog number 1-08895-00. It was also estimated that a package of 100 7" x 2.4" labels would cost $30-$40.

Product development was brisk, especially since a part number already existed for the braille spine labels currently used in-house; field testing was deemed unnecessary as well. The project leader merely had to update the content of the Suggested Uses insert (used generically for all Braillable Labels and Sheets packages) to reflect the availability of the additional label package. The graphic designer quickly updated the final layout and design of the insert, including the correction to the SimBraille presentation of the word "Braillable" to be UEB-compliant—that is, minus the use of the "ble" contraction. In July 2015, the braille translation of the new insert was underway.

Prepared specifications for the product's design reflected APH's intention to offer a total of 102 labels within the new Braillable Pin-Fed Clear Adhesive Labels (1-08895-00) package. The "extra 2" number of labels was guided by the current packaging style of the braille spine labels, thus making collation on the production floor easier. The labels will be accordion-folded into a re-sealable bag and then placed inside a padded mailer along with separate print and braille versions of the Suggested Uses insert.

Work planned for FY 2016

The manufacturing specialist will finalize the product specifications document and formally present it to Purchasing and Production staff. A feasible timeline for production and availability goals will be determined. The project staff will monitor the product's quality throughout the various stages of the initial production run(s). The project leader will assist with post-production tasks (e.g., prepare product brochure content).

PermaBraille [Modernization]

(Completed)

Purpose

To identify a suitable vinyl material for the purpose of extending routine and possible uses of APH's PermaBraillle (e.g., braillewriter, slate stylus, spur-wheel and other cold-forming techniques) to table-top thermoforming and in-house large-scale vacuum-forming tasks

Project Staff

Background

In January 2014, the modernization of PermaBraille, a product currently marketed and sold by APH in a variety of package styles, was precipitated by an unexpected, significant increase in the cost and related lead time associated with the incorporated vinyl. In response, the project leader proposed replacing it with another known and tested vinyl type that fulfills the same function and purpose of the current style of PermaBraille, but also extends its use for table-top thermoforming. She also encouraged the utilization of the vinyl for other in-house production tasks to increase volume usage and consequently decrease cost. The considered vinyl was determined to be lead-free and child safe via required safety data documentation.

Multiple sheets of the new vinyl were cut to 11.5 x 11-inch size and sent to an outside producer of thermoformed tactile graphics as a preliminary test. Reported outcomes were very positive, prompting the project leader to conduct a more formal field test at sites currently generating thermoformed graphics for students with visual impairments and blindness across the country.

A field test announcement was posted in the April issue of the APH News (www.aph.org/advisory/2014adv04.html). Appropriate field test sites were also recommended by APH staff who regularly communicate and utilize the services of vendors engaged in large-scale production of thermoformed graphics (e.g., prison braille programs). A total of nine field test sites were selected from a narrow pool of possibilities. Shrink-wrapped packages of 50 sheets of generically-titled "Vinyl for Thermoforming" were mailed to participating evaluators on April 28, 2014. Evaluators were instructed to utilize existing tactile masters that they had recently prepared (e.g., maps, graphs) and created with a variety of methods (e.g., collage, ViewPlus® Tiger embosser, foil). The return of completed evaluations and formed samples was requested by May 23, 2014.

One hundred percent of the field test evaluators returned their evaluation forms and tactile samples by the specified due date. One field evaluation site yielded separate reviews from multiple braillists and transcribers; consequently, helpful feedback was garnered from a total of 21 individuals representing the intended target population. Field test sites were predominantly prison braille programs in the states of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Washington. The majority (81%) reported using thermoform machines "frequently" (daily/weekly); the remaining percentage (19%) produced thermoformed graphics "occasionally." Typical annual quantities of produced graphics ranged from a total of 200 to 50,000 units. Collage was the most popular tactile method utilized for creating thermoform masters; 86% the evaluators reported using this method. Smaller percentages reported using the Tiger Embosser (24%), a hybrid of collage and Tiger Embosser graphics (33%), and other methods such as foil (10%).

Feedback regarding the primary characteristics of the vinyl was very positive, with its size, texture, and durability garnering near-perfect scores as reported in the chart below.

Product Feature Number of Evaluators Average Rating % for each rating
5 = Excellent to 1 = Poor
5 4 3 2 1
Color (White) N = 21 4.52 67% 19% 14%
Size (11.5 x 11) N = 21 4.90 90% 10%
Texture N = 21 4.95 95% 5%
Thickness N = 21 4.67 75% 14% 10%
Durability N = 21 4.90 90% 10%

Scrap rate due to unwanted wrinkling, tearing, bubbling, or other problems was very minimal. Most rejected parts arose during initial setup of heat settings and cycle times. Once the thermoform machine was ideally calibrated, positive and consistent results were typically experienced.

Evaluators used a rating scale of 5 = "noticeably better" to 1 = "noticeably worse" when comparing the field tested vinyl to the type(s) typically used for thermoforming. More than half of the evaluators (52%) provided a rating of 5; 24% gave a rating of 4; 19% provided a rating of 3 or 3.5; and 5% gave a rating of 2.

Descriptions such as "definitely better than our current product," "had better suction and made a better copy," "it doesn't bubble or wrinkle like the current product we use," and "lines and edges of textures are more pronounced" clarified the majority's preference for the new vinyl material, translating into an overall rating of 4.26. When asked to rate the likelihood of using the new vinyl in lieu of material(s) routinely used, 52% responded "definitely" (rating of 5); 24% provided a rating of 4, and another 24% provided a rating of 3. Conversion to the use of another type of vinyl would be, of course, contingent upon a competitive price for the sheets.

Positive feedback from evaluators was complemented by returned samples of thermoformed graphics produced with the field tested vinyl. Below are examples of the types of graphics formed using a variety of production masters (e.g., collage, Tiger Embosser, heavy-gauge aluminum foil, and hybrid formats).

Composite image of thermoformed masters (on left) used with field tested vinyl to produce tactile graphics (on right) including a train engine, anterior and posterior view of human skeleton, and various skeletal structures (e.g., bat's wing, seal's flipper, human arm and hand) Composite image of thermoformed masters (on left) used with field tested vinyl to produce tactile graphics (on right) including a water cycle, partial US map with topography, and algebraic graph

In-house reviews by braille readers confirmed the likability of the vinyl for specific reasons:

Similar reactions from a braille-reading perspective were echoed in field evaluator statements:

In late May 2014, the project leader convened the Product Development Committee to review the field test results and returned tactile samples, discuss plans for substitution of the current PermaBraille material, explore wider application for APH in-house production purposes, and estimate needed quantities—both for bulk ordering and consistent packaging of available PermaBraille products. Unanimous support to utilize the new vinyl for both textbook and educational product production was supported by multiple in-house departments (Research, Purchasing, Accessible Tests, and Production).

Work during FY 2015

Quota approval for the bulk packages of PermaBraille was requested and received from the Educational Products Advisory Committee at the 146th Annual Meeting in October. Throughout the fiscal year, in-house meetings were intermittently conducted with staff from Production, Purchasing, and Research departments to discuss the feasibility and related costs of procuring and sheeting the field tested material. Providing the vinyl sheets in bulk style (500 sheets) proved infeasible due to the anticipated high end price to the customer. Peripheral efforts were made to reintroduce Brailon® in large quantities from APH. On June 22, 2015, an "Airplane" was released for Brailon® (1-04630-00) in 500-sheet packages (in 11.5" x 11" size, 19-hole punched style) for $55.95 (available with Quota funds).

Work planned for FY 2016

The availability of the new Brailon® product from APH will likely negate the need for the provision of the previously field tested vinyl. However, the field tested vinyl will continue to be considered as a possible option for future APH products that require specific readability features that are liked by braille readers.

Room with a View: A Tactile Model of Indoor Settings

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide an interactive "room" with an assortment of realistic models that can be used to represent the interior layout of a single room (e.g., bedroom, kitchen, school classroom) or larger venue (e.g., shopping mall, grocery, library, etc.). Through the use of this tactile room, cognitive mapping skills and spatial understanding can be encouraged and practiced. The product will encourage the transition from three-dimensional models to abstract, two-dimensional layouts as typically encountered in Picture Maker and static raised-line maps.

Project Staff

Background

As conceptualized by the project leader, the product will be an "indoor" equivalent to APH's Tactile Town. Tactile Town primarily focuses on outdoor settings (e.g., street layouts, multi-block arrangements); in contrast, Room with a View will address indoor surroundings and layouts. The concept of perspective will also be emphasized via tactile observation of the room from various angles (e.g., front view, top view, side view). Lesson plans will encourage the student to independently "re-draw" the room using a variety of tactile materials (e.g., DRAFTSMAN, flat VELCRO® brand-compatible or magnetic shapes).

The product addresses the following needs and requests from the field:

Successfully navigating an indoor setting can be assisted by the modeling of a room's layout via the use of models. Creating a tactile map allows a student with visual impairment/blindness to "establish a better understanding of the 'big picture' of the classroom layout and/or school environment." iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/v01_clearview/v01_06.html

"Touch plays a role in our understanding of spatial awareness in the same way that we rely on our sense of sight. Feeling a three-dimensional model to comprehend a layout of a room triggers the same part of the brain that would have been activated if the room was seen." – Dr. Thomas Wolbers, Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems www.ed.ac.uk/news/all-news/spatial-260511

The former field evaluation of Tactile Town, with 114 students with visual impairments and blindness, will greatly impact and guide the design and presentation of Room with a View. Field test results indicated that a three-dimensional realistic model was beneficial to the target populations because of the following features:

Anticipated target populations for Room with a View will likely mirror those for Tactile Town, specifically preschoolers and students in grades K-3 with visual impairments/blindness, as well as low vision and tactile readers in grades 4-8. However, the product could potentially be used by older students and adults wanting to mock up a layout of a room in a more realistic manner. The format of the product will appeal to sighted peers and family members as well.

In May 2013, the project leader prepared a formal Product Submission Form describing the unique purpose and need for Room with a View. In August 2013, the concept was considered and approved for development by both the Product Evaluation Team and Product Advisory and Review Committee.

Work during FY 2015

As experienced in FY 2014, significant work on Room with a View was curtailed by the project leader's involvement in higher priority projects in later stages of development, field testing, and/or production. However, the project leader gave periodic thought to anticipated components and tools for the product including the following:

The project leader focused initially on a feasible production method of designing walls for the room that can be adjusted to various sizes and configurations, and also be durable and colorful with tactually discernible windows and door(s). She built a representative model using 3 mm foam with interlocking, jigsaw-puzzle-like sides. When locked together, the walls stand upright and can be positioned on a VELTEX® surface via hook material. It is anticipated that the outer sides of the foam wall can be silkscreened with a visual pattern (e.g., brick wall) to provide realism and visual interest/contrast. In theory, sets of wall (in various colors, sizes, with or without doors/windows, etc.) can be provided to accommodate a variety of room scenarios.

The project leader also investigated commercially-available miniature furniture and possible in-house 3-D printing or liquid resin options for generating APH original parts. Plans also included the incorporation of APH existing manipulatives (e.g., people models from Tactile Town).

Work during FY 2016

The project leader intends to make noticeable strides on this project during the new fiscal year. She will interface with the Model Shop and Technical Research staff during the development of tangible materials for prototype type development and eventual field test activities.

Tactile Graphic Line Slate

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide an APH-original slate, in combination with an appropriate stylus, that accommodates the tooling of various types of tactile lines onto a variety of media (e.g., paper, vinyl, drawing film). The tool can be used by teachers, transcribers, and students for preparing graphical displays.

Project Staff

Background

The idea of the Tactile Graphic Line Slate was conceptualized by the project leader in 2009. A technical drawing of the product was prepared by the model/pattern maker that illustrated possible line types. Due to higher priority projects, the project leader chose to table the idea for years before formal submission and presentation to in-house committees. Occasionally, the project leader shared the idea with other staff who, in turn, encouraged the development of the tool and described it as innovative and an interesting deviation from typical braille-producing slates.

Photo shows the prototype of the Tactile Graphic Line Slate.

As conceptualized, the slate would allow tooling of a variety of line types (e.g., narrow solid, wide solid, dashed, dotted, etc.) during the preparation of tactile displays. Ideally, the lines could be drawn onto a variety of media such as standard braille paper, vinyl (e.g., PermaBraille), DRAFTSMAN film, and possibly aluminum foil. Currently available tools to generate quick "line" graphics are limited, complicated, and often produce the same type of line. The slate's user-friendly design will mimic hinge-style braille slates that have been in use for decades and are familiar to the intended audience.

Following the completion of some major products—for example, Tactile Town and Giant Textured Beads with Pattern Matching Cards—the project leader resurrected the technical drawing of the Tactile Graphic Line Slate and submitted a Product Submission Form in April 2012. In July 2012, the concept was considered and approved for development by both the Product Evaluation Team and Product Advisory and Review Committee. The presentation of the idea was supported by the project leader's demonstration of actual samples that simulated expected line types and applications onto a variety of media. Possible stylus designs were also shared. The product transitioned to the active timeline by the end of the FY 2012.

Throughout FY 2013, development efforts related to the Tactile Graphic Line Slate were strictly devoted to prototype development. Despite the uniqueness and complexity of the slate's design, as well as the accompanying stylus, multiple prototypes were quickly generated by the model/pattern maker via a liquid resin casting process. The final prototype design is the outcome of careful fine-tuning of the molded depth of each line type to generate the ideal line height when tooled onto various types of paper and vinyl. Although a clear version of the slate was originally planned, it became evident during prototype development that a blue, opaque version provided good visual contrast between the slate and white vinyl and paper.

Field test efforts and activities characterized most of the progress on the Tactile Graphic Line Slate throughout FY 2014. The final prototype can be described concisely as a blue (opaque), hinged slate that measures approximately 12" long by 2.5" wide to accommodate standard sheet sizes of 8.5" by 11" and 11.5" by 11". A variety of material (paper, vinyl, foil, or drawing film) can be sandwiched between the slate's bottom and top halves; two pins are located on the end opposite the hinge to secure the material while drawing.

Complemented by a unique two-ended stylus, the Tactile Graphic Line Slate generates six discernible line types that are commonly used in the production of tactile graphic materials. With the slate oriented upright with the hinge on the left side, the lines available from top to bottom are:

Photo shows six different Tactile Graphic Line Slate lines. From top to bottom they are: Large Dotted Line, Small Dotted Line, Wide Solid Line, Dashed Line, Thin Solid Line, and Vertical Bar Line. Two-ended black stylus

The unbreakable black stylus has two distinguishable tip ends—rounded and pointed. The rounded end of the stylus is used to tool two of the line types (large dotted and wide solid) and the pointed end of the stylus is used to form the remaining four line types. The manner in which the stylus is held will be influenced by the user's preference and the force required to tool the selected line; more pressure is needed to tool vinyl material as opposed to braille paper, thin film, or heavy-gauge aluminum foil. Some lines (wide and thin solid lines) are drawn with a fluid, gliding motion; other lines (large dotted and small dotted) demand a downward, puncturing style. The dashed line and vertical bar line require a steady stroke to maintain consistent line height and length. Although the Tactile Graphic Line Slate is best for generating straight tactile lines, it can also be used to make curved lines, as well as hybrid lines by mixing together some of the six line types in various styles (e.g., dot-dash-dot).

