Before the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations, Ralph Regula, Chairman
April 24, 2001
Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Committee:
It is a pleasure for me to present the President's fiscal year 2002 budget request for the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). In 1879, Congress passed the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind, which mandates that APH, a nonprofit agency, produce and distribute specially designed and adapted educational materials necessary for precollege level blind students to have an equal opportunity to participate in their educational programs. We believe the availability of these materials is essential in the States' provision of an appropriate public education to blind students, and, therefore, serves a Federal objective by supporting the Federal mandate that all children receive a free appropriate public education as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The Act to Promote the Education of the Blind designates a Board of Ex Officio Trustees, currently 156 professionals, which assures that funding for the Act is used to produce and distribute specially designed educational materials which are not otherwise available. The Ex Officio Trustees are composed primarily of representatives of State departments of education, superintendents of residential schools for the blind, and directors of instructional materials resource centers. They provide ongoing State and local input into the identification of the needs of students who are blind. Approval of the Ex Officio Trustees is necessary for: (a) research undertaken to identify methods to address students' needs, (b) development and subsequent field testing of prototype educational aids and materials designed to address students' needs, (c) actual production of the aids and materials, and (d) follow-up revisions of the aids and materials as necessary. By approving the expenditure of appropriated funds only for unique educational aids and materials designed for blind students, the Ex Officio Trustees ensure that this program does not duplicate other programs.
The total request for the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind for fiscal year 2002 is $12 million, the same as the fiscal year 2001 appropriation.
The request for fiscal year 2002 includes $8.6 million to supply special educational materials to an estimated 57,500 legally blind students, the same as the fiscal year 2001 funding for educational materials. These figures are $300,000 lower for fiscal year 2001 and $230,000 lower for fiscal year 2002 than those presented in the Congressional Justification. APH shifted these funds to the Accessible Textbook Initiative and Collaboration project (ATIC) based on a reestimate of the demand for services under this project, and currently plans to spend $800,000 on ATIC in both fiscal years 2001 and 2002.
Funds for the educational materials activity are used to produce and distribute textbooks in braille and large type, tangible teaching devices, educational tests, and special instructional aids, tools, and materials adapted for students who are legally blind. While the States are required to provide a free appropriate public education to all eligible students with disabilities under IDEA, this appropriation ensures that a minimum level of materials is made available to the States on an annual basis to assist in the education of students who are blind.
The 2002 request includes $225,000 for Advisory Services, a $5,000 or 2.3% increase over the 2001 funding level. The appropriation for Advisory Services supports a variety of activities necessary to administer the Act. These activities include the annual census of blind students; meetings of the Educational Research and Development and the Publications Advisory Committees; an annual Meeting of Ex Officio Trustees; the production of catalogs and videos of educational materials; ad hoc committees on issues affecting services to blind students; and field services such as product demonstration, consultation, in-service training, and workshops. These Advisory Services activities help to ensure that the research and development undertaken, and the special materials produced and distributed, address current and future needs of blind students.
The request for Advisory Services also includes funding for the following eight initiatives:
$180,000 for continuation of the Electronic File Repository initiative;
$85,000 for continuation of the Expert Database initiative;
$67,000 for continuation of the Louis Student-Use initiative;
$160,000 for continuation of the National Instructional Partnership initiative;
$115,000 for continuation of the Product Information and Training Materials initiative;
$198,000 for a new initiative for the Louis Database of Accessible Materials;
$70,000 for a new initiative for the APH Web Site and Research Library; and
$800,000 for continuation of the Accessible Textbook Initiative and Collaboration.
Electronic File Repository - $180,000 is requested for fiscal year 2002 to continue the Electronic File Repository project. The Repository supports the current national effort to expedite the delivery of textbooks to visually impaired students. It contains translated text files that are used to create braille.
Expert Database Service - $85,000 is requested for continuation of the Expert Database Service, an accessible online database of facts, references, and resources vital to students who are blind and to the administrators of their programs.
Louis Student-Use Initiative - The request includes $67,000 to continue the Student-Use Initiative for the Louis database. This initiative provides demonstrations and hands-on workshops on all APH web-based services and APH educational software for visually impaired and blind students, teachers, and administrators across the United States.
National Instructional Partnership - $160,000 is requested to continue the National Instructional Partnership. In 2002, this project will offer an increasing number of opportunities to expand the expertise of parents and personnel who serve visually impaired students.
