Eligible blind, seeing-impaired, and multi-handicapped individuals are able to receive textbooks and other materials gratis, thanks to a federal program administered through the American Publishing House for the Blind (APH). The U.S. Government has funded APH production of educational materials since Congress passed Act to Promote the Education of the Blind in 1879.
The APH states, “The system through which these specialized materials are distributed is known as the Federal Quota Program. Through it, textbooks and aids are provided free to eligible blind students in educational settings ranging from early intervention programs for visually impaired infants to rehabilitation for elders who have age-related vision loss, from center-based and residential school programs to the regular classroom.”
The APH offers “core curriculum materials” with which to teach “reading, social studies, mathematics, and science ...materials for assessing and improving the use of low vision...expanded core curriculum materials for cultivating emergent literacy and concept development...for facilitating sensory, motor, and perceptual development, for developing self-help and prevocational skills. Other examples of available research-based materials are braille teaching programs, talking computer software, low vision development programs, infant intervention materials, and motor skills improvement kits.”
Educational tools include adapted audio recording equipment, devices for writing braille, and talking computer hardware. Special supplies such as braille and bold-line papers, special binders and notebooks, and other consumable materials used in the classroom are also available.
The APH Department of Educational and Technical Research, established in 1952, produces and adapts materials. This department conducts both basic and applied research.
In the beginning, APH’s Ex Officio Trustees were superintendents of boarding schools for the blind, but administration of the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind has evolved alongside education for the blind and rehabilitation programs. Adult rehabilitation centers were declared eligible for Federal Quota funds in 1906, public schools in 1912, and parochial and other private schools in 1970.
Thus, the Ex Officio Trusteeship has expanded to include not only superintendents of residential schools for the blind, but also the heads of state departments of education; rehabilitation agencies; and private, non-profit schools for the blind; and programs for students who are multi-handicapped. The APH establishes a Federal Quota account for each umbrella school or agency.
The Ex Officio Trustee is legally responsible for the administration of the Federal Quota Program for blind, seeing-impaired, or multi-handicapped students within his or her system. He or she determines the manner in which Federal Quota funds are spent; approves and processes all orders for Federal Quota materials; and conducts the annual census of eligible students. The Ex Officio Trustee also has the public role of defining the provisions of the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind to interested parties and acts in an advisory capacity for future textbooks, products, publications, and services.