A custom-made clear plastic sleeve was created to store and protect the slate and stylus together. A package of PermaBraille—a vinyl type that is particularly conducive to ideal tooling via the slate/stylus—was included with the slate and stylus; sheets of drawing film and standard braille paper were furnished as well. The accompanying instruction booklet was authored and graphically designed by the project leader; photos illustrating proper handling of stylus and possible graphic outcomes were incorporated. The content juxtaposed the advantages and disadvantages of each possible drawing medium.

Photo demonstrating proper handling of stylus for tooling dotted lines Photo demonstrating proper handling of stylus for tooling solid lines

The project leader selected field test sites from a list of those who responded with interest to a field test announcement published in the September online issue of APH News (www.aph.org/advisory/2013adv09.html). Prototypes were mailed to field test sites on October 28, 2013. Evaluators were allowed until the end of January 2014 to use the slate and stylus to prepare tactile graphics of their choosing. Evaluators were expected to complete and return an evaluation form, after which they were allowed to keep the prototype in appreciation for their involvement in the field test endeavor.

In March 2014, the field test stage concluded after the project leader's preparation of a final field test report, a summary of which follows:

The Tactile Graphic Line Slate was used by a total of 21 evaluators representing the states of Arkansas, Kansas, Ohio (2), Missouri (5), Nebraska, New York (2), Oregon, Texas, South Dakota, and Washington (6). Evaluators included teachers of the visually impaired, braillists/braille transcribers, braille coordinators, orientation and mobility instructors, special education teachers, and sensory impairment specialists. The evaluators' experience designing tactile graphics varied from 1-5 years to 21 or more years.

The types of educational settings represented by the evaluators varied with over half (53%) being reported as "itinerant" or "itinerant/school-based."

The field evaluators were well versed in a variety of tactile methods. Collage, serrated spur wheels, and Wikki Stix® were among the most "frequently" or "occasionally" used tools/materials for creating tactile graphic displays.

The types of graphics routinely prepared varied as well, with simple raised lines/shapes being the most commonly tooled either "frequently" or "occasionally" by 100% of the evaluators; mathematical displays, science diagrams, and geographical maps were also in demand.

The use of tactile graphics routinely produced by the group of field evaluators encompassed a variety of situations:

The Tactile Graphic Line Slate received consistently high ratings across all evaluated features and components. The chart below indicates average ratings:

Tactile Graphic Line Slate Feature Average Rating (N=21)
Overall Presentation 4.62
Size/Length 4.62
Number/Variety of Lines 4.42
Tactual Differences Between Line Types 4.67
Color 4.19
Similarity to Braille Slate Design 4.62
Ease of Use 4.43
Accompanying 2-ended Stylus 4.86
Usefulness w/Variety of Media 4.52
Possible Uses and Applications 4.62
Accompanying Instruction Booklet 4.81

Over 70% of the evaluators gave the highest rating ("5") to the following features/components: tactual differences between line types, similarity to braille slate design, two-ended stylus, and the accompanying instruction booklet.

Although many (67%) of the evaluators rated the blue color of the line slate a "5," nearly 30% of the evaluators rated it a "3" or "1." Those who were dissatisfied with the color suggested making the slate clear/transparent for easier alignment and plotting of tactile elements within a graphic. The results of a follow-up survey with all evaluators echoed a desire for a combined blue and transparent slate; the blue color would continue to provide needed contrast against white paper/vinyl, and transparency would assist in easier positioning of tactile elements.

The evaluators' use of the Tactile Graphic Line Slate with a variety of material reinforced the tool's versatility. Vinyl (APH's PermaBraille) reportedly generated the best lines across the board. The large and small dotted lines, as well as the dashed and vertical lines, formed well in braille paper. The wide and solid lines took some practice/finesse to minimize tearing the paper while tooling. Although heavy-gauge foil was only used by three of the evaluators, 100% indicated that all line types formed well on this medium. The DRAFTSMAN drawing film served as a fourth successful tooling option.

The following charts show the reported outcomes of the tooled lines across the four tested media types:

All six line types accommodated by the Tactile Graphic Line Slate were used to some extent by the majority of the field evaluators. The thin solid line, wide solid line, and dashed line were most popular. The vertical bar line was reported as unused by 19% of the evaluators.

Some evaluators created combination lines with the slate such as a thin solid line with vertical bars for graphs, dash/dot, or repeated sequence of large dot/small dot/small dot.

Evaluators indicated specific advantages of the Tactile Graphic Line Slate over other tactile drawing tools previously used:

Other reported strengths included the following:

Commonly-reported weaknesses were challenges related to creating curved lines, the need for a clear slate for easier positioning of tactile elements, and the tendency to tear braille paper when tooling the wide and thin solid lines. Only one evaluator indicated that the slate needed more line types. With regard to tearing paper, evaluators indicated that this is "a minor weakness and it's easy to learn to avoid" and "knowing the paper pressure for each line type and stylus point will come with practice and depends on medium." Evaluators offered new tips/techniques: "Whenever I used the slate with braille paper, I inserted a piece of wax paper between the braille paper and the top hinge. This reduced breakage of the braille paper."

The 21 field evaluators unanimously recommended that the Tactile Graphic Line Slate be made available from APH. Supportive statements included the following:

Recommended target populations based upon field test evaluator feedback include the following:

Target Population Percentage of evaluators who found the Tactile Graphic Line Slate useable by the target population
Braille transcribers/tactile graphic designers 90%
Teachers of the visually impaired 100%
Parents of children with visual impairments 95%
Adults with blindness/visual impairments 81%
Students who are blind/visually impaired 86%
Other (indicate): O&M Instructors

Particularly reassuring was the potential of the Tactile Graphic Line Slate for direct use by students with visual impairments and blindness. Five of the field evaluators were able to observe students using the slate to independently draw lines. The wide solid line and large dotted line were frequently chosen and utilized by the students. As one evaluated noted, "My students easily and quickly figured out how to use it."

Field evaluators returned numerous tactile graphics tooled or embellished with the use of the Tactile Graphic Line Slate. The generated samples illustrated the diverse use of line types, preferred tactile graphic material, and variety of graphics possible. Applications of the slate included the design of number lines, hour/minute hands on clock faces, O&M maps, flowcharts, counting worksheets, mazes, angles, geometric figures, line graphs, fractions, pie charts, and bar graphs. An evaluator indicated the slate's myriad uses like so: "We used (the slate) quite often for our first grade braille student. He has a lot of large charts, lists, and page separations. This makes it very easy for him to determine different areas of his work. We have also used it for charting maps with our older students." An unexpected use noted by another evaluator was its helpfulness in making "raised-line drawings on the vinyl sheets for communication and vocabulary with kids with multiple disabilities to match objects exactly."

Use of the Tactile Graphic Line Slate during field testing led to the some evaluators envisioning a potential texture and/or point symbol slate for future consideration. Another recommendation by 71% of the field evaluators was a "starter kit" of various materials (braille, paper, vinyl, foil, film) to allow users a chance to test all media with the line slate and see which they prefer. Actual examples from field evaluators are shown below and showcase a variety of media used.

Tactile graphic (map) produced on PermaBraille using the Tactile Graphic Line Slate

Tactile graphic (graphs) produced on aluminum diagramming foil using the Tactile Graphic Line Slate

Tactile graphic (various polygons) produced on braille paper using the Tactile Graphic Line Slate

On April 9, 2014, the project leader convened the Product Development Committee to review the field test results. Product revisions and expected production paths were discussed. The project leader located and provided a sample of a transparent, break-resistant blue-tinted plastic that could be matched by the outside vendor during the injection-molding process. A local vendor was contacted to ensure the feasibility of producing the desired part at a reasonable cost. The product was presented to the Educational Products Advisory Committee in May; Quota approval was given. By the end of June 2014, Tom Poppe rendered the technical drawing of the final slate (as well as stylus) design for use by Technical Research staff for preparation of the product specifications, needed CAD drawing(s), and final production.

Work during FY 2015

The project leader finalized content updates to the product instructions, which included reference to the new transparent design of the slate and additional suggestions and usage tips based on feedback from field test evaluators. One hundred percent of the evaluators indicated that the product instructions already provided a helpful overview of the purpose and use of the slate; therefore, content updates were minimal and quick. The final content was then provided to the in-house graphic designer for final layout design in early January 2015. By mid-February, the guidebook layout was approved and ready for braille translation. Braille translation, too, was swift with the final page count available by the end of March.

The project leader worked in tandem with Model Shop, Technical Research, Purchasing staff, and the selected vendors to achieve a satisfactory production design of the Tactile Graphic Line Slate, accompanying two-ended stylus, and custom-made storage pouch. A vendor sample of the line slate itself was submitted to APH in late February. Although the first sample closely approximated the intended design, refinements were necessary based on the following assessments:

In June, a new sample of the line slate was furnished to APH. Most of the aforementioned issues were addressed and corrected. However, slight refinements were still necessary to the depth of some of the incised lines/grooves on the bottom leaf of the slate. The vendor's enhancement to the color of the slate was approved.

The last quarter of FY 2015 was devoted to final tweaking to the vendor's tooling for the line slate, as well as the design and approval of the accompanying storage pouch. Product specifications were presented to Production and Purchasing staff by the end of the fiscal year and pilot/production goal dates were determined.

Work planned FY 2016

The availability of the Tactile Graphic Line Slate will likely be announced in the second quarter of FY 2016. The project leader will engage in typical post-production activities such as preparing brochure content and demonstrating the final product at tactile graphic workshops.

Tactile Graphics Research

(Ongoing)

Purpose

To study and develop techniques for making useful tactile graphics, to work toward standards in tactile graphic presentations, and to evaluate product submissions and ideas from the field related to tactile graphics

Project Staff

Background

APH has a variety of means for producing tactile graphics, including embossed paper, puff ink, capsule paper, thermography, vacuum-form, and Roland® UV printer thermoform masters. One goal of this research project is to learn which media are appropriate for which uses. Another goal is to identify and expand the available methods/tools useful for the production of tactile displays, whether by APH or by the individual teacher, transcriber, or student.

In addition, tactile graphic products are frequently submitted by teachers or other professionals who would like to collaborate with APH to produce their materials. Project staff provide written reviews of these submissions. Yet another aspect of this research is to monitor developments in practice, technology, and philosophy as they evolve.

Work during FY 2015

Throughout the year, project staff conducted a variety of tactile graphic workshops and training sessions (both in-house and at national conferences), initiated contacts and gathered input from the field, and proposed new product ideas. Examples of these activities are listed below:

Work planned for FY 2016

Project staff will continue to monitor advances in technology and practice as they relate to tactile design and teaching, conduct workshops and conference presentations, and work in-house to promote consistently good tactile design.

Tactile Skills Online Matrix

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide an online document or "matrix" that cross-references important tactile skills with available APH products

Project Staff

Image of sample page of Tactile Skills Matrix

Background

APH frequently receives comments that teachers do not really know about our products or how they can be used in conjunction with others. Just as importantly, APH does not have well-established ways to reach parents to inform them about the need for tactile skills development and what that means for their child or how they can begin to nurture tactile skills development early on. The continuum of tactile skills—such as body and spatial awareness, shape recognition, scanning/tracking ability, perspective understanding, and so on—are known to contribute to successful tactile interpretation. The basic progression needed for tactile learning—from experiences with real objects to models to raised-line images—is well documented and modeled in a variety of APH products (e.g., Setting the Stage for Tactile Understanding). However, students who are tactile learners are likely to be getting piecemeal instruction and are therefore poorly equipped to handle the increasing variety of graphically presented material in textbooks and high-stakes tests.

In October 2010, a sample of a possible Tactile Skills Online Matrix was developed and then presented by the project leader at a Product Input Session during APH's Annual Meeting. The chart detailed a general progression of identified tactile skills/concepts to support the tactile continuum from exploration of real objects to models to raised-line graphics. The tactile skills/concepts were pictorially cross-referenced with APH products. The project leader explained that the matrix would navigate the user (e.g., parents, teachers, paraprofessionals, etc.) to full product descriptions, a discussion of a specific product's rationale and methods, or video demonstrations. Theoretically, it would continue to be a live, online document that could be updated with video or written submissions from teachers and parents. The need for this online pictorial and interactive roadmap of tactile skills and related products was echoed by the audience of Ex Officio Trustees and other special guests attending this Annual Meeting session.

In late October 2010, the project leader prepared a Product Submission Form explaining the idea of a prominent link on APH's Web site that will guide the target audience (teachers, parents, administrators, and paraprofessionals) to a user-friendly, interactive, and accessible chart of tactile skills that promotes a foundation for tactile graphic reading ability and literacy. The product idea was supported by both the Product Evaluation Team and the Product Advisory and Review Committee in January 2011.

The project leader met with staff from the Communications Department who are directly involved in designing and managing APH's Web site. Early advice was given to the project leader regarding possible visual layouts, as well as considerations for additional features.

Because of higher priority products assigned (most notably the completion of Tactile Town), the project leader was only able to work intermittently on the Tactile Skills Online Matrix. The first tactile skill addressed for inclusion in the matrix was "Line Tracking." In April, the project leader reviewed the APH Product Catalog for products that intentionally taught this skill and identified products that may have exercises/worksheets to foster this same ability. Input from other project leaders, especially those who have worked at APH for many years and are very versed in APH products, was requested. The following list of products (or parts of products) was compiled:

The same routine will be followed to construct exhaustive lists of products that address the various tactile skills included within the matrix.

Due to more demanding projects, numerous products at the field test stage, and newly acquired projects (e.g., Quick & Easy ECC, Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen), the project leader's progress on this product was limited. However, thought was given to alternate approaches to filtering the information onto APH's Web site in smaller, intermittent amounts—for example, per skill/concept area. Some minimal adjustments to the existing handout chart were made with references to new products and distributed at in-house workshops focusing on tactile graphic instruction and materials.

Work during FY 2015

The project leader approached the construction of the Tactile Skills Online Matrix by submitting skill-specific installments for publication in multiple issues of the APH News. The first three installments were published in the February, April, and March issues:

Snapshot of portion of the Tactile Skills Matrix handout shared at tactile graphic workshops.

As of July 2015, the project leader was working on the fourth installment addressing "Basic Shape Recognition."

