American Printing House For The Blind

Research & Development Activities

Fiscal Year 2014


Our mission is to promote the independence of blind and visually impaired persons by providing specialized materials, products, and services needed for education and life.

Letter from Director of Research

October 15, 2014

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

In the early years of his tenure as APH President, Tuck Tinsley III sent a memo to the head of the APH Research Department. The memo was dated May 20, 1994, a little over 20 years ago. Dr. Tinsley was preparing a response to questions asked by the U.S. Congress, and specifically the House Appropriations. His first question was, “How many continuing and new research projects will be funded in Fiscal Year (FY) 1994?”

The reply from the APH Research Department was, “Itemized here are four new projects, 12 continuing projects, and one ongoing project...” This was a total of 17 projects for fiscal year 1994.

If Dr. Tinsley were to receive the same request from Congress today, the answer would be very different. That number has grown to over 250 projects during FY 2014. During this year, APH actually completed three times as many products as all of the products under development in 1994.

In the past 20 years, with Dr. Tinsley’s leadership, the guidance and patience of Bob Brasher, Vice President of Advisory Services and Research, the dedication and hard work of other APH executives, staff, and consultants, and the support of all of those who make up the field of blindness, products for our students have flowed from the American Printing House for the Blind. This was accomplished by focusing on our mission of providing products to those we serve. Dr. Tinsley continues to remind us that our job is to provide products in order to meet the needs of the students, even if just one student has but one need.

APH proudly presents this FY 2014 Annual Research Report on the development of APH products. We believe, based on your comments and guidance, APH will continue to address the needs of those students you serve.


Ralph Bartley, Ph.D.

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 2014

Chair– Paula L. Mauro (OH)

Collette C. Bauman (MI)

Stephanie Bissonette (VT)

Madeleine Burkindine (KS)

Eric Guillory (LA)

Craig Meador (WA)

Dorinda Rife (MA)

Alternate – Yvonne Ali (MO)

Educational Services Advisory Committee – FY 2014

Chair– James Olson (CO)

Karen Duffy (NE)

James R. Durst (IN)

Christine Hinton (NJ)

Karen S. Ross (MA)

Alternate – Sally Giittinger (NE)


Educational Research

Agencies Participating in Research (116)

Consultants (106)

Field Evaluators / Expert Reviewer (191)

Color-by-Texture Marking Mats


FV/LMA Electronic

Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen

Math Robot

Math Graphing Kit

NewT: New Tools for Use with FV/LMA

O&M for Wheelchair Users

Protein Synthesis Kit

Tactile Book Builder

Tactile Clothing Tape

Tactile Graphic Line Slate

Tactile World Globe

The Joy Player

Vinyl for Thermoforming



Deborah H. Willis


Accessible Tests Department Staff

Accessible Tests Department

Formerly Test Central


In response to recommendations by APH’s Advisory Committees and members of the Second Test Central Council, the charge of the Accessible Tests Department was expanded in August 2003. The updated goal is to provide tests, practice tests, test administration manuals, and other test-related materials in high quality accessible media in a timely manner, to promote the inclusion of visual impairment professionals as well as individuals with visual impairments during test development, and to enhance the test performance of blind and visually impaired individuals through research, education, and communication.


During a brainstorming session about important projects to pursue, an initiative to develop a central location dedicated to developing standardized guidelines, processes, and procedures related to test adaptation and production of tests in alternative media was proposed. This initiative was presented to the U.S. Department of Education. In February 2001, APH received confirmation from the Department of Education that Test Central was awarded startup funding for FY 2001. At a meeting with APH Advisory Committees, members of the two committees commended APH for conceptualizing Test Central, recognized the leadership role APH could play with regard to tests and assessments, and strongly encouraged continued efforts in this area.

An in-house Core Team was formed, and Test Central’s five tracks were identified:

  1. Education and relationship building
  2. Test adaptation
  3. Adaptation and development of test-related tools and materials
  4. Identification and development of new tests
  5. Research into test-related issues

Recommendations of the Council included

On August 22, 2002, the initiative called “Test Central,” which started in the Education Research Department, became APH’s new Accessible Tests Department. The department’s charge was expanded in FY 2003 due to recommendations received by council members during a meeting in February 2003 and APH Advisory Committees that met in Spring 2003.

In order to begin addressing the expanded charge of the Accessible Tests Department to provide practice tests and test-prep materials in accessible media, a short online survey was posted on the APH Web site. The survey, Let’s Get Ready for Testing, asked trustees and vision teachers which practice materials and test prep materials they used and what materials were needed. Results showed overwhelmingly that test prep materials for use by students who are blind or visually impaired was a very high priority need and that each state used different materials to help prepare their students to take state assessments. Based on the results of this survey, generic test preparation materials were selected for adaptation into accessible media. (See TEST READY® report.)

Two new position papers on Use of Extended Time and Use of Testing Accommodations were drafted. Test Access: Making Tests Accessible for Visually Impaired Students, Second Edition, the second publication in the Test Access series, was finalized and presented at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Conference, June 20-23, 2004, in Boston, MA. It was also used as a teaching tool with participants of the Accessible Tests Department’s first two training workshops, “Making Tests Accessible for Students with Visual Impairments.”

Contract work for various states continued at a steady pace, with Kristopher Scott and Monica Coffey editing and facilitating production of over 60 individual test titles in braille and recorded formats. Consultation work by Accessible Tests staff included advising Measured Progress™, a test publisher, and the Michigan State Department of Education, on development of accessible versions of their alternate assessments.

The department collaborated on research efforts by several university groups: Jane Erin of the University of Arizona on Effects of Test Medium, the ABC Braille Study by Anne Corn at Vanderbilt, et al., Gaylen Kapperman at Northern Illinois University on Results of Math Items for Visually Impaired Students, and the National Center on Educational Outcomes at the University of Minnesota, which sought and were awarded additional funding for their study to examine the Use of Multiple Modalities for the Achievement of Literacy Standards by Students with Disabilities.

An in-service on guidelines for tactile graphics design was presented in June 2004. Accessible tests staff, graphic artists, transcribers, and proofreaders from the braille department participated in this event. Karen Poppe and Fred Otto, Tactile Graphics Project Leaders, led a group analysis of sample test items toward improving our presentation of tactile graphics.

In April 2004, the Accessible Tests Department was fortunate to gain Dena Garrett’s valuable braille expertise on a part-time basis. Garrett, an Accessible Media Editor in the Accessible Textbooks Department, is a veteran braille transcriber who has worked on state, local, and commercial tests for 10 years. She also served on the Braille Authority of North America’s (BANA) Braille Formats Technical Committee.

A third Accessible Tests Workshop was presented in the last quarter of FY 2004. This “Workshop for State Assessment Personnel: Making Tests Accessible to Students with Visual Impairments” was held at APH in September. It was attended by representatives from 11 state Departments of Education, a braille transcribing group, one university professor, one research organization, and two test publishers. Workshop evaluations indicated a very high level of satisfaction.

Key endeavors in FY 2005 included promoting education of issues regarding making test items truly accessible, contributing to universal design elements, networking and building important relationships, reviewing and editing tests, promoting research, participating in collaborative efforts, serving on relevant committees, and continuing professional development of Accessible Tests staff.

While three Accessible Tests Workshops were envisioned for FY 2005, resources which enabled a fourth workshop were available and utilized. The first was a special 1-day event sponsored by Educational Testing Service (ETS®) in Princeton, NJ, on November 9, 2004. ETS® staff learned general information about challenges in assessing persons who are blind or visually impaired. Carol Allman and Barbara Henderson facilitated this session. The second workshop was coordinated with CTEVH in San Francisco, CA, in March 2005. The 1-day workshop targeted Department of Education staff, teachers, test developers, and publishers. A third was held at Harcourt for their assessment staff in San Antonio, TX. Finally, a fourth workshop was presented as a pre-conference session in conjunction with the CCSSO Large Scale Assessment Conference in San Antonio, TX, in June. This event was of particular interest to test publishers and Department of Education personnel and assessment staff planning to attend the CCSSO Conference.

Members of the Accessible Tests Department participated on Item Bias Review Committees at the requests of WestEd® and CTB McGraw-Hill in order to assist and collaborate with them to create unbiased, accessible test items on state assessments under development. The main factors considered were bias and sensitivity. Potential test items were rejected based on three primary elements: “opportunity and access,” “portrayal of groups represented,” and “protecting privacy and avoiding offensive content.” Through the process of bias and sensitivity reviews, test validity is enhanced, fairness of test items for all students is increased, and educational initiatives are supported. It is essential that professionals in visual impairment participate on such committees during the development phase of high-stakes tests.

The National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) 3-year grant to develop “best practices” for audio description of higher level science and mathematics material. Beginning in FY 2005, Accessible Tests staff and APH Studio staff served as advisors alongside staff from American Foundation for the Blind® (AFB) and Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) in this collaborative research effort. The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) secured additional funding for their study called An Examination of the Use of Multiple Modalities for the Achievement of Literacy Standards by Students with Disabilities. Accessible Tests staff collaborated on phase two of this study.

A wide variety of state assessments and commercially-available tests were edited and produced in accessible media on a contract basis during FY 2005. These included approximately 265 unique state assessments provided in some combination of braille, tactile graphics, enlarged print, and audio formats. Accompanying test administration notes were provided in accessible media when specified in the contract. Items such as braille paper, rulers, bold line writing paper, and protractors were included with tests as per specific contractual agreements. State assessments were for grades 3 through high school and covered some or all of the following areas: math, language arts, reading, science, and social studies. One state contacted Accessible Tests for assistance to put their released items into braille and audio formats. These items were used as practice tests prior to the spring and fall 2005 testing seasons. All requested copies were delivered on time.

The second book in the Test Access series by Accessible Tests was printed and unveiled at the Accessible Tests Workshop at APH in September 2004 and at Annual Meeting 2004. Test Access: Making Tests Accessible for Visually Impaired Students, Second Edition, was made available on the APH Web site and used for training purposes during workshops and conferences.

The spring 2005 edition of EnVision was dedicated to assessment of students with visual impairments. Accessible Tests staff, Allman, and Henderson contributed featured articles to this edition of EnVision, an online publication for parents and educators of children with impaired vision. In addition, Jane Erin of the University of Arizona contributed an article on research in collaboration with APH on the effects of media on test performance. The spring 2005 edition of EnVision is available online (

At the request of Chairperson Jean Martin, Henderson and Debbie Willis joined the state vision consultants’ related meeting held during the 2004 Annual Meeting. Information on what states are doing to include visually impaired students in state assessments and specific considerations for making tests accessible were presented and discussed. Mary Ann Siller, Director of the National Education Program with AFB, disseminated copies of the 2004 Jo Taylor Leadership Institute (JTLI) Education Summary. Participants were interested in the summary article on Work Group Report: High-Stakes Assessments and Alternate Assessments. Next steps included a phone conference with AFB, APH, and Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) staff to determine key test-related issues that need to be addressed.

To build assessment initiatives for schools, AFB, APH, and TSBVI collaborated to create three articles with checklists. These were developed in response to the top assessment priorities identified during the 2004 JTLI. They are Model Accommodations and Procedures: A Guide for Parents; Guidelines to Support the Contract Development Process between Test Publishers and States; and Checklist for Administration of Tests to Students with Visual Impairments. The checklists provide concrete steps that can be readily used in programs to build accountability through assessments. These documents were used as the basis for presentations to attendees at the 2005 JTLI. Final articles with checklists can be viewed and downloaded from the AFB Web site:

Henderson worked with Consultant Lynne Jaffe, a learning disabilities specialist, to create a presentation on Woodcock-Johnson® (WJ) III Tests of Achievement in Braille. Jaffe provided this presentation at the Arizona Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired Conference held in Prescott in October 2004. Allman presented Accommodations to Help Maximize Test Performance of Students with Visual Impairments at the National Family Conference. The audience included parents, students, educators, and psychologists. While Allman was in Louisville for this conference, members of Accessible Tests took the opportunity to discuss some department plans for FY 2006.

More test publishers started to provide test items in color. Test publishers, test administrators, and educators asked questions and sought expertise regarding access to these items by low vision and/or colorblind individuals. Accessible Tests staff attended a training session offered by Elaine Kitchel, Low Vision Project Leader, on editing test items presented in color for individuals with color blindness.

Henderson attended the first annual Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Summer Institute sponsored by the Kentucky Department of Education. The main guest speaker was David Rose of CAST, Inc. and Harvard University. Rose, who is co-author of Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age, spoke on the topic of The Future of UDL in Education. Six model UDL schools reported on how they used grant-funded activities to integrate UDL into their school’s curricula and testing. Henderson also furnished updated information on APH tests and test-related materials for the winter 2005 revision of Assessment Compendium: Instruments for Assessing the Skills and Interests of Individuals with Visual Impairments by Lighthouse International®.

In FY 2006, the goal of Accessible Tests as it relates to the APH mission continued to be addressed. To further the education of test developers, publishers, and assessment personnel, as well as our own education and professional development, members of Accessible Tests continued to provide presentations and workshops; participate in various collaborative efforts and meetings; serve as focus group, task force, and committee members; and attend relevant classes, workshops, and events. Additional handouts, documents, and surveys were authored and disseminated. More information, resources, and related links were added to the Accessible Tests Web page, and discussion regarding development of some “Test” webcasts and APH’s first Test and Assessment catalog got underway.

Allman provided an “On the Road” workshop at the New York AER and an in-service to the New York Department of Education and state assessment staff on testing students who are blind or visually impaired. Surveys and networking with the field and with our customers continued as a means to determine customer satisfaction and specific needs for products, services, and information. Test-related contract work to review and edit state assessment and alternate assessment items, and prepare test notes for administering the alternate media editions, was accomplished throughout FY 2006.

Early in FY 2006, staff from Accessible Textbooks Initiative & Collaboration (ATIC) and the Accessible Tests Department moved into a renovated area of APH. Discussions on effectively working together to provide instructional and test materials in high quality, accessible media in a timely manner ensued. Some ATIC staff was shared on a part-time basis with Accessible Tests and provided project support. Guidelines and ways to provide more consistent presentation of instruction and test materials were explored. Garrett, Accessible Media Editor for ATIC, provided copies of test guidelines developed through Accessible Tests to each member of BANA’s committee that is reworking Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription 1997. Since transcribers across the country adhere to BANA guidelines, Garrett and Accessible Tests staff worked with BANA committee members to adopt test guidelines so that future test materials are formatted and transcribed in a more consistent manner.

To provide education, information, training, and resources on making test items accessible in various media for test-takers who are blind or visually impaired, Accessible Tests staff, along with Education Research staff and a guest speaker from the National Alternate Assessment Center (NAAC) at the University of Kentucky, provided four major workshops during FY 2006: two at APH and two on-the-road in connection with other scheduled conferences. During these workshops, over 100 professionals and students from across the country received training, information, and resources; some of these individuals returned to their school systems or companies and provided training to colleagues. Numerous state Departments of Education personnel from across the country participated in the FY 2006 workshops. Test publishers attending these workshops included representatives from ACT®, Data Recognition Corporation, ETS®, Pearson Assessments, Measured Progress™, and ThinkLink Learning. Some major agencies represented included Association of Test Publishers, ATECH Services, and Design Science, Inc.

More information and features were added to the Accessible Tests Web page in the third quarter of FY 2006. Items added include How to Contact Test Publishers and Hot Links. Hot Links include a link to APH’s Louis Database as well as the Accessible Media Producers (AMP) Database, and the National Agenda Web site. To add educational value, awareness of accommodations, and interest, a photo montage of children taking tests using various accommodations and in various accessible media was added to the main page. Finally, easier navigation and updated links are features of the new and improved page. Development of a Test and Assessment catalog was initiated; it was made available in the third quarter of FY 2007. Results of assessment survey, “2007: New Directions,” were posted in the second quarter.

Accessible Tests continued a collaborative effort begun in 2005 with NCAM, AFB, and RFB&D staff to research most promising practices in narration of math and science content for Digital Talking Books and materials. Staff helped to identify Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) professionals and students to participate in a survey.

In FY 2006, approximately 345 unique tests and assessments, answer documents, and test-related reference sheets were reviewed, edited, and produced in accessible media. This represents a 30% increase over a 1-year period in the number of unique test materials produced on a contract basis. These tests were requested by various test publishers and state Departments of Education: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Though varying in content, these tests generally assessed mathematics, science, social science, reading, and writing. Accessible Tests staff also edited and produced the Ballard & Tighe IDEA English Language Proficiency tests, which are used by several states for all grades in both contracted and uncontracted braille. Of the tests prepared, seven forms were alternate assessments reviewed and edited for West Virginia, and 12 forms were alternate assessments for Michigan. Test administration notes were written and provided, as requested, for about 80% of these tests. Additional city and state assessments and alternate assessments continued to be reviewed and edited by the Accessible Tests editors, and/or produced at APH in accessible media, as requested and as resources were available to provide high quality tests in accessible media and timely delivery of test materials.

For two or three decades, there has been discussion and debate about the benefit of intelligence or cognitive tests administered to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. In the spring of 2007, members of the Advisory Committee recommended that Accessible Tests staff consider the following question: Are the results of an intelligence or cognitive test meaningful to individuals with visual impairments, and useful to their instructors, families, and decision makers? An Intelligence Testing Committee made up of APH staff and field experts had been formed in January 2007, so APH was prepared to examine and respond to this concern. Intelligence Testing Committee members include the following:

During the initial meeting of the IQ Test Group, committee members determined that the priority was to develop and disseminate “key points” in a position paper regarding intelligence testing of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. After careful consideration, the following position statement was drafted, “If appropriate guidelines are followed, cognitive or intelligence testing of individuals who are blind or VI will provide useful and valuable information to test-takers, their families, instructors, and other decision makers.” Nine key points and guidelines were initially formulated. These were presented as a panel session at the 2008 International AER in Chicago. Feedback received from the audience who attended the panel presentation on intelligence testing of individuals with visual impairments was positive. Additional presentations at the 2008 International AER Conference included “The Journey of a Test: How it Becomes Accessible to Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired” by Test Editor Kerry Isham, “Striped Lands and Dotted Seas: Editing Tactile Graphics” by Test Editor Michael Sell.

Accessible Tests staff met with Garrett in order to develop a list of test rules or guidelines, along with examples, of items not covered by current BANA code. Department staff also met with Diane Spence at APH to discuss the list of test guidelines and the need for BANA transcription rules/guidelines. BANA formed a Test Committee to develop rules/guidelines for transcribing high stakes tests; members include APH Accessible Media Editor and certified braille transcriptionist Garrett and Allman. Their first meeting was held via teleconference in August 2008; a timeline of approximately two years to undertake and complete this work was discussed. Teleconferences continued throughout FY 2009, and a face-to-face meeting was planned for summer 2009.

At the request of the test publisher, Henderson reviewed KeyMath-3™ pre-publication test items for low vision and color deficient vision issues. Henderson and Low Vision Project Leader, Kitchel, provided reviews on the pre-publication test items. These reviews were used by the test publisher’s project staff to finalize test items in the new KeyMath-3™. Accessible Tests staff also pursued permission from the test publisher to make a braille/tactile version of KeyMath-3™ available. This and other catalog items under development by the department’s Test and Assessment Project Leader are in various phases. See the “Tests and Assessments” section of this document for status reports on individual test-related projects that were either completed in FY 2012, underway, on hold awaiting test publisher’s permission to make accessible versions available, or under consideration as future projects.

In late winter 2008, Willis participated as a member of NCEO’s National Accessible Reading Assessment Projects (NARAP) Principles and Guidelines Committee. The purpose of the meeting, held in Washington, D.C., was to bring together a diverse panel of experts and stakeholders to provide project staff with feedback on the draft of the Principles and Guidelines, to provide advice on establishing levels of support for the Guidelines, and to help design a dissemination plan once the Principles and Guidelines are finalized. A group of APH staff was instrumental to prep Willis for this meeting, and for compiling significant edits, suggestions, and questions for the NARAP project staff to consider.

Presentations in FY 2008 included a poster session by Isham on “Test Accommodations for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired” presented at Annual Meeting. Henderson teamed with Linnie Lee of the KY Department of Education and Chloe Torres of Measured Progress™ to present a regular conference session at the Association of Test Publishers (ATP) Conference on Innovations in Testing. Their presentation on “Making Online Tests Accessible for Students with Visual Impairments” included video clips of students who are blind and some with low vision taking the KY online pilot test during spring 2008. Challenges and positive outcomes of the online testing experience were presented from three different viewpoints.

Professional development opportunities for members of Accessible Tests continued throughout FY 2008. Some staff was involved in a conference call on alternate assessments with staff from the NAAC at the University of KY. NAAC staff spoke on alignment methods and models, dealing with how academic performance and grade level are significant points of alignment and what sort of criteria are used for measurement. Sell and Isham were provided several opportunities during the school year to observe students in a variety of classes at the KY School for the Blind as well as observe students who are blind or visually impaired in classrooms in Jefferson County Public Schools. Sell successfully completed his lessons on literary braille, submitted his transcribed manuscript, and received his certification in literary braille transcription from the National Library Service.

Some additional activities this fiscal year included a review of Tests of Adult Basic Education for English Language Learners (TABE CLAS-E) for CTB/McGraw-Hill publishers. The object was to discover any biases toward English Language Learners who have visual impairments. Henderson and Willis worked with NCEO staff to review and provide feedback on Case Studies of English Language Learners (ELLs) with Visual Impairments. Scott participated as a member of KY’s Bias Review Committee. Isham reviewed hundreds of potential test items in the areas of mathematics, science, and reading for bias and access by students with visual impairments. Numerous phone conferences and some in-person meetings were held by APH staff, test publishers, state and local assessment staff, and accessible media producers. Henderson and Isham edited and reviewed the previous year’s West Virginia alternate assessment items and provided feedback to WV alternate assessment staff.

Accessible Tests sponsored its first webcast in FY 2008. Tactile Graphics Project Leaders provided a webcast on “Tactile Graphics: Touching on the Basics.” Eighty individuals/groups logged onto the webcast that was viewed by over 200 participants. Tactile graphics packets containing samples of released test items and a graphic produced in four different formats were shipped to webcast registrants prior to the live, interactive presentation. Additional packets were made available to about 20 people who viewed the archived tactile graphics presentation via the APH Web site.

Forty-six members of the CCSSO division on Assessment of Special Education Students (ASES) visited APH for an informative half-day workshop during their 2-day CCSSO ASES Meeting in Louisville. It was this group’s first time meeting in Louisville and first time visiting APH. Members of the CCSSO ASES Group toured the facilities and were offered presentations that included an overview of assessment issues, some braille basics, an explanation of the roles of the test editor, transcriber and proofreader, enhanced print as well as tactile graphics issues and guidelines. The workshop concluded with demonstrations of editing regular print test items for presentation in braille, tactile graphics, enhanced print, and audio formats. Some of the thoughtful questions and concerns expressed by ASES members included the readability of tactile graphics, what can be used when sighted students are using their graphing calculators, and use of color and grayscale for students with color blindness or low vision. Members left with numerous handouts and resources available to them, with some questions answered as well as some new ones.

In preparation for the August 2008 workshop, Allman, and members of Accessible Tests and Research staff reviewed, edited, and updated the second edition of Test Access: Making Tests Accessible for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, and produced the 3rd edition of this document. The new edition was disseminated to interested parties and made available on the Accessible Tests Department’s Web page.

The original selection of released sample test items from Illinois and Ohio that had been used for previous workshops was reviewed and edited, and prepared introductory information that had not been included in previous editions of the sample test items was prepared. The Ohio and Illinois sample test items were reproduced with permission as 2008 APH Sample Test Items in braille with tactile graphics, large print, and on audio CD. In addition, a second set of released sample test items used with permission from Florida, Maine, and Texas were selected and produced in the same media as the above mentioned original sample test items. The second set was produced as a Supplement: APH Sample Test Items ©2008. The supplement covers sample test items for math, science, and writing for grades 4-11.

These sample test items, along with the new 3rd edition of Test Access: Making Tests Accessible, were used for training purposes during the August 2008 workshop on Making Test Items Accessible for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired; 30 individuals representing test publishers, state Departments of Education, and various assessment personnel from across the country participated and received training during this workshop. Both sets of sample test items will be used for similar purposes at future workshops and presentations. This was the first workshop at APH to be audio-video recorded by APH staff, Maria Delgado and Sell.

FY 2008 was a productive year with regard to test-related contract work. Over 600 state and local assessments as well as some alternate assessments, commercially-available assessments, and related materials such as parent/teacher guides, manuals, reference sheets, and charts were produced and shipped. Tests were reviewed and edited for presentation in braille, tactile graphics, large print, enlarged print, and/or audio formats; some tests were produced in both contracted and uncontracted braille. Test Administration Notes were prepared for about 75% of these tests, according to customer specifications. The majority of work was undertaken by the test editors and various Production staff throughout APH. For a more detailed history and report of activities of Test Central and the Accessible Tests Department from FY 2001 through FY 2008, please see the specific Annual Report of Research and Development Activities for each fiscal year.

Activities and accomplishments in FY 2009 included the following: The large print edition of the BRIGANCE® Diagnostic Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills, Revised was completed and made available. The test publisher/copyright holder, upon receiving a copy, wrote: “[Copy] received today. And it looks GREAT. Congratulations on a superb job.” At our request, Allman drafted a set of guidelines for developing or adapting test items for students who are blind or visually impaired, and who are also severely cognitively impaired; part of these guidelines will address a growing segment of this population who are nonreaders. The 4th edition of Test Access was drafted. The new section on alternate assessments developed by Allman was incorporated into the recent edition of this document; copies were produced and the document was made available on the APH Web site.

Test and Assessment Project Leader, Henderson, continued to work with Dr. Virginia Posey, Sr. Research Scientist, CASAS, toward publication of an article about their research collaboration that involved a test in the “Life and Work” series that was transcribed into braille and field tested with 65 adults and teenagers who met the criteria.

Henderson and Isham consulted with Jared Wright and West Virginia on their alternate assessments; Wright visited APH for 2 days to work with Accessible Tests. Henderson consulted on South Carolina’s Alternate Assessments; she also consulted on Michigan’s and Utah’s computer-based testing development projects. In addition, she served as a member of a KY Bias Review Committee. This is the first time a member of Accessible Tests served on a Bias Review Committee for the development of alternate assessment items.

Students in the visual impairment program at Middle Tennessee University visited APH in June 2009; Accessible Tests presented an overview of test-related products and services available from APH. Students were given information about the Accessible Tests Department Web page, other online resources, and product information.

In response to Advisory Committee members’ and IQ Group members’ recommendations to help educate and become more involved with the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), Henderson and consultant Jaffe presented a session entitled, “Issues in Translating Tests into Braille: WJ III Tests of Achievement – Braille Adaptation,” at the 2009 NASP Conference held in Boston. While there, Henderson and Jaffe attended a meeting and banquet of the Board of Directors of the Woodcock-Muñoz Foundation. At the dinner, Henderson had the honor to meet Richard Woodcock and Kevin McGrew, two of the WJ III authors, as well as Dr. Fred Schrank, Director of the Woodcock-Muñoz Foundation (WMF). A letter of appreciation for the extensive and historic work accomplished by Woodcock, Schrank, and a number of WMF staff to develop/adapt various components of the WJ III ACH: Braille Adaptation was sent to the WMF Board of Trustees c/o Dr. Schrank.

