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Presented to the AFB Textbook and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum Meeting

Louisville, Kentucky

October 11, 2000

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Survey Information

A. Development and Distribution of Survey

B. Definitions

C. Acronyms 

III. Major Impressions 

IV. Demographics


Recognizing that timely provision of textbooks and instructional materials in the appropriate accessible media continues to be a major problem confronting students who are blind or visually impaired in America's classrooms, the American Foundation for the Blind formed the Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum.The AFB Solutions Forum is represented by agencies and organizations involved in the production and distribution of textbooks and instructional materials and has as its goal the development of a coordinated action plan for assuring equality of access to instructional materials for students who are blind or visually impaired.

The AFB Textbook and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum is directly related to Goal #7 of the National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities (Corn, Hatlen, Huebner, Ryan, & Siller, 1995). This goal is one of eight goals that is being addressed at national, state and local levels. Goal 7 reads:

Access to developmental and educational services will include an assurance that instructional materials are available to students in the appropriate media and at the same time as their sighted peers.

The AFB Textbook and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum addresses the following foci:

  • Lack of standardization of electronic file formats provided by textbook publishers
  • Inaccessibility of multimedia textbooks, especially those delivered via the Internet and CD-Rom
  • Variation in state textbook regulations for accessible instructional materials
  • Inconsistent interpretation of copyright law provisions
  • High expense of producing specialized materials and the lack of fiscal incentives to develop new technologies
  • Shortage of qualified Braille transcribers and production resources
  • Communication and collaboration barriers, including duplication of efforts

The Production Work Group is one of five work groups that addresses different issues related to Goal 7. The other work groups include Electronic Files and Research and Development, Legislative and Policy Making; Training and Other Needs; and Communication and Collaboration.

The focus of the Production Work Group is to identify the processes involved in the production and dissemination of textbooks and instructional materials in specialized media needed by students who are visually impaired. The Production Work Group seeks to identify the processes involved in the production and delivery of textbooks and instructional materials in specialized media needed by students who are visually impaired.

The Production Survey was developed to provide a national overview of processes used by states for the production and delivery of materials in specialized media. It was anticipated that data could be used to assist in recommending guidelines and strategies for acceptable quality Braille transcriptions; determining appropriate adaptations of materials for producing Braille and large print textbooks to ensure they are educationally sound for visually impaired students; and eliminating duplication of efforts.

The Production Survey has six sections: demographics, organizational structure, current sources of textbooks and instructional materials, features of specialized material acquisition, contract for and production of textbooks and instructional materials, delivery of textbooks and instructional materials, and evaluation of services.

This survey pertains to textbooks and alternate media with accompanying instructional/ancillary materials such as workbooks that support the textbook, as well as state adopted tests. It does not include the day-to-day educational materials that are produced within schools and school districts such as teacher-made tests.

Data are provided based on the researchers' judgment about whether the number of states, percentage of respondents, or other information would be most useful for readers. When percentages are given, they are given for those respondents who answered the specific question, this would also represent the number of states as one response was provided by each state. When the number of states responding to a particular question is very small or when the number responding is of interest, the exact number is given (e.g., n=5).

Means are provided for many items as they help to illustrate the "picture" of the status and needs for production of specialized media in the country as a whole. However, the reader should always give due consideration to the range of responses. While all states contribute to overall means, some states' responses may begin with 0. Hence, some states may not have a foundation on which to build production facilities.

This is an executive summary, emphasizing the findings of this survey. It is recommended that data from this survey be considered along with findings from other surveys of the AFB Textbook and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum. As time and resources are available, the researchers welcome requests for additional data or presentation of data in different formats.

Within the next few months, manuscripts will be developed for submission to professional journals. At that time, a more thorough discussion of the findings will be available.

Survey Information

Development and Distribution of Surveys

During an initial meeting of the Production Work Group on October 14, 1998 a significant issue was identified concerning the production resources in states for producing, acquiring and distributing specialized textbooks and instructional materials.Subsequent to this meeting a teleconference was scheduled to develop an action plan. During this teleconference in January 1999, the Production Work Group determined that a survey should be developed to provide information related to how production processes are handled in the country.

February 1999

National representatives from AIRCVH and AFB Solutions Forum members, Alicia McAninch from New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped and Tony King from the Wisconsin Educational Service Center took the lead in organizing this national effort with Mary Ann Siller. AFB Solutions Forum coordinator. Using several issues that had been delineated by the Association ofInstructional Materials Centers for the Visually Handicapped (AIRCVH) the survey was developed.

March 6-7, 1999

At the AFB Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute (JLTLI) in Washington, D.C., the 125 education participants were asked to provide comments regarding the first draft of the survey.

July 1999

The Production Work Group continued developing the core list of questions through e-mail and teleconference and gave feedback to Larry Brown and Mary Ann Siller.

August 1999

In August 1999 stakeholders were tentatively identified in each state who would be asked to coordinate his/her state's responses to the survey. Larry Brown and Suzanne Dalton from the Florida Instructional Materials Center developed two lists of people, those who would receive the survey and those who would receive the cover letter only.

October 21, 1999

The AFB Solutions Forum met in Louisville, KY, prior to the American Printing House for the BlindÌs Annual Meeting. Meeting participants were asked to comment on the current draft of the survey. During both the Association of Instructional Resource Centers for the Visually Handicapped (AIRCVH) meeting and the Association of State Education Consultants for the Visually Impaired meeting, the survey was discussed. Alicia McAninch, Tony King and Mary Ann Sillerwere the discussion leaders at these meetings.