Work planned for FY 2016

The project leader will continue to prepare additional installments of the Tactile Skills Online Matrix throughout the new fiscal year. Eventually, a comprehensive version will be posted on the APH Web site for future reference. Updates will be made based upon introductions of new APH products that address various tactile skills

Tangible Graphs Kit

(Continued)

Purpose

To introduce a modernized version of the Tangible Graphs Kit, a product originally designed at APH in the early 1980s and offered until 2009 when a fire at a vendor's facility disrupted its availability due to damaged urethane molds

Project Staff

Photo of original Tangible Graphs Kit

Background

The original purpose of the Tangible Graphs Kit was to assist tactile readers in the reading of pictographs, bar graphs, circle graphs, and line graphs. APH's 1980 Annual Report documents the former Educational Research Committee's (composed of Ex Officio Trustees) support of the product's development and production. Refer to archive.org/stream/annualreportofam19unse_15/annualreportofam19unse_15_djvu.txt.

The original kit included the following items:

The program was intended for students 8 years and older. It last sold in 2008 under the catalog number 1-08860-00 for $226.00 (with Quota funds).

The educational principles promoted by the Tangible Graphs Kit are thoroughly outlined by John Barth, the product developer, in "The Development of Fundamental Skills in Tactile Graph Interpretation: A Program for Braille Readers," published by APH in 1983. In this study, Barth defines the importance of the product like so:

An instructional program was developed to facilitate blind students' understanding of graphs, an important and widely used informational tool. The program employs a carefully sequenced instructional approach, introducing fundamental graph reading skills such as tactual discrimination and line tracking to more advanced skills such as interpretation of bar graphs and multiple line graphs…After completing the program, the student should be able to interpret all four main types of graphs: pictograph, bar graph, line graph, and circle graph. It is also expected that the program will have some positive carryover effects on the reading of other types of graphic displays, such as maps and diagrams.

The effectiveness of the Tangible Graphs Kit was originally assessed by 35 evaluators using the program with 60 braille readers in grades 5-10. These evaluators represented the states of Connecticut, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah, and Washington; the Ross MacDonald School in Canada also participated. As reported by Barth (1983), the program solicited "an enthusiastic response to the materials on the part of both teachers and students" and "the results of this evaluation indicated that substantial gains in graphic literacy could be realized with the program in a relatively short amount of time." The assertion that Barth makes related to the program's importance is still true today: "Any person, regardless of visual status, is placed at a disadvantage if not provided access to the wealth of information available in graphic displays."

Since its omission from APH's product catalog, repeated requests for the Tangible Graphs Kit have been received via e-mails, direct requests at conferences, and product-idea lists generated by focus groups. The following are examples of such requests that infer the continued usefulness of the kit for the current generation of beginning tactile readers:

"Has APH discontinued the Tangible Graphs curriculum? My Salus [University] students are examining tactile graphic curricula/resources and the group looking at Tangible Graphs couldn't find it as a complete kit on the website or in the catalog." —Missy Garber, Ph.D., Adjunct Assistant Professor, College of Education and Rehabilitation, Salus University (July 7, 2010, e-mail)

"I wanted to check the status of the old Tangible Graphs program. I heard it was being revised/updated, but it is not listed in catalogs as far back as 2009. Are there plans to produce it again? I am conducting another 2-day state-wide tactile graphics training for TVIs and school paras this summer and want to be able to include the current tactile graphics production and instruction resources in the training."—Lucia Hasty, Rocky Mountain Braille Associates, Colorado (May 24, 2010, e-mail)

"Hi Shelly, The book is called Tangible Graphs. It is a three volume book and evaluation booklet. The program is designed to teach children how to read a variety of charts, graphs, and maps that are already produced. I love it and have found it to be very helpful when introducing tactile graphics to my students." —E-mailed question sent to Shelly Homsy from Linda Ciero (both TVIs at the New York Institute for Special Education in the Bronx) and forwarded to APH. (May 9, 2012, e-mail)

"I was wondering why APH seems to have discontinued the Tangible Graphs Kit? That was a very helpful tool indeed—but I guess it was waning in popularity."—Eric Guillory, Director of Youth Services, Ruston, Louisiana (August 24, 2012, e-mail)

The product also appeared on a wish list generated by the "Meeting of the Minds" Focus Group in February 2011.

A 2008 product submission form from Pam Gutman, Teacher of the Visually Impaired at the Kentucky School for the Blind, echoed the need for a product to teach students how to "decipher tactiles." She explains that braille readers are at a disadvantage in high stakes testing due to their lack of experience with tactile displays. She explains, "Our students need more intentional practice reading and deciphering these standardized tactile data displays. Even though we produce our own displays, students have difficulty making the connection from what they have made to the tactile versions produced on standardized tests."

Despite its unavailability, the Tangible Graphs Kit is frequently recommended and listed on websites such as the following:

Expected updates to the original Tangible Graphs Kit were explored and then documented in a formal product submission form prepared by the project leader on August 31, 2012. Within this document, it was proposed that the update of Tangible Graphs would present graphics that are consistent with Braille Authority of North America's (BANA's) recently published Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics (www.brailleauthority.org/tg/web- manual/index.html). Also, the kit will be modernized to appear less intimidating and more inviting to use. However, it would continue to replicate the original kit's design in the following ways:

It is likely that, in lieu of an included cork board, rubber bands, and push pins, the kit will provide a list of APH materials that allow the student to construct graphs independently (e.g., the updated Graphic Aid for Mathematics). Refer to separate report on "Graphic Aid for Mathematics—Revision."

Photo of tactile reader using the cork board and graphing tools included with the original Tangible Graphs Kit

Although the primary target population for the original kit was braille readers in grades 5-10, it is foreseeable that the updated version will be suitable for younger students as well since introduction of graphs occurs much earlier in current textbooks and tests. Some of the skills and concepts addressed in the first volume of the original kit (e.g., line types/direction, textured discrimination, number lines, etc.) would be especially appropriate for students in lower grades. Field reviewers will ultimately determine the ideal target groups.

As with all modernized APH products, only documented approval by the Product Advisory and Review Committee was required to move the revision forward according to the standardized product approval process. The committee's approval was given on December 12, 2012. The product immediately transitioned to the active product timeline.

Direct work on this product was minimal throughout the year due to higher priority placed on other projects in later development stages (field test or preproduction). However, some specific activities were accomplished:

Work during FY 2015

Direct work on this project did not occur throughout FY 2015 due to the project leaders' involvement with higher priority products in their respective areas—tactile graphics and early childhood.

Work planned for FY 2016

The project leaders will continue to determine needed revisions to the original Tangible Graphs Kit and steer efforts toward prototype development for eventual field testing. An in-house brainstorming meeting will be conducted to outline eventual product components and production methods for re-introduction of the kit.

TG TV

(Continued)

Purpose

To create a series of instructional videos that give real-time, specific examples of the thinking that goes into the adaptation of print images into tactile graphics

Project Staff

Background

The existing videos related to tactile graphics, from APH and elsewhere, speak either in general terms about philosophy or in specific terms about working with production tools. What is apparently lacking is an understanding of how to adapt a print graphic after deciding what is to be shown—that is, how to convert it into a readable design for a tactile graphic. A video format with actual examples would seem to be an effective way to illustrate good reasoning and good practices.

The project leader experimented with screen-capture programs, which record the onscreen editing of images along with voice-over narration. This is a low-cost, direct technique to use as the foundation of the videos. The same software is used to add music, sound effects, and on-screen text and highlights for a more appealing presentation. The popular screen-capture program Camtasia® was downloaded for trial use and then purchased.

Two videos were produced; one served as an introduction to the series, and the other conveyed content about editing and design decisions. The latter video was screened for APH staff and again for two representatives of the BANA Tactile Graphics Committee to obtain feedback and recommendations.

After lengthy troubleshooting by the Communications Department to resolve the requirements for accessible closed captioning, the first three videos were released for free viewing or download on the APH YouTube™ channel and the APH Web site at this location: www.aph.org/tgtv

As of this writing, the TG TV page on the APH site had been visited 442 times, with Episode 1 being viewed 21 times, Episode 2 viewed 28 times, and Episode 3 viewed 129 times. This number does not include YouTube™ channel visits.

Work during FY 2015

Preparatory work on three more scripted episodes took place, but no actual recording was done because of time constraints and other project priorities.

Work planned for FY 2016

More installments of the series will be produced and posted online. The project leader will continue to monitor the APH site and YouTube™ video community APH channel for comments, reactions, and suggested directions. Steps to increase the visibility of the series, possibly including offering the episodes together on DVD, will be considered.

Touch and Tell

(Discontinued)

Purpose

Touch and Tell, a popular product which was first published in 1971, was identified for modernization in order to offer a sequential introduction to tactile graphics for young children who will become braille readers.

Project Staff

Background

When Touch and Tell was first published, there were few materials available to introduce young children to raised images. This three-book program was widely used by teachers and parents to encourage tactile exploration and teach basic concepts (e.g., shape, size, position, and more). In 1974, teachers from Perkins School for the Blind developed activities to be used with the books called Suggestions for Use, Touch and Tell. This document is also currently available from APH.

It is vital that young children with significant visual impairments develop competent skills in tactile perception. Learning through exploration is essential for concept and language development. The advantage gained through early and frequent opportunities for rich tactile experiences cannot be overstated. Young braille readers are being presented with an ever growing amount of wonderfully accessible illustrations. However, there is very little instructional material available to assist teachers and parents to guide a child's systematic exploration of those illustrations. A decision was made to update Touch and Tell, and expand the material to support the development of decoding skills for tactile graphics. As a child learns to discover through touch, he/she will be better prepared for braille literacy instruction.

The modernization of Touch and Tell focused on careful review of the product, and work to determine the scope and sequence of the new edition. The project leader's research consisted of an extensive review of standard and current professional literature addressing the importance of tactile perception in concept and language development. In addition, she consulted with colleagues and practicing teachers to gather information and advice.

Young braille readers are presented with an ever-growing variety of non-text materials such as simple maps, charts, and raised-line drawings in early elementary textbooks and classroom materials. They must be prepared with appropriate strategies and techniques to use these materials effectively. Likewise, pictures and graphics provide added information and pleasure to print readers, so too, tactile illustrations offer braille readers expanded opportunities for exploration, discovery, comprehension, and enjoyment.

Work during FY 2015

As a result of input and projected cost, the decision was made to limit the scope of the Touch and Tell project. Rather than a complete curriculum to teach haptic skills, the content would, more closely, resemble the original books. However, the issues stated above would be addressed. Due to the importance of making the updated product available to young children, the apparent cost of a redesigned Touch and Tell became an issue. A number of meetings were held for the purpose of exploring outside funding sources for the Touch and Tell project. That effort was unsuccessful. The project leader continued to review research regarding the importance of tactile perception in concept development for young children with visual impairments. Significant progress was made in drafting content and a framework for the new Touch and Tell. Planning meetings were held to determine the most appropriate materials, binding, size, layout, and so forth. A story was written to direct the child's exploration through the three books.

Finally, the decision was made to discontinue the modernization project for Touch and Tell due to the significant increase in cost for redesigning and manufacturing the books. It was felt that by offering this project, with a new name, the increase in price and expanded content, would be more acceptable to customers. Plans for a new/replacement product are underway.

Work planned for FY 2016

No further work on this project is planned.

INDEPENDENT LIVING SKILLS

Tactile Clothing Tape

(Completed)

Purpose

To provide material for brailling color labels that, when sewed or pinned to garments, can remain attached when garments are washed and dried

Project Staff

Background

Tactile tape, approximately one half-inch wide, has been popular with vision rehabilitation therapists and adults who read braille because it holds braille dots well and does not degrade in automatic washer and dryer cycles. Persons who read braille and cannot identify the colors of their clothes visually can braille color names onto tactile tape and pin or sew these tags into garments.

Preliminary Research

This product was available for sale in the past from specialty vendors, but is no longer available. On e-mail lists monitored by Terrie Terlau, vision rehabilitation therapists and adults with visual impairments have noted the absence of this product and have indicated that this product is needed.

Initial Product Development

During FY 2012, Terlau provided samples of the tape material purchased when this item was available for sale. She met with Rod Dixon to discuss possible tape sources, determined that strong safety pins should be included in the kit, and procured a number of different kinds of quilting pins (the most durable safety pins available). Terlau and Carol Roderick tested a variety of brands and types of quilting pins and determined the type and brand that would be suitable for inclusion in the kit. Dixon located a source for the tape, and prototype samples were requested.

During FY 2013, Terlau tested safety pins and samples of the tape by brailling labels, pinning labels into clothing, and washing and drying clothing repeatedly. Samples and pins did not fail in these tests. Dixon ironed clothing with brailled tape labels pinned inside and found the following: With medium or high heat, label material and braille held up well when there was a layer of cloth between the iron and the label. When the iron was in direct contact with the label, the material did not fail, but the braille dots became slightly lower.

Fifteen field test kits, including two 120-inch rolls of half-inch wide tape and one package of small quilting pins, were prepared. Field testers were sought on e-mail lists frequented by rehabilitation teachers and adults with visual impairments. Sixteen field testers were accepted; two testers are employed at the same school and shared a single kit. The tester sample consisted of two males and 14 females. One tester was from the Northeast region, two testers were from the Eastern region, four testers were from the Southern region, four testers were from the North-central region, three testers were from the Midwest region, one tester was from the Southwest region, and one tester was from the Western region. Eight testers were adults who were blind and tested the tape themselves. Three testers were rehabilitation teachers with visual impairments who tested the tape themselves and also tested it with adult consumers with visual impairments. Two testers were rehabilitation teachers who were sighted and tested the tape with adult consumers with visual impairments. One tester was a teacher with a visual impairment who tested the tape herself and also tested it with K-12 students with visual impairments. Two testers were secondary school teachers who were sighted and tested the tape with secondary students with visual impairments.

Field test evaluations were returned from nine of 16 persons to whom they were sent, a return rate of 56%. Evaluations were completed by five adults with visual impairments who were not enrolled in education or rehabilitation programs; four teachers (three in rehabilitation and one in education fields); one student enrolled in K-12 education; and eight adults participating in rehabilitation programs. The relatively low return rate resulted in a limited geographic distribution as follows: Northeast, three testers; Midwest, five testers; South, three testers; and Canada, seven testers. Because factors that vary across geographic region were not expected to impact evaluations of Tactile Clothing Tape, the limited geographical distribution of testers did not reduce the value and utility of field test results.

Overall, responses to the tape and safety pins were very positive, with the majority of testers stating that the tape held up well in the washer and dryer, was comfortable to wear inside clothing, and was useful. One tester, with a disability that impaired hand and finger strength and dexterity, reported difficulty pushing pins through tape. Several testers requested rust-proof safety pins.