Jaffe and Willis provided presentations at the 2009 Council for Exceptional Children Conference in Seattle, WA. Jaffe presented a conference session on issues in brailling standardized tests, and Willis presented a conference session on guidelines for assessing the intellectual/cognitive abilities of individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

For professional development, Willis was able to participate in a workshop on Training School Psychologists and Clinical Psychologists to Work with Children with Visual Impairments provided by Perkins Training Center and the Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Willis also had the opportunity to participate in the 2009 CCSSO Conference in Los Angeles. Major topics presented included common state standards to be developed and voluntarily adopted, a potential move toward increased computer-based testing, alternate assessments, English language learners, and a variety of research results that impact instruction, assessment, and accessibility.

Henderson met with Frank Ferguson, retired President of Curriculum Associates®, at the NASP convention. Their discussion involved updates on the BRIGANCE® products planned for fall 2009. In addition, Curriculum Associates® is the publisher of the TEST READY® Test Prep Series. (See the project report on BRIGANCE® Diagnostic Inventory of Early Development II: Large Print Edition and Tactile Edition.) While in Boston, Henderson hosted a luncheon meeting with Massachusetts Ex Officio Trustees. Topics of discussion were the Federal Quota Program, Assessment Needs, the NIMAC and APH file repository, and how to utilize the NIMAS files for students with visual impairments. Barbara was invited to visit the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, MA, which she did.

Henderosn’s participation as a panelist for the 3-year study on Best Practices in Narration of Digital Talking Books helped lead to publication of guidelines in FY 2009. Effective Practices for Description of Science Content within Digital Talking Books can be found online ( APH, NFB, RFB&D, and NCAM partnered to do the background research funded by a NSF grant. In FY 2010, APH was the site of a training workshop on use of these guidelines.

In FY 2008, the BANA developed a Test Committee that met via teleconference. Garrett continues to serve as APH’s representative on this committee. The committee charge from Judy Dixon is to review existing guidelines and develop new guidelines that can be used by BANA. Existing guidelines reviewed and considered include APH’s Guidelines for Making Tests Accessible. BANA members began to draft their document Guidelines for Production of Standardized Tests in Braille.

Accessible Tests staff reviewed parts of BANA’s drafted guidelines for designing and producing tactile graphics and provided feedback as requested. These documents will be an invaluable tool in setting up guidelines and standards and providing samples for tactile graphics designers across the country. The guidelines, standards, and samples will also assist with training new tactile graphics designers and can be used as a training tool to help other groups, such as test developers/publishers, understand design and readability concerns with regard to tactile graphics.

A workshop conducted at APH in August 2008 was recorded and edited by Delgado and Sell. The presentations, resources, and guidelines were made available in FY 2009 as an archive webcast on the APH Web site.

Allman provided a 2-day workshop on Test Access for Students with Visual Impairments, planned and coordinated by Willis for Questar Assessment, Inc.™ staff in Brewster, NY. Willis and Isham prepared 25 sets of training materials, which included the new 4th edition of Making Tests Accessible for Students with Visual Impairments; sets of sample test items in regular print, large print, braille with tactile graphics, and audio formats; the presentation; lists of resources; and more. Questar Assessment, Inc.™ staff expressed appreciation and a strong degree of satisfaction with the instruction and materials they received.

As a member of our IQ Test Group, Carol Evans presented a paper at the 2008 Utah AER on the guidelines developed by the group. In FY 2009, the 2008 International AER audience input as well as the 2008 Utah AER audience input was used to revise the next draft of the position paper, which included 10 guidelines at that time. As of July 2009, members of the IQ Test Group met a total of 22 times via teleconference at which point a final draft in need of expert field review was prepared. In FY 2010, the final paper was reviewed by six experts in the field. Their reviews were used to finalize the full-length position paper. Both the full-length paper as well as a short version are disseminated through various organizations and interested individuals. A version was submitted for publication, as well as being made available on the APH and other websites.

During the 2008 Annual Meeting, Isham provided a poster session on 150 Fun Facts. Sell participated in the National Braille Association Conference held in Lexington, KY, in late October to early November 2008 to reinforce his braille skills and knowledge, and to learn more about format issues and the Nemeth Code.

Willis assisted with an electronic blackboard course offered to the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment fellows on alternate assessments. She also worked with ETS® staff to develop a guidebook on making test items accessible for students who are blind or visually impaired; this guidebook is for internal use by ETS® staff. Debbie continues to participate as a member of the CTB McGraw-Hill team to develop their guidelines for making test items accessible to students with visual impairments. Team members ranked the impact of various factors on the accessibility of test items for students with visual impairments. The APH document Making Tests Accessible for Students with Visual Impairments: A Guide for Test Publishers, Test Developers, and State Assessment Personnel was ranked as the number one impact.

In FY 2009, Test Editors reviewed and edited 800+ state assessments, alternate assessments, commercially-available tests, local or district assessments, reference sheets, study guides, and manuals. Production, Contract Administration, and Accessible Tests staff worked to develop a test-tracking database to ensure all tests and related components are completed in a timely manner. Activities in FY 2009 included requesting permissions and holding teleconference discussions on making components of KeyMath-3™, KTEA-II, and Boehm-3 available in accessible media. A survey about types of answer documents needed for marking answer choices on classroom tests and standardized tests was developed, finalized, and posted on the APH Web site. Announcement of the survey for prospective participants was circulated on various electronic mailing lists as well as in the APH News. Data were received from 230 respondents. A report on the survey results was posted on the APH Web site during the first quarter of FY 2009. Design, development, and field testing of various tactile and large print answer documents were considered and discussed.

There were major staff changes in the Accessible Tests Department in FY 2010. Henderson transferred to the Education Research Department where she began to serve as the Test and Assessment Project Leader. This change was implemented so that the primary focus of Accessible Tests would be on contract work rather than development of test-related products to be included in the APH products catalog.

Additional changes included filling open positions in the department. A new Test Editor, Carolyn Zierer, joined Accessible Tests staff in late November 2009. Zierer has an M.A. in Elementary Education from Bellarmine College and attended Spalding University’s School Administration program. Her background and experience includes 27 years of experience and expertise in regular education as a teacher of students in grades 1-6 as well as having been a principal and assistant principal in the Archdiocese of Louisville, KY. Zierer began advancing her professional development by learning braille and working toward her NLS Literary Braille Certification. Mark Alexander joined Accessible Tests in June 2010 as the new Test Editor Trainee. Alexander has a B.A. in Foreign Languages and International Economics. Prior to joining Accessible Tests, Alexander was a transcriber in APH’s braille transcription area since 2007; he received his NLS Literary Braille Certification in March of 2008. Alexander began advancing his professional development by studying braille formats and is working towards certification in braille formats.

The WJ III Tests of Achievement: Braille Adaptation was made available early in FY 2010. Henderson worked closely with consultant Jaffe and members of the Woodcock-Muñoz Foundation to adapt the original WJ III Tests of Achievement for the assessment of individuals who read braille.

The first Workshop on Administering and Scoring the WJ III Tests of Achievement for Braille Readers was held in Phoenix, AZ, in December 2009. This event was offered via APH’s National Instructional Partnership (NIP) program in collaboration with Desert Valleys Regional Cooperative Education Center. The 22 attendees were from several states and included teachers of visually impaired students, school psychologists, rehabilitation counselors, and college professors. Janie Blome, Director of Advisory Services Department, and Henderson attended and facilitated the workshop; Lynne Jaffe was the instructor. Several additional NIP events on this product were conducted in FY 2010 via Blome with instruction provided by Jaffe.

Activities in FY 2010 included requesting permission and holding teleconferences to make components of KeyMath-3™, KTEA II, and Boehm-3 available in accessible media. In April 2010, Bryan Gould from NCAM provided an interactive workshop for 20 APH staff and Cindy Greer who attended as our guest from the Kentucky Department of Assessments and Accountability. The 20 APH staff in attendance represented Accessible Textbooks, Advisory Services, Research, Accessible Tests, the Studio, and NIMAC. Gould provided instruction on Effective Practices for Description of Science Content within Digital Talking Books and gave various examples of diagrams and illustrations to review and describe the graphics-based displays. Gould met with Research Department programmers for a demonstration and discussion of some of our new technology products that make printed text accessible to students who are blind and visually impaired. The NCAM 90-minute webinar on these new guidelines is available online ( During the day, Gould expressed interest in creating accessible DVDs; he was given a copy of APH’s DVD on Reclaiming Independence: Staying in the Driver’s Seat When You No Longer Drive that is totally accessible to individuals who are blind and visually impaired. NCAM was recently awarded a 5-year, $5 million grant to transform production of accessible images.

In July 2010, 28 people from within and outside of APH participated in a 2-day workshop on making test items accessible to students who are blind and visually impaired. Allman provided background information on day 1. On day 2, a variety of APH experts presented test-related issues and concerns in the areas of large print, tactile graphics, and computer-based/online testing. Various APH products were displayed, new electronic devices were demonstrated, and rich resources were provided to participants.

Willis served as a member of the National Accessible Reading Assessment Projects (NARAP) Principles Committee; this committee was composed of experts with broad knowledge about psychometrics, state testing, reading research, and disabilities. The principles and guidelines that resulted were published in October 2009 in a document titled Accessibility Principles for Reading Assessments. The document is available from These reading assessment projects were supported in part by the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, and the National Center for Special Education Research.

Some guidelines to indicate to braille readers the amount of space available for responses to open-ended questions were drafted. Garrett shared these with Spence who chairs the BANA Test Committee. These guidelines or an edited version of them will be included in the next (5th ed.) of Making Tests Accessible: Guidelines for Test Publishers and State Assessment Personnel and will be considered for inclusion in BANA’s Test Guidelines under development.

Isham and Willis designed and developed a new brochure on APH Production Processes: Tests in Braille and Tactile Graphics. The brochure outlines the steps involved to produce a test in braille with tactile graphics, an approximate timeline for completion of such work, and lists some of the factors that affect the braille production timeline and ways to help the accessible media production schedule run smoothly.

In June 2010, Zierer and Willis attended the 2010 CCSSO Conference on student assessment in Detroit, MI. The focus of the conference was on promising directions in the area of assessment in addition to examining policy, best practices, and introducing some of the research taking place in the area of assessment. Many of the presentations and much of the discussion focused on the Common Core State Standards; the move toward computer-based and online testing in order to provide immediate results to teachers, administrators, parents, and students; full inclusion of students with disabilities as well as English language learners; alternate assessments; and the use of standardized formative assessments along with summative assessments in order to determine overall student progress.

Willis met with APH’s Vice President of Public Affairs and Director of Public Affairs, Gary Mudd and Nancy Lacewell, respectively, to discuss some issues and concerns regarding access to test items for students who are blind and visually impaired. Lacewell and Mudd expressed great interest in this area, and scheduled a follow-up meeting to continue these discussions with Bob Brasher, Ralph Bartley, and Henderson. Lacewell captured the essence of this meeting and assigned various follow-up tasks to members of this Test Access group. Goals of the group included the following:

The Test Access group developed a very brief survey with accompanying cover letter, and e-mailed these to Ex Officio Trustees. The cover letter requests that Ex Officio Trustees complete the survey and/or share the survey/cover letter with others in their states who are involved in assessment of students who are blind and visually impaired. The key question on the survey asks, “If you could tell decision makers five of the most important issues related to tests/assessments for students who are blind and visually impaired, what would they be?”

In August 2010, APH accepted the invitation to participate in the first Pearson Accessibility and Innovation Conference to be held in September 2010 at Pearson Corporate Headquarters in New Jersey. The focus of this conference was on access to instruction and assessment materials by students with disabilities. Willis and Michael McCarty (APH Communications Group Social Media Coordinator) presented and discussed accessibility issues, networked with conference participants, and provided a wide variety of handouts and product information and demonstrations at the APH exhibit.

A group of expert reviewers was identified and contacted regarding their interest and availability to review the near final draft of a position paper on intelligence testing of individuals who are blind and visually impaired. In FY 2011, this position paper was made available on the Accessible Tests webpage on the APH Web site, as a handout at presentations, and provided to interested parties upon request.

In FY 2010, Accessible Tests staff reviewed and edited approximately 935 tests for grades 2-12 and adults. These tests were transcribed and proofread as needed and produced in accessible media, primarily braille with tactile graphics, and shipped to customers. Some of the major test publishers also contracted with APH/Accessible Tests to conduct pre-reviews of select future tests as well as thousands of discrete test items.

Articles and announcements in the APH News included important “recruitment” notices in order to assist with some valuable research studies and workshop endeavors. Such notices were provided about research into the perspectives of 10- to 14-year-old students with visual impairments on play and social participation as components of occupational therapy; a classroom collaboration survey for blind and visually impaired students who attended college courses in the past 5 years; and a training opportunity in March 2011 by Dr. Joan Chase for licensed or certified psychologists on specialized materials for assessing students who are blind.

In FY 2011, members of Accessible Tests participated in the APH Annual Meeting. Alexander provided a poster session on steps and approximate amount of time involved in each step to produce tests in braille with tactile graphics.

In preparation for reviewing and editing future test items and test directions to be administered by states via computer-based and online testing, Willis made arrangements with Janie Blome and Delgado in Field Services to provide training on assistive technology such as refreshable braille displays and text-to-speech output. The first training session was conducted in August 2011. Future training sessions on these assistive technologies along with training on screen magnification software and programs for presenting math and science equations to be read and displayed in a readable format were scheduled throughout FY 2011 and into FY 2012.

At the request of Pearson, Test Editors Zierer and Scott served as members of Bias Review Committees in order to ensure future test items are unbiased toward any group, particularly students who are blind and visually impaired.

Garrett and Willis served as official members of BANA’s Test Committee. They met on a regular basis to determine priorities and information to be included in the standardized test guidelines, to develop questions, provide assignments to committee members, and to discuss segments of guidelines that have been drafted. Garrett was assigned the section on Social Studies, and Willis was assigned preparation of the section on Science. Debbie drafted a letter to all state assessment offices requesting that some of their released test items be made available to serve as examples in the document on standardized test guidelines; the draft of letter was submitted to BANA for review.

Willis and McCarty participated in Pearson’s first invitational conference on accessibility and innovation: Instruction and Assessment of Students with Disabilities. The conference was held at Pearson Corporate Headquarters in Upper Saddle River, NJ, in September 2010. Willis and McCarty gave a brief overview of APH products and product-related services relevant to instruction and assessment of students who are blind and visually impaired. McCarty presented and demonstrated the new Book Port Plus.

Willis and Alexander worked with Doug Trent in Contract Administration to update APH’s Corporate Capability Statement; the Corporate Capability Statement is routinely shared with test publishers and other potential clients, particularly in response to request for proposals.

At the request of the Oregon Ex Officio Trustee as well as the request of the Manager of Test Design and Administration with the Oregon Department of Education, Willis represented APH and participated in Oregon’s planning meeting to include students who are blind and visually impaired in the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) statewide online assessments for grades 3-12. The general population of public school students has three opportunities during the school year to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Students who are braille/tactile readers have only been able to take the OAKS in hard copy braille with tactile graphics one time during the school year. The Oregon Department of Education, their test publisher, and a variety of assessment, transcription, and technology staff are working together to remedy this. Oregon’s initial goal is to eliminate “pre-ordered/prepared” hard copy for ALL students so that computer adaptive testing can be administered “on the fly” to students eligible to take the OAKS statewide assessments. Goal #2 is to have 100% participation of their eligible test takers who are braille/tactile readers participate independently in their statewide online assessments by incorporating use of assistive technology such as refreshable braille displays, text-to-speech output, and text magnification as well as use of other acceptable accommodations.

Karla Sullivan, Producer of the Lou Gossett, Jr., Profiles Services, planned to produce a program on Improving the Lives of People Who Are Blind and Visually Impaired. Profiles Series staff requested to include a segment on APH. Willis shared this request with Brasher.

In late 2006, ATP, the American Association of Publishers (AAP) Test Committee, and members of the CCSSO formed a Working Group to develop an initial document on best practices regarding major aspects of producing statewide large-scale assessment programs. Willis participated as a member of this Working Group. The book was completed and published in summer 2010. During FY 2011, ATP and CCSSO have undertaken Version 2 of this book that will include information regarding computer-based and online assessments and needed accommodations. ATP requested that APH participate again as a member of this Working Group; Wilis is serving as the APH representative. The Working Group met several times in person and via the Web to revise and update this book. Nearly all the chapters to be included in Version 2 have been drafted and reviewed at least once by members of the Working Group. The final draft will be submitted for expert review and revised as needed. The revised edition of this book was expected to be available from CCSSO/ATP by the end of calendar year 2012.

The position paper on Intelligence Testing of Individuals Who Are Blind and Visually Impaired was drafted by Steve Goodman, Carol Evans, and Marnee Loftin; this endeavor was coordinated and facilitated by Willis. After proofreading and final edits by Willis and Scott were completed, the position paper was sent for expert review. Recommendations and suggested edits were incorporated; the position paper was finalized and made available on the Accessible Tests webpage as well as the TSBVI Web site. Several messages of appreciation for this document were received.

As part of APH’s Braille Improvement Plan, Jan Carroll arranged for an instructor to provide a 2-day training session on Braille Formats. The Accessible Tests Department’s Test Editors and Test Editor Trainee participated in this training.

In June 2011, Zierer received her NLS certification in literary braille. In August 2011, Scott submitted his manuscript to NLS for possible certification in literary braille. Willis served as Chair-Elect of AER’s Division on Psychosocial Development; she worked with the division’s leaders to disseminate information on the Intelligence Testing position paper via a new webpage being developed for this division of AER, as well as making a link available from the NASP Web site. Willis participated in the 2011 CCSSO Conference on National Student Assessment, as well as an off-site team-building workshop.

Accessible Tests staff met with Kay Ferrell while she was the APH Executive in Residence to discuss test-related issues and concerns, the work of the department, and to provide ideas on adapting Boehm-3 test items for presentation to young children who are tactile learners.

Test Editor Isham accepted a position as a Field Services Representative; her transfer to Field Services was effective on October 25, 2010. This open position was filled with Test Editor Trainee, Alexander.

An in-house Test Team that included Brasher, Mudd, Lacewell, and Willis developed a cover letter and survey. The survey comprised one open-ended question asking respondents to detail five of the most important issues related to tests and assessments that they would like to have addressed with decision makers. The letter requested that Ex Officio Trustees share the survey with state assessment staff and their test publisher teams. Sixty-nine (69) respondents from 24 states completed and returned the survey. Carolyn Zierer compiled the responses, prepared a summary of results, shared results with Test Team members, and posted results on the Accessible Tests webpage. The four major areas of concern by respondents were test administration, graphics/tactile graphics, large print, and accessible media that included general accessibility concerns.

The new Tactile Graphics Guidelines from BANA were adopted for use at APH. Members of Accessible Tests reviewed, studied, and made notes on guidelines of concern to share with appropriate BANA staff.

During September and October of 2010, 78 unique tests were reviewed and edited by Test Editors Scott and Zierer. These tests were produced and shipped to customers. In November and December of 2010, 113 unique tests were reviewed and edited by Test Editors. One thousand three hundred eighty-two (1,382) copies of these tests were then produced and shipped. In January and February of 2011, 286 unique state assessments, alternate assessments, and reference sheets were produced; copies of each ranged from 1 to 300. A total of 5,229 copies of the tests and reference sheets were produced. This represents an average of seven unique tests completed through our test processes and 131 copies produced and shipped per scheduled work day, which is a rather brisk rate. In March and April of 2011, 235 unique tests were reviewed and edited by Test Editors. A total of 27,200 copies were produced. Test Editors Scott, Zierer, and members of APH Production staff, reviewed, edited, proofed, finalized, produced, and shipped 981 unique tests; this represents a 4.7% increase in the number of different tests produced in FY 2011 compared to FY 2010 (935 total). Copies were produced in braille, large print, or recorded formats. Tests included state and district assessments, alternate assessments, and test-related materials such as reference sheets, data sheets, and examiner manuals. Customers included ACT®, Central Services, American Institutes for Research®, Cheeney Media Concepts, CASAS, Data Recognition Corporation, Measured Progress™, NCS Pearson, Questar Assessment, Inc.™, University of Kansas at Lawrence, and Washington D.C. Public School System. In addition to tests produced, thousands of test items were reviewed for bias and accessibility.

Willis and Alexander reviewed the audio and braille versions of GED® Basics 2002, and determined that the audio versions should be accompanied by the braille/tactile graphics in order for the text-based descriptions to be useful and the instruction to be most effective. A brief report of findings and recommendation was provided to appropriate APH staff.

A detailed list of APH’s current step-by-step process from the time a test is received in Contract Administration until it is produced/proofed and shipped to customers was prepared by Willis and Alexander. The list was provided to in-house staff for review and edit. After the list of current steps was finalized, it was provided to Brasher. Willis and Alexander also developed a brochure to outline these steps and the approximate amount of time needed for each step to be completed. This brochure is provided as a handout at conferences, workshops, and in response to requests for information.

As a continuous improvement step, Willis drafted a Transcription/Proofreading Verification Form to accompany each test produced at APH on a contract basis. The form was shared with Pre-Production and Production staff. The Braille Pre-Production Manager at the time decided to implement use of the form in both the transcription and proofreading areas. An additional measure suggested by APH transcribers that entails Test Editors providing APH transcribers with copies of final Test Administration (TA) Notes along with the previous version of the same TA Notes for a final quality control check was also initiated to ensure that final corrections are made before tests are shipped to customers.

Work during FY 2012 is described below.

Quarter 1: October-December 2011


Loftin, School Psychologist at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Willis presented on intelligence testing of students who are blind and visually impaired during two of the 2011 APH Annual Meeting sessions entitled, “IQ Testing: Trifecta Winners are Collaboration, Caution, and Icing on the Cake.”


In October 2011, Priscilla Knight began work with Accessible Tests as the new Test Editor. Her training as a Test Editor started with attending Annual Meeting and participation in related meetings. Knight came to the department with a B.A. in History with a concentration in Social Studies and an M.A. in Teaching from the University of Louisville, with experience tutoring undergraduate students in chemistry and history, an NLS certification in literary braille, and three+ years experience as an APH transcriber of books, tests, and test-related materials.

Internal and External Collaborative Efforts

Test Editors Zierer and Scott participated on a Bias Review Committee at Pearson’s home office in San Antonio, TX, in November 2011. Committee members reviewed passages and extended writing prompts for content appropriateness and fairness. This was for the development of the new version of the GED® Assessment, which is scheduled to be available in January 2014. This is the first of several reviews of items and passages. These passages will assess a subset of skills and understandings delineated in the Common Core State Standards.

Willis continued to meet via e-mail and teleconference with International AER’s Psychosocial Services Division leaders, BANA’s Test Committee members, and with the CCSSO-ATP Work Group on the second edition of a book. Willis continued to serve as part of an internal team working on delivery of digitized text in accessible formats to students who are blind and visually impaired.

Willis arranged for select APH staff to meet periodically for two days with Dr. Kim Zebehazy from the University of British Columbia. Various APH staff provided Dr. Zebehazy with information and examples of tactile graphics in order to conduct some “think aloud” research with students who are blind and visually impaired in parts of Canada and the U.S. Debbie volunteered to be the APH facilitator of this joint effort. She prepared a brief article regarding Phase I of this study for the January 2012 APH News in which teachers and students with visual impairments were requested to complete a survey.

APH’s Digitized Text Committee Visits Prison Program

On December 20, 2011, Willis and a group of APH staff visited the Miami Accessible Media Program (MAMP) at the men’s prison in Kokomo, IN; about 50 inmates were employed by this program at that time. Since being incarcerated, nearly all the men in this program have completed college programs; the majority have received college degrees and one or more certifications in braille. Their program work includes scanning text; braille translation and proofreading; large print formatting and production of large print books; tactile graphics design; editing, production, and proofing; preparation of alt tags and very brief text-based descriptions to replace icons and graphics-based information; and preparation of electronic files for output via the built-in large print and speech output capabilities of tablet devices. While much of their work is for the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, MAMP has begun to expand its services and customer base; their work is product-driven.


Willis identified two leading organizations that offer customized onsite MathML/MathType training. Each of these organizations submitted proposals for training workshops to be conducted for APH employees. Due to a cost of $8K-$10K for such training, it was decided that employees would initially read, study, and explore the use of MathML/MathType in order to develop a foundation of information for future learning opportunities. Willis arranged for a 1.5-hour training session to be provided by Carroll to APH staff interested in such training. As a result of MathML/MathType information provided to Willis by Test Editor Knight, Jane Thompson who directs the efforts of Accessible Textbooks Department requested that copies of MathML/MathType be installed.

Tests Produced

In October 2011, 37 unique tests were reviewed, edited with permission of the test publishers, produced, and shipped; customers included ACT®, Data Recognition Corporation, NCS Pearson, and Questar Assessment, Inc.™. In November and December 2011, Test Editors reviewed and edited 120 unique tests. Customers included Cheeney Media Concepts, Data Recognition Corporation, NCS Pearson, and Questar Assessment, Inc.™. In the first quarter of FY 2012, 157 unique tests and assessments were reviewed and edited by Accessible Test Editors and transcribed and proofed. Copies were produced and shipped to customers.

Professional Development

All members of Accessible Tests participated in segments of the Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference held in Louisville, KY.

Quarter 2: January-March 2012

Braille Improvement Plan

By this quarter in FY 2012, all three full-time Test Editors in Accessible Tests were certified by the National Library Services in Literary Braille. Test Editor Knight began work toward certification in Braille Formats. However, Knight was advised to discontinue her study of Braille Formats until the updated course and test were available.

Collaborative Efforts

Willis and Knight worked with Zebehazy on specifications for sets of select test items taken from the TEST READY® series to be produced at APH in braille with tactile graphics, regular print and large print for the purpose of some “think aloud” research to be conducted by University of British Columbia staff. Subjects for this research will be from the U.S. and Canada. The subjects will verbally relay their steps, strategies, and mental processes used to solve various test items.

Special Project

Willis was contacted regarding a project with Catalyst Learning to make 12 DVDs and accompanying print materials accessible for use by individuals who are blind and visually impaired. At the time of this request, APH did not typically take on this type of work. However, experience with this type of work fit in with one of APH’s FY 2012 endowment-funded projects; so with approval of Catalyst Learning staff, it was decided to take on this project as it would be instructional for APH staff, and would provide the degree of accessibility required by Catalyst Learning. The set of materials was reviewed by Julia Myers, Linda Turner, Matt Rummule, Knight, and Willis; a teleconference was held with Catalyst Learning to discuss findings and the extent of the project. Catalyst Learning agreed to send APH staff actual electronic files to review and analyze; Delgado reviewed these files for accessibility. Linda Turner determined that approximately 100 hours of work would be needed to make materials from the set accessible according to Catalyst Learning staff specifications; specifications involved preparing alt tags and/or text-based descriptions to replace graphical information. Trent and Turner prepared a quote and timeline for Catalyst Learning and provided it to them for their review and consideration. The work was taken on by APH staff in Advisory Services and Accessible Tests. It was completed, checked, and delivered in a timely and satisfactory manner to Catalyst Learning. Additional work of this nature with Catalyst Learning is anticipated in the future.

