Reports of the Advisory Committees To the Trustees of the American Printing House for the Blind For the Year 2016
Report of the Educational Services Advisory Committee to the Trustees of the American Printing House for the Blind for Fiscal Year 2016
The purpose of the Educational Services Advisory Committee (ESAC) is to:
- Provide oversight and leadership in the planning, evaluation, and delivery of services.
- Identify new services needed.
- Assist the promotion of APH products through services, and
- Advise APH on general operations and communications as they relate to the accountability of services provided.
In May of 2016 the Educational Services Advisory Committee (ESAC) met in Louisville, KY at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) to address the 2015 ESAC report and to develop commendations and recommendations for the current fiscal year. To assist with this endeavor, interactive presentations were made by APH’s administrative staff, including progress updates on the 2015 recommendations, operations and information on new initiatives.
- The ESAC offers a heartfelt commendation and congratulations to the entire Printing House staff for maintaining a high level of professionalism during recent major leadership transitions, for the continuing commitment to providing the highest quality products and services for all consumers, and for both seeking and valuing input from EOTs, service providers and stakeholders around the country.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for pursuing a knowledge management plan to identify in house strengths and expertise, to improve interdepartmental communication, and to insure the transmission of knowledge and experience from one generation of staff to another.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for continuing to expand digitized materials for the Migel Library, currently over 4000 titles, in multiple formats.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for expanding APH visibility and communication through a broadened social media presence.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for adding features to, and improving, the Braille Blaster translation software in such functions as automation, formatting, proofreading and editing, and for updating the software to be UEB compliant.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the creation of new webinar trainings for authorized NIMAC users.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the addition of new 3D images to the Tactile Graphics Image Library.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for increasing production of tactile graphics for textbooks and products.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for securing, through targeted advocacy, an additional $500,000 in the FY’16 federal appropriation to support continued development and implementation of the REAL plan.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for pursuing partnerships with W3C, IMS Global Standards and other private sector companies to insure an APH voice in the development of mainstream technologies.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for centralizing all accessible textbooks and tests under one department to improve internal efficiency.
- The ESAC offers a commendation to APH for its foresight in proactively participating in a partnership to develop the Orbit Reader 20 as a low cost, alternative refreshable braille display.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for the recent addition of the Music Listening Center.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for implementing the new EOT Outreach Program to collaborate with EOTs in writing grants to supplement individual quota accounts for APH products, and the associated training to support the increased use of those products.
- The ESAC offers a commendation for launching the Accessible Tests Resource Center.
Consistent with the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind (1879), the committee recommends that APH:
- Explore ways to capture talent from around the country as APH ambassadors to educate professionals and consumers about The ACT and to promote APH products and services.
- Continue establishing external business partnerships to encourage the creative development of new technologies for products and services in response to the evolving needs of consumers.
- Explore possibilities for sending APH staff for externships to observe/exchange ideas with both mainstream and specialized technology specialists such as product developers, vendors, researchers and service providers to both share and gain insights into APH product development and
- Explore the development of subscription services to provide technical support for public domain software such as NVDA (non-visual display access).
- Continue to focus on safety, quality, efficiency and cost, keeping in mind that specialized products such as tactile graphics must allow for the individual educational needs of a wide range of students and clients.
- Expand, as appropriate, the collection and collation of numerical data, largely through the redesigned SRS database, to identify current trends in student registration and materials ordered, in order to project future needs for services and products.
- Improve marketing of APH services among direct service providers (TVIs, COMs, CVRTs, CLVTs, paraprofessionals and others) in order to increase product familiarization, distribution and usage.
- Focus on increasing EOT attendance and involvement at Annual Meeting, including possible ways to incentivize participation.
- Explore the provision of CEUs or ACVREP credits at Annual Meeting and other APH trainings.
- 10. Continue pursuing alternate funding strategies and regional collaborations to sustain and grow the National Instructional Partnership program.
- Explore, design and expand services and products for adult populations including transition-age youth and the aging.
- Examine ways to simplify, refine and promote the use of the new review/rating process on both the Louis database and the APH shopping site.
- Continue to update and improve the NIMAC to increase download speed and processing of NIMAS files.
- Expand APH Braille Blaster training to include Instructional Resource Center staff nationwide, as well as transcribers, teachers or paraprofessionalsas appropriate.
- Design, implement and distribute orientation packets for Scholars prior to October and May meetings to better prepare them for full participation with the committees.