Based on field test feedback, Dixon located rust-resistant quilting pins with thinner bars and sharper points. Terlau found that these pins appeared to require less pressure when pushing them through the labeling tape. Because bars on these pins were slightly thinner than those used in field tests, Terlau re-tested these pins for durability. Terlau found that a label remained attached to a laundry item after repeated washings and dryings and concluded that thinner safety pins did not compromise the product's effectiveness. Terlau and Dixon punched small holes in labeling tape using off-the-shelf hand punches to determine if this procedure required less manual dexterity or strength than did pushing the pin through the label. Terlau and Dixon determined that using the punch required more dexterity and strength than did using the pin alone. Therefore, a hole punch was not offered as part of the product.

Directions for product use were finalized, braille and print files of directions were created, product specifications were completed by Dixon, and a specifications meeting was held.

Work during FY 2015

This product was made available for sale in October of 2015.

Work planned for FY 2016

Because this product has been made available for sale during FY 2015, no additional work on this project is anticipated.

ORIENTATION AND MOBILITY

Concepts and Skills for Crossings with No Traffic Control

(Continued)

Purpose

To create audio, video, and written materials to help persons with visual impairments learn that it is not necessarily safe to begin a crossing at an uncontrolled intersection when no vehicle is heard

Project Staff

Background

Dona Sauerburger, certified orientation and mobility specialist (COMS), has conducted numerous regional and national workshops for other COMS on the topic of teaching students to recognize situations of uncertainty for crossing independently at intersections with no traffic light or stop sign controls. Sauerburger's approach stipulates that if a greater amount of time is required to cross a street than the time during which a student can hear or see the approach of an oncoming vehicle, it is uncertain that the student can cross the street independently and safely. Although Sauerburger's approach has gained acceptance in the O&M field, persons who are no longer O&M students (i.e., adults with visual impairments who completed O&M instruction in the past) have not been taught this life-saving strategy. Sauerburger's Product Idea Submission Form proposes the creation of auditory/visual videos and instructional materials to teach these individuals how to determine such situations of uncertainty and how to develop alternate, safe strategies for managing them.

Preliminary Research

Terlau monitored the reception of Sauerburger's approach in the O&M community on e-mail lists and at numerous regional O&M conferences. Terlau found that Sauerburger's approach to analyzing the level of certainty that an uncontrolled intersection can be crossed safely has gained wide acceptance. Terlau examined Sauerburger's materials on vehicles striking pedestrians with visual impairments and found her conclusion to be sound: Many of these pedestrians were injured or killed because they believed what had been taught since the inception of O&M instruction—"It is safe to cross an uncontrolled intersection when it is quiet, when you can hear no traffic."

Initial Product Development

During FY 2011, the product was accepted for development by APH. Initial discussions about the scope of work between the project leader and Sauerburger were conducted.

During FY 2012, additional discussions were conducted between Sauerburger and the project leader regarding next steps. Sauerburger agreed to submit several videos of intersections she would like to use in the product so that APH staff could determine whether she would need the assistance of a professional videographer or whether her videos were of sufficient quality to be used in the product. Discussion with Larry Skutchan indicated that software could be developed to present video clips and that a software stopwatch necessary for some aspects of the product's functionality could be produced or located.

During FY 2013, additional planning telephone meetings were conducted between Sauerburger and Terlau. Sauerburger submitted draft scripts for the video. It was decided that a professional videographer would record intersections in Louisville, KY, for use in the project under Sauerburger's direction.

Terlau and other attendees at an initial Product Structure Meeting expressed strong concern that students might misunderstand instructions about determining situations of uncertainty and might use information in the video to support dangerous, risk-taking behavior. Terlau and Sauerburger determined that the product should be developed as a teaching tool to be used by orientation and mobility instructors with their students and not as a self-study product for students themselves. Student activities planned originally will be included, but will be packaged as exercises that instructors can use with their students. Additional information on concepts and theory will be provided in the book and video to support instruction in these skills.

Sauerburger redrafted existing exercises and sections of video text to conform to the new product focus. The draft script for the videos and book has been completed.

Work during FY 2015

Terlau and Sauerburger continued to refine draft text, software requirements, and scripts to be recorded for use in the software. Sauerburger worked with Terlau for one week in Louisville firming up program functions and obtaining traffic videos for use in the product. Terlau and the videographer from InGrid Design conducted four additional traffic video sessions.

Three meetings were held with Larry Skutchan and programmers to discuss feasibility of software requirements. All software requirements were deemed feasible.

Sauerburger completed 10 videos in Maryland for use in the software. Sauerburger created audio and visual clips and created auditory and visual traffic scenarios for use in the software. Terlau prepared a list of product specifications, which have been submitted for bid. It is anticipated that the software will be created by an outside vendor.

Work planned for FY 2016

It is anticipated that scripts will be recorded in the APH studio and that programming by an outside vendor will be completed. It is anticipated that a working prototype of the software will be ready for field testing by the end of FY 2016.

Echolocation

(Continued)

Purpose

To create a guidebook to teach persons with visual impairments the use of echolocation to obtain information about surrounding space and environmental features

Project Staff

Background

In her Product Idea Submission Form, Jo Hook proposed to collaborate with Daniel Kish, certified orientation and mobility specialist (COMS) and national orientation and mobility certification (NOMC) on a manual with exercises to teach the use of echolocation techniques. Kish, renowned for both using and teaching echolocation methods, provides content; Hook, noted rehabilitation practitioner and university instructor in the United Kingdom, provides a vision rehabilitation perspective, structure, and writing expertise. Hook and Kish are jointly authoring the book. The manual proposes that echolocation skills can be learned and used by persons with visual impairments to help pinpoint environmental features and move effectively through space. The manual provides exercises to be done with a teacher or instructor or alone to help students build echolocation skills.

Preliminary Research

Terlau reviewed literature on echolocation in humans and its history as an obstacle-avoidance and landmark-location tool for persons who were blind. Terlau also reviewed articles about Daniel Kish's work, including materials showing that spatial areas of the brain became involved when a skilled echo locator listened to a recording of another individual using echolocation techniques. Terlau also attended two presentations in which Kish demonstrated and taught echolocation techniques.

Initial Product Development

During FY 2011, the product was accepted for development by APH. Terlau and Hook began initial discussions regarding scope of work. During FY 2012, APH and the authors continued planning this project.

During FY 2013 and 2014, Hook produced a draft of the first five chapters of the Echolocation book. Terlau edited the first chapter. Kish began reviewing the five draft chapters. During FY 2014, research articles were purchased and provided to Hook per Hook's request. Hook submitted the draft of Chapter 6. Kish continued editing work on the first six chapters.

Work during FY 2015

Additional research articles were purchased for Hook. Hook and Kish completed the final chapter and proofread the book. The final prototype was received in July 2015. Terlau has obtained 10 interested field testers. Terlau and Zierer read and edited the book for grammar and style. Field test materials were prepared.

Work planned for FY 2016

Field testing will be conducted and changes will be made based on field tester responses. Layout of the print book by InGrid Design will begin.

Freedom

(Discontinued)

Purpose

To assess usability and value of Freedom, an electronic travel device that acquires environmental data from a video camera and translates it into vibration patterns in a neck strap

Project Staff

Background

Andrew Mahoney invented a new camera-based mobility aid for persons with visual impairments. A digital camera worn around the neck sends photos of the environment and obstacles in it through processing software that identifies locations of obstacles relative to the wearer. The processor translates this information into signals sent to vibrating units worn around the user's neck as part of the camera strap. Obstacles to the left result in vibration on the left shoulder, obstacles to the right result in vibration on the right shoulder, and obstacles straight ahead result in vibration on the back of the neck. The closer the obstacle is, the stronger the vibration. Vibrators work in unison so that an individual can pinpoint the position of an obstacle within a 180-degree range to the left/front/right and take action to avoid it. Unlike any other obstacle-detection device, the feedback from this device is kinesthetic and intuitive and the device does not require the use of a hand. In addition, the device looks like a digital camera and does not stigmatize the wearer.

Preliminary Research

In a meeting with APH staff on March 11, 2010, Andrew Mahoney explained and demonstrated an early prototype of this digital-camera-based obstacle detection system. The group determined that this prototype held promise because information from a digital camera is far more precise than information from ultrasound or infrared used in previous obstacle-detection devices. The group provided Mahoney with suggestions for prototype improvement.

Initial Product Development

After making substantial changes in the device resulting from this meeting, particularly the manner in which feedback about obstacle location was delivered to the user, Mahoney submitted an APH Product Idea Submission Form on March 24, 2011.

During FY 2012, Mahoney updated the Product Idea Submission Form with new research evidence. The Product Evaluation Team approved this product submission for consideration by the Product Advisory and Review Committee (PARC) on January 24, 2012. On February 8, 2012, PARC determined this submission warranted consideration for development as an APH product. Discussion supported the need for extremely rigorous field testing and expert review to determine actual effectiveness and utility of this obstacle detection system and the degree to which such a system would prove useful and acceptable to (and therefore purchasable by) orientation and mobility specialists and students with visual impairments.

In order to thoroughly assess the utility, effectiveness, and acceptability of this product, field testing with 25 orientation and mobility specialists (each with one or more students) was planned. To test this device, each instructor would need to use it in at least three lessons with a given student. It was anticipated that an instructor would need to retain a prototype for a period of two-to-four weeks to test it adequately. Five prototype units were purchased from Mahoney with delivery anticipated in September 2012. A request for orientation and mobility instructors as field testers was made.

During FY 2013, the five prototypes were obtained. In response to request for testers on relevant e-mail lists, 47 orientation and mobility specialists and adults with visual impairments were selected as testers. Plans were made for each tester to keep a prototype for 6 weeks, to use it with two students for a minimum of 3 hours, and to do a 15 minute behavioral observation test at the end of the student's exposure to the device.

Prototypes were sent to and returned from 19 orientation and mobility specialists, with 18 instructors and 28 of their students returning product evaluation forms. In addition, 16 of these orientation and mobility instructors completed performance rating sheets on 29 students.

During FY 2014, the project leader and project assistant calculated descriptive statistics for each evaluation and performance rating item on the three field test questionnaires; the project leader categorized all comments by content. The project leader categorized each data point as providing positive, neutral, or negative feedback about the performance of the Freedom Travel Aid.

Overall, field test evaluations from both instructors and students and instructor performance ratings of students were negative or neutral. When considering responses from all three questionnaires combined, 36% of responses were positive, 21% were neutral, and 43% were negative. The majority (59%) of instructor evaluation feedback was negative, 10% was neutral, and 32% was positive. The student evaluation data paralleled the instructor evaluation data, except that students rated the device slightly more positively than did instructors )providing 53% negative, 11% neutral, and 36% positive feedback. Forty-seven % of instructor ratings of student performance on specified mobility criteria were neutral, indicating that students showed the same level of proficiency when performing the task using the travel aid and a cane as they did when using the cane alone. Forty percent of instructor ratings indicated that students achieved higher levels of proficiency using the travel aid and a cane than when using the cane alone, and 13% of instructor ratings indicated that students achieved lower levels of proficiency when using the travel aid with the cane than when using the cane alone.

In addition to this negative trend in the evaluations and performance ratings, responses to specific questions were highly contradictory and inconsistent across instructors and students. For example, 50% of instructors indicated that the left and right shoulder straps vibrated when an object was in range with enough consistency to be helpful when traveling, and fifty percent said that they did not. Fifteen percent of instructors said that the device detected chairs well, 44% that it detected tables well, 72% that it detected walls well, 22% that it detected tree branches well, and 50% that it detected parked cars well. Thirty-seven percent of students said that vibrations helped them know the location of things in their environment, 50% said that the device helped sometimes, and 3% said that it did not help at all. Thirty-seven percent of students indicated that they would use the device all or most of the time, 17% sometimes, and 36% occasionally or not at all. When rating performance of students using the travel aid, instructors indicated that, most of the time, without making cane contact, 69% of students could point accurately at a wall or obstacle; and 45% could point accurately at openings such as doors in corridors or intersecting hallways. Instructors indicated that 34% of students walked down corridors without touching walls with canes more frequently when using the travel aid and cane than they did when using the cane alone, but that 51% made cane contact with walls as frequently as when using the cane alone. Instructors also found that 38% of students identified landmarks indoors without making cane contact with them more frequently when using the travel aid and cane than when using the cane alone, but that 38% of students identified landmarks without making cane contact with them as frequently as when using the cane alone.

The remainder of field testing was suspended because results did not support the value of the Freedom device in its present form as a useful travel aid. Because field test data did not support the utility of the current prototypes, the Freedom travel aid is being removed from active development at this time.

Work during FY 2015

No work was done on this project during FY 2015. Because of negative field test results, this project has been discontinued.

Work planned for FY 2016

No work is anticipated on this project in FY 2016.

Nearby Explorer

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide location, navigation, and routing functions to the Braille Plus 18 and accessible Android™ devices geared specifically to blind pedestrians

Project Staff

Background

Survival and success depend on good orientation skills. This fact especially challenges people who are blind because they must use only tactile and audio queues to determine their position. The earliest hunters and gatherers employed techniques such as landmarks and line of site to ensure they could return home after a long day of hunting. Eventually, explorers discovered consistent heavenly bodies that could aid with orientation for longer distances. Within the last few hundred years, specialized instruments were developed that aid in position calculations. Lewis and Clark used such tools to map the Louisiana Purchase, but it took several days and an intimate knowledge of the instruments and techniques. It also took sight.

With the introduction of the Global Positioning System (GPS) in the last few decades, the power to quickly and accurately determine your place on earth, with no training, is available to anyone. When combined with an accessible interface and customizable and current information about points of interest (POIs), the tools provide a compelling picture of the vicinity and its characteristics to a user who is blind.

Nearby Explorer makes independent travel for pedestrians and passengers who are blind efficient, informative, and fun. Knowledge of your surroundings empowers you to explore, discover, and enjoy your own neighborhood and beyond with poise and confidence. The information that Nearby Explorer provides helps the traveler stay oriented. It shows surrounding and approaching streets, businesses, institutions, and public facilities, and offers continually updating distance and directional information to the nearest or selected location. It provides a sense of the surrounding streets and their relationship to the user's current position. It enables the passenger in a vehicle to aid the driver with directions and suggestions.

Nearby Explorer was originally developed for the Braille Plus 18. Since the Braille Plus 18 is based on the Android™ operating system, APH realized that they were in a unique position to provide state-of-the-art, location-based services at an affordable price by releasing the app in the Google Play™ store. Thus, anyone with an accessible Android™ device could take advantage of its services. When combined with a $200 Android™ tablet, Nearby Explorer is the most complete, affordable GPS package available to blind users.

Nearby Explorer is a three-phase project. Phase one provides basic navigation, location, and routing functions. Phase two includes the ability to create and share points of interest and information about POIs. Phase three adds mapping and routing for indoor spaces. Phases one and two have been substantially completed, while investigation into phase three is just beginning.

Programmers created an Android™ app that provides the user with an excellent method to determine where she is, inform her about what is around, and route her to a selected destination while continuing to provide the additional informational features.