Tactile Graphics Workshop

Accessible Tests staff participated in a 2-day tactile graphics workshop that had been arranged by Carroll. Staff from several departments was represented at the workshop.

Test Production

In January and February of 2012, Test Editors reviewed and edited 266 unique tests. Copies were produced and shipped according to customer specifications. Customers included ACT®, Cheeney Media Concepts, Data Recognition Corporation, Measured Progress™, NCS Pearson, and Questar Assessment, Inc.™, and the University of Kansas at Lawrence.

Quarter 3: April-June 2012

The following are activities that various members of Accessible Tests participated in during the third quarter of FY 2012:

Accessibility Training

During the months of May and June 2012, Test Editors attended a Train-the-Trainer Workshop sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind, Jernigan Institute, in Baltimore, MD. The workshop provided an overview of various technologies that make media accessible to individuals who are blind and visually impaired. Some excellent hands-on training was provided to introduce the accessibility features of the iPad® device. A 2-day training at APH provided more insight into the accessibility features of the device.

Braille Authority of North America (BANA): Test Committee Meeting

Willis from Accessible Tests and Garrett from Accessible Textbooks are serving as members of BANA’s new Standardized Test Committee. This committee met in May 2012 on the campus of the Perkins School for the Blind. The purpose of the meeting was to begin writing the BANA Guidelines for Standardized Tests. A schedule for the next year for drafting the units and meeting via conference calls was developed. Items discussed included Braille Formats Principles of Print-to-Braille Transcription, 2011, impact and changes that will affect tests. Other discussion topics included what transcribers need from test publishers and Department of Education assessment staff to ensure a valid test is produced in accessible media; and what publishers expect from the agency/transcriber producing the test(s). Dena’s primary role on this committee will be to prepare the braille samples and to develop the braille-ready files for the complete document.

Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Conference on National Student Assessment

Willis had the opportunity to attend and network at the CCSSO Conference on National Student Assessment held in Minneapolis, MN. Many sessions included relevant information, concerns, and research results regarding assessment of students who are blind and visually impaired. A dominant theme of the conference was accessibility. At this time, the primary approaches under discussion for making assessments accessible are via audio and refreshable braille display with or without hard copy braille/tactile graphics, or via audio accompanied by print/large print on a monitor with or without hard copy text/enhanced graphics; with additional accommodations as needed. In many cases, text-based descriptions of graphical information are being prepared so that passages and test items can be accessed in regular print, large print, braille, and audio formats. The two new consortia, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) are working toward computer-based and online assessments for all students. Once again, computer adaptive assessments are in the limelight.

Quarter 4: July-September 2012

In July and August 2012, the Test Editors reviewed, edited, and sought edit approvals on 197 unique tests produced in accessible media for ACT®, Cheeney Media Concepts, Data Recognition Corporation, NCS Pearson, and Questar Assessment, Inc.™

In July 2012, Scott and Zierer traveled to Lexington, KY, to serve on a Bias Review Committee. The 2-day meeting was sponsored by Pearson Measurement and the Kentucky Department of Education. The test items reviewed were reading and math items scheduled for inclusion the 2013 Kentucky Core Contents Test.

Loftin, Evans, and Willis presented on intelligence testing of individuals who are blind and visually impaired during the 2012 International AER in Bellevue, WA. Test Editors participated in webinars on Digital Accessible Math Images, a webinar about Oregon’s computer-based adaptive testing presented by SBAC, and Making Digital Images Accessible.

In late August 2012, Mudd and Lacewell brought in Dr. John Poggio to discuss computer-based and online assessments in the upcoming future. Poggio expressed great interest to work with APH on test-related research, issues, and products. Also, in late August 2012, John Novak, Quality Assurance Engineer with Pearson, and two associates visited APH to review our internal processes and procedures. Our Quality Management System (QMS) was reviewed to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy, and effectiveness. The review included an assessment of opportunities for improvement and the need for changes to the QMS. Pearson’s audit report was provided to APH in September 2012.

Willis and other APH staff were invited to join Carnegie Mellon instructors and graduate students in Pittsburgh for the LearnLab Corporate Partners’ Meeting in September 2012. The purpose of this meeting was to learn more about the National Science Foundation’s Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center and the benefits of becoming a LearnLab Corporate Partner. Willis served as an APH representative at the LearnLab Corporate Partners’ Meeting where she had the opportunity to meet current graduate students and post documentss in the learning sciences, as well as learn more about research underway and how LearnLab can help accelerate technology transfer from the university into an organization.

Indiana’s Common Core Standards and the PARCC assessments represent exciting opportunities to increase the rigor in classrooms across the state. In September 2012, teachers from around the state attended a 1-day conference to collaborate, network, and engage with colleagues to work together toward a successful implementation of these new initiatives. At this landmark event, educators received valuable resources to support their implementation of Indiana’s Common Core Standards. Additionally, attendees collaborated with fellow educators and experts to guide their transition efforts.

Knight revised and updated our detailed processes, procedures, and steps involved from the time APH receives a test through its entire review, edit, and approval of edits; transcription and design of tactile graphics; proofreading, revising, producing copies; and shipping and receipt of copies as specified by customer. The revised processes and procedures were reviewed and revised by representatives from all test-related areas before final copy was developed and disseminated.

Work during FY 2013 is described below.

Annual Meeting and Interim Meeting with EPAC/ESAC

Test Editor Zierer participated on APH’s Hospitality Committee during Annual Meeting in October 2012. Knight and Zierer presented a poster session to begin to gather ideas and names of appropriate individuals who were likely to be available and interested in assisting APH with revising and updating the Test Access document on Computer-Based Testing. Debbie Willis met with members of the Educational Products Advisory Committee (EPAC) and Educational Services Advisory Committee (ESAC) to update members of these two committees on the work, activities, and accomplishments of the Accessible Tests Department, respond to their questions and concerns, and seek direction regarding current and future efforts.

During the Interim Meeting in spring 2013, Willis provided an overview of department accomplishments to members of the EPAC as well as APH staff. Willis and Kate Herndon from Research met with members of EPAC to discuss in detail the work of Accessible Tests, the test and assessment work underway and planned via the Education Research Department that results in accessible tests and accessible test-related materials available in the APH Products Catalog, and also discussed some potential collaborative efforts which would include assessment staff from Kansas University.

Tests Produced

In October, November, and December of 2012, a total of 190 unique tests were reviewed, produced in contracted braille, uncontracted braille, regular print or large print per customer specifications, and shipped. Customers included ACT®, Cheeney Media Concepts, Data Recognition Corporation, Discovery Communications™, NCS Pearson, Inc., Questar Assessment, Inc.™, and the University of British Columbia in Canada.

In January and February, APH experienced its busiest period during this test season. During these months in FY 2013, APH produced and shipped 290 unique tests. These included state assessments, districts assessments, summative assessments, interim assessments, practice tests, alternate assessments, tests for English Language Learners, parts of a commercially available test (the Wide Range Achievement Test [WRAT]), as well as checklists and reference sheets. Tests were reviewed and edited by Test Editors Scott, Zierer, and Knight in APH’s Accessible Tests Department. After receiving approval from test publishers for various edits, these tests were produced in accessible media for administration to students who are blind and visually impaired in grades 3 through college level. Customers included ACT® Central Services, Cheeney Media Concepts, Data Recognition Corporation, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., Measured Progress™, Measurement, Inc., Mississippi School for the Blind, NCS Pearson, Inc., Questar Assessment, Inc.™, and the College Board.

During March and April of 2013, Test Editors reviewed, edited, and worked with production staff on 230 unique tests and related test materials. Customers included ACT® Central Services, American Institutes for Research®, Data Recognition Corporation, Discovery Communications™, Measured Progress™, Measurement, Inc., NCS Pearson, Inc., and Questar Assessment, Inc.™ A total of 8,800 copies were produced and shipped to customers per their specifications.

During May and June of 2013, Test Editors reviewed, edited, and worked with production staff on 62 unique tests and related test materials. Customers included Data Recognition Corporation, Measured Progress™, NCS Pearson, and Questar Assessment, Inc.™ Two thousand one hundred eight (2,180) copies were produced and shipped.

During July and August of 2013, 82 unique tests and test-related materials were reviewed, edited, produced, and shipped from July 1 to August 20. Customers included ACT® Central Services, Cheeney Media Concepts, Data Recognition Corporation, NCS Pearson, Inc., Questar Assessment, Inc.™, and the College Board; no data is available for September 2013 as this time. Not including tests produced and shipped during the last six weeks of FY 2013, 854 different tests and test-related materials were produced and shipped during this fiscal year.

Contract Work Related to FY 2013 Endowment Project

Abigail Perrine, Higher Education Development Director at PreMedia Global, did not know where to go for some assistance so she posted a request for help on an electronic mailing list. Willis saw the request and contacted Perrine to explore the possibility of a collaborative effort between PreMedia Global (PMG) and APH to create image descriptions. Willis worked with Test Editor Zierer and Jeremy Ockerman from the Research Department to prepare a few sample selections for PMG to review. PMG approved the sample work and requested APH’s involvement in a pilot project. PMG was piloting a project that involved writing descriptions for a college-level accounting textbook published by McGraw-Hill. APH agreed to work with PMG because APH staff could use the experience, APH wanted to be helpful to PMG, and because of the future potential for additional work with PMG and other organizations. Willis and Myers, Director of Resource Services, assembled a team consisting of Turner, who agreed to be the APH Project Leader, Rummele, and Zierer to work with PMG to prepare the image descriptions. Since PMG’s timeline was so short, additional APH staff consisting of Accessible Textbook staff Michael Haynes, Dan Bush, Tom Dunn, and Rodger Miller assisted to create the descriptions while Ockerman offered his expertise in the accounting field for clarification and accuracy of the descriptions. APH contributed over 80 image descriptions for two chapters within a 2-week period. The descriptions included various charts, ledger samples, graphs, and more. PMG submitted a select number of the draft descriptions to WBGH to review. APH received positive feedback from PMG who seemed pleased with the descriptions submitted. This was a fruitful learning and networking experience as APH staff embarked on creating image descriptions for a technical source. This project enabled APH staff to gain more experience with preparing text-based descriptions to replace or accompany graphics-based information. This type of work is very likely to become more important and necessary as technology is utilized to access textbooks, instructional materials, and standardized tests.


In December 2012, Ron Stewart, who at that time was the accessibility director at ACT®, and Willis negotiated a consulting agreement. Per the agreement, ACT® retained Consultant APH as an independent contractor to provide them with evaluation and consulting services related to ACT® assessment accommodations process and in the development of next generation products that are accessible to students who are blind and visually impaired. In response to APH’s input, Stewart replied, “This is exactly what we need.”

After Stewart left ACT®, new ACT® project staff was assigned to work with APH staff to complete the assignments. Because the consulting agreement required feedback on a wide variety of topics, staff from Accessible Tests, Research, and Resource Services joined in this effort in order to best serve the needs of ACT®. ACT® was particularly interested in having more technical information regarding text-to-speech output, its advantages and limitations. The five assignments related to this endeavor were completed in August 2012. Accessible Tests/APH and ACT® Assessment Staff are in the process of negotiating a second consulting agreement. If fruitful, this agreement will be underway in FY 2014.

Questar Assessment, Inc.™, has also had many questions related to accessibility, particularly speech access and the need for tactile graphics. APH and Questar Assessment, Inc.™ are also discussing a potential consulting agreement that is likely to be activated early in FY 2014.

Collaborative Efforts

Willis continued to serve as Chair of AER’s Psychosocial Services Division. Meetings are held via teleconference on a regular basis with members of the Division’s Executive Committee. Goals established for the current 2-year term include preparation, production, and dissemination of newsletters, maintaining the division’s website and related databases, and exploring assessment of cognitive abilities of individuals who are blind and visually impaired. Willis is happy to work collaboratively to address some major needs of the field with APH and AER, such as tests and test-related resources available in accessible media, and exploring assessment of blind and visually impaired individuals’ cognitive abilities. As part of the exploration of cognitive abilities of visually impaired individuals, Joe D’Ottavio, treasurer/secretary of the Division, prepared an article that was published in the Psychosocial Services Division newsletter in winter 2013.

In late August 2012, APH’s Vice President of Public Affairs Mudd brought in Poggio from the University of Kansas to discuss computer-based and online assessments in the upcoming future. Poggio expressed great interest in working with APH on test-related research/issues/products. Tuck Tinsley, Brasher, Mudd, Lacewell, Bartley, Larry Skutchan, and Willis participated in this all-day meeting with Poggio; Poggio toured APH’s production facility and some departments. He was delighted and excited by what he saw and learned about APH, our mission, some of our goals, and our technology-related products.

At the conclusion of this meeting, Willis was asked to consider and identify two critical unmet needs in the area of assessment of individuals with visual impairments. The two needs identified were: 1) cognitive assessment of students and adult clients who are blind and visually impaired, and 2) research into the development and production of test items that are equivalent in degree of difficulty and that measure the same concepts as the original test items prepared for a sighted population.

Willis talked with select APH staff who had met with Poggio and determined that APH would investigate the need and feasibility of adapting/developing a cognitive abilities assessment for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. Factors and information that contributed to this decision included articles from a review of the literature as well as Joe D’Ottavio’s article prepared for AER’s Psychosocial Services newsletter. During this fiscal year, Willis also had a discussion with Paul Olson, North Dakota Ex Officio Trustee, and Dr. Joseph Miller, professor of psychology who is a licensed psychologist and has years of experience assessing the skills and abilities of students and adult clients who are blind and visually impaired. This discussion also pointed out the tremendous need for tools that are valid and reliable in order to assess the cognitive abilities of students and adult clients. At this time, Willis and Bartley are discussing and negotiating “next steps” with Poggio. Potential next steps include forming an advisory group and developing a survey.

Garrett in Accessible Textbooks and Willis continued to serve as members of the BANA: Test Committee. Priscilla Knight represents the Accessible Tests Department at the UEB Committee Meeting.

Accessible Tests staff volunteered to assist with the third KY Regional Braille Challenge that took place at the Kentucky School for the Blind and APH on February 21, 2013. Thirty-three students from across Kentucky participated in the event, which celebrates braille literacy and braille readers through a series of competitions in spelling, proofreading, speed and accuracy, reading comprehension and interpreting charts and graphs.

Test Editor Scott served on the KY Bias Review Committee held in Lexington, KY, in July 2013. Scott was invited to participate, and all related expenses were paid by the test developer. Kris also continued to participate as a member of APH’s internal inventory team, and he continued to maintain his first aid certification in order to assist APH staff, visitors, and others in need of immediate assistance.

Willis continued to serve as a member of APH’s internal team to investigate and improve accessibility via digital file formats. This work is being primarily undertaken via the Research Department’s Technology Group lead by Skutchan and Resource Services directed by Myers. Programming staff have worked to upgrade Braille Blaster to work effectively on the parsing and formatting of XML for braille and print using the LibLouisUTDML library and semantic action files. This is the heart of how Braille Blaster renders XML documents for braille and allows transcribers/test editors/textbook editors/others to add special content that is specific to braille and accessibility in general. The Programming staff have also added accessibility to Sigil, an open-source EPUB editor that will have application in the near future to produce accessibility in EPUB and EPUB3 documents.

GAAP Conference and CCSSO NSA Conference

Willis traveled to Maryland at the request and expense of Measured Progress™ who had been awarded a technology-enhanced grant to develop audio and sign language guidelines. Guidelines were identified and drafts prepared during the meeting on June 18, 2013, and were made available from Measured Progress™. The 2013 CCSSO Conference on National Student Assessments (NSA) started the following day at the Gaylord Hotel and Conference Center. The CCSSO NSA Conference focused on accessibility, accommodations, interoperability across the major systems, alignment of assessment items to the Common Core State Standards, and development of appropriate test items to be delivered via online assessment with the use of accommodations and assistive technology. During the CCSSO NSA Conference, Wilis and Poggio met to discuss the feasibility of adapting/developing a cognitive abilities assessment instrument for assessing individuals who are blind and visually impaired and Poggio’s tentative interest in a collaborative effort with APH.

Assisting Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)

Staff from Accessible Tests and Research provided information and assistance to the SBAC regarding assistive technology and access to online test items by students who are blind and visually impaired. The first teleconference was held in April 2013 and a second teleconference was held in May 2013. Work with SBAC continued to take APH staff into new territory such as reviewing and editing test items presented via speech output and refreshable braille displays.

PARCC Test Items

Early in July 2013, Willis was contacted regarding APH’s interest in preparing alt tags and text-based descriptions to enable audio output to 23 sample test items in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. APH agreed to prepare the necessary text-based information. Test Editors reviewed Math and ELA sample test items and constructed audio text for the 23 sample items. PARCC Mathematics Audio Guidelines Version 1.1 and PARCC English Language Arts Audio Guidelines Version 1.1 were applied to each description to maintain consistency and clarity throughout the authoring process.

Approximately two days after submitting feedback on the 23 sample test items, Pearson requested that APH bid on providing alt tags and text-based descriptions for PARCC’s Math test items for grades 3-5. Willis developed the bid, and after approval from Brasher, the bid was submitted. Again, approximately two days later, APH was awarded the bid, and training by Pearson staff was scheduled and delivered to the APH project team. Project team members represented Accessible Tests, Accessible Textbooks, Research, Resource Services, and two NIMAC staff; Turner in Resource Services agreed to act as APH’s internal project leader.

The APH Project Team worked on these Math test items for grades 3-5 from July 22 until mid-September 2013. During the training session, Pearson staff again e-mailed Willis to request that APH take on Math test items for grades 6-8 or some part of them. After checking with internal management, Willis responded that APH would prefer to get the initial group of Math test items for grades 3-5 underway and receive feedback from Pearson that APH staff is doing a satisfactory job before committing to a second batch of PARCC Math test items. After receiving feedback and checking on available APH staff to work on additional test items, APH let Pearson/PARCC know of our willingness and availability to work on Math test items for grades 6-8, and APH staff began working on test items for grades 6-8.

At the end of August, Pearson/PARCC also requested that APH take on some of the high school Math test items. The window of opportunity for working on the high school test items is approximately September 9-20, 2013. APH staff availability to take on some of the high school items is under consideration.

Kentucky Alternate Assessments

Trent in Contract Administration, Zierer, Scott, Knight, and Willis met at APH with staff working on Kentucky’s alternate assessments. APH designed and produced the tactile graphics needed to accompany the alternate assessment test items.

Professional Development

Accessible Tests staff participated in webinars on “Digital Accessible Math Images,” a webinar about Oregon’s computer-based adaptive testing presented by SBAC, and “Making Digital Images Accessible.” Staff also participated in training workshops, webinars, and webcasts on the topics of leadership, accessibility, assistive technology, tactile graphics, image descriptions, braille formats, Unified English Braille, use of tablets by students who are blind and visually impaired, and standards such as EPUB3.

Accessible Tests staff continue to gratefully acknowledge the direction and support of Executive Committee members and Ex Officio Trustees, and all the wonderful partners within APH and with individuals, agencies, school, vendors, and organizations outside of APH who worked together to help make instructional materials and assessments available in accessible media for individuals with visual impairments, who promoted the inclusion of visual impairment professionals as well as individuals with visual impairments during the test development process, and who were engaged in improving the test performance of blind and visually impaired individuals through research, education, and communication. Together we have accomplished much, and there continue to be more issues to address and work to accomplish in the area of effectively assessing the knowledge, skills, and intelligence of students who are blind and visually impaired.

Work during FY2014

Late in FY2013, members of Accessible Tests worked with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Smarter Balanced Consortium to help ensure their online assessment items would be accessible to test takers who are blind and visually impaired. The reviews, image descriptions, and feedback were prepared and provided to Smarter Balanced staff. This completed our initial contractual agreement with them.

During the months of September and October, 2013, members of the Resource Services, Education Research, and Accessible Tests Departments worked with Pearson to check various accessibility issues on PARCC test items, and prepared image descriptions of graphics so that the descriptions could be provided to test takers being administered online assessments with the use of assistive technology such as speech output, large print to the screen, and refreshable braille. During September, 479 hours of consultant work were provided; during October, 232 hours of consultant work were provided on this project. All work on the elementary, middle school, and high school test items was completed and feedback provided to Pearson before the end of October 2013. Knight and Turner took the lead on this project and were instrumental in its timely and successful completion.

At the end of FY2013, members of Accessible Tests met with representatives from the University of Kentucky to discuss work on the K-PREP Alternate Assessments. During the discussions, members of Accessible Tests shared information regarding edits that would need to be implemented in order to make the alternate assessment items accessible to students with severe cognitive impairments who are blind and visually impaired. Work on assessments for grades 3-11 in the areas of Reading, Writing, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies along with accompanying tactile graphics, and the Test Administration Notes were prepared and completed. As a result of this work, APH was contacted by the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) for Accessible Tests Department staff’s assistance on the National Alternate Assessments for students who have multiple disabilities that include blindness and visual impairment. Math items and Language Arts passages and items for the Minnesota Modified Assessments for grades 3-11 were also reviewed and edits discussed and determined as needed.

All members of Accessible Tests participated in APH’s 2013 Annual Meeting. Department Willis met with members of APH’s two advisory committees, the Educational Products Advisory Committee (EPAC) and the Educational Services Advisory Committee (ESAC), as well as met with all of APH’s Ex Officio Trustees during the formal and informal lunch meetings. Willis responded to questions regarding assessment of students who are blind and visually impaired, and provided a department update to EPAC members as requested.

Due to the rather brisk pace in Accessible Tests and a vacant position that had been approved to fill, a fourth full-time Test Editor Tom Dunn was hired and started working as a Test Editor on September 30, 2013. Dunn came to the department with a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing and over two years experience in APH’s Accessible Textbooks Department as a Prototype Developer.

For development as a Test Editor, Dunn immediately began working on the literary braille program. He also participated in a meeting with Jacqueline Kearns of the University of Kentucky to discuss the review of NCSC national alternate assessment items. During Annual Meeting, Dunn attended the STEM [Science/Technology/ Engineering/Mathematics] Training and the product development input sessions on “Universe of Tests and Measurements: Boehm, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced.” On October 24, Dunn attended the DIAGRAM Center’s “Office Hours with the Image Description Experts” webinar. He also sat in on conference calls with Questar Assessment, Inc.™ in which test item review with the use of assistive technology by Accessible Tests staff was discussed.

Before and after joining Accessible Tests, Dunn was extremely helpful in preparing image descriptions for graphics-based information. At this time, he has completed all lessons in literary braille in order to seek certification. He has submitted his transcribed manuscript, and is awaiting certification results. Dunn also serves as a member of the Alternate Assessment Consortia’s National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) Expert Panel. Test Editor Zierer served a member of this Expert Panel while in Accessible Tests Department and continued to serve as a member after joining the Research Department.

In years past, Accessible Tests staff generally experienced a slow test review and editing period for approximately four months each year. However, beginning in FY2013 and continuing in FY2014, Accessible Tests did not experience the usual down time. This increase in work has resulted from taking on new types of tasks related to online assessments and making them accessible via assistive technology such as refreshable braille displays, speech output, and large print programs. The traditional work continues to be to review and edit test items as needed for hard copy output in braille, tactile graphics, large print, and/or audio CDs. The new work has been preparing text-based descriptions of graphical information, reviewing test items for accessibility and accuracy via online presentation with the use of built-in features and common assistive technology such as speech output, large print to the screen, refreshable braille on a braille display, and either electronic tactile graphics that can be output in the test-taking environment or hard copy tactile graphics, and more as specified by customers.

Accessible Tests staff continued to work closely with test publishers and state assessment personnel; in-house Accessible Tests continued to work with APH’s Contract Administration, Production, Research, Accessible Textbooks, Field Services, Resource Services, and Communications staff; and engaged in discussions and sought direction from Bob Brasher, Vice President of Research and Advisory Services, as well as from APH’s Executive Committee members and Ex Officio Trustees, particularly members of EPAC and ESAC.

Additional local, district, state, and alternate assessments continued to be reviewed and edited by Accessible Tests Editors, and/or produced at APH in accessible media, as requested and resources were available to provide high-quality tests in a timely manner; edits were made as approved by test publishers. Test Administration Notes were provided for tests produced in accessible media as specified by contracts or agreements.

Members of Accessible Tests continued to participate on Bias Review Committees and as members of other panels and committees such as AER, BANA, and GAAP as requested and as time allowed. Willis completed her two-year term as Chair of AER’s Psychosocial Services Division IV. Garrett and Willis continue to serve as members of BANA’s Test Committee. Willis participated in a second and final in-person GAAP Meeting in Maryland to refine/clarify the set of guidelines drafted a year prior to this meeting. The final document of Audio and Sign Language Guidelines that resulted from the second Maryland Working Meeting was reviewed by GAAP members and experts in the field. As a result of these final reviews and modifications, the guidelines will be revised/clarified as needed, and published and made available for use late in calendar year 2014.

Accessible Tests staff continued to offer assistance, education, and leadership through product-related services, consulting agreements, collaborative efforts and partnerships, and product-related research and development. The second edition of Operational Best Practices for Large-Scale Assessments was reviewed by experts in the field, finalized, published and made available from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the Association of Test Publishers (ATP). New or expanded sections include chapters and/or sections regarding online testing via accommodations and assistive technology for students with disabilities. Willis participated as a member of the writing/editing team.

With an open Test and Assessment Project Leader position available in our Research Department, Zierer applied and was offered this important role. Zierer accepted this offer and now serves you as our Test and Assessment Project Leader. The open Test Editor position was filled with Daria Moschowsky, a former teacher and Dell Computer employee. To date, Moschowsky has been involved in many professional development activities and has undertaken test-related tasks and activities. Moschowsky started working toward certification in literary English Braille American Edition, but has now switched her studies to a program of certification in literary Unified English Braille.

Some resources and guidelines for making test items accessible in various media and the special issues with regard to testing students with visual impairments were reviewed, revised, updated, and freely shared. Test-related information and links to resources were provided and/or updated on the Accessible Tests webpage. Concerns regarding the new Tactile Graphics Guidelines and preparation of Standardized Tests Guidelines were discussed with BANA’s leadership and committee members. Garrett and Willis continued to serve on BANA’s Standardized Tests Guidelines Committee. Our committee is currently teleconferencing with members of BANA’s Tactile Graphics Committee to discuss and determine guidelines for the provision of tactile graphics as a supplement, (e.g., an online assessment may be accessible via assistive technology) but a hard copy supplement of tactile graphics may still be needed. Accessible Tests staff continued to serve on internal committees such as the Digital File Formats Committee and the REAL Project Committee.

With the majority of states moving toward online assessment of all their students, and with a number of test publishers who are APH customers also moving toward accessible online assessments, it quickly became important for Accessible Tests staff to have access to technology and assistive technology in common use across the country. Cecilia Peredo in Development, Myers and Turner in Resource Services, Willis in Accessible Tests, Jack Decker in Production, and Herndon in Research met to discuss the need for equipment in support of our online test-related work.