November 1, 1999

The work group determined that in most cases the AIRCVH representative would be the lead person asked to coordinate the responses for his or her state. In other states the state consultant for the visually impaired or other individual in a leadership capacity was asked to coordinate the responses for the state. In addition, as appropriate, additional individuals in leadership positions received a copy of the cover letter. Therefore, while one state response was expected for each of the 50 states, it was vital to have input to these responses from key individuals.

A pilot of the survey was initiated and sent to the AIRCVH representative in Massachusetts, Florida, Colorado, and Utah.

December 1999

Drs Anne Corn and Robert Wall of Vanderbilt University received a contract to assist with further development of the survey, to conduct the statistical analyses, and to prepare the executive summary.

January 19, 2000

Dr. Corn and Dr. Wall reviewed all information from the pilot surveys and additional ideas from the work group to suggest the appropriate set of questions for the final survey. They further developed the surveys which were returned to the work group for comments. Work group members were asked to specifically consider such components of the survey as wording, length, and mode of response.

March 2, 2000

Prior to the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute in Dallas, Texas, the AFB Solutions Forum met. This national meeting provided yet another opportunity for feedback from the experts.

A pilot of the revised survey was sent to Florida, Oregon, Indiana, Utah. Their comments were reviewed by Dr. Corn, Dr. Wall and Mary Ann Siller for inclusion in the survey.

April 10, 2000

The survey and cover letters were mailed with a return date of May 4.

May - August 2000

Dr. Wall began to enter data as surveys were returned. Calls and e-mail messages to the key contact person in each state who had not returned a survey were made by Mary Ann Siller and Jan Brooks, secretary, AFB Southwest. On July 26, 34 states had returned the survey. On August 23, it was decided the analysis must begin and additional calls to states with outstanding surveys were stopped.

August 10, 2000

As the analysis phase was entered, the AFB Solutions Forum was asked to identify the most critical sets of questions to be analyzed. This list guided the development of the executive summary.


obtaining available books and/or accompanying instructional materials that are available without fee (e.g., borrowed books from other states, from APH, etc.)
Contract production
a process for transcribing and producing books and materials that is carried out through a separate center where the contracting state sets the standards. This may include the use of Request for Proposal (RFP), contracts, purchase orders or other means for purchasing services.
Delivery (dissemination)
distribution of books and materials from originating source to the student
Instructional materials (ancillary materials)
prepared materials that are used in support of a textbook, such as workbooks, but not teacher-made materials
purchase of existing books and materials through vendors or other states
State Vision Consultant
one individual generally employed by a state's Department of Education with primary responsibility for education programs for students with visual impairments within that state
any book used in a classroom as a vehicle on instruction/learning
Textbook Adoption
a state selects textbooks that will be used within a state, limiting which textbooks may be ordered by individual school districts


AIRCVH Association of Instructional Resource Centers for the Visually Handicapped

APH American Printing House for the Blind

IMC Instructional Materials Center

IRC Instructional Resource Center

Note: for purposes of this report, all Instructional Media Centers (IMC) and Instructional Resource Centers (IRC) will be referred to with the acronym IRC. Respondents tended to use these terms interchangeably in their answers.

Major Impressions

  1. On the average, legally blind students outnumber low vision students about 2:1. Yet large print or enhanced print readers outnumber Braille readers about 4.5:1. Of those who require an enlarged image (e.g., large print, optical device), only 8.01% use optical devices.
  2. Centralized systems for ordering, production, delivery and other aspects of providing specialized materials was generally seen as the most positive feature of states' successful processes.
  3. States are using APH more for instructional materials than for large print or Braille texts. The primary source of Braille and large print materials comes from state production and acquisition from vendors other than APH. Across states, RFB&D is the major source for audio materials.
  4. When evaluating use of sources, states generally note a lack of funding, a need for more staff, and a desire for a more centralized system of operation.
  5. All factors listed as possibly important in influencing the purchase and acquisition of
  6. Braille, large print, and audio materials, were deemed to be, at least, somewhat important. The most important factor for Braille was for the quality of Braille output; for large print the most important factors were the quality of print, the quality of maps and pictures, and the speed of delivery; and for audio materials the most important factors were speed of delivery, availability from RFB&D, and the quality of the recording.
  7. For Braille and large print, 2/3 of the materials are produced or contracted for within the state.
  8. Almost all (>90%) of Braille and large print materials are produced from paper copies and are produced into paper copies.
  9. Technology used in production tends to be the use of computers to input Braille but not more internet based processes such as downloading files from publishers, text being sent directly to students, etc.
  10. States recognize a need for more transcribers but also realize that there is a lack of funds and a lack of recognition of "braillist" as a bona fide job description. This may be why so many states (40%) cite a need for more volunteers.
  11. In the production of large print, a lack of funds seems to be the major barrier to acquiring the technology (color copier) necessary for the desired quality of output.
  12. A large majority of states are not addressing the issue of using technology to increase the efficiency of their delivery systems.
  13. A large percentage of materials (>80%) are being delivered on time. This is in contrast to large systemic problems noted by respondents in many questions. This might indicate a situation where the current performance of the system is being evaluated based on the observed need. If a superior system were to suddenly be put in place, we theorize that the expressed need would rise to fit the increased capacity of the system. Still, 1 in every 5 children are currently not receiving their materials in a timely fashion.
  14. Lack of funds also appears to drive dissatisfaction with the delivery of materials. States indicate that being able to produce more of their own materials would enhance the efficiency of a centralized delivery system.
  15. Although states express a desire for an increase in their ability to produce materials themselves, they also express a desire to increase the scope and capacity of APH.



42 states responded to this survey.

The director of the state IRC completed a majority of the surveys (21/42).