Programmers created a service that posts notifications about selected kinds of objects; so as the user's position changes, the selected items' values are spoken or brailled. These items include the following:

During the first and second phases of this project, an initial version of the product was developed with its first release on February 2, 2013. Enhancements and updates were subsequently provided.

Work during FY 2015

Development of the software continued. Several updated versions were released in response to customer feedback and internal suggestions. Highlights include the following:

Work planned for FY 2016

Project staff will work to complete the following:

O&M Bingo

(Discontinued)

Purpose

To develop a game board for students to track their correct answers to O&M and other academic questions using a bingo game model

Project Staff

Background

Dolores Hanley-McDiarmid proposed a bingo-like board with each box containing an answer to a question related to orientation and mobility. Answers were written in braille and in large print on the bingo-like board. When the instructor asked a question, the student would cover the square containing the correct answer. This game is designed to reinforce skills in reading large print and braille, concepts from orientation and mobility, and provide a valuable O&M activity on rainy days. Hanley-McDiarmid reported that young students and older consumers benefited from and enjoyed this game.

Preliminary Research

Based on searches of adaptive technology product catalogs and exhibits at conferences related to vision impairment, the project leader determined that no similar product is on the market.

During FY 2013, the project leader consulted with the model maker who produced a model that allows the print/braille answer sheet to be placed between two heavy paper covers, the top one with windows. The model maker provided covers for the windows.

During FY 2014, having determined that the board could be constructed to allow for the insertion of a variety of print/braille answer sheets, the project leader contacted Hanley-McDiarmid to discuss plans for developing this product for a wide variety of subject matter including core curriculum and expanded core curriculum areas. The model maker produced two sturdier prototypes of the bingo board. The project leader and research assistant produced two sample question sheets and answer cards to be inserted into the board. The prototype board and sample questions and answers were sent to Hanley-McDiarmid who approved the design and generalization of question content domains.

Work during FY 2015

The development of this product was discontinued because of lack of time and resources to develop it.

Work planned for FY 2016

No work is anticipated on this project in the future.

O&M for Wheelchair Users

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide written instructions and video demonstrations for Orientation and Mobility Specialists who work with individuals who have visual impairment in addition to being wheelchair users

Electronic book logo (pink and green) of a stylized profile of a wheelchair user with the book's title centered under the figure

Project Staff

Product Description

O&M for Wheelchair Users is an electronic book (HTML5) with embedded videos.

Background

This product was identified by the Multiple Disabilities Focus Group (2001). It was rated the ninth greatest need of 48 recommended products with a score of 4.15 (on a scale of 1-5) on the Multiple Disabilities Survey (2001). On a follow-up survey conducted at the 2006 Annual Meeting, it was rated the second greatest need receiving 12 points. The product rated of greatest need received 15 points. Research along with trial and error resulted in the successful use of HTML5 with subtitles. This is new technology. The formatting of subtitles proved successful for use with a refreshable braille display. This makes the product accessible to a consumer with deafblindness who reads braille.

Relevance

APH made the decision to produce Orientation & Mobility for Wheelchair Users With Visual Impairment or Blindness (O&M for Wheelchair Users) based on a standardized process of product selection. The New Product Idea Submission Form was submitted on March 13, 2007, by Scott Crawford, M.A., COMS, CLVT, Affiliated Blind of Louisiana; and Tristan Pierce, APH Multiple Disabilities Project Leader. Crawford was a member of APH's 2001 Multiple Disabilities Focus Group. Pierce presented the product idea to the Product Evaluation Team (PET) on March 27, 2007. The five attending members voted unanimously to forward the product idea to the Product Advisory and Review Committee (PARC). The next day, March 28, PARC convened; the attending members voted unanimously to accept the product and to place it on the parking lot, that is, on hold until the consultant, project leader, and resources were ready and available.

This product is fully accessible to the population using it. O&M for Wheelchair Users is an electronic book with embedded videos. The book is coded in HTML5, which makes it compatible with screen readers and refreshable braille display devices. The videos have one voice, the describer, to set the scene; and a different voice for instructional content. Each video has captioning with enable and disable capabilities. APH recommends reading the book in Internet Explorer®, Google Chrome™, and Apple® Safari®. It is possible to read it with Mozilla® Firefox®; but as of August 2014, Firefox has some video limitations, particularly with captioning. APH anticipates this book to be available as an EPUB®.

This product follows APH guidelines for determining relevance of a product. According to Rosen and Crawford (2010), there are two basic categories of disability that frequently accompany vision loss:

  1. Conditions that may occur as a direct or indirect result of vision loss or that may be intensified secondary to visual impairment
  2. Conditions that frequently have an associated visual impairment

Individuals with one or more of these conditions are often wheelchair (manual or power) or scooter users. Independent mobility is key to maintaining one's physical and psychosocial health; it increases vocational and educational opportunities, reduces independence on caregivers and family members, and promotes feelings of self-reliance (Sharma, Simpson, LoPresti, & Schmeler, 2010). In addition to the conditions previously stated, visual and physical impairments often accompany the natural aging process. Returning military personnel are experiencing greater numbers of visual and physical impairments caused by traumatic brain injury. As another measure of relevance, O&M for Wheelchair Users was submitted in 2015 to the APH Educational Products Advisory Committee (EPAC) for consideration and approval to be purchased with Federal Quota Funds.

There is evidence of an examination of the need for this product. The need for a product along the lines of O&M for Wheelchair Users was identified by the Multiple Disabilities Focus Group. The Multiple Disabilities Survey Report (Pierce, 2001) rates such a product the ninth greatest need out of 48 recommended products with a score of 4.15 (on a scale of 1-5). A literature search did not identify products or online materials available through commercial sources or vendors. There is a wealth of information about orientation and mobility for individuals who use a long cane or a dog guide. At the time of this product's submission, there was very little information available to teachers, O&M instructors, and rehabilitation professionals about teaching O&M to an individual who uses a wheelchair and has a visual impairment or blindness. In 2010, AFB Press published the third edition of Foundations of Orientation and Mobility (Weiner, Welsh, & Blasch, 2010), in which Scott Crawford and Sandy Rosen authored the chapter titled, "Teaching O&M to Learners with Visual, Physical, and Health Impairments." This chapter is very thorough and discusses ambulatory aids, including wheelchairs and scooters; however, it does not address environments typically found in larger cities (e.g., mass transit, escalators) nor does it demonstrate strategies practiced successfully within a safe, indoor environment and then transitioned to functional use in many outdoor environments. The embedded videos in the O&M for Wheelchair Users digital file are unique to this product, and they show much needed successful and unsuccessful examples of mobility strategies. No other product allows the reader to view the short demonstration video clip repeatedly as needed. The Perkins School for the Blind and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired both post an article—written by Scott Crawford—on their websites. Perkins now presents a webcast with optional ACVREP, PDPs, and Continuing Education credits, again featuring Crawford.

There is evidence that APH sought opinions of knowledgeable individuals to determine the need for this product. As stated earlier, O&M for Wheelchair Users was developed because it was an identified need by the Multiple Disabilities Survey. A total of 221 professionals from the vision field completed and submitted the survey. The majority of respondents resided in the United States, but one or more surveys were received from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Guam, Iran, and Spain.

This product addresses an identified need for a person who meets the definition of "visually impaired." O&M for Wheelchair Users is designed as an electronic book (HTML5) to make it accessible to screen readers and to present on refreshable braille displays. This allows an individual with dual sensory impairment who is a braille reader to read the book. The narrative description on each video describes the scene and provides instructional content. Captioning of the narrative description can be enabled and disabled.

Research

Field test data were gathered on the four sample chapters using an appropriate method by an online evaluation form (Google Docs™ forms application). The evaluation form included questions that require yes/no responses, a rating response of 1 to 5, and qualitative responses. The survey allowed multiple opportunities for comments within each section of the survey: reviewer information, general clientele information, content, and technology. Data was compiled in the Google Docs™ forms program, and APH project staff reviewed all qualitative comments. There is evidence that research data are considered as part of decision-making in product completion. Several changes were made as a result of field testing. APH decided to make the video default without captioning because the majority of the readers do not need captioning. This is because the captioning can obscure the action of the video. For readers who need the captioning, they can turn it on. For simplicity and when possible, the use of both a video describer and an instructional narrator were combined so only a narrator was used. To assist individuals who use screen readers determine when a video is complete, a "ding" sound was added to the end of each video. APH staff and the author added a Q&A sidebar element to address some of the comments submitted by the professional reviewers.

The development of O&M for Wheelchair Users followed APH Research Guidelines.

The research method used collected sufficient information as described below.

Student/Client Demographics

The students/clientele with whom the reviewers work vary in age: 13-17 years old (36.5%), 18-64 years old (27%), and 65+ years old (36.5%). O&M for Wheelchair Users is predominantly targeted to teenagers and adults, but many of the strategies can be used with a younger population. Four (37%) of the field test sites had veterans on their current caseloads. Of the four sites with veterans, two (50%) sites serve veterans exclusively, one (25%) site had a caseload with 5% veterans, and one (25%) had a caseload with 1% veterans.

One reviewer did not know the gender ratio of his or her agency's/school's caseload. Of the 10 reviewers who did respond, 62.5% are male and 37.5% are female.

Nine of the reviewers provided ethnic background information on their clientele/students. The majority are White (77%), followed by Black (12.4%), American Indian/Alaskan Native 2%, Hispanic 1%, Hawaiian Native/Pacific Islander 0.7%, Asian 0.2%, and Other 6.7%.

Data were gathered from a geographically diverse U.S. population. The reviewers represented eight states: California, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Participants

Data were gathered from appropriately qualified individuals. Eight (73%) of the 11 professional reviewers are certified orientation and mobility specialists (COMs), two (18%) are orientation and mobility instructors, and one (9%) is a rehabilitation specialist for the blind. In addition, three of the COMS are also teachers of students with visual impairments (TVI) and one COMS is an orientation and mobility supervisor. Four of the reviewers work in schools (K-12) (three county school districts and one residential school for the blind); two reviewers work for the Department of Veterans Affairs; three work for their state's commission, bureau, or office for the blind; one works for her state's Department of Developmental Services; and one works for a service agency that works in partnership with the state's Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Data were gathered from an adequate number of sources. Eleven O&M instructors completed the review and submitted the survey. APH also identified a consultant who is a screen reader user to review the product for accessibility. APH has ample staff, who are screen reader users and extremely knowledgeable in HTML5 technology; however, APH felt that a less technical-oriented person who would represent a typical end user with a visual impairment needed to review the product for ease of accessibility.

Data were not gathered on student/clientele outcomes. The reader will see student/clientele improvement from watching the assessment chapter videos (in the beginning of the book) and the subsequent videos in the other chapters at the end of the book.

Content

Ten reviewers (90%) stated that the information presented in each chapter sufficiently describes the topic of that chapter. All reviewers (100%) agreed that the information presented in each chapter accurately describes the topic of that chapter. However, when asked if there is specific information missing within a chapter topic, six reviewers (55%) responded yes and five (45%) responded no. Below are sample comments submitted by reviewers. The entire list was reviewed by APH staff and the author, Scott Crawford. Sometimes the missing information is addressed in another chapter that was not piloted. Also, additional information was added to chapters as needed.

The embedded videos are meant to enhance the text, but the text is written to stand on its own as an instructional tool. The reviewers were asked to rate the clarity of the text on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = poor and 5 = extremely clear). All reviewers rated the text to be written clearly: 64% rated it 4, and 36% rated it 5.

All reviewers opined that the content would be useful to teachers in the field who are new to working with individuals who have visual impairment and use a wheelchair. Several reviewers submitted comments:

The reviewers were asked that in their professional opinion, would the content be useful as a teaching tool in O&M certification. Ten reviewers responded to the question, and nine of them responded yes.

Reviewers were given the opportunity to provide additional comments or suggestions related to overall content of this product:

Technology

Reviewers were asked which Internet browser they used to read the HTML5 text and to view the videos. Several reviewers used multiple browsers. One reviewer use Mozilla® Firefox®, three reviewers used Apple® Safari®, five reviewers used Internet Explorer® and Google Chrome™, and one reviewer selected the "Other" option. Different browsers and some electronic tablets may present the electronic book differently. Reviewers were asked if visually, the webpage format (including the sidebars aligned to the left of screen, and length of reading lines in main body of text) was easy to read. All 11 reviewers responded "yes." Several reviewers submitted comments on the visual design and layout of the electronic book:

Several reviewers submitted comments about the product's technology:

The reviewers were asked to identify any videos that they felt did not complement the HTML5 text.

Reviewers were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = difficult and 5 = very easy) the ease with which they could toggle back and forth between the miniature video screen within the text and the full screen display. All reviewers responded, "very easy." The reviewers rated the ease with which they could turn the captioning on and off. One reviewer did not respond; one selected 1 (difficult), but wrote that she did not have captioning so that is why she rated it low; two gave a rating of 4; and seven reviewers gave a rating of 5.

Two distinct voices were used in the videos. A female voice set the scene (the Describer), and a male voice provided instructional content (the Narrator). Ten reviewers submitted their preference regarding this voice-over format. Seven (70%) reviewers stated that they preferred the two-voice format, and three (30%) stated that they think one voice could be used for both voiceovers.

Some videos require extra time for the student to make the wheelchair maneuver—after the narration is complete—and hence render no audio during that time. Reviewers were asked if soft background music would be useful or beneficial to the viewer. Four (36%) reviewers responded yes, and seven (64%) responded no. Four reviewers felt music would be "distracting." The three reviewers who would like music added to the videos each have a different reason for his or her response:

APH's technical reviewer, who is a screen reader user, responded that light background music or a chirp/ding would help him know when a video ends.

Reviewers were given the opportunity to provide additional comments or suggestions related to the videos in this product:

All reviewers responded that the overall "electronic book" format with accompanying videos is the most appropriate format for this product. Several submitted comments:

Reviewers were asked if they would recommend O&M for Wheelchair Users to their agency or school. Ten (91%) reviewers responded yes, and one (9%) responded no. Comments regarding this recommendation are listed here:

Reviewers were given an opportunity to submit additional comments or suggestions related to the product as a whole:

References

Pierce, T. G. (2001). Multiple Disabilities Survey Results. Retrieved from American Printing House for the Blind Web site: http://www.aph.org/edresearch/md_results.html

Rosen, S., & Crawford, J. S. (2010). Teaching orientation and mobility to learners with visual, physical, and health impairments. In W. R. Weiner, R. L. Welsh, & B. B. Blasch (Eds.), Foundations of orientation and mobility (3rd ed., pp. 564-666). New York: AFB Press.

Sharma, V., Simpson, R., LoPresti, E., & Schmeler, M. (2010). Evaluation of semiautonomous navigation assistance system for power wheelchairs with blindfolded nondisabled individuals. Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development, 47, 877–890.