Report of the Educational Products Advisory Committee to the Trustees of the American Printing House for the Blind for Fiscal Year 2016
The purpose of the Educational Products Advisory Committee (EPAC) is:
- To advise APH in establishing priorities, standards, and policies regarding products.
- To review research and development priorities, suggest additional areas of interest, and advise APH staff on the prioritization of needs and projects.
- To review products under development and to consider approval of finished products for purchase with Federal Quota funds.
- To recommend parents, caregivers, students, clients, and professionals in the field to serve as subjects for research or field-test purposes, as project consultants, and/or as committee members.
In May 2016, the EPAC met for the fifteenth year as a formal advisory committee to APH—meeting with project leaders and other APH staff. The committee appreciated the time dedicated to project discussions and preparation for the EPAC visit. The APH staff clearly demonstrates passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to the vision of the company and is dedicated to the development of products for students who are blind and visually impaired.
The EPAC Commendations 2016
- The EPAC commends APH for endeavoring to maximize production efficiency while valuing the knowledge and skill sets of all employees. In addition, the EPAC appreciates the time-honored production techniques which allow for the filling of small-quantity, labor-intensive orders to meet the unique needs of students with visual impairment, including blindness.
- The EPAC commends APH on the continued development of the Orbit Reader 20, which will be a market disrupter by allowing a greater number of customers and consumers to access high-quality Braille at previously-unheard-of prices.
- The EPAC commends APH for making files of select replacement parts and other 3-D files available in the Tactile Graphic Image Library.
- The EPAC commends APH for partnering with Freedom Scientific to make the market-leading JAWS for Windows screen reader and MAGic screen magnification applications available on Federal Quota at very reasonable prices thereby empowering students and other consumers through greater information access.
- The EPAC commends APH for continuing in-house product development, as well as responding to product suggestions from the field.
- The EPAC commends APH for working with publishers to ensure the implementation of universal design principals before their products are brought to market. In so doing, the Printing House assures greater accessibility for all learners.
- The EPAC commends APH for continuing to endeavor to obtain publisher permissions to complete product development for students who are blind/visually impaired.
- The EPAC commends APH for being proactive concerning the implementation of Unified English Braille (UEB) across all departments, ensuring that products are available in multiple formats, (eg. the Braille formats in the Nemeth Braille Code of Mathematics and Science Notation, as well as UEB Maths) which allows for consumer choice.
- The EPAC commends APH for being creative about grant writing by offering, free of charge, the services of a grant writer to states and organizations receiving quota funding to purchase additional APH products.
- The EPAC commends APH for bundling products in order to offer them in new and innovative ways.
- The EPAC commends APH for expanding the number of quick tip videos to promote products, as well as the development of Tactile Graphics TV, to demonstrate best practices in the production and use of tactile products.
The EPAC Recommendations 2016
Consistent with the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind (1879):
- To boost sales of digital content, the EPAC recommends that APH increase customer awareness about the variety of digital files (e.g., BRF, large print textbooks, large print textbooks with image descriptions, etc.) through increased marketing for Ex Officio Trustees (EOTs), EOT assistants, and Teachers of Visually Impaired (TVIs).
- The EPAC recommends that APH increase development of resources and products targeted at transition-age youth and young adults which address the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC).
- The EPAC recommends that APH investigate methods to increase the capacity of products in development (eg. proof readers and tactile graphics production) in order to support the work of project leaders and expedite timely delivery.
- The EPAC recommends that APH improve the customer experience by providing complete parts list documentation for each product listed at shop.aph.org, highlighting the parts that are replaceable.
- The EPAC recommends that APH email all EOTs when an updated firmware version is released for applicable products. The email should contain new features of the firmware as well as download instructions, including the download link.
- The EPAC recommends that APH consider developing FAQs for products about which the Printing House is most frequently contacted. This would provide customers with 24/7 product support and could reduce the volume of customer service inquiries.
- Given the efficacy of distance learning in leveraging expertise while shrinking boundaries, the EPAC recommends that APH consider establishing a video conferencing lab in which specific, on-demand, product trainings could be conducted remotely.
- Insure products are cross referenced in multiple area to ensure customers are able to locate appropriate products (for example, Treks should be reference in the Orientation and Mobility section as well as the Recreation and Leisure section of the catalog).
- The EPAC recommends that APH continues to explore the concept of regional representatives to increase product awareness, trainings, increased connection with university teacher prep programs, EOT mentoring, and professionals to raise the visibility of the American Printing House for the Blind.