A list of technology and assistive technology amounting to $75K was developed; and a cover letter and required information was prepared and submitted to the Etscorn Foundation with a request for $10K and to the Gheens Foundation with a request for $50K APH/Accessible Tests was awarded $5K by the Etscorn Foundation and $25K by the Gheens Foundation. Similar information was later submitted to the Miller Family Foundation who awarded APH/Accessible Tests with an additional $8K. These funds were utilized by Accessible Tests to order a variety of commonly used technology and assistive technology for use by APH staff as needed to check accessibility and accuracy of test items to be delivered online via use of assistive technology.

Willis participated with members of APH’s REAL Team and Open Book Systems (OBS) staff at an in-person meeting to discuss aspects of APH’s REAL Project and to provide information and input into various aspects of the plan to further develop and utilize Braille Blaster. A refined version of Braille Blaster is under development to streamline and improve efficiency with regard to transcription/proofreading/producing textbooks, magazines, books, tests, and test-related materials in braille with tactile graphics with or without text-based descriptions (for online testing via speech and refreshable braille display output). The same file will also be used to produce other media such as large print and audio as needed.

Willis provided OBS with Accessible Tests Department software inventory, processes and procedures involved in producing a test in braille with tactile graphics, processes and steps of Test Editors, and steps involved in online assessment (with text-based descriptions) via assistive technology such as speech output and refreshable braille display. Willis and Knight partnered to provide User Stories to all the steps identified and outlined in the “Test” segment and “Non-Book Products” by OBS staff. In addition, Willis and Knight met with OBS staff via phone to provide additional input and respond to questions. Debbie also took the opportunity to review some of the documentation provided via Google Docs™ program to help “fill in missing information” and to edit other text as needed.

Members of Accessible Tests Department continued to develop their knowledge, skills, and abilities with regard to assistive technology and handheld devices, and continued to learn about the Common Core State Standards, accommodations, assistive technology, instruction and assessment of individuals who are blind and visually impaired, braille (both English Braille American Edition and the new Unified English Braille), speech output, tactile graphics, image descriptions, most promising practices, current research results, use of 3-D printers, English Language Learners, severely cognitively impaired individuals, and more as time and opportunities are made available.

For professional development, one to five members of Accessible Tests participated in the following webinars, meetings, and test-related activities:

Some discussions were held via teleconference between Willis, Skutchan, and Questar Assessment, Inc.™ staff regarding speech output, magnification issues, and refreshable braille as methods of access to test passages, test items, and response choices. As a result of these discussions, education and information shared, Questar Assessment, Inc.™ contracted with APH for a period of one year to provide consultation services regarding accessibility issues and working together to help ensure that a currently available Questar Assessment, Inc.™ test is accessible to individuals who are blind and visually impaired when built-in accessibility features as well as enabling use of common assistive technology such as speech output, large print to the screen, and refreshable braille are provided.

Due to the Questar Assessment, Inc.™ agreement, it was essential that APH staff know which refreshable braille displays are being commonly used in schools across the country. In order to acquire this information, a Survey Monkey questionnaire was developed and announced in the APH November 2013 News; initial survey results completed by 15 respondents were compiled throughout the month of November 2013, and analyzed in December 2013. These survey results were prepared and published as an article in the APH January 2014 News and also posted on the Accessible Tests Department webpage. Based on the initial 15 set of responses, it was determined that the three most commonly used refreshable braille display were the APH RefreshaBraille 18, the HIMS Braille Edge 40, and Focus 40 Blue from Freedom Scientific®. The survey continues to be available; survey results will be updated periodically and posted on the Accessible Tests webpage. The survey results were again compiled and analyzed in August 2014 after five additional respondents provided feedback.

Based on the limited survey results, APH ordered some RefreshaBraille 18 devices with funds awarded by the Etscorn and Gheens Foundation, as well as a 6-user license for JAWS® which is the predominant speech access program currently in use across the country, and a 5-user license for Window-Eyes. Since a number of states, following the Oregon Model, have been producing their own tactile graphics in the high stakes testing environment, it was determined that APH should purchase a Tiger embosser in order to produce Tiger graphics and help make them as accessible, readable and usable as possible, especially when paired with descriptive information provided via speech output.

With the need for assistive technology also came the need for someone knowledgeable and familiar with the use of common assistive technology. Since no APH staff was available to work with Accessible Tests in this capacity, Willis identified and hired Paul Ferrara on a consultant basis. Ferrara lives and works in Louisville, Kentucky. He comes in to APH one day a week to work on projects that require his expertise with using technology and assistive technology in order to provide accessibility feedback, suggestions, and helpful resources to customers. From January through April 2014, Ferrara worked on consulting projects with Accessible Tests staff and served as a blind test taker for a couple of projects involving online access via assistive technology. Late this fiscal year, Ferrara will begin to update and revise the somewhat outdated document on Computer-Based and Online Testing of Students Who Are Blind and Visually Impaired.

American College Testing (ACT®) contacted APH with a test-related need somewhat similar to Questar Assessment, Inc.™ in that ACT® had a project underway to produce an accessible version of the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT®). The GMAT® is a computer adaptive test which assesses a person’s analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in standard written English in preparation for being admitted into a graduate management program, such as an MBA program.

The scope of work (SOW) for a contractual agreement with Smarter Balanced, Test-Related Classroom Activities for Online Test Prep was prepared by Willis and time estimates for each of three parts of the agreement were provided to Smarter Balanced/CTB/WestEd®. An informal agreement was signed/dated so that work which needed to be completed within less than one week could get underway by Test Editors Dunn and Moschowsky, along with Ferrara who served as a blind test taker. Guidelines for describing graphics for these classroom activities were drafted and reviewed. All feedback and edits to the original text-based descriptions via APH Test Editors’ Review #1, Review #2, and Guidelines were provided in a timely manner to Smarter Balanced/CTB/WestEd® staff within the one-week timeframe allowed via the agreement. A formal agreement was drafted/reviewed/signed/dated at a later date.

Our department’s traditional work of reviewing and editing test items with approval from test publishers was strong throughout FY2014. For the first month of FY2014, 128 unique tests and test-related materials were completed, copies produced and shipped. Customers included ACT® Central Services, Cheeney Media Concepts2, Chicago Public Schools, Data Recognition Corporation, Measured Progress™, Measurement Incorporated, NCS Pearson, Inc., Questar Assessment, Inc.™, The College Board, University of Kansas at Lawrence, and the University of Kentucky. In November 2013, 40 different tests were reviewed/transcribed/proofread/edited as needed/copies produced and shipped; and in December 2013, 82 different tests were produced and shipped. This is a total of 250 unique tested reviewed/edited/produced in accessible media, primarily braille with tactile graphics, during Q1 of FY2014. In Jan./Feb. 2014, 415 unique tests were reviewed/edited/produced in accessible media; in Mar./Apr., 275 unique tests; for a total of 690 different tests that were produced and shipped from January through April 2014. A total of 22,000 copies of tests and test-related materials were produced from January through April 2014. In May 2014, 40 tests were completed and 34 consulting hours were provided; in June, 54 unique tests were completed and 105 consulting hours were provided; in July, 5 unique tests were completed and 5 consulting hours were provided.

In the first 10 months of FY2014, 1039 unique tests were reviewed/transcribed/ proofed/copied as needed and shipped per customer specifications. Data is not yet available for tests completed in August and September 2014. For the new types of test-related work underway, 800 consulting hours were worked the first seven months of FY2014, with an additional 144 consulting hours provided during months eight/nine/ten. For the first 10 months of FY2014, 944 consulting hours were provided. Again, consultation hours provided in August and September 2014 are not yet available. This is quite an increase since last fiscal year in both the traditional hard copy work and the new types of test-related work needed in order to help ensure that online assessments are accessible and accurate.

Accessible Tests staff worked with both major consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, on high stakes state assessments under development. Accessible Tests also worked with minor consortia which included NCSC on the national alternate assessments for students with severe cognitive impairments who are also visually impaired, WiDA™ for English Language Learners who are also visually impaired, as well as the minor consortia focused on assessment of at risk students who are also visually impaired. Much of this work involved reviewing/editing/preparing text-based descriptions of graphical information, and some involved design and production of sets of tactile graphics.

At this time, late in FY2014, Accessible Tests and Research staff are considering and examining the need to offer a workshop titles “Training Severely Cognitive Impaired Students Who Are Blind to Read Tactile Graphics.” Members of the two minor consortia, NCSC and Dynamic Learning Maps, as well as members of CCSSO’s ASES-SCASS Group are interested in participating if such a workshop if offered in FY2015. To better understand the population of students who are administered alternate assessments and alternate assessments with standards, Accessible Tests has invited Jacqui Kearns and some of her colleagues at the University of Kentucky to join APH for a day of learning, discussion, and sharing of experiences. This topic will then be discussed with participants of APH’s fifth Meeting of the Minds held at APH in mid-September 2014. The advice and direction of these groups will help determine whether or not APH commits to a training workshop in the winter of FY2015.

Contractual agreements with major test publishers and organizations such as Pearson, American Institutes for Research, Questar Assessment, Inc.™, SBAC, PARCC, NCSC, Dynamic Learning Maps, WiDA™ for English Language Learners, and others were considered, negotiated, and undertaken in FY 2014; much of this work will be continued into FY2015. APH’s mission and these important assessment-related projects are in alignment. The new types of accessibility work initially undertaken by members of Accessible Tests, Accessible Textbooks, Resource Services, and Research staff to provide image descriptions and verify access via speech output, large print output to the screen, provision of tactile graphics, and/or refreshable braille display output was in full force during FY2014. This work is likely to continue throughout FY2015, but perhaps with relevant APH staff who will be trained to take on some of the work on a more permanent basis.

Now that APH has a fairly consistent flow of both traditional and new types of test-related work underway, it became important to consider the most appropriate departments and staff to take on this work on a more permanent basis. It was decided that much of the “proofing” of electronic files for output as braille and/or tactile graphics is similar to the work that our proofreaders normally undertake. Discussions with Pre-Production and Production staff that included Jack Decker, Steve Paris, and Dawn Wilkins were held. They were open to the new work underway and open to receiving some initial training on proofreading with the use of assistive technology that includes refreshable braille displays and speech output. Training plans were made with all involved parties and scheduled by Willis.

Paul Ferrara provided some initial training to two proofreaders and two copyholders as well as to Accessible Tests staff in August 2014; Terrie Terlau and Laura Zierer in our Research Department provided a demonstration on using a team approach to proof via a Focus 40 with JAWS® while reviewing/proofing text and graphics presented on the screen. Additional training will be undertaken in FY2014 and is likely to continue throughout FY2015. Training sessions for image description writers and tactile graphics developers on the Tiger embosser will be scheduled as APH staff is available and time permits.

During department planning and budgeting for FY2015, Willis requested two additional positions be added to the department in FY2015. These positions have been approved; another Test Editor position was posted on August 15, 2014. It is anticipated that this position will be filled early in FY2015.

Work Planned for FY2015


Ralph E. Bartley, Ph.D.



Adult Life Needs



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


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 2014

APH Adult Life products and their applications to specific populations were presented by the Adult Life Project Leader as follows: Transition Tote Revised: New Tools and Techniques to Help Students Find and Keep Jobs, Product Training Session at the Annual Meeting of the American Printing House for the Blind, Louisville, KY, October, 2013; Adult Life Product Demonstration and Information for New Ex Officio Trustee Training, Louisville, KY, November, 2013; Transition Tote Preconference Workshop presented at the Conference of the Kentucky Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Lexington, KY, March, 2014; Transition Tote, Revised, Presentation to Students from Vanderbilt University Visual Impairments Program and Western Michigan University Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies, , Louisville, KY, March 2014; Using Accessible Maps to Teach Location Literacy presented at the Conference of the California Transcribers and Educators of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Los Angeles, CA, April, 2014; Step-by-Step: A Comprehensive Text and Video Tool to Learn Mobility Techniques and how to Teach Them presented at the International Conference of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, San Antonio, TX, August, 2014.

Work planned for FY 2015

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



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

Project Staff


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 blind parents 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 blind parents 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.

Work 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 product was scheduled for completion in September, 2014.

Work planned for FY 2015

Because it is anticipated that Parenting With a Visual Impairment will be available for sale in September of 2014, no work on this product is anticipated for FY 2015.



For FY 2014, there are no active Business and Vocational Education products to report.


Braille Beads


Alt Tag: A photo of a green "Q" Braille Bead and an orange "Y" Braille Bead.


To provide students with blindness who participate in art classes, recreational art activities, and home jewelry making with a product with which they can make personalized wrist and ankle bracelets, necklaces, earrings, barrettes, key rings, and cane fobs as personal items, and gifts

Project Staff

Product Description

Braille Beads are small, plastic rectangles that have braille on one side and an incised print letter on the other side. The beads are designed specifically for persons with visual impairments and blindness to create jewelry and to teach and provide practice in several educational skills (e.g., organizing, sorting, color coordination, fine motor skills) Each bead has two holes (larger than holes in typical beads sold in the lapidary shops) through which wire or cord may be threaded. Each bead has an orientation channel on the bottom that helps the student position each bead correctly. The incised print letter on the back side identifies each bead for non-braille readers (e.g., sighted peers, Girl Scout leaders, summer camp counselors).


In March 2001, the project leader attended the Overbrook School for the Blind Technology Conference. While there, she visited the Overbrook art room and met with art teacher Lee Shultz. During this visit, the idea of braille beads emerged. For years, the cost of tooling and prototype production made braille beads cost prohibitive. In 2006, APH started looking into 3-D rapid prototyping technology. It was decided that Braille Beads would be a good product with which to test the technology.


APH made the decision to produce this product based on a standardized process of product selection. The project leader conducted a review and determined that no company or individual manufactures braille beads that are mass produced and inexpensive enough for schools, after-school programs, scout troops, and families to afford. There are several artists—in the United States and other countries—who create braille beads. One artist crafts braille beads out of metal and silver to create handmade jewelry for sale; APH sells her jewelry in the APH display area to persons taking tours of the facility and museum. This jewelry is pre-made and is cost prohibitive for children. Another artist creates blown glass braille beads. Each bead is one-of-a-kind and can cost up to $20.00. Again, this is not financially accessible to children. We need inexpensive plastic beads available in multi-colors that children can enjoy. The project leader submitted the New Product Idea Submission Form on June 6, 2007. The Assistant Research Director presented the product idea to the Product Evaluation Team. On June 13, 2007, the Product Advisory and Review Committee recommended that APH proceed with the development of the product.

This product will be fully accessible to the population who will use it. The beads will have raised braille on one side and incised print on the other side. This design enables non-braille reading, classroom teachers to identify the braille beads. The beads’ holes are larger than holes in most commercial beads to make it easier for an individual with visual impairment to string cord or insert a wire through the bead. The incised channel in the bottom of each bead provides orientation so each bead is strung onto a wire or cord correctly. Clear, adhesive, print/braille labels are provided so jars of beads can be identified and organized by color. APH created a Braille Beading Tray (sold separately) to help persons with blindness organize their beating activity and design their jewelry.

This product follows APH guidelines for determining relevance of a product. Braille Beads eliminate the need of a student who is blind to have an individual with sight seek out the correct letters to create a wanted word. The adhesive braille labels, when applied to the bead bags or on the Braille Beading Tray jars, allow individuals to identify colors of beads independently. Braille Beads create an opportunity for students to be independent, feel positive about the activity, and feel confident that he or she has the message or word on the jewelry or gift that he or she wants. Students with visual impairments can take ownership of their creation. Making jewelry—and beading in general—have become popular pastimes and have sprouted many cottage industries. Beading groups provide social opportunities. As field testing showed, Braille Beads are enjoyed by young students in school and by adults in rehabilitation programs.

There is evidence of an examination of the need for this product. During a visit with Lee Shultz, the art teacher at the Overbrook School for the Blind, the project leader learned of the need for Braille Beads. Shultz showed the project leader how her students make jewelry and the skills they learn while doing it. There is no literature that states if a child does not have an opportunity to create braille jewelry that he or she will not learn braille, however, children learn and practice literacy in many ways. Literature reviews demonstrate that active learning, which includes learning through art, contributes to self-confidence and self-control in the learner (Professional Development Services for Teachers). Children can engage in learning at a physical level through hands-on experiences such as making, constructing, and designing. A Chinese Proverb states, “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand.”

APH sought opinions of knowledgeable individuals to determine the need for this product. As stated previously, the idea of Braille Beads was initiated by the art teacher at the Overbrook School for the Blind. The project leader then visited the Kraft Korner at the National Federation of the Blind Convention. There were two booths of three women with blindness who presented their art of beaded jewelry. They loved the artistic and educational value of Braille Beads, and hoped APH could manufacture them. They recommended specific needles that should be included in the kit that they feel have proven to be the easiest to use if one is blind.

Braille Beads address an identified need for a person who meets the definition of “visually impaired” directly and indirectly. Directly, stringing beads helps develop fine motor skills; teaches sorting skills by color, shape, size, and texture; teaches planning and organizational skills; and allows students to learn about art principles of color and design. Various bracelet designs that use the multiple colors of beads provided in the kit teach students about monochromatic design, analogous design, and complementary design. Students can create designs that promote school colors and celebrate holidays. Stringing Braille Beads provides young learners with a fun and lasting way to learn and spread braille literacy. When individuals create and wear art made with braille, they help promote braille to the general population. According to the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (NCLVI), there is a need for more professionals in the vision field. For this reason, it established NCLVI Fellowships. Braille Beads have the potential to get young learners who have sight interested in braille and to consider the vision field as a career choice. This indirectly affects the future of young persons with visual impairment.


Data were gathered using an appropriate method. APH sent out seven Braille Bead Kits for field testing in September 2010. Field testing ended December 30, 2010. Field test site coordinators completed an online evaluation form designed in Google Docs™ program. They e-mailed photos of their students’/clients’ creations. The tooling cost to manufacture Braille Beads is expensive. To have prototypes for field testing, APH used 3-D printing (rapid reproduction) to produce a small amount of beads; this limited the number of field test sites.

There is evidence that research data are considered as part of decision-making in product completion. APH considered the field test results and comments of the field testers, which resulted in the following items and instructions to be included in the kit.

By answering “yes” or “no” to a series of questions, the students/clients determined that the following items should be excluded from the kit.

The following three items and instructions were rated 50/50.

Only 17% were able to thread the Easy Threading Needle, but 83% successfully threaded the EasyEye Needle. The Easy Threading Needle was to be used with the Bolster. Within the comments, one field tester stated that she did not have a Bolster so had difficulty threading the needle and thus rated it low. All kits were shipped with a Bolster and instructions on how to use the Bolster with the Easy Threading Needle.

The participants were asked to pick their six preferred colors for both braille beads and pony beads. For braille beads, in order of preference, they chose red, blue, black, yellow, and green, with pink and white tied for sixth place. For pony beads, in order of preference, they chose red, blue, pink, yellow, and green, with white and black tied for sixth place.

When asked if they were able to successfully make jewelry, 100% responded yes. Likewise, 100% said they enjoyed making jewelry. Half of the field testers said their student/client needed to acquire sorting and organizational skills prior to using Braille Beads. Half also said that their student/client improved their sorting and organizational skills while using Braille Beads.

Despite the extreme highs and lows of the written instructions and material scores, 83% of the field test participants recommend that APH manufacture the Braille Beads.

Research for this product followed APH research guidelines. The prototype was field tested, and data sought through an electronic evaluation form. Data were gathered from a geographically diverse U.S. population, from appropriately qualified individuals, and from an adequate number of sources. All are described in detail in this report.

The research method used collected sufficient information. Participants were asked to evaluate the written instructions and the tangible items of the kit on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high). The responses for the written instructions could be based on the student/client reading the instructions or having someone read the instructions to him or her. This report will state majority by “3 and higher” or “3 and below,” whichever is greater.

Kit Ratings
1 = low and 5 = high
“3 and higher” or “3 and below” 1 2 3 4 5
Ball and chain necklace written instructions: 83% rated 3 and higher 0% 17% 50% 0% 33%
Ball Ball and chain material: 83% rated 3 and higher 17% 0% 17% 33% 33%
Pendant cord necklace written instructions: 83% rated 3 and higher 0% 17% 17% 33% 33%
Pendant cord material: 100% rated 3 and higher 0% 0% 33% 33% 33%
Twisted end necklace written instructions: 84% rated 3 and higher 0% 17% 17% 17% 50%
Twisted end material: 100% rated 3 and higher 0% 0% 17% 0% 67%
Wire choker written instructions: 84% rated 3 and higher 0% 0% 17% 0% 83%
Wire choker material: 100% rated 3 and higher 0% 17% 17% 0% 83%
Triangle earring written instructions: 67% rated 3 and below 17% 33% 17% 33% 0%
Triangle earring memory wire material: 83% rated 3 and higher 33% 0% 17% 17% 33%
Earring fish hook material: 83% rated 3 and higher 17% 0% 33% 33% 17%
3-in-1 combination tool: 67% rated 3 and lower 17% 33% 17% 17% 17%
Fringe earring written instruction: 100% rated 3 and lower 33% 50% 17% 0% 0%
Fringe earring cord material: 100% rated 3 and lower 17% 17% 67% 0% 0%
Gold elastic bracelet written instructions: 67% rated 3 and higher 0% 33% 33% 17% 17%
Gold elastic bracelet cord material: 100% rated 3 and lower 50% 0% 50% 0% 0%
Memory wire bracelet written instructions: 84% rated 3 and higher 0% 17% 67% 0% 17%
Memory wire bracelet wire: 67% rated 3 and higher 0% 33% 17% 33% 17%
3-in-1 combination tool: 67% rated 3 and lower 17% 17% 33% 33% 0%
Bead Bolster: 100% rated 3 or lower 0% 17% 50% 0% 33%
Memory wire bracelet 2-strands instructions: 84% rated 3 and higher 0% 17% 17% 50% 17%
Memory wire bracelet 2-strand wire: 67% rated 3 and higher 33% 17% 33% 17% 0%
3-in-1 combination tool: 51% rated 3 and lower 17% 17% 17% 50% 0%
Twisted end bracelet written instructions: 84% rated 3 and higher 0% 17% 17% 0% 67%
Twisted end bracelet w/ detachable ball: 100% rated 3 and higher 0% 0% 17% 0% 83%
White stretch floss bracelet instructions: 83% rated 3 and higher 0% 17% 17% 33% 33%
White stretch floss elastic material: 67% rated 3 and higher 33% 0% 50% 17% 0%
EasyEye beading needle: 67% rated 3 and higher 17% 0% 17% 50% 0%
Easy threading needle: 67% rated 3 and higher 17% 0% 50% 17% 0%
Tear mender glue: 100% rated 3 and lower 17% 50% 33% 0% 0%
LashTite glue: 84% rated 3 and lower (one did not respond) 17% 50% 17% 0% 0%

The kit included a set of tactile instruction cards. They were produced on the Tactile Vision Machine and were accessible to both print and braille readers.

Instruction Ratings
1 = low and 5 = high
“3 and higher” or “3 and below” 1 2 3 4 5
Needles card written instructions: 67% rated 3 and higher 33% 0% 33% 17% 17%
Needles card: 66% rated 3 and lower 33% 0% 33% 0% 33%
Bending Memory wire ends instructions: 50% rated 3 and lower 33% 17% 33% 0% 17%
Bending Memory wire ends card: 83% rated 3 and lower 33% 17% 33% 0% 17%
Surgeon’s knot written instructions: 100% rated 3 and lower 33% 50% 17% 0% 0%
Surgeons knot card #1: 100% rated 3 and lower 50% 33% 17% 0% 0%
Surgeons knot card #2: 83% rated 3 and lower 33% 33% 17% 0% 0%
Fringe earring card: 67% rated 3 and lower 33% 17% 17% 17% 17%
Memory earring card: 50% rated 3 and lower 33% 0% 17% 0% 33%

The prototype included braille beads and pony beads. The students/clients rated the beads using the same scale.

Bead Ratings
1 = low and 5 = high
“3 and higher” or “3 and below” 1 2 3 4 5
Braille beads: 84% rated 3 and higher 0% 17% 50% 17% 17%
Pony Beads: 100% rated 3 and higher 0% 0% 17% 0% 83%

Data were gathered from a geographically diverse U.S. population. The participant sites were the following:

Data were gathered from appropriately qualified individuals. On average, the field test site coordinators have 14 years experience teaching/working with students/clients with visual impairments.

Data were gathered from an adequate number of sources. Six of the seven sites completed the online evaluation form and submitted pictures of their students’/clients’ jewelry. Each field test site had numerous students/clients who participated, but the evaluation forms were completed on one student per site with general comments including all participants. The students/clients range in age from 11 to 41 years. Half of the participants have severe low vision (20/200 to 20/400), 17% have profound low vision (20/500 to 20/1,000), none have near total blindness (more than 20/1,000), and 33% have total blindness (no light perception). Only one participant has an additional disability (cerebral palsy with intellectual disability).

Data were gathered on student/client outcomes. The students/clients rated their beading proficiency. Before using Braille Beads, only one (17%) student felt he or she was a proficient beader. After using Braille Beads, three (50%) students considered themselves proficient. Before and after using Braille Beads, two (33%) considered themselves to be intermediate beaders. Before using Braille Beads, two (33%) considered themselves to be beginning beaders; and after using the prototype, only one (17%) self-identified as a beginner. Prior to receiving the prototype, one (17%) had never before beaded. After field testing, all participants were able to bead and all improved.

In fiscal year 2013, bids to manufacture the molds were accepted, and a long-time established vendor with APH was chosen. Sample beads were produced and photography for the guidebook, Bejeweled With Braille, was taken. The layout and design of the guidebook was completed. It was decided that because of the cost and the desire to have the kit purchased by organizations outside the vision field (to promote braille) the APH Beading Tray would be sold as a separate item. Bead findings, such as memory wire, that proved too difficult for students to use, would not be included in the starter kit. A chapter on how to make advanced jewelry, which uses memory wire on earrings and bracelets, would be in the guidebook along with a cut-out survey that consumers can submit to APH. The survey will ask consumers this question: After using the starter kit successfully, is there a need for an advanced beading kit that includes items such as memory wire?

Work during FY 2014

The accessible formats of the guidebook were completed. The Braille Beads and the APH Beading Tray were manufactured. Both products became available for sale on June 13, 2014.

Professional Development Services for Teachers (n.d.)

Color-by-Texture Marking Mats



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

Project Staff

Alt Tag: Prototype cover art on front cover of instruction booklet


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. Unexpectedly, it was discovered 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.

Work during FY 2014

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.

Alt Tag: 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.

Alt Tag: 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:

Alt Tag: 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 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

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 below:

Alt Tag: 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.

Work planned FY 2015

The final design of Color-by-Texture Marking Mats will be directly impacted by field test feedback. Anticipated improvements will include 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. The project leader will conduct a Product Development Committee meeting to review the expected product components. Efforts during FY 2015 will target tooling development, graphic layout of the instruction booklet, and preparation of the product specifications. Quota approval will be requested from the Educational Product Advisory Committee at the 146th Annual Meeting.


Advanced Desktop Stick-On Number Lines



To provide upper elementary and middle school math students a tool to gain a better understanding of positive and negative numbers

Project Staff


The Advanced Number Line is a tool used in math classrooms at the upper elementary and middle school levels to better understand the relationship between positive and negative numbers. The number line has zero as a midpoint and an equal number of positive and negative numbers extending from the zero. A variety of these types of number lines are available as free downloads for classrooms to use in teaching the relationship between positive and negative numbers as well as beginning additions and subtraction involving positive and negative numbers.