Work during FY 2015

Corrections, per field testing results and author feedback, were made to the four piloted chapters. The HTML was completed for the remaining chapters and the two appendices. Narration and film editing was completed for the videos.

Work planned for FY 2016

The electronic book will be formatted to an EPUB® and made available for sale.

Teaching Street Crossings

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide a guidebook summarizing promising pedagogical methods for teaching street crossings to persons with visual impairments

Project Staff

Background

Tessa McCarthy, PhD, COMS, (who was Coordinator of the Visual Impairment Program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln at time of submission) noted in her Product Idea Submission Form that, although techniques for successfully crossing streets by persons with visual impairments are well established, little is known about effectiveness of various pedagogical methods for teaching these techniques. Crossing streets safely is a skill that travelers with visual impairments must master in order to travel independently. If all instructional methodologies are not created equal (i.e., if some result in higher levels of skill mastery than others), it becomes imperative to discover which methodologies produce the best results.

Preliminary Research

McCarthy provided data derived from her doctoral dissertation that demonstrated greater effectiveness of specific instructional methodologies and also conducted a survey of practicing certified orientation and mobility specialists to determine methodologies currently in use.

During FY 2011, a contract was developed and signed by APH and McCarthy. A procedure was developed for provision of funds from APH through the University of Nebraska to Wright for purchase of mailing lists and other project necessities. McCarthy developed a survey to be sent to selected COMS and requested research approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the University of Nebraska.

During FY 2012, McCarthy obtained research approval from the IRB at her university. She selected research participants via randomization and geographic balance, sent out surveys, and received 27 survey results. Preliminary analysis of results indicated that respondents offered a great deal of useful information. However, because the number of respondents was small, she continued to collect survey data at the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired conference and elsewhere.

Initial Product Development

Based on her dissertation and survey research, McCarthy proposed the development of a guidebook to point to promising pedagogical practices for teaching street crossings to persons with visual impairments. This guidebook would assist instructors to recognize their pedagogical practices and add new ones to better support student skill acquisition.

During FY 2013, McCarthy completed survey analyses, finding that instructors used a wide variety of instructional methodologies. Her unpublished dissertation, which is the only experimental intervention study related to teaching street crossings to students with visual impairments, paired verbal rehearsal with graduated guidance and was very successful in teaching the skills of street crossing. She developed the scope of the book based on findings from this study and strong evidence from related fields. Plans were made for the development of a guidebook suggesting practical methods for teaching street crossing techniques using verbal rehearsal with graduated guidance, practicing these methods with environmental models made from designs offered in the book, and then using this pedagogy for instruction. McCarthy submitted a partial draft of the book during FY 2014.

Work during FY 2015

McCarthy provided a complete draft of the book, which was edited by Terlau. McCarthy made requested changes, and the book was again edited by Terlau. McCarthy has completed a final draft including all new changes requested.

Terlau sought expert reviewers for this book and prepared expert review evaluation forms.

Work planned for FY 2016

The book will be reviewed by three to five experts, and modifications will be made accordingly. The book will be submitted for braille transcription, and a specifications meeting will be held.

Travel Tales

(Discontinued)

Purpose

To develop a storybook that models appropriate orientation and mobility (O&M) skills used by young blind and visually impaired protagonists

Project Staff

Background

Sighted children learn from other children and adults who model relevant travel skills; they see people waiting for walk lights, boarding public transportation, and moving safely through the environment on television, in books, and almost everywhere in visual range. Blind children do not benefit from sighted models for two reasons: first, they cannot see the behaviors being modeled; and second, many travel skills used by sighted persons are not relevant to the travel needs of blind children who must learn an alternate set of travel skills to enable them to move safely and effectively through the environment without seeing it. Because blindness is a low incidence disability and because accurate portrayal of effective blind travelers by the media is extremely rare, blind children generally do not have access to models from whom they can learn more about the value and applicability of the O&M skills that they develop in school.

The original Travel Tales book made story teaching materials—with a young blind traveler as protagonist and model—available to the O&M field. When Mostly Mobility, producers of this book, stopped production, they opened a dialog with APH regarding their material.

After careful review, it was determined that the original work, if revised, could provide an excellent resource for use with young people as they develop their O&M skills. Full rights to the material were obtained by APH.

Preliminary Research

Terlau carefully reviewed the existing product and found that it lacked diversity of characters in terms of gender, ethnic/racial background, and amount of functional vision. Terlau also found that story plots were largely based on use of O&M skills and did not offer interesting content to children.

Initial Product Development

Terlau and Wright met to discuss content to be updated. Wright described a story idea that would introduce the collection and help reluctant cane users be drawn into the book. This introductory story and additional expanded content could make the book an effective tool for modeling and for motivating O&M students.

Project leaders' full schedules did not allow for work on Travel Tales between FY 2009 and FY 2015.

Work during FY 2015

Development of this project has been discontinued because of lack of time and resources to complete it.

Work planned for FY 2016

No work is anticipated on this project during FY 2016.

RECREATION AND LEISURE

Games of Squares

Formerly Game of Squares (Redesign)

(Completed)

Purpose

To redesign and reintroduce a game that has long been a product staple in APH's catalog

Project Staff

Image of Games of Squares game board with checkerboard layout

Background

In October 2008, a facility fire experienced by an outside vendor for many of APH's urethane products destroyed the tooling for Game of Squares, specifically the grid board. This fire was the impetus for the redesign, update, and/or re-tooling of many APH products.

The Game of Squares is an adaptation of the two-player pencil and paper game in which dots are connected to make squares. Two players alternate placing white plastic "sides" on the board to enclose a square. Completed squares are covered with the player's marker. The markers differ in texture and color. The player who covers the most squares wins. The original game board had a 16-square, blue game grid and storage areas for game pieces.

Expecting that the game still had merit, but could benefit from an aesthetic and tactile "facelift," the project leader conducted a survey to garner feedback from those using the original version. Feedback received from survey respondents indicated that the original version of the game, although still valuable, could be improved in the following ways:

One teacher noted that "the game develops strategy and problem solving skills. Because of the grid layout, it reinforces many spatial concepts (rows, columns, left, right, etc.). Like all interactive games, it encourages peer interaction and turn-taking." With this reassurance that Game of Squares was still worthwhile with some updated design features, the project leader submitted a Product Submission Form in January 2009. In March 2009, the product was approved for development by the Product Advisory and Review Committee.

In April 2009, with in-house approval to proceed with the update and reintroduction of the Game of Squares, the project leader conducted a "Brainstorming" Product Development Committee (PDC) meeting to request additional ideas from staff representing various APH departments. The project leader came to the meeting with some preliminary ideas, including a mock-up of a new game layout that involved a decorative border around a larger grid area. Masking overlays were suggested to minimize the playing area, if needed. Intention to utilize the same u-channel "side" pieces was proposed, allowing game players to snap them onto clear, vacuum-formed grid dividers. Visual/tactile game tokens of a more interesting style were suggested as well.

Product activities were a bit sluggish for the remainder of FY 2009 due to the project staff's involvement in higher priority and closer-to-availability projects. However, by August 2009, some actual construction of the game grid was underway.

In December 2010, the project leader and Tom Poppe originated a two-sided, two-color pedestal game token. Several renditions of the game token were molded and tested with other APH staff to determine the best design for tactile discrimination and grasping. Multiple game tokens were then built and constructed for field test purposes.

Concurrently, the thermoformed grids were prepared by Katherine Corcoran. The project leader experimented with various print designs of the game board to complement and align with the tactile grid. In January 2010, the outside graphic designer initiated work on the final print layout; by February, a final layout was approved. Multiple copies of the game board were printed in-house on a wide-format printer.

Remaining prototype construction tasks included the following:

By the end of the second quarter, multiple copies of the game board and related pieces were ready for field testing. The project leader posted a request for field evaluators in the April issue of APH News. Prototypes were mailed to evaluation sites on May 31, 2011. Each evaluator was given until mid-August to use the game board with as many students with visual impairments and blindness as possible; blind adults were also invited to participate.

Field test sites represented the states of Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska (2), New Mexico, North Carolina (2), Ohio, Oregon, and Virginia.

The prototype was used by 17 teachers of the visually impaired with a total of 71 students/adults. The sample of 71 students/adults ranged in age from 4 to 28 years of age with 6% between the ages of 4 and 6, 17% between the ages of 7 and 9, 35% between the ages of 10 and 12, 32% between the ages of 13 and 18, and 7% between 19 and 28; the age of 3% of the sample was unreported.

The student sample was nearly equally divided between males (52%) and females (46%); gender was unreported for 2% of the population.

The student population reflected cultural diversity: 59% White, 18% African American, 8% Hispanic, 4% Asian, 6% were reported as either "two or more races," and 1% was American Indian; the ethnicity of 3% was unreported.

The largest percentage (32%) of the sample were in grades 4-6; 24% were in high school; 15% were in grades 7-8; 14% were in grades 1-3; 8% were post-high school level; 4% were preschoolers; and equal percentages were either ungraded (1%), unreported (1%), or in vocational programs (1%).

Similar percentages were reported as braille readers and large print readers—44% and 34%, respectively. Similar smaller percentages were reported as either dual braille/large print readers (8%) or regular print readers (7%), 6% were nonreaders, and 1% were prereaders.

One-fifth of the student/adult sample had other disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, physical disabilities, and hearing impairment.

One hundred percent of the evaluators recommended that APH produce Games of Squares. Teachers who had used the previous version of the game unanimously agreed that the modernized version was much improved. Actual testimonials consisted of the following:

Reported overall strengths were many and varied: multi-functional, visual contrast/appeal, pieces stay in place, game options, accessible, flexible, familiar games, good tactile discrimination, teaches many concepts, and suitable for a wide range of abilities. One hundred percent of the students were reported as enjoying the game.

Based upon a rating scale from 5 (Excellent) to 1 (Poor), the following average scores were received for each feature of the various game components:

Component Feature Rating
GRID BOARD
Overall visual appeal 4.47
Visual/color contrast 4.29
Overall tactile features 4.47
Overall size 4.41
Size of individual squares 4.41
Overall durability 3.82
GAME TOKENS
Overall durability 4.75
Usefulness for a variety of games 4.93
Overall size 4.88
Tactile contrast/discrimination 4.81
Visual/color contrast 4.75
BLACK U-CHANNELS
Overall durability 4.64
Stay in place during game play 4.26
Ease of affixing/removing from grid 3.90
Overall size 4.29
Ease of locating positioned u-channels 4.20
Visual/color contrast against grid 4.75
RED MASKING SQUARES
Overall durability 4.75
Usefulness as obstacles 4.29
Overall tactile features 4.73
Usefulness of creating checkerboard pattern 4.75
Usefulness for blocking off smaller section 4.60
Overall size 4.62
Tactile contrast against grid 4.69
Visual/color contrast against grid 4.81
CROWN/KING PIECES
Tactile contrast 4.30
Ease of crowning kings during checkers 4.50
STORAGE TRAYS
Non-skid feature 4.00
Overall durability 3.90
Overall size 3.88
Overall size 4.41
Visual/color contrast 4.00
Number of components 3.75

The table below lists the target populations for whom the field evaluators found Games of Squares appropriate:

Target Population Percentage of evaluators who found Games of Squares suitable for target population
Children with low vision, ages 6-10 88%
Children with blindness, ages 6-10 88%
Students with low vision, ages 11-13 82%
Students with low vision, ages 11-13 82%
Low vision students in high school 65%
Blind students in high school 71%
Children with multiple disabilities 59%
Sighted peers 82%
Others suggested audiences -Blind adults
-Blind adults with sighted children
-Parents of blind children
-High-level preschoolers

The table below shows the skills/concepts addressed by the Games of Squares as assessed by the field evaluators:

SKILL/CONCEPT Percentage of evaluators who found Games of Squares to promote the skill/concept
Texture discrimination 88%
Scanning/searching/tracking 100%
Spatial concepts (left/right, below/above, etc.) 100%
Shape recognition 76%
Counting skills 71%
Organization/sorting skills 82%
Problem-solving/strategy techniques 100%
Turn-taking 94%
Others skills promoted -Socialization with sighted peers
-Fine motor skills
-Conversational skills

The project leader utilized the field test results to implement needed product revisions before final production. Based upon evaluators' ratings, paired with audience feedback at an Annual Meeting "Product Input Session," the following notable improvements were implemented into the final design of Games of Squares:

Note: As influenced by the results of a follow-up survey with the field evaluators regarding the preferred VELCRO® brand hook or loop application to the game tokens and grid squares, it was determined to keep the application style the same as that encountered in the prototype. This follow-up survey was prompted by one evaluator requesting the reversal of the VELCRO® brand material to the tokens and game grid to avoid a "scratchy" overall feel. Evaluators continued to support the original design because it accommodated the positioning of VELCRO® brand hook-backed shapes from other APH kits onto the 8 x 8 grid.

A variety of possible games accommodated by Games of Squares are illustrated and described within the final game instructions. Recommended games are shown below including Tic-Tac-Toe, Trading Places, Square It, Zigzag, Checkers, Lucky Roll, and Corner Chase:

Photo shows seven different Game of Squares games. From top to bottom and left to right: Tic-Tac-Toe, Trading Places, Square It, Zigzag, Checkers, Lucky Roll, and Corner Chase.

In April 2012, the Educational Products Advisory Committee granted Quota approval for the modernized version of Games of Squares.

Preparation of production tooling spanned the entire fiscal year. Multiple in-house meetings were conducted with the PDC to review all expected components and to plan production processes. The project leader developed a detailed "Specifications Worksheet" for reference by all involved staff. Specific tasks encompassed the following:

By the end of September 2012, a significant portion of the production tooling had been prepared.

The completion of remaining tooling activities characterized the first quarter of FY 2013. In early October, the project leader prepared a clean file of the game instructions for braille translation, including narrative descriptions of many embedded photos appearing throughout the print counterpart. By the end of the month, the braille translation was completed and a final page count was available for insertion into the final product specifications.

On February 11, 2013, the project leader and Technical Research reviewed the preliminary overview of the product specifications. Each game component was painstakingly reviewed to minimize any oversights prior to production of this very involved, complex kit. Additional decisions were made about the following:

The Product Specifications were formally presented to Purchasing, Planning, and Production staff on March 27, 2013. At that time, the timeline was adjusted to reflect a targeted late-summer announcement of the final product. By May, shipments of vendor-produced parts were trickling in, including a large supply of injection-molded game tokens to fulfill the first pilot and production runs. In June, in-house produced samples of the game box label and flip-over print/braille game instruction book were provided to the project leader for approval. The project staff continued to closely monitor the quality of received and produced parts and materials throughout the later months of the fiscal year. The pilot run was initiated.

