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APH Advisory Committee Reports

Report of the Educational Products Advisory Committee to the Trustees of the American Printing House for the Blind Fiscal Year 2022

Purpose

The purpose of the Educational Products Advisory Committee (EPAC) is:

  • To advise the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) in establishing priorities, standards, and policies regarding products.
  • To review research and development priorities, suggest additional areas of interest, and advise APH staff on the prioritization of needs and projects.
  • To review products under development and to consider approval of finished products for purchase with Federal Quota funds.
  • To recommend parents, caregivers, students, clients, and professionals in the field serve as subjects for research or field-test purposes, as project consultants, and/or as committee members.

Introduction

In March 2022, the EPAC met in Louisville, KY, at APH, for the twenty-first year as a formal advisory committee to address the 2021 EPAC report and to develop commendations and recommendations for the current fiscal year. To assist with this endeavor, presentations were made by APH’s product development staff, including progress updates on the 2021 recommendations, operations, and information on new initiatives.

Commendations

The EPAC commends APH for the following:

  1. Our input is driving discussion, action, and positive changes at APH as evidenced by follow-through of recommendations from EPAC in 2021.
  2. Development of the Road Maps and use of a gap analysis in that process is resulting in the thoughtful creation and updating of critical products.
  3. We appreciate the intentional focus on inclusive products that are universally designed so that students are more willing and excited to use them as are their peers.
  4. Many of the new products are being designed with end goals in mind such as improved employment outcomes.
  5. Technology products are being designed to fill identified needs based on feedback from the field.
  6. Providing training to support professionals in the effective use of APH products.

Recommendations

Consistent with the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind (1879), the Educational Products Advisory Committee (EPAC) recommends that APH:

  1. Streamline access to training videos, product content information, user reviews, Access Academy and the Hive that are connected to specific products.
  2. Continue improving the website. Some improvements that should be considered for the website are:
    1. Certain products could benefit from having more than a short description. Inclusion of an activity, lesson or the table of contents could provide users with a more comprehensive understanding of the product.
    2. For discontinued and/or active products, consider providing information on alternative products that perform similar functions. This similar product section could replace the current “Other Products” section.
    3. Create a mechanism that generates suggestions for related products when ordering items such as textbooks (example: a health textbook is ordered, “Have you considered ordering the Health Education Tactile Graphics book?”).
  3. For students transitioning from print to braille reading, the EPAC committee recommends prioritizing the creation of braille curricular materials to support their literacy needs. This was identified in the gap analysis by APH as the product in-between Building on Patterns and the Illinois Braille Series.
  4. In an effort to increase the number of requests for braille materials:
    1. Consider broadening the criteria for new transcription of materials based on each state’s needs.
    2. Decrease the length of time of braille textbook production.
  5. Explore reducing the price of the digital large print book files. Even though the APH files are of higher quality than free files from other agencies, most schools will download the free digital files.
  6. Encourage collaboration between EPAC and ESAC commendations and recommendations through scheduled meetings.

Respectfully Submitted,

Educational Products Advisory Committee 2022
Scott McCallum, Chair
Leslie Bechtel Van Orman
Pam Parker
Heidi Munschy
Kay Ratzlaff
Dawn Soto
Armando Venegas

Report of the Educational Services Advisory Committee to the Trustees of the American Printing House for the Blind Fiscal Year 2022

Purpose

The purpose of the Educational Services Advisory Committee (ESAC) is:

  • To provide oversight and leadership in the planning, evaluation, and delivery of product-related services provided by the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind.
  • To identify new services as needed.
  • To assist in the promotion of APH products through services.
  • To advise APH on general operations and communications as they relate to the accountability of services provided.
  • To advise APH generally on topics relevant to the education and rehabilitation of persons who are blind or visually impaired.
  • To advise APH in planning future federal initiatives based on innovative ideas and current trends by helping APH staff keep informed of trends and important discussions/debates occurring in the field.
  • To advocate for and support the administration of the ACT by APH.
  • To facilitate communications and partnerships between APH and appropriate entities.

Introduction

In March of 2022 the ESAC met in Louisville, KY, at APH as a formal advisory committee to address the 2021 ESAC report and to develop commendations and recommendations for the current fiscal year. To assist with this endeavor, presentations were made by APH’s services administrative staff, including progress updates on the 2021 recommendations, operations, and information on new initiatives.

Commendations

The ESAC commends APH for the following:

  1. The outreach team for their focus on expansion of regional support for services and products.
  2. The creation of ABIDE program to support all APH from its employees to the people they serve by recognizing and fostering a culture of accessibility, belonging, inclusion, diversity and equity.
  3. The improvement of the customer service system for EOTs, customers and partners, as evidenced by the national recruiting and employment of remote staff, creating clear key performance indicators, call back options and improved department collaboration.
  4. The update of the Louis database platform allowing for better usability and integration with the APH shopping site.
  5. The creativity to begin a partnership with OCALI with their program of “Unlock Reading for Students with VI”.
  6. The thoughtfulness paid to the museum and its layout including the use of outside consultants to create a truly accessible environment for all.
  7. The successful transition of SRS to an external provider to increase security.

Recommendations

Consistent with the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind (1879), the Educational Services Advisory Committee (ESAC) recommends that APH:

  1. Recognize that the scoring rubric for the APH Scholars is a living document with an active review each year by ESAC. The drafted updates for 2022 are completed and shared with APH leadership:
    1. Consider the addition of a category for other professionals connected to the vision field but not necessarily teachers. (Technical Support, Braille Transcribers, Paraprofessionals and Ordering Specialists, etc.)
  2. Develop the ability to provide support on the products from field reviewers who can answer technical questions on a platform similar to Apple Support Community and consider using a star rating scale open to all product users.
  3. Create measurable and clear Outreach Regional Specialists goals that are shared with EOTs and in the yearly review account for EOT feedback.
    1. In the virtual EOT meetings allow for breakout sessions to provide a consistent meeting opportunity with EOTs and their regional specialists.
  4. Examine the usability of the Louis Database and other website designs. (e.g. provide a larger reset button for the Louis database search function).
  5. Work to improve the current CATT program including outreach and provide targeted trainings. Then scale this as a resource for all regions.
  6. Develop a home page portal that allows for specific “I want to…” prompts to allow for clearer navigation to all APH’s programs. (i.e. preliminary chat bot function).

Respectfully Submitted,

Educational Services Advisory Committee 2022
Carson Cochran, Chair
Robert Hair
Donna Cox
Tanya Armstrong
Brian Darcy
Jared Leslie
Beth Pieters

Downloadable Advisory Committee Reports