Product Information and Training Materials - The request includes $115,000 to continue the Product Information and Training Materials project. The purpose of this project is to develop and disseminate appropriate APH product and training materials and to diversify the methods and media used.
Louis Database of Accessible Materials - $198,000 is requested to fund the Louis Database of Accessible Materials for People who are Blind or Visually Impaired. This Database is the cornerstone for the services offered by Advisory Services. Through Federal funding, grants, and APH general funds, this database has grown to become a fully speech accessible, web-based service providing data on over 150,000 titles from over 150 agencies across North America. This essential tool provides one quick, complete, centralized place for locating educational materials in braille, sound recording, large print, and computer file.
APH Web Site and Research Library - The request also includes $70,000 to fund the APH Web Site and Research Library. The web site is the vehicle through which APH delivers essential online services such as Louis, the Database of Accessible Media Producers, the APH File Repository, and the Expert Database. The APH library provides services such as inter-library loan, document delivery, and reference, as well as building and maintaining a specialized collection for Advisory Services, Research, and product development areas.
Accessible Textbook Initiative and Collaboration - $800,000 is requested for continuation of the Accessible Textbook Initiative and Collaboration (ATIC). Through this project, APH will continue its comprehensive efforts to revamp production and delivery methods of textbooks in a variety of accessible media. APH also will continue to conduct research in the area of tactile graphics for textbooks. Research will be conducted to determine the most effective and appropriate linear, aerial, and point symbols for tactile readers.
In the area of large print textbooks, ATIC will conduct investigation and development of linkages necessary to produce large print books in standard textbook size, in a variety of fonts and font sizes, allowing graphics to be placed with the appropriate text. In addition, ATIC will develop training modules that address appropriate and effective editing practices to be used in braille and large print textbooks for blind or visually impaired students and will offer training to editors, transcribers, and tactile graphic artists in order to provide consistent quality textbooks for blind and visually impaired students in the United States.
Educational and Technical Research
The request for Educational and Technical Research is $1,500,000, a decrease of $275,000 from the 2001 appropriation. Educational and Technical Research funds are used by APH to conduct a program of comprehensive research directed toward achieving its mission of providing visually impaired individuals with specialized materials, products, and services needed for education and life.
The amount requested for Educational and Technical Research includes $250,000 for fiscal year 2002 to continue the Tests and Assessment project, which began in 2001. The purposes of this project are to have a central location for adapting and developing tests for blind and visually impaired students and to develop standards and guidelines for the presentation of tests in braille, large print, and select recorded and electronic formats. High priority needs in the test and assessment area will be determined and addressed, and select tests needed on the local, State, and national levels will be adapted.
With the fiscal year 2002 appropriation for general operations, APH's Educational and Technical Research will focus on the following areas: (1) assessment of visually impaired infants and preschoolers; (2) materials for visually impaired students with additional handicapping conditions; (3) materials and equipment to assist students with low vision; (4) materials for learning braille, increasing braille literacy, or simply providing braille or tactile representations for reading/labeling; (5) adapting/developing educational measures, and providing training and guidelines for the assessment of visually impaired students; (6) tactile graphic learning materials; (7) educational software for visually impaired students; (8) educational or recreational materials for blind or visually impaired students from elementary school level to adulthood; and (9) materials to teach and reinforce orientation and mobility concepts and skills.
In providing needed materials for a very low incidence population, the Act is structured and administered to maximize federal resources in the service of local needs, as follows: (1) needs are identified at the local level; (2) experts in the field who serve as project consultants and evaluators are identified; (3) research is conducted to identify the most effective methods of addressing the needs; (4) prototype aids/materials are developed with teaching materials from the field often evaluated for potential usefulness; (5) extensive pilot and field testing are conducted; and (6) product review and revision, if necessary, is conducted periodically.
The American Printing House for the Blind continues to be committed to meeting the needs of students who are blind through the research, development, and provision of unique educational materials necessary for them to have an equal opportunity to benefit from their educational programs. The Act to Promote the Education of the Blind is a program that works. The key is continuous input from direct service providers at the State and local levels, with all the obvious benefits of grass roots involvement.
Mr. Chairman, I will be glad to answer any questions concerning the fiscal year 2002 budget request.