The pilot run of Games of Squares was still underway during the first month of FY 2014. The project leader, model makers, and manufacturing specialist carefully monitored the remainder of the pilot run, and quality-controlled received vendor parts (printed game art). The availability of the product was formally announced on November 18, 2013, with a price of $199.00 (available with Quota funds) and was posted on APH's shopping site. The project leader prepared the content for the product brochure and game setups for included photos. The project leader also scripted content for and appeared in an APH Quick Tip #27 that describes the various game components and initial assembly; game options are also featured. This APH-produced video is archived at www.aph.org/quick-tips/archive/ and appears on YouTube™ at www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i2wAg2GFp8.

Work during FY 2015

Formal and significant work on the development, modernization, and introduction of Games of Squares concluded in FY 2014. However, Games of Squares was randomly selected for review by the Department of Education. Consequently, the project leader summarized the relevance, research, and utility of the product in a final report for the panel's review. This final report was formally reviewed by the panel in March 2015. Based on a 7-point scale, the finished product garnered a 6.36 for relevance, 6.54 for research, and 6.7 for utility.

The project leader also collected product satisfaction feedback from actual purchasers of Games of Squares via an online survey. Comments from teachers continued to highlight positive observations previously noted by the original field evaluators, including encouragement to provide more board games for students with visual impairments and blindness. The project leader demonstrated the game at national conferences and workshops throughout the year.

Work planned for FY 2016

The grant number for Games of Squares is officially closed. No remaining work is anticipated or planned.

Possibilities: Recreational Experiences of Individuals Who Are Deafblind

(Completed)

Purpose

To provide an interesting, entertaining, and informative book about recreation and leisure activities that can be enjoyed by youth and other adults with deafblindness, which may encourage them to participate in physical activities that promote healthy lifestyles and socialization

Project Staff

Product Description

Possibilities is an EPUB® collection of personal stories in which adults with deafblindness share their experiences about when and how they learned their specific recreational activity, including obstacles (i.e., environmental, social, and self-imposed) and personal triumphs.

Background

An event that happened in Belgium, so affected the authors of Possibilities, that they were driven to create this accessible book to share the inspiring stories with persons who are deafblind and who may feel disenfranchised and lack socialization opportunities. In 2012, a pair of 45-year-old twins exercised their right to be euthanized. Belgium has a Euthanasia Law that gives citizens who are suffering the right to petition for government sanctioned suicide. Marc and Eddy Verbessem were born deaf and had lived and worked together throughout their lives. They began to consider euthanasia when they learned that they had an incurable condition which would take away their vision, and their ability to see each other. As explained by their brother, Dick Verbessem, the twins did not want blindness to force them into an institution. Marc and Eddy Verbessem viewed being blind as unbearable. They felt that taking away their ability to see each other and others would take away all of their independence. It is important for everyone to know that individuals who are deafblind can lead active, exciting, and productive lives with some patience and modifications. This book profiles individuals with deafblindness who participate in exciting recreational activities. The authors hope that the readers of the book will see "possibilities" for themselves.

Relevance

APH made the decision to produce this product based on a standardized process of product selection. Lauren Lieberman, Ph. D., submitted the New Product Idea Form online on April 3, 2013. Project leader, Tristan Pierce, presented it to the Product Evaluation Team on September 9, 2013. It was unanimously accepted with the noted barriers of time (project leader's current workload) and ongoing APH discussions on EPUB® development. Lieberman attended the January 9, 2014, Product Advisory and Review Committee meeting and described the product to meeting attendees. The voting members accepted the product, and it was moved onto the development time line. The project leader requested, and it was agreed, that Research Assistant, Denise Snow Wilson, would be the lead editor on the manuscript.

This product is fully accessible to the population who will use it. The project staff and APH's Technology Research Center (TRC) worked to make the HTML5-based EPUB® accessible to refreshable braille devices. The project leader sought advice from professionals in the field of deafblindness about relevant media forms that are preferred by young adult readers with deafblindness.

The product follows APH guidelines for determining relevance of a product. Play and recreation are important aspects of learning for children with deafblindness (NCBD Library, nationaldb.org/library/list/56). Individuals with deafblindness need additional components added to the general education curriculum to gain the skills necessary to be independent, productive, and educated members of society. Recreation and leisure skills (RLS) are recognized components of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) (Hatlin, 1996; Sapp & Hatlin, 2010). RLS can enhance some other components of the ECC such as social interaction skills, orientation and mobility, independent living, and self-determination. Individuals with deafblindness do not learn recreation through observation. Teachers and parents need to intentionally teach recreation and leisure skills using specific instructional techniques and safety awareness. The benefit of learning the components of recreation in physical education is that all of the other components of the ECC can be covered in physical education, to some extent, during the course of the year. Through quality physical education, the student will learn the basic skills necessary for meaningful active recreation as well as the other eight ECC areas. A person who is deafblind is less likely to be self-determined if he does not have the choices necessary to have control over his free time (and life). Understanding the various components of recreation will help individuals who are deafblind overcome barriers and acquire recreation pursuits to enhance their lives.

There is evidence of an examination of the need for this product. The American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB) website states,

Individuals who are deaf-blind, regarded as "most significantly disabled" by state vocational rehabilitation agencies continue to face significant social, economic, educational and psychological barriers. The lack of available services and resources is often an obstacle to achieving self-sufficiency for individuals who are deaf-blind. Throughout the United States this low incidence diverse community remains unserved and underserved; the impact on the individual and the service delivery system continues to be a challenge. We appreciate this opportunity to point out the many areas that continue to be barriers for people who have both a hearing AND a vision loss (deaf-blind) (AADB and Helen Keller National Center, n.d.).

AADB lists 10 categories of barriers for individuals who are deafblind. Under the education category (aadb.org/information/ncd/ncd_introduction.html#education), it lists the following barriers:

Under the recreation category (aadb.org/information/ncd/ncd_introduction.html#recreation), the barriers are as follows:

The product, Possibilities, demonstrates self-determination, socialization, and leadership skills through first-person stories. Many of the storytellers refer to their SSPs and to consumer and/or local organizations that helped them realize their possibility and provided them with successful opportunities.

There is a paucity of published material on recreation for persons with deafblindness. In 1975, John A. Nesbitt, Iowa University, edited and presented a document based on position papers and proceedings of the National Institute on Program Development and Training in Recreation for Deaf-Blind Children, Youth, and Adults. The document presents approximately 50 brief articles by 33 authors for use by parents, teachers, rehabilitation personnel, and therapeutic recreation personnel. The document is titled Play, Recreation and Leisure for People Who Are Deaf-Blind. Since the time of the Nesbitt document, published articles and materials have been limited. Several articles (Miles & Riggio, 1999; Smith, 2002) have been written about communication and socialization with children and adults who are deafblind, but little exists specifically on recreation and leisure activities. Since the early 2000s, Lieberman has co-authored with selected colleagues (Arndt, Lieberman, & Pucci, 2004; Lieberman, Arndt, & Barry Grassick, 2010; Lieberman, & MacVicar, 2003; Lieberman, & Pecorella, 2006; Lieberman, & Stuart, 2002) on communication, home activities, play, and recreation for persons with deafblindness. The lack of recreational experiences told in first person by individuals with deafblindness demonstrates the need for Possibilities.

References

American Association for the Deaf-Blind, Helen Keller National Center, (n.d.). Trends and unresolved issues impacting individuals who are deaf-blind. Retrieved from http://aadb.org/information/ncd/ncd_introduction.html

Arndt, K. L., Lieberman, L. J., & Pucci, G. (2004). Communication during physical activity for youth who are deafblind. Teaching Exceptional Children Plus, 1(2), Article 1.

Hatlen, P. (1996). The core curriculum for blind and visually impaired students, including those with additional disabilities. RE:view, 28, 25-32.

Lieberman, L. J. (2007). Recreational activities for children and youth who are deafblind. Deaf-Blind Perspectives, 14, 6-9.

Lieberman, L. J., Arndt, K. L, & Barry Grassick, S. (2010). Promoting leadership for individuals who are deafblind through a summer camp experience. The Journal for the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind, 3, 153-159.

Lieberman, L. J., & MacVicar, J. (2003). Play and recreation habits of youth who are deaf-blind. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 97, 755-768.

Lieberman, L. J., & Pecorella, M. (2006). Activity at home for children and youth who are deafblind. Deaf-Blind Perspectives, 14, 3-7.

Lieberman, L. J., & Stuart, M. E. (2002). Self-determined recreation and leisure choices of individuals with deaf-blindness. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 96 724-735.

Miles, B., & Riggio, M. (1999). Remarkable conversations: A guide to developing meaningful communication with children and young adults who are deafblind. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind Press.

Nesbitt, J. A. (1975). Play, recreation and leisure for people who are deaf-blind (Report No. 31-4241). Iowa City: Iowa University.

Sapp, W., & Hatlen, P. (2010). The expanded core curriculum, where have we been, where are we going, and how can we get there? Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 104, 338-348.

Smith, T.B. (2002). Guidelines: Practical tips for working and socializing with deafblind people. Burtonsville, MD: Sign Media Inc.

APH sought opinions of knowledgeable individuals to determine the need for this product. The book has three submission editors, all of whom work in the field of deafblindness and one who is a featured storyteller (with deafblindness) in the book. In addition, the project leader reached out to a member of the APH Multiple Disabilities Focus Group who works for both the National Center on Deaf-Blindness and the Helen Keller National Center. She made requests of her colleagues at both organizations about the reading needs of young adult readers with deafblindness. If the medium in which the book is produced is not accessible to the reader with deafblindness, then the need, no matter how large or small, will not be met. A program coordinator at the Adaptive Technology Helen Keller National Center and a coordinator of professional development and products at the National Center on Deaf-Blindness agreed that multiple formats of the book need to be produced to best meet the needs of young adults with deafblindness.

For those students without vision or hearing, braille is the only accessible format, books may be downloaded onto computers or notetakers utilizing refreshable braille displays, but they must be in txt or brf format. DAISY format can be used for those individuals with enough hearing. PDF is not necessarily accessible, but may be for some with enough vision.

About half of the young adults I know download text and read it through refreshable braille devices.... others use large print... very few use audio output.... some might want a ASL signed version of the book. (N. Steele, personal communication, June 22, 2014)

Work during FY 2015

Project was turned over to the current project leader and lead editor. The manuscript was first edited by the lead editor and then was reviewed by the project leader and submission editors.

Most storytellers gave APH permission to publish their writings in the Possibilities collection. Upon their request, final versions of their writings were also reviewed and approved by storytellers.

Project staff decided that Possibilities would be published online. Readers with visual and hearing impairments could access this publication using screen reading software and electronic braille devices. Each story would also allow PDF download.

Work on this project is expected to finish by the end of FY 2015.

Work planned for FY 2016

Because this project is expected to be complete by the end of FY 2015, no work is planned for FY 2016.

SELF-DETERMINATION

V-file

Formerly Personal Vision Portfolio

(Continued)

Purpose

To provide students, teachers, counselors, and parents of visually impaired students a tool to collect, organize, and document pertinent information and materials that will aid in transition from kindergarten through adult life

Project Staff

Background

Edith Ethridge developed the Personal Vision Portfolio during her tenure as low vision specialist at Kentucky School for the Blind. She used this portfolio with students across Kentucky through the Outreach Program at the school. This portfolio becomes a working file of activities, documents, and resources used by the student and teacher. It is an aid to students through a variety of transitions: from teacher to teacher, middle to high school, from high school to college, and work/adult life. Ethridge retired from her position on July 1, 2006. The popularity and continued demand for the sharing of her work by groups and organizations around the U.S. led to a product submission.

In January 2006, the product idea was approved by the Product Evaluation Team and the Product Advisory and Review Committee. Ethridge agreed to serve as a consultant. The initial work of writing and revising the portfolio began.

Work was delayed due to illness of the consultant. She continued to write, revise, and update the text for the teacher's manual as well as the various forms to be used in the portfolio. The Technical Research Department developed models of the parts of the eye that could be used with a story board as well as patterns for a tactile graphic of the eye. The consultant completed the recording forms for TVIs, parents, and students to use with the portfolio.

In FY 2013, Ethridge continued to write, revise, and update the text for the teacher's manual as well as the various forms to be used in the portfolio. She was able to use portions of the prototype with students at Kentucky School for the Blind during the school's Low Vision Clinic. During this process, she identified areas of needed revision.

In FY 2014, work was again delayed due to illness of the consultant and that of her husband. The project leader and the consultant met throughout the year as the consultant's health permitted. Ethridge continued to write, revise, and update the text for the teacher's materials.

Work during FY 2015

Cathy Johnson, retired Outreach Director from Kentucky School for the Blind, agreed to assist in the development and completion of the project. Johnson, Ethridge, and the project leader met regularly throughout the year for writing sessions. The group was able to finalize the first two sections of the teacher's manual.

Work planned for FY 2016

The writing team will continue to meet on a regular basis to complete the remaining sections of the teacher's manual.

SENSORY EFFICIENCY SKILLS

Calendar Box Stabilizer

(Continued)

Purpose

To create a lightweight, flat surface that allows teachers to present daily activities (i.e., calendar boxes) to students who have visual and multiple impairments more easily; often using only one hand so the other hand is available to assist the student

Three white Expandable Calendar Boxes sit on a prototype of a white Calendar Box Stabilizer.

Project Staff

Production Description

The Calendar Box Stabilizer is a lightweight, hard, and flat surface used to secure a row of calendar boxes.

Background

While filming in an active learning classroom (for another project), the project leader observed the special education teacher presenting the APH Expandable Calendar Boxes to her students. The four boxes were always mounted on a piece of cardboard torn from a large box. The project leader observed how easily the teacher presented the calendar boxes to the student, and used one hand to push his wheelchair while the other hand continued to hold the calendar boxes as they traveled to the activity location. Once they arrived at the activity location, she presented the calendar boxes again before the start of the activity. The piece of cardboard stabilized the four calendar boxes and allowed the teacher free mobility without the worry of items falling out of the boxes.

A teacher presents a row of calendar boxes to a student in a wheelchair. The boxes are mounted on a cardboard tray with a strip of hook and loop.

Relevance

There is evidence that APH made the decision to produce this product based on a standardized process of product selection. The product idea was submitted from the field to APH on September 12, 2013. It was given to the project leader, who completed the product submission review form on October 31, 2013. On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high), the product idea received a rating of 4 on product need, originality, appropriateness for target audience, and importance or priority in comparison to planned or current projects. The Product Evaluation Team reviewed the product submission on November 18, 2013, and passed it unanimously by voting members in attendance. On January 9, 2014, the Product Advisory and Review Committee made the final recommendation that APH begin research to manufacture and sell the product. The product was assigned the grant number 543.

This product is fully accessible to the population using it. The Calendar Box Stabilizer is an educational aid designed to assist in making other items/products accessible to individuals with visual and multiple impairments. The functionality of the product provides stability for a student, with erratic and sometimes heavy movements of the arms, to access his or her daily calendar. It provides stability for the teacher and student simultaneously, providing a safer transition from one activity to another.