The product submission came from a TVI in Arizona who requested a product similar to the existing Desktop Stick-On Number Line.

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 Product Advisory and Review Committee for approval. The project leader met with Technical Research to begin design of the Advanced Desktop Stick-On Number Lines. A manufacturing specialist was assigned, and the design was completed.

Work During FY 2014

Project staff completed the development of the prototypes and shared with reviewers. Graphic design completed the print insert. Technical Research held the specification meeting in March 2014 and production was scheduled for July 2014. The product became available for sale in July 2014. The Advanced Desktop Stick-On Number Line is available on Quota.

Animal Watch VI Suite



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


Animal Watch VI Suite 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® mobile device app (currently available on-line at the App Store), were developed by the consultants, and the braille and tactile graphics for preliminary 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. The results of this broader, state-wide study were positive, confirming the outcome of the local study and supporting APH’s recommendation for product development.

Work during FY 2014

Two project leaders (Zhou & Hoffmann) reviewed the product submission in December 2013. Although it was viewed in a favorable light, both project leaders requested more information from the consultants, especially with regard to production of the tactile graphics and the organization of the kit’s many parts. The product submission was favorably reviewed in April 2014 by a third APH project leader, Dawn Wilkinson (Early Childhood), who also recommended production by APH pending minor modifications in the tactile graphics. The Arizona-wide feasibility study, completed at the end of April 2014, provided feedback that streamlines the product design. Recommended iPad® mobile device app programming changes included 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. Furthermore, the print Screenshot book and the miniature models of twelve endangered animals included in the original product design will be omitted. The feasibility study revealed that the Screenshot book provided redundant information, and the Technical Manager noted that consistent sources for animal miniatures would be difficult to secure for many years of production. Members of the APH Product Evaluation Team (PET) met on May 28, 2014 and approved the product submission for further evaluation by APH staff. Final approval of Animal Watch VI Suite as a product officially under development took place during the Product Advisory and Research Committee (PARC) meeting on July 7, 2014.

Work planned for FY 2015

The project leaders determined that APH does not have the production staff and equipment necessary to produce the high-quality color tactile graphics in the same manner as those used for the feasibility study. Tactile Vision Graphics in Ottawa, Canada and gh, LLC in Lafayette, IN were contacted as potential outside vendors for production of tactile graphics suitable for the Animal Watch VI Suite. APH will obtain samples of two types of tactile graphics from both vendors, as well as cost estimates for bulk production of all needed tactile graphics for product completion. The project leaders will select one of these vendors pending information obtained.

The consultants will conduct a nationwide intervention study of the revised Animal Watch iPad® mobile device app with accompanying braille and tactile graphics during the 2014-2015 school year. This will take place in lieu of a field test typically conducted by APH project leaders. The consultants will provide the project leaders all information and results obtained which will be in the format of teacher and student interviews conducted over the telephone. Arrangements will be made to transfer the programming aspects of the App from the University of Arizona to APH technical staff. APH will be responsible for making the App available for purchase at the App Store. Accompanying print and embossed materials will be made available on the APH on-line shopping page and print catalog. The price of the App and its availability using Quota funds will be discussed.

APH Tactile Compass



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

Project Staff


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. This APH Tactile Compass is an assistive tool designed to enable students with blindness to draw tactile circles in their math 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 teeth of its spur wheel are not sharp enough to draw on braille paper. The new APH 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.

Work during FY 2014

Project staff have completed product design for field testing. 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 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.

Prototypes have been made and documents have been prepared for field testing. Evaluation sites have been identified and the field test began.

Work planned for FY 2015

Field test of the APH Tactile Compass will be completed. Test data will be analyzed and necessary revisions of this product will be made. Project staff will initiate work on final tooling and product specifications for this product.

Bold-line Tactile Graph Sheets



To provide dual-format (bold-line and tactile) graph sheets accessible to both large print and braille readers. New packages will complement and expand APH’s variety of graph sheets that are currently provided in separate bold-line, embossed paper, and low-relief versions.

Project Staff

Alt Tag: 15 x 20 graph sheet with variety of tactile stickers, paper, and graphic art tape applied


The inspiration for combined bold-line tactile graph sheets occurred during the project leader’s development of Tactile Tangrams. A component of this new product is a package of 10 x 7 (with 1-inch squares) tactile/print grid sheets, produced via an in-house thermography method. These graph sheets are used to determine the area of individual tangram puzzle pieces, or combinations of puzzle pieces, in square units.

While reviewing APH’s current inventory of available graph sheets, the project leader noticed that only separate versions of graph sheets were available in an “either/or” option. Bold-line graphs were routinely offered in packages of 100 sheets and embossed paper versions were routinely offered in packages of 50 sheets. Review of past sales of the existing graph packages revealed wide fluctuations in the sales of the 20 styles of graph sheets; some were far more popular than others, selling in excess of 700 packages per year.

The project leader prepared and submitted a product submission form on April 13, 2010, proposing the production of bold-line tactile graph sheets as counterparts to the most popular graph packages sold by APH. The product submission form was reviewed by other APH staff to assess product viability. The product idea was formally approved on November 28, 2012, by the Product Evaluation Team on December 13, 2012, by the Product Advisory and Review Committee. Since the product endeavor was considered an expansion of an existing product line, Quota approval was unneeded. Likewise, extensive field test effort was seen as unnecessary because of the product’s simple presentation.

Beginning with a Product Development Committee conducted on February 5, 2013, the project quickly navigated through the necessary product development stages. The project leader determined the introductory package based upon the most requested styles of current graph sheets. The first package offered will consist of a 50-sheet package of 8.5 x 11 bold-line tactile graph sheets (with ½” squares for creating bar graphs) produced via an in-house thermography (“Green Machine”) method.

The project leader’s work effort on this project was minimal throughout the second quarter of the FY 2013. Graph samples with different line thicknesses were tested. Once an ideal presentation was determined, specifications were conveyed to the manufacturing specialist who prepared the final file for production. A new catalog number (1-04080-00) was assigned and product specifications were presented to Production staff on June 25, 2013. The production timeline was updated with a quick turnaround anticipated.

Work during FY 2014

The set of 50 Bold-Line Tactile Graph Sheets (1-04080-00) with ½-inch squares in a 15 x 20 grid for bar graphs was the first APH product introduced in FY 2014 on October 16, 2013. Its final selling price is $21.00 (available with Quota funds). Because of the lack of production problems, a virtual debriefing meeting was conducted via e-mail on November 19, 2013; no concerns were noted by Production staff prior to future production runs. The project leader prepared final brochure content and layout of the photographed graph sample.

At the end of the third quarter of FY 2014, sales (217 purchased packages) of the combined print/tactile format of the 15 x 20 grids with ½” squares were comparable to those of bold-line-only style (1-04063-00) and embossed-only style (1-04053-00) packages —182 and 223 packages, respectively.

Work planned for FY 2015

In response to the apparent demand for the combined visual/tactile presentation of the initial package of Bold-Line Tactile Graph Sheets, the project leader will likely embark on the introduction of additional packages that replicate graph configurations already offered in separate bold-line, embossed, and/or low-relief styles.

Common Core Math Kits



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

Project Staff


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.

Work during 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 Planned for FY 2015

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.

Consumable Hundreds Chart



To provide elementary students who are blind and visually impaired with a tool to learn and reinforce basic number concepts

Project Staff


The Hundreds Chart is a tool used in many elementary classrooms to develop understanding of Counting and Cardinality, Operations and Algebraic Thinking, and Numbers and Operations in Base Ten. APH has a product, Hundreds Board and Manipulatives Kit, for classroom demonstration but no consumable print/braille charts for student use. Many classroom teachers use these charts frequently and have electronic resources to produce the charts on demand for classroom use.

The product submission came informally from an Ex Officio Trustee who had been receiving request from TVIs in her district. A product submission was subsequently received from a teacher in that district.

Preliminary Research

In FY 2012, the product submission was evaluated by the project leader and submitted to the Product Evaluation Team and Product Advisory and Review Committee for approval. A Product Development Committee meeting was held to obtain input from other project leaders. Two (print only) prototypes were developed by Technical Research. The first prototype had alternating highlighted lines. The second prototype had no highlighted lines. The prototypes were sent to 10 elementary teachers for review of chart size, font size, and physical arrangement and to determine the need for the highlighting.

In FY 2013, using feedback from elementary teachers, the project leader determined the best design would be to include both types of the prototypes for the Consumable Hundreds Chart. Each kit will have five charts with highlighting and five without highlighting. A print/braille prototype was developed, and a Teacher’s Guidebook was developed. A Product Specification Meeting was held in June of 2013, and a production date of September 2013 was scheduled.

Work during FY 2014

The Consumable Hundreds Chart became available for sale in October 2013. The product is available on Quota.

Feel 'n Peel Stickers: Basic Math Symbols



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


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 20” selling products. The most recently-introduced sticker collection, Nemeth Braille/Print Numbers 0-100 (1-08876-00), experiences one of the highest sales with over 1,600 packages sold in FY 2013 and 1,081 packages purchased during the first three quarters of FY 2014.

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, Oregon, 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.

Work during FY 2014

In May 2014, the development and production of Feel ‘n Peel Stickers: Basic Math Symbols was presented to the Product Evaluation Team (PET) and in July 2014, to the Product Advisory and Review Committee (PARC). 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, 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 setup each sheet to accommodate a full selection of all five math symbols in a 13 x 13 arrangement.

Alt Tag: Tooling setup of Nemeth version of math symbols

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 planned for FY 2015

The project leader will work with an in-house graphic designer to design an attractive insert with suggested uses of the stickers. Unique inserts (in both print and braille) will be prepared for both the UEB and Nemeth Basic Math Symbol packages. The following tooling tasks will be completed in-house and by the outside vendor:

The final product specifications will be presented to Production staff and timelines for both Basic Math Symbol packages will be established. The goal will be to produce the product during the fourth quarter of the fiscal year. The project leader and Technical Research staff will monitored the quality of received parts from the vendor. The product, like all previous Feel 'n Peel packages, will be available with Quota funds. Development of additional packages of Feel 'n Peel Stickers will be pursued if repeated requests for particular types of stickers are received.

Flip-Over Concept Books: FRACTIONS

Formerly Flying Through Fractions



To provide teachers with a tool that will assist primary and intermediate students to learn fractions via a flip-chart type “booklet”

Project Staff


The product submission for this product came from a teacher of the visually impaired. The original product idea was to develop a pin screen to be explored tactually. The pins would be stable enough not to change position with tactile exploration, yet easy enough to depress with a template. Templates would be created for common shapes with fractional sections. The templates would be pushed onto the pin board, and the sections of 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 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 scenarios. The project leader at the time contacted the teacher who 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 book would be hole-punched in the upper corner with a ring binding. On the first page, there would be a circle divided into the appropriate fractional part with the fractional name, followed by the pages with the fractional parts tactually presented and 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.

Project was turned over to current project leader 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 this product would become part of the Flip-Over Concept Books series and utilize the format of the previous Flip-Over books, except that this book will have two possible display options: flat or easel style. It will be an interactive print and tactile booklet that provides 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 to display the panels. The print/tactile panels are 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 instructions booklet and submitted it to the research assistant for review and edit. In FY 2012, the content of the instructions booklet was finalized and turned over to Terri Gilmore for design.

Work during FY 2014

Project was turned over to current project leaders in January 2014. Project staff met and reviewed previous product design. Changes were made including colors and booklet display options. Teacher's instruction booklet was revised to include new changes.

Work planned for FY 2015

Prototypes will be made and documents will be prepared for field testing. Evaluation sites will be identified and the product will be field tested.




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


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.

Work during FY 2014

In the fall of 2013 the Teacher's Guide was turned over to Braille production. Edits continued to be made to the Teacher's Manual during the fall of 2013 and through the spring of 2014. Finalization of the content for the Teacher's Manual was completed in July, and a Specifications meeting was held on July 29, 2014.

Work planned for FY 2015

Production will be completed, and the product will become available for purchase.

Graphic Aid for Mathematics, Revision



To revise the Graphic Aid for Mathematics (GAM) by altering and adding components to make the product easier to use and read

Project Staff


At the advice of teachers who use the APH kit or their own homemade variations, staff investigated ideas for making graphs easier to display and more readable. Some suggestions came from retired teacher Ken Kalina, who constructed his own boards with grids made on a braille embosser and used a variety of wires and pins to create his graphs. Other revisions originated in-house.

Project staff purchased a variety of wires and pins to augment existing components of the kit. They also developed new, inexpensive tools to help in making and marking graphs: a pivoting ruler with print and tactile markings, to help students mark points at a given radius from another point, and a set of adjustable X-Y axes that can be placed anywhere on the grid board. Manufacturing bids were obtained for the resized board and a new component, an embossed circle graph to be mounted on the reverse of the grid.

Preliminary input was gathered at two Annual Meeting sessions and from teachers at a multi-school in-service in New York.

In FY 2011, 15 complete prototype sets were made and a full field evaluation was conducted. Respondents included both public and residential school teachers in California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York (2), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas (4).

The field evaluation included 45 students in all grades 4-12, except 6th grade. Of these students, 24 were male and 21 female; 11 were stated to have other handicapping conditions such as learning disabilities or cerebral palsy.

The evaluation results showed broad support for the proposed additions to the kit. Most respondents wanted the new components added and the original ones retained as well. Reactions to a proposed size reduction for the grid were evenly split.

The project leader decided on design revisions. An instructional insert was written, and a product logo and box label were designed.

The project went in queue for Technical Research to write specifications. Meanwhile, a variety of revisions and innovations were suggested by the newly hired Core Curriculum Project Leader, Li Zhou, based on his experience teaching math to students who are visually impaired. It was decided to place the project back into active development to evaluate whether the proposed changes would be beneficial and practical to produce. Eventually the newer kit of materials became known as the Math Graphing Kit (MGK). See separate report below.

Work during FY 2014

All work specifically on revising the GAM was suspended during the development of MGK because of uncertainty over whether the new kit would replace the old one. A question in the field evaluation for the MGK asked reviewers if they saw it as a potential replacement for the GAM, or if they would prefer to have access to both. Although a significant number viewed it as a replacement, more teachers preferred access to both kits for use in different situations.

Work planned for FY 2015

The likelihood of keeping both graphing products available means that, at some point, revising the GAM may be relevant again. To avoid customer confusion over the two products, however, and allow some time to see how the GAM fares after the MGK is released and becomes established, revision plans are shelved for the foreseeable future.

Math Graphing Kit



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


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 time number previously assigned to the GAM product revision.

Work during FY 2014

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 white hook material supplied by 3M Company and two types of nylon cord in contrasting colors proved to offer good adhesion, reusability, and tactual readability. Several inter-departmental meetings and discussions with vendors were held to decide how various components of the kit could be produced.

The model makers produced a few sample board layouts 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:

The evaluation was very detailed and a full compilation of the findings is being completed as of this writing; therefore, an analysis of reviewers' preferences and suggestions for each component cannot be given yet. Responding to a question on the overall utility of the kit, however, 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. A brief summary of the data indicates that of 196 tasks performed by 80 students, 125 (64%) were done with more ease on the MGK than on other graphing materials. As stated above, this information is still being thoroughly analyzed and may yield useful information about the types of tasks or situations where the MGK is most appropriate to use.

Work planned for FY 2015

The project leaders will decide on final design changes and additions needed and work with the Model Shop and Technical Research to get the production tooling made. Emphasis will be given to designing tooling and procedures in the most efficient way to reduce time and waste of materials. Decisions about which parts will be produced by outside vendors will also be needed, along with specifying materials and quantities to purchase.

While production specifications are being drafted, project leaders will also write the User's Guide for the kit and work with graphic designers on the art for the booklet and storage box.

Math Robot™



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

Project Staff


As APH moves its technological focus to portable devices such as those running on iOS® and AndroidTM platforms, it responds to teachers and students who requested a version of Math Flash for iOS®. (See Math Flash provides drill, practice, and tests for simple, configurable math problems with speech and braille feedback.

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

Work during FY 2014

The following project-related tasks were completed:

Work planned for FY 2015

Project staff will work to complete the following tasks:




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


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. The Technical Research Department created prototypes of several manipulatives and continued work to complete the remaining pieces.

Work during FY 2014

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 Planned for FY 2015

Work will continue on Unit 2, Number Concepts, and Unit 4, Number Operation. Prototypes will be developed for field testing of all three remaining units including manipulatives and worksheet.

Nemeth Code Reference Sheet for Basic Mathematics [Modernization]



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

Project Staff


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.

Work during FY 2014

A Product Modernization form was submitted in September 2013. The revised Nemeth Code Sheet will become 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 successfully participate 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 Planned for FY 2015

The project leader will finalize the content for each of the three new reference sheets. Project staff will begin graphic design and braille translation of the three sheets in preparation for field evaluation.

Nemeth Tutorial



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


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 2014

Work Planned for fy 2014

Orion TI-30XS Talking Scientific Calculator



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


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 fully participate 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.

Work during FY 2014

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

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

Orbit Research and Texas Instrument 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 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 Talking Scientific Calculator.

Work Planned for FY 2015

Project staff will complete product documentation, and determine button placement, cover design, and case redesign. Project staff and consultants will test and evaluate the prototypes delivered by Orbit Research, and conduct alpha testing using consultants and a limited number of students and teachers. Beta testing (field testing) will be conducted in the spring of 2015 at 15 school sites and with four expert reviewers.

Tactile Algebra Tiles



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


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, they 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 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.

Work during FY 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 was assigned. The project leader met with Technical Research to begin design of the Tactile Algebra Tiles.

Work planned for FY 2015

Design of Tactile Algebra Tiles will be completed. A teacher's instruction will be completed. Field testing materials will be made, including prototypes and evaluation forms. Field test will begin.

Two-Dimensional Cross Sections of Three-Dimensional Objects



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


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 2D tactile graphics to convey 3-D information, the project leader submitted this product idea to provide students who are visually impaired with real 3-D models so that they can 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.

This product consists of two cones showing all four conic sections and two cubes showing 2D cross sections of a triangle, a trapezoid, a pentagon, a hexagon, and a parallelogram. 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 2D 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.

Work during FY 2014

3-D models have been designed. In the final design, this product consists of two cones and two cubes: cone 1 shows cuts of a circle and a hyperbola; cone 2 shows cuts of an ellipse and a parabola; cube 1 shows cuts of a triangle, a hexagon, and a trapezoid; and cube 2 shows cuts of a parallelogram and a pentagon. Textures have been 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 sale of this product, a consensus was reached among the development team 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 will 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 high production cost. They are also customizable, which adds 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.

Printable cone and cube models for 3-D printing have been 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 planned for FY 2015

Printable 3-D models of this product will be ready for online download. Users' feedback will be collected to make informed decisions on similar practices in the future.


Count Me In: Motor Development in a Box


Alt Tag: 1) A young boy runs on the prototype of the tactile guidebar. 2) The boy activates the motivator switch at the end of the guidebar.


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.


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.


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 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, n.d.) 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 area beep-t-ball, a beep-t-stand, a tactile guidebar, and motivational switches.


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.


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

Lieberman, L. J., & Pecorella, M. (n.d.) Activity at home for children and youth who are deafblind. Retrieved from

Work during FY 2014

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.

Work planned for FY 2015

The project leader will continue to test prototypes of adapted equipment.

Gross Motor Development Study and Curriculum


Alt Tag: 1) A coach uses verbal instruction and physical guidance to teach a young runner proper arm movement for running. 2) 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.


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.


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.


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, BRF, text file, HTML, and DTB. 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.


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 for this research project, was published.


Wagner, M., Haibach, P., & 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.

Work during FY 2014

Before the expense of captioning is added to the video, it was posted on the APH website 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:


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.

Wagner, M., Haibach, P., & Lieberman, L. J (2014). Determinants of gross motor skill performance of children with visual impairments. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35,, 2577-2584.

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

Work planned for FY 2015

Volunteer feedback on the video has been minimal so in 2015 the video will be included in field testing.




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.


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.

Work during FY 2014

The survey received 64 responses and they revealed that only 5% had used MyPlate from the TGIL. Of the 64 responses, 36% had accessed the 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 Facebook page, Twitter, and Fred's Head Blog. Features were created on the APH Physical Education website 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 issue of the APH News. By mid July, only six people submitted a survey, of which 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 planned for FY 2015

APH will continue to promote MyPlate, including the government websites with free downloadable curriculum and graphics, the TGIL, and the Feature pages on the APH physical education website.

PE Web Site



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

Project Staff


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:

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 2014

Staff posted the 2014 winter and summer sports camps in January. Monthly updates were posted as they were submitted by camp directors. A new Health and Nutrition page was added to the website. Project Leader, Tristan Pierce, and consultant, Dr. Lauren Lieberman, presented Online Resources to Help Students With Visual Impairments Get Involved in Physical Activity and Stay Healthy at the 2014 AER International Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

APH posted three new features:

  1. The Development of Blind Tennis is a report written by Ayako Matsui, International Blind Tennis Association; it was sent to the International Tennis Federation. The report lists 19 countries and the number of individuals with visual impairments who have experienced playing adapted tennis.
  2. Partners PE is a video of APH Consultant, Millie Smith, interviewing Elaine Osborne, Hunt Middle School special education teacher, about her school's physical education peer program for students with multiple disabilities.
  3. The introduction of APH's free, low vision and tactile graphics (from the APH Tactile Graphics Image Library) on teaching food safety.

Work planned for FY 2015

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



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

Project Staff


APH recognized the need and began to develop products and fund university research in the area of physical activity in relation to students who have visual impairments, blindness, and deafblindness. The positive feedback from the field prompted a new designation in the budget for Health and Physical Education.

Work during FY 2014

The project leader continued to maintain the PE Web site and to work on Gross Motor Development Curriculum 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 planned for FY 2015

Work will continue on the PE Web site, Motor Development Curriculum, and Count Me In: Motor Development in a Box, and Possibilities.




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 a reference booklet authored by a team of experts who regularly provide instruction in this content area to students with visual impairments and blindness.

Alt Tag: Tentative logo design for SPORTS COURTS—basketball theme

Project Staff


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 and recently 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 Teachers 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.

Work during FY 2014

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.

Alt Tag: 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, Dr. Lauren Lieberman, worked directly with the project leader to decide on planned courts and fields, 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 (PDC). It was decided that the following 11-by-17 inch tactile/print layouts would be readied for field test purposes:

Alt Tag: 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

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.

Alt Tag: 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, the project leader and T. 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; T. 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 in serving as field evaluators. The field test opportunity was announced at a general session presented by Dr. 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.

Work planned for FY 2015

Although originally optimistic that the field test stage might begin during the FY 2014, it became apparent that the complexity and scope of prototype development will definitely extend into the first quarter of 2015. Ideally, the prototype will be tested in academic settings in the latter half of the school year, and then followed by assessment at summer camps in June and July 2015. Feasibility of this goal will be contingent on the final preparation of the following:

If the pace of the project continues as planned, compilation of field test results will be available by end of FY 2015. Enhancements to the SPORTS COURTS will be influenced and guided by both teacher and student feedback. Project staff will usher the project through the remaining goals of documentation completion, tooling, and specifications for eventual production.


All Aboard! The Sight Word Activity Express

Formerly Magnetic Dolch Word Wall



To offer a magnetic set of Dolch words (or sight words) for a myriad of activities 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.

Alt Tag: Photo shows the cover art of teacher’s guidebook for the All Aboard! The Sight Word Activity Express

Project Staff


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. The newly-assigned, final product name, All Aboard! The Sight Word Activity Express, is used in the FY 2014 section of this 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 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:

Alt Tag: 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

Apples4theteacher: Dolch® Sight Words

Dolch Kit©

Enchanted Learning: Dolc®h Words

K12Reader: Reading Instruction Resources for Teachers & Parents: Dolch® Word List Worksheets and Activities

Mrs. Perkins’ Dolch Words: Helping Your Children Read

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.

Alt Tag: 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 ( 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, email 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.

Alt Tag: 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 5-7 (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.

(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:

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
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

Note: Some evaluators gave the following reasons for not rating various items: “not attempted,” “did not use this way,” or “not applicable.”

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.

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.

Work during FY 2014

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:

Alt Tag: 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 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 mockup 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 the fiscal year, tooling efforts were focused on the final approval of all related art files, construction of the vacuum-form masters, preparation of the silk screens, 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 planned for FY 2015

The tooling and specifications stage of the product will conclude by the end of the 2014 calendar year. The availability of All Aboard! The Sight Word Activity Express will likely occur in the third or fourth quarter of FY 2015. The project staff will monitor the quality of produced and vendor-received parts 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



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


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 the various publishers to replace these books. Books were selected and modifications to the kits and the website were completed.

Work during 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 level of each existing book. The Wright Group, the publisher of four sets of books, was purchased by another publisher and a decision was made by the new publisher to eliminate the Sunshine and TWiG series. A limited number of these sets are still available from APH.

Work Planned for FY 2015

New series will be selected to replace the Sunshine and TWiG books. The website will be updated to include these new kits.

Editing Kits



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

Project Staff


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 was 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.

Work during FY 2014

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 Planned for FY 2015

Graphic Design will develop a cover design and prototype of the teacher’s guide. Project staff will complete a prototype of the editing kits and prepare materials for field evaluation.

This is Katie



To provide teachers with a tool to assist primary students in understanding the similarities and differences between students who are sighted and those who are blind or visually impaired

Project Staff


In 2009, the product submission form for this book was submitted by a braille transcriber who was working with the student who inspired the story. In the manuscript that the author submitted, Katie, a student who is blind, is a second grade student who is friends with Emma, who is sighted. The story is written from Emma's perspective. Emma presents the reader with all the ways she and her best friend Katie are alike before she discusses the ways in which they are different, including revealing that Katie is blind. Emma talks about what it means to be blind—from the perspective of an 8-year-old—and what she thinks it means for Katie. She talks about the different tools Katie uses in school to do the same activities she herself does in school, and about the different “teachers” Katie has. The author stated her intent is for teachers to use the book as a teaching tool to help students gain understanding and insight into what it means to be blind, or to have a friend who is blind or has other special needs, and to simply discuss the differences in all of us.

In late 2011, the product was turned over to the current project leader and presented to the Product Evaluation Team. Communication began with author of the book to obtain the rights for large print and braille versions. Rights were obtained.

A Product Development Committee meeting was held in May 2013. It was suggested that the book be an 11” x 11.5” print book with braille overlay pages. It was felt the manuscript text, as submitted, was at a higher reading level than second grade. Discussion centered around the following: researching the text reading level and changing the ages and grade level of the students in the story accordingly, the addition of a glossary of terms used in the book, alignment with social competency skills and Common Core State Standards, and the addition of a website link with the aforementioned information. The project leader began to research the reading level of the current manuscript and edit the manuscript.

Work during FY 2014

The project was assigned to the Braille Literacy Project Leader. During the initial review, she was reminded of a similar story that appears in a popular, general education reading series. Research located the exact selection. In addition, a number of stories with similar content were found, most of which are available for sale or in public libraries. For this reason, it was decided to abandon the This is Katie project.

Wilson Reading System



To provide a remedial reading program for students with visual impairments

Project Staff


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.

