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November 2020

Adult and children stick figures holding hands with Better Together

Looking Back at APH’s 152nd Annual Meeting

We would like to thank the over 1,300 people who participated in APH’s first-ever virtual Annual Meeting on October 7-9, 2020. The theme, “Better Together,” proved very timely for this year as both presenters and attendees discussed new products and solutions for assisting students and adults who are blind and visually impaired during the pandemic. APH President, Dr. Craig Meador, also reminded everyone of the importance of their work as it relates to civil rights and social justice.If you missed Annual Meeting or just want to look back on this influential event, visit our Annual Meeting website, where you can watch recordings of all of the Annual Meeting sessions or download the session presentations and product brochures to share with others.

Our new podcast, Change Makers, just released an episode all about Annual Meeting which can be accessed here. Listen as host Paul Ferrara discusses highlights of the meeting, including the State of the Company address delivered by Dr. Craig Meador; Hall of Fame: Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field induction ceremony; the keynote address delivered by Paralympian Tyler Merren; and several sessions and panel discussions. This episode also contains recorded snippets from each presentation to make it feel as though you were truly there.

Additionally, we are excited to announce that the InSights Art competition has its own website, complete with a virtual exhibition of the artists’ pieces from 2020. Each piece of art is described for people who are blind and visually impaired. Visitors to the website can also read about this year’s jurors and rewatch the InSights Art awards ceremony from Annual Meeting.

Thank you for your support of APH! We look forward to seeing you on October 6-8, 2021 for APH’s 153rd Annual Meeting.

The Access and Engagement Study: How COVID-19 is Impacting Education of Students with Visual Impairments

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is proud to announce the release of the Access and Engagement Research Report. The report, based on responses from 455 families and over 1,000 TVIs and O&M Specialists, highlights the challenges experienced in education as the shift was made from education in school buildings to remote education, or in some cases no education. The survey was made possible thanks to the collaboration among 20 organizations, including APH, concerned about how COVID-19 is impacting education.

Families, TVIs, and O&M Specialists who did not have the opportunity to respond to the survey may still do so through November 22, 2020.

Please click here to take approximately 30-40 minutes to complete the accessible survey. We want to understand the successes, challenges, and concerns during the 2020-2021 school year. If your child or student who is blind or visually impaired is experiencing accessibility issues, does not have access to necessary technology, and/or is not progressing in their education, we need to advocate for additional services and solutions!

Join AFB on November 10 from 2-3p EST for an important Town Hall Webinar: Impact of COVID-19 on Education Across the Lifespan.

Submit Your Artwork for the 2021 InSights Art Competition!

We are now accepting submissions for the 2021 InSights Art competition. Click hereto access the submission form and enter the contest. All entries are due by March 26, 2021.

APH Hive logo on a honeycomb pattern background with cartoon bees flying around it

Learn from Anywhere, Anytime with the New Access Academy and APH Hive

APH is proud to present two new services that will enhance learning for educators and families: Access Academy and APH Hive. Our #AtHomeWithAPH webinars that we launched in response to COVID-19 were a smashing success. For this reason, APH has decided to offer these webinars on a more permanent basis and have renamed the series Access Academy. Read our blog to learn more about these webinars and the topics that they cover.

Looking for other opportunities to learn on your own time? The APH Hive is a free eLearning platform for educators and families. Easily enroll and take courses that are relevant to serving students from birth through graduation who are blind or visually impaired – all on your own schedule. Like the Access Academy webinar series, participants can also earn ACVREP credit. Buzz over to our blog to discover more information about what the Hive has to offer.

Also, listen to the November 5th episode of Change Makers, which discusses these services in more detail.

2020-2021 APH Virtual ExCEL Academy

The APH Virtual ExCEL Academy is back! Take advantage of these FREE, engaging lessons for students with a variety of abilities. The ExCEL Academy includes a live hour at 2:00 ET, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, organized by age. Register and join in any day from the same link.

Tuesday: Focus from Birth to 6th grade
Wednesday: Focus from 7th to 12th grade
Thursday: Focus on students with multiple impairments

Some of our upcoming sessions include:

  • Problem Solving in O&M (grades 4-6)
  • Response Over Reaction in Social Media (middle and high school)
  • Farm Animals and Sounds (VIMI)
  • Cooking Tips & Tricks with Young Adults who are Blind (middle and high school)
Educational professionals as well as college students preparing to enter the field can participate in the webinars to watch teachers at work. They are also able to observe in the background, just as if they were in a physical classroom.

Sharing Digital Braille Between Countries – It’s as Easy as ABC!

Having trouble finding materials for your students? APH can help! Read our blog to learn more about our involvement in the Accessible Book Consortium (ABC) and how APH can request materials from the catalog for you and your students.

New Products

APH is excited to announce the release of the following new product(s):

  • Visual efficiency is the extent to which available vision is used in an effective way. The Barraga Visual Efficiency Program (BVEP) contains information and materials for teachers to evaluate the visual efficiency needs of their students. Through this evaluation, teachers can determine a baseline on where a student is on his/her ability to perceive shapes, size, color, orientation, visual closure, internal detail, matching, and naming missing objects. Instructional methods are included to help students improve in these areas and to maximize their available vision.

