Speeches and Testimony

Statement by

Tuck Tinsley III, Ed.D.
President of the American Printing House for the Blind

Before the

U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations

On the

Fiscal Year 2001 Request for the American Printing House for the Blind

March 16, 2000

Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:

It is a pleasure for me to present the President's fiscal year 2001 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 thus, 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 that are not otherwise available. The Ex Officio Trustees are composed primarily of representatives of State departments of education, superin-tendents 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 2001 is $10.265 million, an increase of $165,000 or 1.6 percent over the fiscal year 2000 appropriation.

Educational Materials

The request for fiscal year 2001 includes $8.302 million to supply special educational materials to an estimated 58,205 legally blind students, an increase of $163,000, or 2 percent over the fiscal year 2000 funding level for educational materials. We estimate that we will serve 58,205 students in fiscal year 2001, an increase of 509 students, or 0.9 percent, over the 57,696 students registered for fiscal year 2000. The resulting per capita allotment for fiscal year 2001 would be $142.63, an increase of $1.56 or 1.1 percent over the fiscal year 2000 level. These figures are somewhat lower than those shown for fiscal years 2000 and 2001 in the congressional justification, which did not reflect the final results of APH's census for fiscal year 2000.

These funds are used to produce and distribute text-books in braille and large type, tangible teaching devices, educational tests, and special instruc-tional 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 legally blind.

Advisory Services

The fiscal year 2001 request includes $185,000 for Advisory Services, a $5,000, or 2.8 percent increase over the fiscal year 2000 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 two advisory committees, the Educational Research and Publications Advisory Committees; a required Annual Meeting of Ex Officio Trustees; the production of catalogs of educational materials produced through the Act; dissemination of monthly informational bulletins to Ex Officio Trustees; facilitation of listservs for the two advisory committees; ad hoc committees on issues affecting services to blind students; and field services such as 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 activities also focus on ensuring that schools and educational personnel are aware of the materials available and have the knowledge necessary to use them.

The request for Advisory Services also includes funding for the continuation of six special projects. The number of projects has been consolidated and reconfigured since the funds were originally requested, so the categories are somewhat different than those displayed in the Department's Congressional Justification. However, the activities to be conducted and total funding requested are the same:

  1. $125,000 for the Expert Database Service - This Service is an accessible on line database of facts, references, and resources vital to students who are blind and to the administrators of their programs. During fiscal year 1999, the Expert Database project was initiated, with hardware and speech access software evaluated and selected. During fiscal year 2000, the focus of the project moved from software implementation to data collection and management. In fiscal year 2001, data collection will continue with various collection efforts being evaluated, new workshop designs will be utilized, and further data collection development strategies will be identified and employed.

  2. $95,000 for an Electronic File Repository -- The Repository, which houses braille textbook files from APH and other braille producing agencies, supports the current national effort to expedite the provision of braille and publishers' files to producers of alternative media. In fiscal year 2000, quite complex computer programs are being written to convert publisher files from a variety of formats to formats that are usable by braille producers. In fiscal year 2001, development of the Repository collection will continue. Written agreements will be established with all major textbook publishers and efforts will continue to obtain files from the publishers and braille producing agencies throughout the States.

  3. $100,000 for the Student-Use initiative for the Louis database -- In fiscal year 2000, demonstrations and hands-on workshops on the Louis database were presented to visually impaired and blind students across the country. Through the use of Louis, students are empowered to identify, locate, and access their educati-onal materials as needed. Although the initial program targeted students, it also has been found to be valuable to parents, educators, and administrators, and the project has been expanded accordingly. In fiscal year 2001, the program will be expanded to include student access to the Electronic File Repository and the Expert Database, in addition to the Louis database.

  4. $140,000 for the National Instructional Partnership initiative - Originally planned for fiscal year 2001, this project now will begin in 2000. For 2001, this project will include activities originally planned for the "Field Based Instructional Modules" initiative. The broadened scope of this project will expand the number of State and regional APH product training opportunities and, in turn, increase the expertise of parents and personnel who serve visually impaired students.