Work during FY 20114

Project staff completed the written specifications and a product specification meeting was held in February 2014. 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 of the Wilson Student Braille Kits will be staggered. Braille Student Kit Step 1 is scheduled for August 2014, Braille Student Kit Step 2 is scheduled for September 2014, and Braille Student Kit Step 3 is scheduled for October 2013. All items will be available on Quota.

Work Planned for FY 2015

Project staff will continue to monitor the progress of the production of the Wilson Braille Student Kits. Project staff will update files of existing products as changes and revisions are made by Wilson Reading System.


Adapted Science Materials Kit (ASMK)



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


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 DVD that describes and demonstrates, 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 scale/float; 7) two 100-ml graduated cylinders with braille scale/float; 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). A tactile/braille 1.5-meter tape from CareTec International (Vienna, Austria) was eliminated because testing revealed that it does not comply with CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) standards.

Most of the items in the ASMK available from Delta Education® have been field tested and used successfully by students with visual impairments and TVIs for over 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.

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 and the 100-ml and 1000-ml tripour beakers will be custom made at APH. Katherine Corcoran is responsible for the tooling of these items. These efforts will replicate items in the original SAVI materials from LHS.

The remaining items including the large print braille meter tape and the 50-ml and 100-ml graduated cylinder floats and scales will be custom made by Marshall Montgomery. These efforts will replicate items in the original SAVI materials from LHS.

ASMK will be produced without additional field testing.

Work during FY 2014

Most of the work during FY 2014 centered on obtaining CPSIA compliance for items obtained from Delta Education®, establishing materials sources for custom kit items, and tooling for modified items.

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 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.

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 sent 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- and 100-ml float scales manufactured by Montgomery with the materials sent to him were satisfactory to the project leader.

Work planned for FY 2015

The float scale plastic and foam material will be tested for CPSIA compliance by APH. 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 float scale, as well as make prototypes of the 100-ml float scale and meter tape from plastic materials provided by APH.

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.




To provide students who are visually impaired with an interactive model of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) and Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) that demonstrates DNA structure and replication and its transcription to messenger RNA (mRNA)

Project Staff


The general educational materials market lacks interactive DNA and RNA models suitable for students with blindness or low vision. The project leader and model maker designed an interactive model consisting of jigsaw puzzle-like pieces representing individual subunits, or nucleotides, of DNA and RNA for demonstration at the poster session during the 2010 APH Annual Meeting. The subunits are made of die-cut, 1/4-inch foam pieces covered with thermoformed laminate of different colors and textures. Meeting participants could see how the DNA subunits linked together to form single and double strands. The model also demonstrated how mRNA is formed from a DNA template. Participant feedback was positive and provided support for product development.

Andrew Dakin prepared 11 sets of prototypes of this model for field testing in the fall of 2011. Thirteen teachers and 45 middle and high school students from nine states and Canada participated in prototype evaluation and made suggestions for model improvement. Color contrast and tactile markings distinguishing the different DNA and RNA subunits were enhanced. The shape of the interlocking blanks and corresponding tabs of the nucleotide subunits were modified to ease attachment and detachment. A guidebook detailing how to use the product was submitted to the graphic designer in August 2012.

Work during FY 2013

Tooling for this product began in the fall of 2012. The entire product will be manufactured in-house. A production die to cut the foam nucleotide subunits was designed and purchased. Production molds for vacuum-forming the laminate were prepared at APH. Photography and layout for the large print DNA-RNA Kit Guidebook were completed. The guidebook was translated to braille and an HTML version was prepared; an accessible BRF and HTML file will be available for free download once the product is released. A pizza-style carry box to package the DNA-RNA Kit was selected; a label with product art was designed. The kit will consist of 32 DNA subunits, 32 RNA subunits, and the guidebook.

Work during FY 2014

All tooling for this product was completed in October 2013. The first production run took place in November 2013 after backordered materials were received. The DNA-RNA Kit was released as an official product on December 19, 2013 and is available for purchase with Quota funds. Accessible BRF and HTML files of the guidebook are available for free download with purchase of the product.

Work planned for FY 2015

No further work on this product is anticipated. The project leader will collaborate with the Communications Department to create Quick-Tip videos on the APH Web Site that demonstrate product use.

Earth Science Tactile Graphics (ESTG)



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


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 2014

The project leaders continued to select images for tactile rendering using Earth Science textbooks, the Next Generation Science Standards, and online educational resources, aiming for a total 50 graphics. Images are modified so they are appropriate for tactile rendering and still convey the intended Earth Science concept. The decision was made to prepare the graphics in-house with the Roland® Large Format printer followed by thermoforming with appropriate molds.

Work planned for FY 2015

The project leaders plan to field test a set of two-dimensional images is planned for spring 2015. Feedback regarding image selection and scope will be solicited from TVIs and classroom teachers in the field. Pending responses from TVIs, thermoform molds of selected images will commence.

Light Reflection & Refraction



To give 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


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 the 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.

Work during FY 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 this product for field test has been completed. During the design phase, the project leader consulted a science teacher of students with visual impairments and some of his suggestions were incorporated into the design.

Work planned for FY 2015

Prototypes will be made and documents will be prepared for field testing. Evaluators will be determined and field test will be conducted. Field testing data will be analyzed and necessary revisions will be made. Project staff will initiate work on final tooling and product specifications for this product.

Protein Synthesis Kit (PSK)



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


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 indispensible 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.

The field test results were positive, but several changes were recommended and implemented.

Work during FY 2014

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 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. The project leader designed a color tactile graphic illustrating the final phase of mRNA translation; artwork is complete. The full color graphic will be rendered on the Roland® graphic printer followed by thermoforming. Layout of the Guidebook is complete except for photos of the actual product.

Work planned for FY 2015

Cutting dies and thermoform molds that reflect suggested changes will be designed and made. A thermoform mold for the tactile graphic will be made. Materials will be ordered for a first run of the product. The final rendering of the model subunits and tactile graphic will be turned over to the graphic designers for photography. The final guidebook text will be submitted to the graphic designers for layout and insertion of product element photographs. The project leader expects this product to be released in 2015.

Submersible Audio Light Sensor (SALS)



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


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, 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 the past 6 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 impacts both the development time and final prototype cost ($14.00 per unit), it is 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.

The SALS device is eligible for Quota approval. APH will be the sole distributor of this product.

Work during FY 2014

Work on the first new prototype continued. 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 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. Five prototypes of the SALS device and probe were delivered to APH in the fall of 2014, along with a draft copy of a Guidebook with instructions for use.

Work planned for FY 2015

The project leader will identify and contact field test sites over a wide geographic are in the U.S. Mick Isaacson will prepare the field test materials including prototype and Guidebook evaluation instruments. The five SALS units will be shipped to the identified sites, thus commencing the field evaluation process.

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

Formerly Tactile Posters/Puzzles



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

Project Staff


Alt Tag: Image of anterior view of human skeleton as shown in poster


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 ( 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:

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 for producing 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.

Work during FY 2014

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 the fiscal year 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 inches wide by 23.5 inches 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 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 planned for FY 2015

Remaining tooling activities, especially related to the instruction booklet, will continue into the first quarter of FY 2015. At that time, the in-house graphic designer will professionally lay out the cover art, text pages, and needed photos or images; braille translation of the document will follow. Product specifications will be formally presented to Production staff in Spring 2015, with product availability targeted for the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. Depending upon the popularity of this science 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.


Address: Earth – Large Format Atlas, Section 2


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


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 (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 is on track to be produced next.

Project Staff


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 first section; 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 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 wrote their units, APH staff continued to edit, find photos, request permissions, do layouts, refine maps, and prepare Section 2 for expert review.

Field testing took place and content was refined based upon field test data. Final content of all print chapters was approved. Final content of the Maps and Charts books was approved.

Work during FY 2014

Braille translation took place in late 2012 and was completed in February of 2013. Clean files were generated from the Braille transcription 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 and the product was ready for sale in February, 2014.

Work planned for FY 2015

Edits and layout of the chapters of Section III continue with the Caribbean countries South and Mesoamerica will take place. Some chapters, photos and sidebars have been developed already. Several are in 2nd or 3rd draft stages. Photo searches, development of permissions information, edits, and writing of sidebars will continue. Development of maps continues.

Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen



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

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

Project Staff


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.


  • Touch of the pen to the graphic page instantly recognizes it from any other graphic in the binder/stack
  • Audio feedback serves as reinforcement of the tactually-explored material
  • Opportunities exist to provide multiple layers of information for each graphic feature
  • Fosters independent exploration of a graphic
  • User-friendly, extremely intuitive, and very little instruction or orientation needed to “dive” into exploring the page(s) independently
  • Invites additional interest to the graphic presentation
  • Unneeded clutter is avoided by minimal labeling; if additional identification is needed, the pen provides that content/feedback. Adjoining legends/keys can be avoided, resulting in less bulk of the overall product.
  • Printed grid is barely noticed visually and not at all tactually.
  • Has standardized features on every page (e.g., VOLUME, HELP, and REPEAT)
  • The HELP feature provides extensive guidance for properly using the pen.
  • Works best when pages are removed from binder, BUT still works pretty well when pages are left in binder during exploration
  • Reader is permitted to interrupt/terminate speech at any point during the audible description.
  • Contains seemingly sturdy, durable pages
  • Thermoform pages are consistent with good tactile design.
  • Combined tactile/print pages are ideal for any student and would invite interest and use by sighted peers as well.
  • A distinguishable chime is heard if another layer of information is available; a short click is heard if only one identifying label exists.
  • Tapping a blank space allows interruption of speech.
  • vVolume can be adjusted at any time during the audio feedback without interruption of the spoken sentence/information.
  • Pen serves as a “traveling narrator” to the graphics; a teacher’s “live” assistance is not required.
  • Upon showing the product to an adult braille reader, the following statement was given: “I could learn from this all day long!!!”


  • Sometimes the pen touches a part of the graphic, but the speech is not activated. Repeated touches of the pen (e.g., from different angles) are often required.
  • Format might foster dependence on audio descriptions of graphics not available in real testing situations with tactile graphics, but for the classroom learning and casual learning experiences, it is ideal.
  • Might hinder two-handed exploration of a graphic as one hand is holding the pen, but based on first-hand observation of a tactile reader’s experience, this did not occur
  • Pen might be too large for small hands. Graphics presented in binder are fine since the content is for older students who can probably manage the pen okay. On the other hand, the pen’s chunkiness might be beneficial to a young child.
  • Sometimes harder to activate higher-relief areas with the pen
  • For best activation, pen has to run along perimeter of raised images; this technique might be hard to do, especially by a younger student.

The project leader and other Research staff considered possible collaborative efforts with the vendors. Conference calls were conducted.

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, 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 functionality1 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 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.

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.

Work during FY 2014

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 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 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% 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 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 follow:

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 n eeded? 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:

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) 11% (Unsure)
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 a 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 planned for FY 2015

The new fiscal year will begin with a request for Quota approval from the Educational Products Advisory Committee at the APH’s 146th Annual Meeting. Momentum toward completion of production tooling will characterize most of the first and second quarters of FY 2015. The project leader will oversee the refinements to the physical presentation of the map, modifications to the state layer information, and design layout and braille translation of the product instructions. Pending completion of all related tooling efforts by both APH and Touch Graphics, Inc., a final production schedule will be determined and set with possible introduction of the product before the 2015-2016 school year.

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.

Tactile World Globe



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

Alt Tag: APH Globe: Tactile and Visual


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.”

Alt Tag: 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.

Alt Tag: 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 the 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 have 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 model/pattern maker 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, the model/pattern maker 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.

Work during FY 2014

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. Certain features of the field tested globe were particularly popular and were indicated as 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.

By the end of the fiscal year, the project leader and the pattern/model maker reviewed the final field test results to determine needed enhancements and revisions to the tactile globe. A Product Development Committee meeting was conducted in September to review expected updates and eventual production processes and materials.

Work planned for FY 2015

The project staff will usher the product through the post-field test stages of production tooling and specifications. The mold fabrication for the entire globe will be readied by the model/pattern maker. Production and introduction of the new globe will likely occur in FY 2016.

Recognizing Landforms (revision)



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


Recognizing Landforms has been in the APH catalog for over 30 years. 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 the presentation is still valid and engaging enough to be retained, in edited form. For example, the main character, an amiable talking computer, often refers to his "memory tapes." References such as this which are alien to today's students can be edited out with no harm to the instructional content.

The product was developed at a time when more blind students were taught at residential schools and were more likely to receive the kind of specialized instruction it incorporates. 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.

Work during FY 2014

The project leader obtained the audio files in .mp3 format and used software to edit their content. In addition to outdated references, characters and passages specifically oriented to young children were deleted, with the aim of broadening the appeal to older learners, along with material that did not advance the content appreciably. This resulted in most of the sound files becoming about 30% shorter.

The project leader also solicited instructors, via e-mail discussion groups, to record their own audio files at various 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 project leader pursued this idea along several avenues, eventually obtaining a vWand kit involving programmable Near-Field Chips and a wand for reading them from SistelNetworks, S. L. in Spain. This technology, upon examination, does not appear to be a practical option for adding audio directly to the tactile models, but there are additional options to pursue.

Work planned for FY 2015

The project leader will continue to investigate cost-effective possibilities for adding audio output to the models. In the meantime, revision and re-introduction of the original kit with the changes described above will continue regardless of the progress of this investigation.

Work will begin on devising convenient and affordable packaging for the kit components. An expert review will be conducted on the revised kit after identifying teachers with significant experience using the original materials. A question of key interest will be the purpose and use of the teacher's guide and how it relates to the audio program.

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.

U.S. & Canada Tactile/Print Atlas



To produce new volumes of high-quality tactile thematic maps by adapting designs originally made by The Princeton Braillists

Project Staff


An earlier collaboration with Nancy Amick and The Princeton Braillists resulted in the product World Maps, which has been well received. This project aims to address a deficiency in APH's offerings in the way of detailed thematic maps showing land use, elevation, major cities, and so on. It is based on the multi-volume set Northern North America by The Princeton Braillists, but has fewer and simpler maps and will be contained in one volume.

A major advance represented in this volume is the addition of color and print maps, making it more accessible to low vision or sighted students and teachers. The medium on which the tactile maps must be produced for best readability—a thin vinyl—limits the methods by which print can be provided. Through various trials, project staff decided to produce the tactile maps on a clear vinyl and the print maps as paper underlay sheets. These will be put in a binder so that pages can be removed as desired. The chosen format also has the advantage of using all in-house processes, so no coordination with outside vendors is needed.

The project leader and Amick agreed on the maps to be included and the simplifications needed for each. The model maker created vacuum-form patterns, poured molds, and revised the production patterns.

Because the content of the maps was already determined, a full field evaluation was deemed unnecessary; an expert review of several representative maps with the clear map/print underlay format was conducted. The expert reviews were positive and helpful to determine the changes needed in format and coloring. The project leader colored the remainder of the map scans accordingly.

The project came to a halt when the project leader sent. Amick a sample set of the maps in the proposed final format. It was Amick’s opinion that the tactual quality of her original maps was compromised by production on the clear material and she expressed reluctance to remain associated with the product.

To investigate these concerns, the project leader devised and conducted another field evaluation focused solely on tactual readability. The tasks in the evaluation assessed students’ ability to locate or identify specific tactile features on the maps, using a key page for reference. Map interpretation skills beyond basic feature identification were not involved.

Eight evaluation sites were chosen comprising 14 braille-reading students in grades 5 through 10. Teachers were instructed in writing to let students become familiar with the symbols key provided, then to present individual maps and ask the students to locate or identify specific items on them. Each map had three to five location tasks associated with it.

In an attempt to gauge not only the students’ performance but also the reasons for their performance, teachers were given the following instructions for recording students’ interactions with the maps, along with comments:

  1. Please fill out a form for each student, and use the following rating scale for each task:
    1. Student did not locate the information successfully.
    2. Student found information with difficulty.
    3. Student found information with moderate or typical effort.
    4. Student found information with ease.
  2. Did the student use a methodical approach or strategy in examining the graphic to answer the questions?
  3. If the student did not answer the questions correctly, it was because (mark any that apply)
    1. the map design was unclear.
    2. the tactile elements were not distinct enough.
    3. the subject matter was unfamiliar or too advanced.
    4. student hasn't developed the skills needed for this task.
    5. other reasons. (Explain)

As might be expected with such a heterogeneous group of students, a great deal of variation was found; but despite instances of students being unable to perform certain tasks on some maps, nearly all teachers indicated that this method of providing clear vinyl tactile maps on top of printed maps is appropriate for future product development.

Based on the predominantly encouraging findings, it was decided to resume development of this product. Amick gave her approval for the APH project to continue, but requested a name change to distinguish it from the map volumes that may continue to be produced by The Princeton Braillists. The revised name became U.S. & Canada Tactile/Print Atlas, with a credit given to The Princeton Braillists for initial map design.

The graphic designer and manufacturing specialist coordinated with Production on the layouts needed for the print maps and key files after the braille translation was finished. Specifications were put in place. At the end of the summer, a pilot run was scheduled.

Work during FY 2014

The complete map volume was produced, first as a pilot run and then in full production, and made available for Federal Quota purchase. The project staff worked to correct small errors in the registration of some print maps, as well as one print omission and one braille labeling error.

A survey of user satisfaction was posted on APH's Web site.

Work planned for FY 2015

The project leader will follow sales and responses to the maps to judge whether similar volumes should be done in this format.


For FY 2014, there are no active Technology and Media products to report. For related products, see the Assistive Technology section.


Art Digitizing/Modernizing of On the Way to Literacy Storybooks



To replace deteriorating film art with digital art, slightly reduce page sizes to enable production of the books on iGen™ equipment, update to utilize sans serif fonts, and modify the books’ visual illustrations

Project Staff


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. None of the modifications affect the tactile illustrations or change the content of the book’s texts.

The project leader and Technical Research staff 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 complete 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 are in the process of modification. A change in binding may be considered for some books provided a suitable, less expensive alternative to the current binding can be found. Standardization was specified as being of lesser importance than the ability to move production of the product in-house at a competitive price as well as retain current art for the tactile illustrations and plates for the braille text.

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 are being tested again. Digitized art for The Littlest Pumpkin was 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. It was necessary to select new binder colors for all On the Way to Literacy storybooks; colors were chosen to harmonize with the new visual art in the redesigned books.

Because of work on higher-priority in-house projects, 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 to specify steps in the redesign and testing process and record target dates and progress for each of the 18 titles.

Work during FY 2014

The progress spreadsheet was used by project participants. Testing of the modernized art files has continued. Two books (That’s Not My Bear, Giggly Wiggly) were tested again on the iGen™ and test embossed. The Emergent Literacy Project Leader and Braille Literacy Project Leader examined the braille. 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 are ready to be posted to the Production server for use once the graphic designer is given needed information about numbering and file set-up for iGen™ production; this has been delayed due to negotiations related to the new iGen™ contract.

The graphic designer adjusted images in Something Special to reduce ink oversaturation. Printouts were checked and approved. For Jennifer’s Messes, printouts were checked and aligned with the thermoforms for the single and double page spreads; these were approved and art for both books was placed on a CD. The Emergent Literacy Project Leader has listed ideas for revised art for Jellybean Jungle, Gobs of Gum, and Thingamajig to assist graphic designers in creating new print art.

Work planned for FY 2015

Information about page numbering and setup will be provided to the graphic designer, enabling completion of files for Production to use in future runs of That’s Not My Bear and Giggly Wiggly. New iGen™ test proofs for Jennifer’s Messes and Something Special will be run and test embossed. Once approved, these will also become available for Production’s use. The project leader will work with the graphic designer to create new print art for Jellybean Jungle, Gobs of Gum, and Thingamajig. The graphic designer will complete art for The Longest Noodle, begun in a previous fiscal year. Files for two more books will be given to Production so that iGen™ testing can take place. Once updates of these are completed, two more books will begin to be updated.

Beginnings [Modernization]



To revise and modernize Beginnings, which is a practical guide for parents of infants and toddlers with visual impairments. This product provides valuable information to parents and service providers about various issues and developmental areas involved in working with infants and toddlers.

Project Staff


Beginnings is a product that was developed and made available for sale on Quota by APH in 1985. In the fall of 2011, questions were raised about the need to modernize/revise the product. Notably, much of the language in the book is either out-of-date or no longer relevant. In addition, some activities recommended for use by parents and service providers were also outdated and needed revisions. Safety issues were raised about some products recommended for use, and these definitely needed to be removed from the book. Kay Farrell, Ph.D., Professor and Coordinator of the Low Incidence Programs at the University of Northern Colorado, edited this product and had several recommendations to consider. Sharon Bensinger and Suzette Wright, both developers of the original Beginnings, were asked to work on the product revision. Wright and Bensinger agreed to undertake this project. Rebecca Davis, who is a parent of a child with a visual impairment and the Development Director/Parent Advisor of VIPS–Bloomington, was asked to recommend revisions from a parent’s perspective.

In FY 2012, the project leader met with Bensinger and Wright to develop a work plan to modernize Beginnings. The group identified areas in the book to revise. APH contracted with Davis, and she began her work to recommend revisions and write a new foreword. Discussions were conducted about pictures and/or graphics to include in the book; staff decided that photos will be used rather than illustrations.

Work during FY 2013

In FY 2013, project staff worked on the revisions of Beginnings. Davis submitted a book foreword and suggested revisions (based on a parent’s perspective) for Chapter 1. Wright also completed revisions to Chapter 1. Project staff convened in January 2013; during this meeting, they decided on the preferred book format (e.g., prefer book to be perfect bound) and identified additional topics to include (e.g., children with multiple disabilities). Work began to acquire copyright permissions for two out-of-print storybooks (Get a Wiggle On and Move It!!!) that would complement the Beginnings product. These children’s books are short guides about helping children with visual impairments to grow. Efforts are ongoing to obtain permission to adapt and/or reprint these two books.

The project leader and assistant met with Kay Ferrell in February 2013; during this meeting, Ferrell provided insight on manuscript content and format. Staff agreed on the new title of the book: Beginnings: A Practical Guide for Parents of Infants and Toddlers With Visual Impairment. New photos for the book were procured from various sources. Further work was delayed because of Wright’s other APH projects. In addition, Bensinger resigned as an author on the project. A new consultant/author is being sought.

Based on the extensive revisions necessary for modernization of Beginnings, the Product Advisory and Review Committee voted to assign a grant allocation to this project. This occurred in August 2013.

Work during FY 2014

Burt Boyer retired from APH in March of 2014, and Dawn Wilkinson commenced as project leader for this project. She worked with the project assistant to complete revisions to Chapters 2–8, resource lists, the glossary, and parent letters. Wilkinson sent out a request for new letters from parents of children with visual impairments.

In June 2014, further work on this project was postponed. The Assistant Director of Research, Kate Herndon, made this decision because several other parent-oriented, early childhood projects are ongoing and duplicate the efforts of Beginnings. This product was officially dropped as of August 2014.

Work planned for FY 2015

No additional work on this project is planned as it has been dropped from active development.

Early Childhood Needs



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


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 2014

The project leader assumed responsibility for managing the early childhood projects currently under development as well as reviewing new product submissions and product ideas from the early childhood focus group of 2012. The project leader represented APH at multiple events and networked with APH Ex Officio Trustees, teachers, early interventionists, and parents. APH early childhood products and their applications were presented to aspiring students from the following universities: Vanderbilt University Visual Impairments Program, Louisville, Kentucky, March, 2014; Students from Western Michigan University Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies, Louisville, KY, March 2014.

Work planned for FY 2015

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



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

Project Staff


During the past five 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 using math manipulatives which 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 an early childhood focus group that convened at APH in 2012.

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

Work during FY 2014

The project leader began gathering 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 planned for FY 2015

Prepare field test evaluation and send out kits for field testing

FirstTouch Books



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


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.

Alt Tag: 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.

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.

Alt Tag: Print art for the book’s opening pages shows large print text, interlined braille placement, and large die-cut hole for the child to explore: “Holy moly! What is this? Here’s a hole you cannot miss!”

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.

Work during FY 2014

The braille files for the book were completed; the book is compliant with the Unified English Braille code. 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 and plans made to ship the book for testing at 8 sites in the early fall of 2014.

Work planned for FY 2015

Following the field review, revisions will be made based on teachers’ and parents’ observations through extended use with children in the target audience. Final specifications will be written.

Getting in Step With Little Feet



To develop a product that is a practical, creative, and “how-to” manual on purposeful movement for children who fall within the infant through preschool developmental range

Project Staff


Over the past two decades, purposeful movement and O&M have increasingly been acknowledged as important for infants and young children who are blind or visually impaired. Although there are some “how-to” booklets available to guide families and practitioners to meet the early O&M needs of their young children, additional practical information is needed. In recent years, professionals (and families) in our field have expressed (via numerous electronic mailing lists messages and personal requests at meetings, workshops, and conferences) a strong desire and need for the following:

  1. Specific guidance on what skills to incorporate into purposeful movement and O&M instruction for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who are not developmentally ready for more “traditional” O&M skills
  2. Guidance on when certain skills may be good developmental matches for young children
  3. Ideas for how to reach and teach infants and young children (creative, developmentally-appropriate songs, rhymes, activities, and teaching materials that are user friendly for families and professionals to use, engage young children, and achieve results)

This product will be based on researched early child development principles and practices. The author of this product holds a master’s degree in child development and a Ph.D. in special education with an emphasis in the areas of early childhood, visual impairment, and multiple disabilities. She has practiced as an O&M specialist and TVI for the past 25 years and has developed numerous original songs and poems and other activities contained within this product. Some of the activities presented in this product were developed for, and used with, children in the author’s dissertation study that compared the use of adapted mobility devices and canes by preschoolers.

This product will be an extension of the research-based module developed by staff at UNC Chapel Hill (2004) on developmentally appropriate O&M for infants and toddlers. It will be designed to offer concise background information blended with fun, “hands-on” activities to be used by family members, early childhood educators, childcare providers, visual impairment professionals, and related services providers. The information provided in this guidebook will be appropriate for young children who are visually impaired and those who may also have additional disabilities. The introductory section of this guidebook will begin with a simple overview of unique developmental aspects of young children who are blind or visually impaired.

In 2010, this product idea was submitted by the author to APH. A contract was signed by the author allowing APH to develop Getting in Step With Little Feet: A Practical Guide to Purposeful Movement for Adults who Love, Teach, and Care for Infants and Preschoolers who are Blind or Visually Impaired.

In September 2011, the author, project leader, and other project staff met to discuss Getting in Step With Little Feet. They established a timeline and work plan for the completion of the product.

In FY 2012, the author worked on guidebook content. She and the project leader also discussed how this product will “look” for final production. In August 2012, the author presented the product idea to the Early Childhood Focus Group at APH. Feedback was positive regarding the relevance and need for the product. The author wants to include a CD with this product. The CD would contain musical rhymes and songs related to movement and travel for young children. She recommended a professional band, based in Columbus, OH, to record the CD.

Because of other projects and work responsibilities, the author was unable to devote time to this project during FY 2013.

Work during FY 2014

Burt Boyer retired from APH in March of 2014, and Dawn Wilkinson commenced as project leader for this project. The author was unable to devote time to this project in FY 2014. Because of the author’s limited availability to work on this project in the foreseeable future, project staff decided to officially discontinue work on Getting in Step With Little Feet at the Product Advisory and Review Committee meeting in July 2014.