  • This calendar offers a systematic and organized way of keeping track of appointments, holidays, and other events.

    Each large print page holds four days, with enough room to write notes and appointments.

  • LEGO Braille Bricks

    The LEGO® Braille Bricks concept is a playful methodology that teaches braille to children who are blind or have a visual impairment.

    Each colorful LEGO brick is molded with studs that correspond to numbers and letters in the braille alphabet and has a corresponding printed symbol or letter.

    Previously, this product was only available for ordering by Ex Officio Trustees (EOTs). Beginning with our next shipment, APH is extending the ability to order LEGO Braille Bricks to teachers too. The goal of the LEGO Foundation and APH is to ensure the kits are available to children for years to come, so they are available to educators only. By distributing them to schools and educators, we can be sure students coming in and out of the classroom will have access, and they won’t end up dusty on a shelf at home.

    Teachers and EOTs, please, note that kits will arrive in multiples of four (4). We will round up your request as needed in order to meet our shipping requirements. We still have a few kits in stock, and will be receiving an additional 10,000 kits (2,500 sets) in early December.

  • It has come to our attention that there was a misprint in the 2020 APH product catalog. The catalog description for Laptime and Lullabies indicates that two tip cards and books – Where’s Little Fuzzy and Butterflies – are included with the Parent Handbooks. This is incorrect. The books are not included, but are recommended as a supplemental product. Therefore, Laptime and Lullabies consists of two separate products: Laptime and Lullabies: Storybooks (6-77701-00) and Laptime and Lullabies: Parent Handbooks (6-77702-00). Going forward, please refer to for the correct information about these products.
  • Sound Adapted Tangle Balls (1-08111-00) are out of stock indefinitely, due to COVID-19 overseas supply and production issues. We realize this is a popular product, especially during the holidays, and are working to locate a new manufacturer. Unfortunately, this process could take several months. Thank you for your patience as we resolve this issue. We will update you with any changes regarding the status of this product.

  • Overhead view of LED mini Lite Box

    Due to COVID-19, many of our overseas manufacturers are experiencing delays in production. We have been notified that the LED Mini-Lite Boxes will not be received at APH until the end of 2020, and will therefore begin shipping to customers in early 2021. We apologize for this delay.

    If you placed an order for Mini-Lite Box(es) and provided an email address when placing that order, we will continue to keep you updated via email with any additional information, including when your order has been shipped. If you wish to cancel your order, or if you have any questions, please contact the APH Customer Experience team at 800-223-1839 from 8:00a. – 8:00p. EST, Monday through Friday.

  • hop-a-dot

    In January 2020, APH introduced the Hop-A-Dot Mat (Catalog No. 1-08819-00) that includes the Alphabet Spinner and Number Spinner. If you have used this product with students who are blind and visually impaired, we would love to hear from you to find out how this product is meeting your and your students’ needs. Please, consider taking this short Hop-A-Dot Mat Product Feedback Survey.

    To learn more about the Hop-A-Dot Mat and related spinners, please, visit APH’s shopping page.

Sensorimotor Spotlight

Read our latest blog post, A Teacher’s Perspective on the Sensory Learning Kit by Wendy Pray, to learn how the Sensorimotor Spotlight Team powers through the pandemic using Zoom and SLK strategies. Also, visit the Sensorimotor Spotlightwebsite to read the full newsletter, complete with great information for educators.

SLK, LED Mini-Lite Box, and Barraga

Check out these tips and resources for a few of our educational tools, perfect for students with low vision and multiple disabilities.

ConnectCenter News

The APH ConnectCenter staff has been hard at work over the past month, creating informative content and hosting helpful webinars for our community. During the APH Annual Meeting, ConnectCenter Director, Olaya Landa-Vialard, and the team presented an overview of what the ConnectCenter is all about and the ways it can be accessed and utilized. Watch the presentation here.

We encourage everyone to post events on the APH ConnectCalendar, a community calendar hub for all happenings in
the blindness and visual impairment field.

Check out some of the most recent blog posts on our three sites: FamilyConnect, CareerConnect, and VisionAware.

This month, the ConnectCenter is also hosting three free webinars: FamilyConnect: Now I See with Vera Jones on November 12; FamilyConnect: Tips and Techniques to Teach Prebraille to Toddlers on November 16; and VisionAware: Virtual O&M Training for Seniors on November 18. To register for any or all of these webinars, please, visit the respective websites for the announcements and links.

Lastly, don’t forget that the ConnectCenter’s Information and Referral line is staffed from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM Eastern time. You can reach us by calling 1-800-232-5463 or by email,

Social Media Spotlight – Easily Find Resources for Families, Educators, Adults, and Job Seekers

Did you know you can learn all about the new content, webinars, and solutions from the APH ConnectCenter by following them on social media? We have something for everyone!