This product follows APH guidelines for determining relevance of a product. The use of calendar boxes is recognized by professionals working in the field of visual impairment, blindness, and deafblindness. Based on the methodologies developed by Dr. Jan van Dijk, the use of calendars has been adopted by professionals working with students with severe multiple disabilities. Van Dijk teaches that a learning partner must act in response to the child's actions: Let the child determine the next steps in the intervention. More students with visual and multiple impairments are enrolled in traditional schools attending inclusion classes or active learning classes. Child/Person-centered learning is prevalent and considered best practice in schools, day programs, and residential settings for children and adults with multiple disabilities. The stabilizer makes holding and transporting the connected boxes easier for the learning partner. This in turn, provides the student with much needed extra time for cognitive processing and delayed movement, and opportunity to have some control over his or her environment and daily activities.

There is evidence of an examination of the need for this product. The teacher who submitted the product idea stated that her homemade stabilizer has been highly successful in her classroom. She likes the ability to modify the number of boxes, dependent on the individual's need. The APH product leader visited her classroom and witnessed the teacher using her cardboard stabilizer with her students. Without the stabilizer, the presentation of calendar systems would be much more difficult. As stated earlier, the stabilizer benefits the learning partner by making his or her job easier, and benefits the student by making activities less stressful and more accessible.

There is evidence that APH sought opinions of knowledgeable individuals to determine the need for this product. This product was submitted by a special education teacher who works with students in an active learning classroom. At the time of her product idea submission, she had three students who have a visual impairment in her classroom. The school's vision consultant, with whom APH often works, embraced the simple platform because it made it easier for learning partners to bring object cues to students who have mobility impairments. When APH sought field test locations for the product, two teachers e-mailed that stabilization was an issue for them.

"Yes, he is in a wheelchair and has CVI. He uses the expandable calendar boxes and the teacher rigged up a system with a dowel and clips to hold the boxes together to go on and off his tray. So I'm interested to see this new system!" – Washington

"Very exciting! This issue has made it too difficult to use the boxes!" – Maryland

Three black Expandable Calendar Boxes sit on a prototype of a black Calendar Box Stabilizer.

This product addresses an identified need for a person who meets the definition of "vision impaired." As shown in the photo, the stabilizer, available in black and white, blends in with the corresponding black and white calendar boxes to limit visual complexity and allow for the contrasting object within the boxes to hold a student's attention. Teachers use this strategy for students with CVI, low vision, and processing disorders.

Research

Data were gathered using an appropriate method. APH used two evaluation forms designed in SurveyMonkey® to collect data. Each evaluator completed one product evaluation form, which requested demographic information on the evaluator. Evaluators completed one student form on each student with whom they used the Calendar Box Stabilizer.

There is evidence that research data are considered as part of decision-making in product completion. Per the field test results, the white Gator Board has the advantage of being lighter weight and easier for the teachers to use, but it needs better reinforcement—than what was used in field testing—on the corners. The addition of hook-and-loop material on the stabilizer provided an advantage for teachers and students, so it will be included in the product.

The following APH Research Guidelines were met:

The research methods used collected sufficient information. Reviewers and their students used two different prototypes for comparison. The white gator board stabilizer ranked higher in weight and length (both prototypes were the same length), and the black ABS stabilizer ranked higher in durability and ability to clean. See Table 1.a White Gator Board and Table 1.b. Black ABS.

Table 1.a White Gator Board

Low Somewhat low Medium Somewhat high High Total Weighted average
Weight 0.00%
0
0.00%
0
0.00%
0
0.00%
0
100%
7
7 5.00
Length 14.29%
1
0.00%
0
14.29%
1
28.57%
2
42.86%
3
7 3.86
Durability 0.00%
0
0.00%
0
28.57%
2
42.86%
3
28.57%
2
7 4.00
Ability to clean 0.00%
0
0.00%
0
28.57%
2
42.86%
3
28.57%
2
7 4.00

Table 1.b Black ABS

Low Somewhat low Medium Somewhat high High Total Weighted average
Weight 42.86%
3
14.29%
1
0.00%
0
14.29%
1
28.57%
2
7 2.71
Length 14.29%
1
0.00%
0
28.57%
2
14.29%
1
42.86%
3
7 3.71
Durability 0.00%
0
0.00%
0
0.00%
0
42.86%
3
57.14%
4
7 4.57
Ability to clean 0.00%
0
0.00%
0
14.29%
1
14.29%
1
71.43%
5
7 4.57

Reviewers were asked to rate (1=poorly and 5=excellently) how their student responded when using their calendar boxes on each of the two stabilizers.

Seven (70%) of the students use black APH Expandable Calendar Boxes, and three (30%) use white.

Three (30%) students used two boxes connected together, three (30%) used three boxes connected together, and four (40%) used four boxes connected together. The students already had and were using APH Expandable Calendar Boxes, which was a prerequisite to field test participation.

Data were gathered from a geographically diverse U.S. population. There were seven field test site locations in six states: Florida, Maryland, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. The field test sites included two elementary schools, two middle schools, and three special education schools/centers.

Data were gathered from appropriately qualified individuals. Three (42%) of the reviewers are teachers of students with visual impairments, and three (42%) are special education teachers. One (14%) has dual certification (vision and special education). One (14%) reviewer has taught students with visual impairments 5 or fewer years, three (43%) have taught the population between 6-10 years, one (14%) between 11-15 years, and two (29%) have taught for 21 or more years. The same numbers are reflected in years teaching children with multiple disabilities, except two (29%) have taught said population for 6-10 years and three (43%) have taught for 21 or more years.

Data were gathered from an adequate number of sources. Seven teachers used the prototype stabilizers with 10 students. The majority (80%) of the students are male. Half (50%) the students are white, 30% black, 10% Hispanic, and 10% Asian (categories per U.S. Census Bureau). Three (30%) students were 5 years old, and the remaining 70% students aged from 7–16 years old. The majority (90%) of students who used APH Expandable Calendar Boxes with the Calendar Box Stabilizers are wheelchair users. Three (30%) students have limited arm reach, and half (50%) have limited ability to grasp items with fingers. Three (30%) students have low vision, one (10%) student has severe low vision, two (20%) have profound low vision, no students have near total blindness, two (20%) have total blindness, and two (20%) student's classification is unknown. All (100%) students have additional impairments. The reviewers listed the following: autism, severe speech impairment, deafblindness, developmental/cognitive delays, communication delays, physical delays, orthopedic impairment, genetic condition, CVI, cerebral palsy, and motor delays.

Data were gathered on student/consumer outcomes. Reviewers were asked to use the stabilizer without hook and loop material first and then to use it with the hook and loop material. All (100%) said using the hook and loop material made it easier for the student to access the symbol in each box. This allowed students with limited arm reach and finger grasp to obtain an object because the teacher or learning partner could tilt the row of boxes without them sliding. One teacher wrote the following:

This kept the boxes from sliding on the surface of the stabilizer and was essential to keeping the student able to use the system. Without it, everything landed on the floor.

Reviewers were asked to rate (1=not smoothly and 5= extremely smoothly) how smoothly their students transitioned to and from routines without (prior) using the stabilizer and with (after) using the stabilizer. Without using a stabilizer, teachers identified no students as transitioning very smoothly and one student as transitioning extremely smoothly. When using a stabilizer, teachers identified three students as transitioning very smoothly and one student transitioning extremely smoothly. See Table 2. Transitioning without and with a stabilizer.

See Table 2. Transitioning without and with a stabilizer.

Low Somewhat low Medium Somewhat high High Total Weighted average
without using a stabilizer 20.00%
2
30.00%
3
40.00%
4
0.00%
0
10.00%
1
10 2.50
when using a stabilizer 11.11%
1
22.22%
2
22.22%
2
33.33%
3
11.11%
1
9 3.11

Teacher comments:

It makes it easier for the person helping the student, which translates to smoother transitions for the student herself.

We already use a stabilizer that my aids [sic] and I constructed at the beginning of the school year from a length of heavy cardboard because it is needful to have that support for 3 of [sic] more boxes. I think adding a product that addresses the issue is a great idea.

Work planned for FY 2016

The final design and materials will be chosen, and documentation written. The product will become available for sale.

Let's talk Limbic

(Completed)

Purpose

To provide an interactive tool helping professionals assess needs, and plan and manage interventions. Video examples model interventions, educating professionals to better serve individuals who have visual and multiple impairments.

Project Staff

Product Description

Let's talk Limbic is a training DVD for professional (supervising) teachers, program coordinators, psychologists, and paraprofessionals who want to understand the deep emotional motives of a person with multiple sensory impairment.

Background

APH is the contracted distributor in the United States of a series of CDs and DVDs created by Jan van Dijk, Ph.D. He submitted a new interactive DVD for APH review. Let's talk Limbic: The role of the emotional brain and the well-being of persons with multiple sensory impairment is currently for sale in the Netherlands. APH would like to make the DVD accessible to persons with visual impairments before making it available for sale in the United States.

In FY 2014, the Multiple Disabilities Project Leader and the research assistant reviewed the DVD and marked up editorial changes for the APH customer base. Dr. van Dijk sent the raw files to APH so additional editing and accessibility features could be added.

This project was transferred to the CVI Project Leader in 2014.

Work during FY 2015

The CVI Project Leader worked with an outside design firm to convert the DVD to up-to-date software and to add accessibility features. The transfer of material from the original Authorware software was labor and cost prohibitive, so the decision was made to reproduce the DVD in its original format for distribution. For future projects, Dr. van Dijk and his team will use Adobe® Captivate® 8, which will fulfill future accessibility issues. Let's talk Limbic is scheduled to be released for sale in September 2015.

Work planned for FY 2016

No further work on this product is anticipated by the project leader.

SLK: Sensory Learning Kit (Revision)

(Continued)

Purpose

To update this successful product using feedback from the field and to add a video component to match its sister product, SAM: Symbols and Meaning

Project Staff

Production Description

The Sensory Learning Kit (SLK) is the first of three sequential products that APH offers as an intervention continuum—Sensory Learning Kit, SAM: Symbols and Meaning, and Tactile Connections: Symbols for Communication. The SLK contains two books, three switches, one power control unit, and a variety of manipulatives.

Background

The SLK has been on the market since 2005. During that time, APH has co-hosted numerous training events across the country. Based on input from the field, we have learned additional information, resources, and educational aids that teachers and parents would like to have in the kit. Through field testing SAM, the second product of the continuum, we learned how valuable videos are to the user. We decided to incorporate videos into the revision of the SLK.

In FY 2013, Millie Smith continued to write the guidebook. Sherry Pollan arranged for model release forms and coordinated with teachers in Frisco, TX, so they were ready when Smith and the project leader came in February, April, and May to take photos and direct the filming of five students in three active learning classrooms as they progressed through the Attention, Exploration, and Function zones of the new SLK. In 2014, filming took place at the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The project remained on hold for the rest of the year because other projects had timeline precedence.

Work during FY 2015

Filming took place in Coppell, TX, in February, March, April, and May to establish a baseline on four students and to then follow them as they progressed through the SLK levels. The project leader and Smith reviewed the videos from Frisco, TX; New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; and Coppell, TX, to decide what is usable for the project.

Work planned for FY 2016

Millie Smith will continue to write the revised Routines Book. Editing will continue on both manuscripts.

Cortical Visual Impairment

Color Speedway

(New)

Purpose

To provide a recreational game developed for players with low vision, including those diagnosed with CVI, who demonstrate color vision and emerging matching skills. It will target the key characteristics of movement, complexity, and color by engaging players to use their vision while participating in a fun, social activity.

Project Staff

Product Description

Color Speedway is designed to utilize the CVI characteristics of color, movement, and low-to-high complexity, to encourage players to use their vision in a functional and fun way. Up to 4 players compete by "racing" their cars around the speedway. Players take turns activating the spinner that is color coded with reflective green, yellow, and red. Each player will match the chosen spinner color to the appropriate color card from his set of playing cards, and move his race car: 2 spaces for "go fast" green, 1 space for "go slow" yellow, or 0 spaces for "stop" red.

Background

From 2009–2011, a group of professionals from the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children (WPSBC) participated in a 2-year CVI Mentor training program. As an outcome of their training, professionals developed CVI recreational games and activities. The games are being developed by APH one at a time. Match Sticks was the first game completed and released in 2014. Color Speedway is the next game in development. Beth Ramella, Outreach Director/CVI Project Leader at WPSBC, is the consultant for these products.

Work during FY 2015

Writing began on the guidebook, which will outline the rules for Color Speedway. Individualization for the different levels of CVI will be addressed. The gameboard has been designed in order to accommodate standard size toy cars that will move around the "track." The design drawing was approved by the project leader and is moving forward to prototype creation. The prototype 3-color spinner was completed in the Model Shop.

Work planned for FY 2016

APH production of Color Speedway gameboard prototypes will take place in 2016. Ten sets of gameboards, color spinners, and an accompanying guidebook will be sent out for field testing by TVIs and their students over a wide U.S. geographic distribution.

Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) Projects and Needs

(Ongoing)

Purpose

To assess needs and manage product development to better serve individuals with CVI

Project Staff

Background

In July 2014, APH hired a full-time CVI Project Leader, Susan Sullivan.

Work during FY 2015

In addition to working on product development, the CVI Project Leader responded to customer service calls and e-mails to support professionals working with children diagnosed with CVI through product recommendations.

APH's CVI Web site was completely revamped through updates of medical information, current APH products appropriate for this population, parent information, assessments, strategies for expanded core curriculum, orientation and mobility, teaming, literacy, and play, as well as resource links to research articles, books, websites, webinars, tablet apps, social media support groups, and project sharing sites.

The project leader presented a CVI APH Product Showcase to future teachers for the visually impaired (TVIs) visiting APH from Vanderbilt University and Western Michigan University (March); via webcast to TVIs assembled at Illinois State University (April); to Jefferson County Public Schools TVIs (April); to Kentucky School for the Blind's Outreach Staff (May); to parents raising young children with CVI at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI) Opening Doors Camp (June); and to Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS) teachers, First Steps providers, and preschool consultants staff of First Steps (August).

Other presentations included "CVI: What works and what's new" at KAER pre-conference, and ISVI Opening Doors.

The project leader attended Illinois AER (February), Kentucky AER (March), and the American Conference on Pediatric Cortical Visual Impairment (June).

Work planned for FY 2016

The CVI Project Leader will continue to work on products recommended by surveys and submissions from the field, and on existing APH products that need to be updated to meet current APH and educational standards.

CVI Assessment Kit

(Discontinued)

Purpose

To provide educators with materials that will facilitate functional vision assessment of students with CVI. It will include a text that can be used for background information and instructions/procedures for conducting the CVI Range (Roman, 2001, 2005). Materials in the kit will be aimed at assessment of students who have severe (Phase I), moderate (Phase II), or mild (Phase III) CVI.

Project Staff