Work planned for FY 2015

No further work on this particular project is planned, but the need to address early O&M still exists. The project leader is open to producing such a product as soon as a consultant is available.

Lap Time and Lullabies



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


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.

The author 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.

The author, Kay Clarke, submitted this product idea to APH for consideration during 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.

Work during FY 2014

Burt Boyer retired from APH in March of 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. 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 best produced 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 planned for FY 2015

Project staff will work to complete the following tasks for Lap Time and Lullabies:

Moving Ahead: Tactile Graphic Storybooks



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


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.

Work during FY 2014

The project leader has worked to select a commercially available children’s book to adapt as the next Moving Ahead Tactile Graphic 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, 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, etc. 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 (circles) until the door of the school is altered to accommodate both circles and squares.

Work planned for FY 2015

The commercially available books the project leader has identified as promising will be submitted to expert reviewers and input used to begin development of the best of these as the next Moving Ahead storybook.

PAIVI: Parents and Their Infants With Visual Impairments [Modernization]



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


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:
    • Identification of visual impairments in infants
    • The art of home visiting
    • Getting ready for school
  2. Chen commenced updates and revisions to the following:
    • Introduction to product materials
    • Overview of “how to” papers on assessment
    • Parent assessment of needs
    • Functional hearing screening
    • Parent observation protocol
    • Assessing infant communication
    • Assessing interaction with objects
    • Developmental assessment section
    • Learning together

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.

Work during FY 2014

Burt Boyer retired from APH in March of 2014, and Dawn Wilkinson commenced as project leader for this project. Throughout FY 2014, the project assistant worked to move this project toward production. 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:

Work planned for FY 2015

Project staff will complete necessary steps to ensure that PAIVI is fully accessible to the population for whom it is intended. This includes providing the product components in BRF and HTML formats. These processes should be completed in early FY 2015. Subsequently, production specifications will be finalized, and the product will become available for sale.

Tactile Book Builder



To develop a blank book kit and accompanying manual that will encourage/facilitate the creation of individualized books for children; materials will support inclusion of text in an appropriate medium as well as various types of tactile illustrations, including objects from the child’s own environment, shapes, textures, collaged illustrations, and raised-line illustrations.

Project Staff


The request that APH create a kit of materials that would enable users to more easily create a variety of individualized, custom-made tactile books has been expressed by teachers responding to surveys and by focus groups. 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 typically sighted children. If the child helps to dictate and produce the written text, the adult can use this opportunity to build important early literacy skills. The child can also participate in illustrating the book, broadening 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 blank book kit and accompanying 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 first draft of a 42-page manual with instructions and guidelines for using the kit materials to construct books with a variety of tactile illustrations. Suggestions for writing and illustrating tactile experience stories are included, as are suggestions for creating concept books, and selecting print books suited to adaptation. Examples of custom-made books were gathered, and photographs of students sharing these books were included in the manual.

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.

Extensive work was done on the manual to blend the two documents and update source material. A Quick Start chart was added to the front of the manual; Appendices list other products offered by the American Printing House for the Blind useful in creating tactile books as well as suggestions for commercially available materials.

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 inches to accommodate thicker textures and objects and a 1 inch 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.

Alt Tag: Photos show the front cover of the Tactile Book Builder binders, which feature an open “window” backed by plastic. Any of the kit’s page types can be inserted into the resulting sleeve, allowing the addition of a full-page tactile cover art.

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, permabraille pages, and clear page protectors to be 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.

Alt Tag: Photos show some of the types of pages in the kit; all are pre-punched for insertion into the Tactile Book Builder binders.

Alt Tag: Two type of pages provided feature pockets to house objects. One, formed of durable polyblend, has an open, gusseted pocket for larger items. The other is a clear plastic resealable Ziploc® Page for smaller items or inclusion of scented items.

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, our Model Maker, and outside vendors.

Work during FY 2014

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 ten 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.

Tactile Book Builder Prototype Kit Items:

The project leader completed the work of merging the Tactile Book Builder Kit Manual and Guide to Designing Tactile Illustrations for Children’s Books into one document. Updated content and source material were incorporated. The resulting 105-page manual was reviewed by Christine Moe, doctoral student at University of Northern Colorado. 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 also suggests the illustration style and book genre appropriate for a child at each level. Data assembled from multiple sources by the University of Northern Colorado 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. 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.

Alt Tag: 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’s 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. In addition:

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 about these included:

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 in the latter half of FY 2014 continued as indicated revisions and additions to the Tactile Book Builder kit and manual were made. The manual received a final edit by the project assistant.

Work planned for FY 2015

The manual will be professionally formatted and further illustrations added as suggested by evaluators. Final quantities and colors for all kit items will be selected based on field evaluation results and work involving Purchasing. Final specifications will be written.

Tactile Books/International Collection



To provide high-quality tactile illustrated books that support the emergent literacy skills of young students in collaboration with Les Doigts Qui Revent (LDQR) and other organizations and to share information leading to improved development of tactile books

Project Staff


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.

On a related, though separate topic, APH’s sponsorship of U.S. involvement in the 2011 Typhlo & Tactus (T&T) tactile book competition was repeated in 2013. 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 2013. Five books were sent to Helsinki for the international level of the competition to be held in November 2013. T&T was established with guiding support from LDQR to increase the quality and number of tactile illustrated books available to blind children in its eight member countries.

Work during FY 2014

Based on the successful purchase and rapid sales of the first LDQR book, including very 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 difficulty of producing each before selecting 14 to submit to in-house staff and staff of the PreK Building on Patterns 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. 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. LDQR identified a way to group materials on a page and succeeded in halving the high cost of safety tests required to import the books into the U.S. LDQR provided a quote to Purchasing. At present, LDQR is completing several large book orders for Germany and APH’s order will be filled as soon as previous orders are filled. If agreeable to APH, production of Chameleon will being in January 2015.

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

The project leader reviewed and suggested tactile illustrations for an adaptation of Press Here, a commercially available book for sighted preschoolers and recent New York Times bestseller written by Herve Tullet. The print book was shared with the Braille Literacy Project Leader, who also agreed it held potential for tactual learners. Along with suggestions made by the project leader, two additional professionals have suggested tactile adaptations of the book. Another commercially available book, Four Corners of Nothing, by Jerome Ruillier, was also considered for tactile adaptation. A tactile version of it has been made by the Spanish National Organization for the Blind (ONCE), and this, too, was examined.

Work planned for FY 2015

The project leader will assist as LDQR begins and completes production of Chameleon and as the books are received, priced, and made available for purchase. The project leader will assist by writing material for the product brochure. Sales of Chameleon will be monitored. The possibility of buying additional copies of Little Breath of Wind will be explored if sales of Chameleon proceed well. The project leader will use opportunities to show photos and samples of other books available from LDQR in order to gather input regarding additional books APH might contract to purchase. She will maintain correspondence with LDQR on topics related to tactile books, young children, blindness, and tactile learning. Other possible collaborations may be discussed.

This page from Chameleon illustrates the concept of “light” by showing a chameleon shape cut from thick but very lightweight fabric. On the opposing page the same shape, cut from heavy metal plating, illustrates “heavy.” Rather being glued to the page, both are attached with ribbon so he child can lift and compare their weights.

VIPS@Home Parent Empowerment Program

Formerly VIPS@Home Parent University Series



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


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 raising and 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. They most likely have no background or experiences to draw from in dealing with having a child who is blind or visually impaired. They typically feel devastated and terribly alone, not knowing anyone else who has faced such a difficult situation. Young families need information and support to accept their child’s disability and to know how to cope with it, reducing both the child’s and the family’s risks of adverse effects.

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. These courses can be taught in the home. Many parents find it difficult to attend parent meetings, so this is a way to get information to families at their convenience while making it possible for them to connect with other parents to network and share information and support.

Visually Impaired Preschool Services (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, Arkansas, 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


Power at Your Fingertips Course


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 provide sufficient content about learning through everyday routines.

Work during FY 2014

The Educational Products Advisory Committee 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 project leader for this project. Based on field test data, project staff began to implement revisions to Power at Your Fingertips and Emergent Literacy.

Work planned for FY 2015

Project staff will complete necessary steps to ensure that VIPS@Home is fully accessible to the population for whom it is intended. Technical Research will complete final tooling and product specifications. The products will be made available for sale in FY 2015.


Multiple Disabilities Projects and Needs



To assess needs, plan research, and manage product development to better serve individuals who are visually impaired and have additional disabilities

Project Staff


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 2014

In addition to working on product development, the project leader responded to 15 Customer Service calls and e-mails to help customers resolve issues with APH multiple disabilities products. The project leader provided training to APH staff on new products (e.g., Everybody Plays!, Paint Pot Palette, STACS: Standardized Tactile Augmentative Communication Symbols). She presented to students visiting APH from Vanderbilt University and Western Michigan University in March and to staff of First Steps, a local early intervention agency, in June. 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. In December, the project leader presented Braille Literacy Through Art at the Getting In Touch With Literacy Conference in Providence, Rhode Island.

Work planned for FY 2015

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


Alt Tag: Front cover of Quick & Easy Expanded Core Curriculum (prototype version)


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


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.

Alt tag: Keyboard for Assistive Technology; graduate for Career Education; open book for Compensatory Skills; house for Independent Living; compass for Orientation and Mobility; basketball for Recreation and Leisure; person with arms stretched upward for Self-Determination; hand for Sensory Efficiency; 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 ( 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: 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.

Alt Tag: 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%

Sixty-nine percent (n = 11) of the evaluators indicated that Quick & Easy ECC offered specific advantages over other instructional materials/resources they had previously used to teach the ECC. Testimonials from evaluators clarified these advantages:

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.

Work during FY 2014

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 planned for FY 2015

The project leaders will participate in post-production activities such as readying the product brochure content and introducing the product at APH’s 146th Annual Meeting. Patti Maffei will likely present the product at multiple workshops across the country. 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.


APH SMART Brailler by Perkins



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


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.

Alt Tag: 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.


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.


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 of Feedback Features

Embossed Braille
Good 6/6
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:

My student loves it. He's low vision, but has enough useable vision that he is able to see the letters on the screen.

I think with all the demand to display students' work and levels the smart brailler is a useful tool.

My student is LOVING the SMART Brailler. It is helping him figure out the correct fingering positions on the Brailler, as well as giving him the immediate feedback when he presses the wrong keys. (This TVI’s student has Septo-Optic Dysplasia.)

My student was thrilled to hear his new letters, contractions and sentences. It was really reinforcing for him and motivating. When we turned the speech off and used the Brailler for math he missed it. He quickly learned how to turn the switch on/off and to change between speech on/off. He was so pleased to hear his name when he wrote it in sentences for me. He learned from his mistakes as well and this provided a terrific teachable moment. The classroom teacher does not know Braille and she enjoyed seeing what the student was writing so she could give him direct feedback. The peers in his room thought he was cool that he had a “talking pencil” to write with.

One of the in-house evaluators had this comment:

I was able to help evaluate this unit back in the Summer [of] 2012 on earlier prototypes. I will say first and foremost that there have been vast improvements with the accuracy of keys pressed verses text printed out/spoken on the screen. This is not to say that the translation is without flaws… It’s not. There are still cases when the text does not match the Braille.

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.

Work during FY 2013

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.

Work during 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 mean time, 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.

Book Port DT



To provide a more functional replacement for the table top cassette recorder that is as easy to use and provides more capabilities, especially in obtaining and reading content

Project Staff


As the table top cassette player/recorder became obsolete, APH sought ways to provide the intuitive interface of a standard recorder in a digital format.

NLS has transitioned to online and flash cartridge distribution and has reduced the distribution of magazines on cassette.

Many users love the old table top recorder. They cite its simplicity of use, good recording quality, and cheap, achievable media (i.e., the cassette) as reasons for their admiration.

While only time can help bring down the price of digital storage media, the ease of use and recording quality in the digital arena are far superior to analog counterparts. Unfortunately, some learning is still necessary for making recordings. On analog devices, virtually every machine was similar—the user pressed the Record button to start recording, and that was all.

On digital devices, there are a few more considerations and some advantages. It is still possible to press the Record button to start the recording, however, the new recording does not overwrite material beyond the existing segment; there is no danger of accidentally overwriting an important part of the recording.

While creating a device that is easy enough for nearly anyone to use (i.e., the cassette recorder) links to the past, another strong consideration looks toward the future by providing support for the specifications that permit DAISY devices to obtain their content from an online service.

In the search for existing desktop DTB players that could be adapted to accept the NLS cartridge, APH identified the PLEXTALK® PTX1 as hardware that, with the replacement of its CD drive with a cartridge receptacle and some firmware enhancements, could serve as the platform for the new Book Port DT.

In addition, APH committed to creating a DAISY online server that could aggregate content from a variety of sources.

The new device would contain the following characteristics:

The Book Port DT was made available for sale in August 2012 and was upgraded to support DAISY Online shortly thereafter.

Work during FY 2014

Programmers began implementation of incorporating the new NLS API specifications to integrate them into the DAISY Online server, so that users can download titles directly onto the device.

Work planned for FY 2015

Staff will work with the engineers at Shinano Kenshi Co., Ltd. to add a number of features as requested by users and finalize the ability to download NLS content directly to the device without having to use a computer.

Book Port Plus



To develop a portable electronic device that is simple enough for anyone to use for both playback and recording of Digital Talking Books and to harness the capabilities of wireless networking to obtain content

Project Staff


As cassettes are phased out and the explosion of digital content continues, the need for a portable device to obtain and play that content emerges.

As the difficulty of using cassette tapes as a playback and recording medium increases due to normal equipment breakdown and the lack of parts and tape, the National Library Service (NLS) transitioned to online and cartridge distribution of its titles. As the ever quickening capabilities of the Internet for educational and content distribution purposes explodes, the need for a portable, reliable, expandable reading device for a student who is blind in a technological classroom setting becomes apparent. At the same time, elderly NLS patrons who embrace the simplicity of the operation of the cassette machine and its adequate recording capabilities require a device to perform the functions for which they formerly employed the APH Handi-cassette or other analog tape recorder. They want to be able to simply and effectively play a book or make a recording without having to consider extra complexity because the medium has moved from tape to digital. Many also desire the increased recording quality made possible by the digital media, recording level controls, recording monitoring, and the ability to append to existing recordings without having to position a tape.

In addition to simplicity of playback and recording, many users desire physical controls that are large and distinctive. Of all the existing DTB players, the PLEXTALK® Pocket was identified as the hardware base that most closely meets the desired characteristics. The PLEXTALK® Pocket contains 12 large telephone keys with a very pronounced dot on the 5 key, a five-way arrow/selection control, and six additional, easily distinguishable keys for various purposes including recording. Its keys are well spaced and arranged in a familiar telephone-like layout.

In addition to its desirable key controls, the PLEXTALK® Pocket features state-of-the-art hardware that will let it evolve over the next few years with quickly evolving standards. Standards of particular interest from the DAISY consortium are the online specifications that define methods for transferring content directly from the provider to the patron's device and specifications that will eventually let users answer test questions in a DAISY title.

APH contracted with Shinano Kenshi Co., Ltd., to adapt the existing PLEXTALK® Pocket (PTP1) DAISY player recorder to meet the following goals:

The hardware already supported the following goals:

Staff and engineers from Shinano Kenshi met and evaluated the feasibility of firmware modifications, packaging, warranty and repairs, marketing, and distribution.

Firmware modifications were broken down into options that would increase the simplicity and usability of the interface, improvements in performance, more optimal behavior for an auditory interface, and features specific to APH's interests.

Programmers at Shinano Kenshi added the following:

Work during FY 2014

Adding DAISY Online support to the Book Port Plus was the focus of staff. While this feature has not yet been released, it should be completed as soon as two problems are resolved.

Project staff completed the following work.

Firmware Version 6.0, October 2013

Work planned for FY 2015

Staff will finalize the firmware update that adds DAISY Online support to the Book Port Plus. Late in the testing process, they discovered that it was not possible to update the firmware unless the user had an SD card reader. It is desirable to update the firmware without the use of a separate SD card reader, so engineers are determining ways to remove the raw update files without worrying about them being in use.

The following list of features will also be evaluated to determine which ones can be added:

Braille Plus 18



To create a portable braille-centric tablet with a high-quality refreshable braille display and braille keyboard that uses modern hardware and software to advance the educational uses of electronic braille and mobile technology and to provide the blind student with the most flexible platform on which to work

Project Staff


As educational content continues to trend toward electronic distribution, accessibility standards evolve, and web standards improve, it is important to ensure braille access evolves just as quickly.

Browser capabilities, distribution formats, and operating system frameworks are evolving at a rate that makes it imperative to include braille as an integral component of the entire system. The advances in the representation of complex mathematical content alone has profound implications for braille access.

While many students appreciated the tasks made possible in braille with the original Braille+, the hardware became increasingly difficult to obtain, and software had dramatically shifted in the years since its introduction.

In 2005, the iPhone® device was barely noticeable, and it was certainly not accessible. In the subsequent years, both Apple® and Google™ have introduced products that have changed the landscape.

The modern Apple® products have been an unprecedented success, and their built-in accessibility has forever changed accessibility expectations. Android™, too, has come to dominate the portable device market; while its accessibility has not been nearly as far advanced as that of the iOS® devices, its open source status makes it a platform on which it is very attractive to develop innovative solutions to complex problems, and the accessibility features get introduced at an alarmingly pleasurable rate.

While accessibility features of Apple® are excellent, typing text onto a touch screen is still cumbersome especially in various common situations such as high noise areas or in a moving vehicle. The problem of text input is often solved by adding a Bluetooth® keyboard or a portable braille display with braille input to the iPhone®, but then the student has two devices to keep up with, charge, and care for.

More importantly, for a complete braille experience, it is critical to control the braille subsystem. Traditional screen reader technology includes great braille support for most of what the average user needs, but when it comes to education, complex mathematical expressions, or braille training, conventional solutions fall short.

APH contracted with Marc Mulcahy, a top access specialist, and his company, LevelStar, to help solve these difficult problems.

APH and LevelStar sought to create a device with the following broad characteristics:

Engineers determined that Android™ could provide the core services and a jumping-off point from which to provide a growing body of code.

During the first year of the project, the team worked with a design firm to obtain input about what features and form factor are most desirable. Project staff designed hardware that includes the following:

During the first phase of this project, the engineers performed the following:

Work during FY 2014

Former teacher and APH Early Childhood Project Leader, Dawn Wilkinson, developed a series of classroom learning materials geared toward the teacher. High school student, Chase Crispin, and his teacher, Leanne McDonald, created a series of audio and video tutorials. Both these resources are on the Braille Plus 18 support site at

The manufacturer finished the carrying case, and APH sent one to each customer. New units ship with the carrying case.

Engineers analyzed various charging issues. They concluded there are three issues, and they began working on them.

  1. When the battery is completely drained, the supplied (or equivalent) AC charger is required to boot the device. This is a common problem in commercial mobile devices that connect to a PC. The problem is that some USB charging sources (e.g., PCs) are used for data transfer, and when the device is in that mode, the USB port does not provide enough power to revive the device from a completely dead battery. When a charger plugs into the wall outlet, it does not need to transfer data, so it does not use the data transfer lines, and the USB subsystem can provide the full 5 volts of power required to boot from this state. Unfortunately, there are many chargers on the market that do not short the data lines that are so critical to the proper detection and use of the USB power system, and it is not always possible to determine if a commercially available charger meets this requirement. Customers are also not aware of this requirement. Staff must (a) better instruct the user (both with documentation and customer support) and (b) put a braille label on the correct charger to make it easier to identify. APH will also begin carrying a charger that possesses the proper characteristics for both the Braille Plus 18 and Orion Talking Graphing Calculator as a replacement part. This charger will also work as a replacement for the new hardware refresh for Refreshabraille 18 with micro USB port.
  2. The cable does not possess good enough conduction characteristics resulting in slower than optimum charging. Staff is investigating replacement cables with better characteristics. When they identify a suitable cable, LevelStar will begin including that cable with new units and APH will add it as a replacement part.
  3. Rev 7 boards appear to have a firmware problem that can cause them not to charge when they are powered off. A firmware fix is under investigation for this problem. Users can turn on the device to charge it, but this should not be necessary.

Staff upgraded the operating system from 2.3 to 4.2, 4.2.1, 4.4, then 4.4.2. It is critical to keep updated with the latest changes to Google™. These updates often include important accessibility framework improvements. While the screen reader shipping was the best in the industry, the framework limitations made for a less than most desirable experience, especially when it came to reviewing portions of the screen to which the keyboard focus could not move.

Programmers started over with the screen reader and quickly realized the enormity of the task. Staff performed an in-depth analysis of Google™ screen readers, TalkBack and BrailleBack, to see if it was feasible to incorporate the braille changes necessary for a high quality educational experience. Initially, it looked like it might be possible, but as the team got deeper into the underlying issues, they discovered that design decisions, mainly with communication between the speech and braille component, made such functionality difficult or impossible. The group decided to go back to the original plan of writing a new screen reader. This time, however, LevelStar took on the task with the understanding they would not charge APH and that they grant APH a license to use it on the Braille Plus 18. APH staff could then focus on applications as customers requested.

Users identified several important needs. Most urgent was a more full featured word processor. They sighted the following list as desirable components of such a word processing application:

Staff began work on the new full featured word processor. APH hired Daniel Smith as a full time Android™ app developer. His number one priority is providing a quality full featured editing environment, and enjoys expertise and advice from other engineers that know the issues.

Customers rated a quality calculator as another high priority. Staff identified an open source Android™ app and a comprehensive math library to use as a foundation for an accessible calculator and began work for inclusion with the 4.4 upgrade. They originally intended to try adding the accessibility directly to the open source project but determined the extra time required to create one interface for both populations was probably beyond the goal of getting a high quality calculator onto the device in a timely manner.

Staff finalized and brought Revision 7 of the mother board into production. It corrected the earphone jack problem, changed the type of jack connector to be compatible with the Apple® standard, and resets the Option module on startup or reset.

Staff set up systems and procedures for alpha test of the 4.4 upgrade.

Staff began writing a migration guide to help users understand differences and new capabilities. They also began updating the user guide.

Staff and testers began testing the alpha. It is delivered exactly as a normal system update.

Staff began prioritizing feedback from the alpha test and scheduled implementation or correction as necessary.

Work planned for FY 2015

Project staff and consultants will work to complete the following:

Monitoring Technological Developments and Educational Applications



To identify and develop technological solutions that support educational needs; to monitor technological developments and educational applications of technology; to provide support to the other project leaders in the Education Research Department; to provide support to the Production area for various braille and Digital Talking Book production issues; to disseminate information on current uses of assistive technology

Project Staff


The rapid advances in use and development of software, hardware, accessibility, and educational theories require significant attention. The Technology Product Research (TPR) Department monitors and participates in numerous activities to keep abreast of developing trends and current implementations and encourages trends, policies, and standards that use technology to promote APH's mission. These ongoing endeavors help keep APH personnel knowledgeable and influential in the areas of regular and assistive technology.

The staff stays informed through participation in numerous electronic mailing lists that focus on programming and accessibility issues. The group actively uses and beta tests pre-releases of operating system code, key applications, active accessibility, screen enlargement, and speech or braille output accessibility aids. The group attends conferences, presents products and activities, and demonstrates APH products related to technology.

The TPR Department creates software for both internal research and use as direct products, applies expertise to help make APH effective and accessible in its production of braille and large print and its application of new and emerging technologies to these processes, and disseminates information to APH and directly to users. The group promotes accessibility within APH by establishing techniques that make the entire company accessible.

Staff regularly works with other project leaders to suggest and implement technologies for projects that have technological components in specific areas of interest. Such projects include a Web-based early trade book learning and management system for braille readers (see report for Early Braille Trade Books), an orientation and mobility instructor tool to help disseminate useful information to a client's parents, and a Web-based tool for wheelchair users that includes both video description and accessible captioning.

Staff continues to enhance the Studio Recorder and Book Wizard Producer for APH's recording studio. Staff also creates CD layouts for projects that have CD-based training material and documentation.

Work during FY 2014

Work planned for FY 2015

The TPR Department will increase its involvement in the following:

The Joy Player

Formerly Personal Music Player



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.

Alt tag: A boy smiles as he plays music on The Joy Player prototype.


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.


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.

Alt Tag: A thumb presses against the cartridge to stabilize the hand as a single digit activates a button switch.

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).

External Switches

Power Select with a sip and puff switch

Alt Tag: 1) The Joy Player with five external switches 2) 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.


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.

Power Select with a sip and puff switch

Alt Tag: 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.

Power Select with a sip and puff switch

Alt Tag: 1) A girl bends at the waist and uses her body weight to help her press the play button switch on The Joy Player. 2) 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.

Power Select with a sip and puff switch

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
1 2 3 4 5
Could not operate Operates using
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
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 will be addressed 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. (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!


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.

Alt Tag: An illustration of The Joy Player; top view, back view, front view

Work during FY 2014

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 planned for FY 2015

When a production sample is sent from the manufacturer, photographs will be taken and inserted into the documentation. The instruction guide will be completed and printed. The product will become available for sale.

Refreshabraille 18

Formerly Refreshable Braille Display



To produce a high-quality, portable, and inexpensive refreshable braille display and input mechanism to be used in conjunction with devices such as the iPhone® (and its relatives), laptops, desktop computers, and other devices

Project Staff


Designed initially as an adjunct braille display for Braille+, Refreshabraille 18 provides an ergonomic, high-quality keyboard and display that can be connected to a variety of other devices via its USB connector or via its wireless Bluetooth® interface. The firmware keeps device configuration simple by automatically detecting requests for a connection through either interface.

Input capabilities mean the user can control her PC or other portable device such as an iPhone® from the braille display. When these input features are combined with the Bluetooth® wireless communications, it is possible to keep the iPhone® away in a purse or pocket and use Refreshabraille 18 to both read and control the device. This small, elegant braille control is ideal for both students and professionals who prefer or require braille.

Refreshabraille 18 is easily configurable with respect to its orientation. In other words, the user may use the device with the braille cells either on the side closest to her or on the side farthest away. All controls also flip their orientation when the orientation of the braille cells is altered.

In the time since its introduction, Refreshabraille 18 has been added as a recognized braille display in programs like Window-Eyes for the PC and Outspoken for the Mac®. These screen readers make it possible to both read and control the user's computer all from Refreshabraille 18. iOS® and Android™ also support the braille display.

In 2009, APH staff wrote drivers to support the JAWS® screen reader.

A hardware modification introduced the Human Interface Device (HID) protocol so the need for individual USB drivers was eliminated for those screen readers that support it.

The height of the joystick was increased. This makes it easier to control the direction of scrolling the display.

Administrators of online testing systems and others suggest that a 40-cell display is a better educational experience.

Work during FY 2014

Work planned or FY 2015


For FY 2014, there are no active Career Education and Transition products to report.


MATCH-IT-UP Frames (Large Set and Small Set)

Formerly Match-It Up Board



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

Alt Tag: Photo of MATCH-IT-UP prototype with counting activity displayed


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).