TVI Spotlight: Elizabeth Umphress

The field of blindness education would not be where it is today without the contributions of many dedicated TVI’s. Our TVI Spotlight shares the stories of these educators to inspire other professionals with new ideas for incorporating APH products into their curriculum. Read our blog to learn about TVI Elizabeth Umphress and some of the simple, low-tech solutions she uses with her elementary students.

Meet APH Scholar Colin Montoya

We would like to congratulate Colin Montoya for being selected as a 2020 APH Scholar. Colin was nominated by EOT Jared Leslie and works as the inventory manager for the Arizona Instructional Resource Center (AIRC) Foundation for Blind Children. Read our blog to learn more about Colin and discover what makes an APH Scholar stand out. Also, follow along as we feature a new scholar each month.

Personalized Object Recognizers

Microsoft Research is collaborating with Seeing AI and City University, London to build personalized object recognizers. This joint effort is known as the ORBIT (Object Recognition for Blind Image Training) Project. Instead of apps like Seeing AI giving you a generic name for things in front of your camera (e.g. “car”), personalized object recognizers allow you to train specific things that are important to you — your friend’s car, your child’s ball that always rolls away, or a person’s front door that is new to you. To build these new kinds of algorithms, the ORBIT Project wants data from people who are blind or low vision, because they want what they build to work for blind and low vision people and the things that are important to them.

The project is asking people who are blind or low vision to donate data of FIVE things that are important to them, by taking a set of videos of those things. If they collect the level of data they need, the project aims to release a personalized object recognizer within a year. The data will be open sourced to the academic community and has been designed to drive forward research in personalization, putting people with disabilities first when they build new types of AI systems.

Find out more about the ORBIT project.

Leader Dogs for the Blind Launches T.O.M. Talks

Leader Dogs for the Blind, located in Southeast Michigan since 1939, announced that they are launching a free virtual seminar for people who are 18-24 years old, legally blind or visually impaired, and from the U.S. and Canada. T.O.M. Talks focuses on three areas of importance for people who are blind: Technology, Orientation, and Mobility. The seminar is free and will be held on January 17-30, 2021.

Participants will develop skills needed to thrive in their career including increased independent travel, professional readiness, and networking.

A variety of experts from Leader Dogs for the Blind will present including guide dog mobility instructors and orientation & mobility specialists.

“People in the 18-24 age group tend to have very busy schedules,” said Erica Ihrke, Leader Dog’s manager of extended services, “so we designed this program to be partially self-guided and partially live. Our goal is for everyone to be able to achieve success.” There are four required live ZOOM sessions and two optional weekend sessions. The self-guided portion of the curriculum includes videos and activities supported with materials sent prior to the T.O.M. Talks.

To apply for T.O.M. Talks, go to  Applications are due by 5:00 PM (EST) on Monday, December 14, 2020.

For additional information, visit or contact Kristy Plesscher, Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist at (248) 659-5009.

STEM Corner – Share Your STEM Story!

A research project, run by Principal Investigator Garrison Tsinajinie, will explore how young individuals with visual impairments reflect on their STEM camp or other program experiences and career goals. Eligible individuals

  • are between 13 and 23 years old
  • live in the U.S.A.
  • have a visual impairment
  • have or had an IEP in middle or high school
  • participated in a STEM camp or program for students with visual impairments for at least 2 days or 16 clock hours
  • are willing to participate in 10 hours of focus group meetings across 6 to 8 weeks

Click  here or email Garrison at to get more information and to complete an interest survey.

All participants will receive a $75 Amazon gift card!

Treasures from the APH Libraries

From the Migel Library: Keller, Helen. “The Story of My Life: Helen Keller’s Own Story of Her Life, Written Entirely by the Wonderful Girl Herself.” Ladies’ Home Journal, vol. 19, no. 5, Apr. 1902, p. 7.

Story of my life - Helen Keller

The Migel Library has recently acquired an original April 1902 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal. Printed in this issue was the inaugural installment of “The Story of My Life,” by Helen Keller. This premier appearance of her story can now be read just as it was presented to the world for the very first time, alongside contemporary articles and advertisements. The article opens with a facsimile of a handwritten note by Keller, reading, “In the story of my life here presented to the readers of The Ladies’ Home Journal, I have tried to show that afflictions may be looked at in such a way that they become privileges.” Although the extremely popular book was published just a year later, this issue presents the reader with an authentic visit to the time when Helen’s story was not only just being released, but really just beginning.

This issue has been digitized for Internet Archive at

The APH Migel Collection is one of the largest collections of nonmedical information related to visual impairment in the world. Although the collection does not circulate, an ongoing digitization effort means APH will make materials available online. The digitized texts are available in a variety of accessible formats, including DAISY, Kindle, EPUB, PDF, and read-aloud. Contact library staff:, 800-223-1839, ext. 705.

APH Travel Center

ATIA 2021 Conference Registration Discount

Are you planning on attending the 2021 ATIA conference? If so, now is the perfect time to register. Click here and use APH’s discount code ATIA21APH to get 20% off a full conference registration through November 30, 2020.
We hope to see you there.

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