  5. $50,000 for the Collaborative Instructional Project with Teacher Training Programs -- This project, which began in fiscal year 2000, expands the constituency of users of products and services which will, in turn, benefit students and other consumers who are blind and visually impaired. APH staff will provide instruction in the use of specially designed products and provide teacher training programs with product loaner kits. Prior to this project there was little formalized communication and partnership with this important segment of our field. The results of this project will mutually benefit APH, university training programs, and visually impaired students. The APH goal is to dramatically increase the number of people who are knowledgeable regarding the effective use of products provided through the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind.

  6. $115,000 for the Product Information and Training Materials initiative - This project, originally requested for fiscal year 2001, will begin in 2000. For 2001, this project will be expanded to include the "Surveying and Partnering with Consumers" initiative. The goals of this expanded project are: 1) to diversify the methods and media used to disseminate appropriate APH product and training materials and 2) to improve products and services to meet the evolving needs of blind students through periodic surveys of the field for adaptable commercial products, systematic analyses of available market information, and the development and implementation of customer satisfaction strategies through an ongoing "Voice of the Customer" process.

Educational and Technical Research

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 special media, tools, and materials needed for education and life. The request for educational and technical research is $515,000, an increase of $15,000 over the 2000 appropriation. Due to the increase in funding for fiscal year 2000, we were able to begin three projects that were originally scheduled for fiscal year 2001. Six projects, including these three, will be in continuation status in 2001. In addition, the request also includes funds for a major new initiative. The six continuation projects and new initiative are as follows:

  1. $17,000 for Primary Grade Storybooks that Introduce Tactile Graphics -- Begun in 2000, this project will develop storybooks for kindergarten through second grade students which feature braille text accompanied by simple tactile displays introducing line tracking, use of tactile symbols, and symbol keys. This initiative focuses on two major obstacles for students who are blind: lack of exposure to tactile displays and lack of a sequence of instruction preparing students to use tactile graphics.

  2. $61,000 for continuation of Optical Aids and Curricula Training Kits -- This project addresses the needs of children with low vision who require more than large print to get the full benefit of their educational programs. The Optical Aids Training Kit for Distance Viewing will be completed in fiscal year 2000, and the Optical Aids Training Kit for Near Viewing will be developed in 2001.

  3. $77,000 for continuation of the development of Textbook File Conversion Software -- Begun in 2000, this project is focusing on two main objectives: (1) creating software to convert publishers' files into a consistent format and (2) developing software to allow the visually impaired user to read books prepared from these files in a variety of options including hard copy braille, refreshable braille, synthesized speech, digitized speech, hard copy large print, and large print viewed on a monitor.

  4. $120,000 for continuation of Braille Literacy for Older Students -- Begun in 2000, this project is developing braille materials to introduce older blind students to the Grade 2 Literary Braille Code and introduce and strengthen necessary skills required for reading and writing literacy.

  5. $110,000 for continuation of the development of an Inexpensive Refreshable Braille Display -- Begun in 2000, this initiative will identify alternate technologies to use in creating a reliable, inexpensive refreshable braille display for students to use in reading their textbooks.

  6. $64,000 for continuation of the development of a Point of Reference Aid -- Begun in 2000, this project will develop an aid to help totally blind students and adults maintain their sense of direction. The aid will be a small, simple, inexpensive device with only two controls. One will be used to set the direction the user wants to recall, and the other will be used to recall the direction that has been set.

  7. $189,000 for a new initiative to develop an Interactive Tactile Display -- The goal of this project is the development of a device to display graphics from textbooks in a tactile format. The use of graphics is an essential part of education. Providing a tool to enable blind students to take advantage of graphical representations will benefit them greatly in their educational endeavors.

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. Needs are identified at the local level, experts in the field who serve as project consultants and evaluators are identified, and research is conducted to identify the most effective methods of addressing the needs. Subsequently, prototype aids/materials are developed and teaching materials from the field are evaluated for potential usefulness, extensive pilot and field testing are conducted, and product review and revision, if necessary, are completed 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 2001 budget request.

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Last Updated -- [3/15/2000] (mjj)