Alt Tag: 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, and 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, including those recently inherited from other project leaders (e.g., Quick & Easy ECC) or newly-acquired projects (e.g., Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen) with time-critical field test goals.

Work during FY 2014

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 recently inherited from other project leaders (e.g., Quick & Easy ECC) or newly-acquired projects (e.g., Interactive US Map with Talking Tactile Pen) with time-critical field test goals.

Work planned for FY 2015

Pre-production tasks will continue and will encompass finalizing content of the guidebook, photographing examples of possible matching activities, 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 2014.


Braille Buzz



To provide beginning braille readers and writers with an engaging way of developing pre-braille, braille, and phonics skills through auditory and tactile feedback

Project Staff


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 games and devices developed through this collaborative effort.

The prototype 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 which 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 of 2013, the Braille Buzz project was assigned to the Technology Consultant and Project Leader.

Work during 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, stand-alone 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 bumble bee - 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 Planned for FY 2015

A working prototype is slated to be available for in-house testing in November 2014. Necessary modifications to hardware and firmware will be made. It is anticipated that Braille Buzz will be ready for field testing in the Spring.

Building on Patterns, Second Edition: Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Levels



To revise and update Building on Patterns (BOP): Kindergarten Level by creating a BOP Second Edition Pre-Kindergarten Level and a Kindergarten Level

Project Staff


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.


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.


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 pre-kindergarten 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 pre-kindergarten 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 pre-kindergarten 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.

Work during FY 2013

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 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten levels of BOP, Second Edition. General education “readiness” lists, assessments, and curricula for pre-kindergarten 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. Pre-kindergarten 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. 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 pre-kindergarten scope and sequence chart. It was decided that most lessons for pre-kindergarten 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 pre-kindergarten kit. A writing guide is in development.

Work during 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 on getting 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 did research 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 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 Cay Holbrook conducted a product input session at APH’s Annual Meeting in October. 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.


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

National Early Literacy Panel. (2008). Developing early literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy. Retrieved from

Work planned for FY 2015

Writing will continue on the rest of the lessons and the Reference Volume for the prekindergarten level. The pilot field test will be completed. The feedback from the pilot test will be evaluated and changes will be made to the lessons as needed. A larger field test will then be conducted with more lessons and wider range of test sites. Changes will be made to the lessons and other kit materials based on the results of the larger field test. The project staff will develop final tooling and product specifications. Production will begin.

The BOP group will begin development of the second edition of the kindergarten level program.

Ergonomic Friendly Stylus



There was interest among APH staff to develop a stylus that offers comfort and efficiency, as writing with a slate and stylus is the braille user’s “pencil and paper.”

Project Staff


Several years ago, a product idea was submitted proposing the sale of a comfort stylus. The submitter makes these implements by embedding a standard stylus into a golf ball. The weight, size, and texture of the ball provide comfort and increased stamina when writing on a braille slate. The idea stirred interest for offering an improved stylus.

After minimal use of the device, the project leader's skepticism turned to intrigue. During extended writing tasks, the ball eases tension in the hand. The added weight lessens necessary pressure even on heavy paper. Several APH staff were asked to test the stylus and reported similar experiences. The decision was made to develop a stylus that would reduce hand/wrist fatigue and stress.

Work on the stylus project during the first year focused on research and design. The consultant provided invaluable information and guidance based on her experience working with hand/wrist issues. The term "ergonomic" was dropped because it implies that the device would be sized or modified for each individual. The consultant and project leader met weekly for several months to explore issues related to slate writing and the stress on muscles and tendons. They experimented with stylus shape design, giving careful consideration to materials that would provide shock absorption, balance, and efficiency.

Several meetings were held with Technical Research, followed by a model being fashioned for trial. The resulting shape achieved the desired effects on the hand and wrist, however decreased efficiency. Wrist supports were tried with only marginal success. It was decided that more thought and research was necessary. After canvassing of a number of proficient slate users, the consensus was that more interest could be generated by offering a new slate.

Work during FY 2014

The project leader experimented with a variety of slates and styluses including those sold in other countries. The thinking was that, by offering several new improved models (slates, styluses, special paper, etc.), the slate writing process would become more convenient/comfortable and appeal to more individuals. Several nationally known proponents of slate and stylus use were consulted. The possibilities for new designs and materials were discussed. Unfortunately, conclusions drawn were, that although improvements could be made, the cost would be prohibitive. To manufacture a comfort stylus which would resemble a golf ball with a stylus point imbedded, would require a charge of approximately $35.00. Because users are accustomed to receiving a free stylus with the purchase of a slate, sales would be very limited. Similarly, a slate made from a modern plastic would cost significantly more than the current slates sold by APH and other organizations. Due to these obstacles, the decision was made to discontinue the project.

Illinois Braille Series



This braille instructional program for adults was modernized to accommodate a change in production while maintaining the current content. The materials were reformatted to facilitate a necessary change in equipment used to produce sections of the materials.

Project Staff


This braille instructional program is a current product in constant demand. It is widely recommended by rehabilitation therapists and teachers to older adults with vision loss who can no longer use print for simple tasks in their daily lives. These individuals want to learn braille in order to label items in their homes (e.g., medicines, foods) and perform simple reading and writing tasks. The Illinois Braille Series offers a straightforward course of study for motivated adults.

Product Description

The Illinois Braille Series consists of three consecutive books. Each book can be purchased individually. Book One introduces braille alphabetic and basic punctuation symbols. There are raised representations of each print letter with the corresponding braille letter below. Book Two and Book Three teach the contractions and additional symbols that make up the Standard English Braille Code American Edition (EBAE). Until recently, graphics (print letters) in Book One were produced on the Clamshell Embosser. In the new production process, the graphics of print letters will be rendered using the Bitmap process (a method of producing tactile images embossed dot configurations, rather than raised-line representations). The changes will allow for production of Book One and Book Two to be embossed from electronic files rather than a labor intensive process using individual plates, which must be created for each page. In addition, for the previously stated reason, the Jumbo Braille in Book One and Book Two will be replaced with standard sized braille. Current thought holds that tactile acuity is not enhanced by widening the space between dots in the braille cell (Jumbo Braille). Because it is embossed in standard size and format, Book Three is already produced from electronic files. By making these changes, the three books of the Illinois Braille Series will be produced with higher accuracy, efficiency, and economy.

Work during FY 2014

A meticulous review of the series was undertaken by the project leader in order to recommend necessary changes without compromising the overall appearance of the text. A number of meetings were held, including staff from Technical Research and Braille Transcription, to determine the materials and processes needed for the task. The transcriber and project leader worked closely together to improve format, clarify graphics, and correct errors in the text. New covers were added to enhance the appearance of both print and braille editions. Embossed samples of the reformatted pages were provided to the Illinois Braille Committee (authors of the program) for review. Ongoing communication with the chairperson was maintained to ensure that the committee members were fully informed during the process. The new, reformatted Illinois Braille Series was released in May, 2014.


Printing Guide



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


Although computers increasingly 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.

Work during FY 2014

The project leader’s schedule constraints precluded further development of the product prototype during FY 2008 through FY 2014.

Work planned for FY 2015

The project leader will work closely with the model maker to develop product prototypes. Field test prototypes for the learning pages will be developed. A guidebook for teachers will be written, and a printing template based on the braille slate will be developed.

Tactile Graphics

Flip-Over Concept Books: TEXTURES



To provide young children with an interactive tactile book series that encourages the development and understanding of basic concepts and tactile skills related to shape, texture, spatial concepts, and so forth

Alt Tag: Image of front cover art for Flip-Over Concept Books: TEXTURES

Project Staff


In April 2006, the project leader submitted a formal proposal to develop a series of interactive tactile/print books to encourage young children's development and understanding of basic concepts related to shape, texture, spatial concepts, counting, and so forth. Inspired by recommendations from the Early Books Focus Group, which met at APH in June 2004, these books address the group's specific requests for both "concept books" as well as "inexpensive, simple books for children 3- to 5-years of age." The Flip-Over Concept Books incorporate an interactive feature whereby the child independently flips pages or adjacent print/tactile panels that can be matched or sequenced. The panels turn so that, for instance, the child can find all of the panels that have a rough texture, continue a line path, complete a sequence, build an image, and so forth. Additional skills targeted include page turning, fine motor skills, independent choice-making, and problem-solving. The product idea was officially approved for development by the Product Advisory and Review Committee.

The field test of the Flip-Over Concept Books was completed in January 2008. Field evaluations were completed by 13 teachers representing the states of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, and Texas (2). The student sample of 41 students ranged in age from 3 to 16 years old with 24% between 3 and 5, 46% between 6 and 8, 24% between 9 and 11, and 5% between 12 and 16. The student sample was nearly equally divided between females and males (56% and 44%, respectively). The student population reflected cultural diversity: 34% were White, 32% were Hispanic, 20% were African American, 7% were Asian, and 7% were reported as “two or more races.” A full 73% were in grades Pre-K through third grade, 20% were in grades 4-6, one student was in 12th grade, and the remaining percentage (5%) were reported as non-graded. The largest percentage of the students (41%) were braille readers; 37% read print or large print; 7% were reported as prereaders; and the remaining percentage were classified as dual readers, auditory readers, or nonreaders. Over half (51%) of the students had other disabilities.

Both Flip-Over Concept Books (LINE PATHS and PARTS OF A WHOLE) were reported as helpful in supporting the development and reinforcement of various skills and concepts, with student improvements reported in various areas: more careful tactile exploration, matching, line tracking, page turning, spatial understanding/concept development, overcoming tactile defensiveness, on-task behavior, self-esteem, peer interaction, and interest in tactile games/activities. Additional Flip-Over Concept Books were requested including books to address basic shapes, textures, counting, sequencing, and recreational themes. The most significant change to the books, based upon field test results, was the conversion from a twin-loop binding to one that allows removal, minimization, and randomization of the separate panels.

Quota approval for the two Flip-Over Concept Books (as well as for other future books developed in the series) was received from the Educational Products Advisory Committee in May 2008. LINE PATHS became available on November 11, 2009, and PARTS OF A WHOLE became available on June 3, 2010.

Since their introduction to the APH product line, both Flip-Over Concept Books have been in large demand and often backordered. Over the initial four years of availability, a total of 3,353 LINE PATHS and 2,497 PARTS OF A WHOLE books were purchased. Given this popularity, the project leader decided to continue with the development of additional flip-over books. Ninety-two percent of the field test evaluators rated TEXTURES as a much needed book for this series.

Because of work on higher priority projects throughout FY 2011, as well as the lack of available time in the Model Shop, the project leader was unable to devote significant time to this project. However, she did begin to sketch and select possible textures. The project leader and Tom Poppe also made strides in testing thermoformed and screen-printed flocked styrene; successful outcomes were promising for the incorporation of softer graphic textures for young children.

Following a quiet start in the first quarter of the FY 2012, significant progress on the design of the TEXTURES book was witnessed throughout the remainder of the year. The project leader conceptualized, sketched, and in some cases, fabricated possible textures for the flip-over panels. Molded samples of the considered textures were tooled by Katherine Corcoran during February and March. All of the created textures were vacuum-formed on two types of material—rigid .010-inch vinyl and flocked styrene. A total of 32 unique textures were generated. These samples were reviewed by in-house tactile readers who were asked to use adjectives to describe each texture, judge its “tactual likability,” and note if the texture could be confused with any other in the selection of samples. This anticipated mundane exercise sparked an unexpected lively discussion, resulting in a lengthy list of diverse adjectives for the textures, as well as a pruning of the 32 textures to a total of 22 for use in the final book. In some cases, identical textures, in both the hard vinyl and flocked styrene material, were recommended to encourage careful discrimination by young tactile readers.

One notable difference between the TEXTURES book and the previous Flip-Over Concept Books is the provision of extra panels that the teacher/parent can select from and collate onto the special binding (no more than 10 textures at a time). This assortment of textures will allow unending combinations of matching panels to avoid boredom and memorization, consequently making TEXTURES more versatile than LINE PATHS or PARTS OF A WHOLE.

In May 2012, the project leader planned and illustrated two vacuum-form setups for the vinyl textures (15 total) and flocked styrene textures (9 total). These drawings were furnished to Technical Research and the Model Shop. Selected textures are shown and described in the illustrations below; those with an asterisk (*) will be produced in both styles—smooth vinyl and flocked styrene. By the end of June 2012, Katherine Corcoran had built the two needed vacuum-form patterns—the first a 3 x 5 matrix and the second a 3 x 3 matrix. Concurrently, additional silkscreen printing tests were conducted using the flocked styrene material. The project leader plans to provide each unique texture in three different colors—red, yellow, and blue; all colors will be silkscreened onto white flocked styrene.

Alt Tag: Snapshot of each tactile pattern/texture that will be included with the Flip-Over Concept Books: TEXTURES. Textures include diagonal striped, rough, bumpy, vertical striped, coarse, scalloped, wavy, suction-cut, shingled, flat disks, dimpled, grid, smooth, bold dots (large and small), and bold dots/dotted lines.

A Product Structure Meeting was conducted with the Product Development Committee, and the product timeline was updated.

During July 2012, the project leader initiated and guided the art direction of the book’s front cover design in conjunction with the outside graphic designer. A mockup employing three different textures in three different colors was provided for reference. The graphic designer duplicated the layout, inserted the series’ logo, and used a 5-up template (showing die cut lines) to prepare the final file for offset printing. This layout was later used by the model maker to construct the vacuum-form pattern to produce the cover as a clear overlay.

The month of August was devoted to the layout of the accompanying Reader’s Guide authored by the project leader. By the end of September, the guide’s layout had been readied by the outside graphic designer and approved for production. Likewise, the Model Shop wrapped up hard tooling tasks associated with the vacuum-form masters.

Throughout FY 2013, steps were taken to prepare Flip-Over Concept Books: TEXTURES for production. Needed cutting dies were built, locating fixtures were readied, and plans for producing the cover art via offset printing was switched to an in-house silkscreen method. In April 2013, the project leader and Technical Research staff reviewed the preliminary product specifications. Due to higher priority products, the product specifications were not formally presented to Production until August 2013. The production goal dates of pilot run and related product components were staggered like so:

Work during FY 2014

The pilot run of the Flip-Over Concept Books was initiated on schedule during the last quarter of FY 2014. Project staff assisted in the quality control of the first production run of 500 Flip-Over Concept Books: TEXTURES. The following production issues arose, but were quickly addressed and remedied:

The availability of Flip-Over Concept Books: TEXTURES (1-08829-00) was formally announced on December 27, 2013 with a price of $89.00 (available with Quota funds) was posted on APH’s shopping site, and debuted in the online January issue of APH News ( The project leader prepared the content for the product brochure and demonstrated the book at several tactile graphic workshops throughout the year. As of July 2014 (after nine months of availability), TEXTURES was the most popular flip-over book available from APH.

Catalog # Book Title Quantity sold during FY2014 as of July 2014
1-08829-00 Flip-Over Concept Books: TEXTURES 323
1-08831-00 Flip-Over Concept Books: LINE PATHS 293
1-08832-00 Flip-Over Concept Books: PARTS OF A WHOLE 259

Work planned for FY 2015

The project leader will initiate work on the next flip-over book. She is currently involved in the ongoing development of Flip-Over Concept Books: FRACTIONS (see separate report). Future flip-over books will continue to target the project leader’s goal for the original series of developing early tactile skills.

PermaBraille [Modernization]



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


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.

Work during FY 2014

A field test announcement was posted in the April issue of the APH News ( 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 that 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).

Alt Tag: 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)

Alt Tag: 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 planned for FY 2015

Provision of APH’s existing PermaBraille packages will continue with use of the recently field tested vinyl. Two new bulk packages of 500 sheets (one unpunched and one with a 19-hole punched margin) will be accommodated and added to the PermaBraille options for purchase with Quota funds. If needed, adjustments to the brochure content will be incorporated.

Room with a View: A Tactile Model of Indoor Settings



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


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.”

“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

Formal field testing of Tactile Town with 114 students with visual impairments and blindness will greatly impact 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 mockup 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 (PET) and Product Advisory and Review Committee (PARC).

Work during 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:

Work planned for FY 2015

The project leader hopes to make noticeable strides on this project once higher priority projects have been sufficiently addressed. Consistent prototype work on Room with a View is not anticipated until the third quarter of the new fiscal year.

Tactile Graphic Line Slate



To provide an APH-original slate, in combination with appropriate stylus(es), 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


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.

Alt Tag: 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.

Work during FY 2014

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-inches long by 2.5-inches wide to accommodate standard sheet sizes of 8.5-by-11 inches and 11.5-by-11 inches. 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:

Large Dotted Line

Small Dotted Line

Wide Solid Line

Dashed Line

Thin Solid Line

Vertical Bar Line

Alt Tag: 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.

Alt Tag: 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 ( 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, Kansa, 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.

Below are 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.

Alt Tag: Tactile graphic (map) produced on PermaBraille using the Tactile Graphic Line Slate.

Alt Tag: Tactile graphic (graphs) produced on aluminum diagramming foil using the Tactile Graphic Line Slate.

Alt Tag: 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 outside vendor during the injection-molding process. A local vendor was contacted to assure the feasibility of producing the desired part at a reasonable cost. The product was presented to the Educational Product and 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 stylus) design for use by Technical Research staff for preparation of the product specifications, needed CAD drawing(s), and final production.

Work planned FY 2015

The project staff will work in tandem with 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 sleeve. The project leader will finalize updates to the product instructions to allude to the new transparent design of the slate and to give 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, so content updates will be minimal and quick. Final layout design and photography will be prepared by the in-house graphic designer.

The availability of the Tactile Graphic Lines Slate will likely be announced during the fourth quarter of the FY 2015. 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



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


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 2014

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 2015

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



To provide an online document or “matrix” that cross-references important tactile skills with available APH products

Project Staff

Alt Tag: Image of sample page of Tactile Skills Matrix


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.

Work during FY 2014

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 curtailed. 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 planned for FY 2015

Actual construction of the Tactile Skills Online Matrix will characterize most of FY 2015. Identification and listing of important tactile skills paired with APH products will be outlined by the project leader. A trial run of the online, interactive page will be expert reviewed and altered (if needed) before official unveiling on the APH Web site.

Tangible Graphs Kit



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

Alt Tag: Photo of original Tangible Graphs Kit


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

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:

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 []. 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:

  1. Provide a systematic approach to learning to read graphs from basic concepts (e.g., discrimination of symbol shapes, line tracking, etc.) to more complex skills (e.g., recognizing and interpreting various types of graphs)
  2. Provide tactile graphics in a variety of media (e.g., paper embossed, thermoform, etc.)

Provide a test booklet to assess a student’s current understanding of graph reading skills and concepts and/or assess a student’s mastery of graph skills and concepts following instruction

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.”

Alt Tag: 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.

Work during FY 2014

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 planned for FY 2015

The project leaders will continue to determine needed revisions to the original Tangible Graphs Kit and steer efforts toward prototype development for eventual field test. The prototype stage will occupy most of the new fiscal year. An in-house brainstorming meeting will also be conducted to outline eventual product components and production methods for re-introduction of the kit.




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


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 two videos were released for free viewing or download on the APH Web site (

Work during FY 2014

A third episode of TG TV was posted to the Web site; it is composed of impromptu discussions with APH Annual Meeting attendees at the Information Fair. Work on two more scripted episodes is ongoing.

Work planned for FY 2015

Two more installments of the series will be produced and posted online. The project leader will continue to monitor the websites (APH Web site and YouTube™ video community, APH channel) for comments, reactions, and suggested directions.

Touch and Tell



Touch and Tell is a current product that was first published in 1971. The product is being modernized in order to offer a sequential introduction to tactile graphics for young children who will become braille readers.

Project Staff


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 pictures. 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.

The project leader has envisioned the new product as follows. Touch and Tell is planned to target the learning needs of preschool children. Story-based instruction is designed to guide learning through discovery and practice. Activities to teach the identification of geometric shapes prepare the student to interpret more complex graphics. Geometric shapes are represented in everyday surroundings (e.g., waffles are made of little squares or a plate is a circle). After basic shapes are learned, geometric figures can be collaged to create pictures (e.g., squares, rectangles, and triangles can be grouped together to form a house). Additional concepts of importance are introduced and reinforced including part-to-whole, graduated size, position/location, same/different, large/small, and top/bottom. The directions provide suggestions to guide effective scanning techniques for location of important information in an illustration.

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 2014

As a result of input and planning, 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 will, more closely, resemble the original books. However, the issues stated above will be addressed. It is important to make this updated product available to young children who will read braille in a more usable format for parents/care-givers. Touch and Tell could become the first component of a future instructional program to develop haptic perception. The project leader has continued to gather research regarding the importance of tactile perception in concept development for children with visual impairments. Significant progress has been made in drafting the content and a framework for the new Touch and Tell has been completed. Planning meetings have been held to determine the most appropriate: materials, binding, size, layout, etc. A story has been written to direct the child's exploration through the three books.

Work planned for FY 2015

Work will initially focus on the layout of each page and the design of the tactile graphics. The story/directions will be modified to support the illustrations. A prototype is slated to be ready for field testing by the Fall of 2015.

Study Skills / Organizational Skills

Labeling, Marking, and Organization: A Self-Help Guide for Persons After Vision Loss



To provide information to adults who have lost vision about how to identify objects and materials in their environment

Project Staff


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. Rehabilitation teachers 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:

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.

Work during FY 2014

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 planned for FY 2015

It is anticipated that braille translation and recording of the book will be completed and that the product will be produced and made available for sale in FY 2015.


Tactile Clothing Tape



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


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" 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.

Work during FY 2014

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 using the product were finalized, braille and print files of directions were created, product specifications were completed by Dixon, and a specifications meeting was held.

Work planned for FY 2015

The product is scheduled for production in October, 2014. It is anticipated that the product will become available for sale in early FY 2015.


APH Talking PC Maps



To teach street layout and location literacy with an interactive, PC-based, talking, and onscreen United States map in which specific key strokes move students virtually along streets and past points of interest

Project Staff


In 2007, Mike May, CEO of the Sendero Group (a company noted for its development of accessible GPS systems for persons with visual impairments), proposed that APH develop, in collaboration with Sendero, a map exploration tool to be run on the BrailleNote™ note taker made by HumanWare™, and possibly later on a PC. The Product Advisory and Review Committee decided to pursue the development of such a product for the PC.

Ongoing dialog was undertaken among all interested parties, leading to the following conclusions about product development: first, working jointly to provide a GPS solution for the Braille Mobile Manager and a maps solution for the PC was not feasible because technical differences between operating systems precluded parallel and collaborative development; second, Talking PC Maps must present street data by itself to teach street layout and must also present combined street and point of interest (POI) data to teach the integration of landmarks, location awareness, and street layout; and third, Talking PC Maps must perform in accordance with a stipulated set of essential features, some of which will be stipulated as proprietary to the APH PC program.

Preliminary Research

During FY 2009, the project leader specified an overall program description, a set of essential features (some of which are proprietary to APH's PC software), a set of directions for describing intersection shapes and layouts, and a set of onscreen color combinations to be used to depict pertinent features.

During FY 2010, Sendero released a map product for the PC that included many of the basic, nonproprietary features of the APH product. In a new product proposal, Sendero indicated that more advanced and proprietary features could be easily added to their existing software to produce the product of interest to APH. In a contract between APH and Sendero, arrangements for purchasing the finished software product from Sendero were made.

Initial Product Development

During FY 2011, Version 1 of the software was developed with APH proprietary features and was field tested. After appropriate changes were made, Version 1 was made available for sale. Immediately after Version 1 was made available for sale, specified features for Version 2 of the software were developed. Version 2 features include the following: an onscreen graphical map as well as textual location information; navigation from one POI to the next; and the ability to record, save, print, braille, or export routes created by the user in addition to routes created by the software.

During FY 2012, after final revisions were made to Version 2, it was released. All individuals who had activated Version 1 were notified of the free upgrade, and all inventory was upgraded to the new version. The Sendero Group then prepared a 2012 update including new 2012 maps as well as the ability to check for, download, and install software, map, and POI updates from within the program. These new features were beta tested.

During FY 2013, the 2012 software became available for sale and was provided for all purchased units as a free upgrade. The 2013 upgrade, including new 2013 digital maps and a simplified upgrade and software registration system, was developed, tested extensively in house, and made available free of charge for all units sold to date. Fifty additional units were upgraded to the 2013 version for new sales. Remaining 2012 inventory has been set aside and will be upgraded to 2013 when current 2013 inventory levels are reduced.

Work during FY 2014

The 2013 version of this product has been supported. Based on low numbers of product activations, it was decided not to produce a 2014 version of this software.

Work planned for FY 2015

Because additional upgrades to this product will not be made, no work on this project is anticipated for FY 2015. Product development is complete.

Concepts and Skills for Crossings with No Traffic Control



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


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. To support student safety, it was decided the videos would focus on teaching the life-saving concept that "silence does not equal safety" when judging when to cross a street. The video will refer the student to a COMS to learn specific techniques for determining how to evaluate the risk of crossing at a given uncontrolled intersection in a specific time and situation.

Work during FY 2014

In further discussions of student safety when using this product, 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 planned for FY 2015

Intersections in Louisville will be selected for video recording, videos will be made, and the formal script will be edited and completed. Programming of the videos will begin.




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


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, will provide 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.

Work during FY 2014

Research articles were purchased and provided to Hook per Hooks request. Hook submitted the draft of Chapter 6. Daniel Kish continued editing work on the first six chapters.

Work planned for FY 2015

Hook will complete the draft of the final chapter, Terlau will edit all chapters, and Kish will provide edits. The book will be made ready for field testing, field testers will be acquired, and testing will begin.




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


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.

Work during FY 2014

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.

When a summary of field test results was shared with Mahoney, he indicated that software and hardware used in the Freedom Travel Aid has improved a great deal during the time since prototypes were developed. Mahoney expressed interest in developing a new prototype for APH to consider.

Work planned for FY 2015

This product will be re-evaluated if an improved prototype is developed.

Nearby Explorer

Formerly GPS



To provide location, navigation, and routing functions to the Braille+ and accessible AndroidTM devices which are geared specifically to blind pedestrians

Project Staff


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 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, especially when they are available on a portable device with a braille display.

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.

Since the new design of the Braille Plus 18 is based on the AndroidTM 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 AndroidTM Play Store. Thus, anyone with an accessible AndroidTM phone could take advantage of its services. When combined with a $200 AndroidTM tablet, Nearby Explorer is the most complete, affordable GPS package available to users who are blind.

In this three-phase project, APH will provide the basic navigation, location, and routing functions in the first portion of the project.

Phase two includes the ability to create and share points of interest and information about POIs.

In phase three, indoor spaces will be included in the ability to locate and get routes for POIs.

Programmers created an AndroidTM 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 features include the following:

During the first phase of this project, developers performed the following tasks:

In addition, the following was accomplished:

Released a version in June 2013 that added the following:

Version 1.0.7, May 2013

Version 1.0.5, April 2013

Version 1.0.3, March 2013

Version 1.0.2, February 2013

Version 0.5.62, January 2013

Work during FY 2014

Version 2.0.1, August 2014

Version 1.0.12, November 2013

Version 1.0.11, October 2013

Version 1.0.10, October 2013

Work planned for FY 2015

Project staff will work to complete the following: