DIALOGUE Visits with Tuck Tinsley

of the

American Printing House for the Blind

The American Printing House for the Blind is well-known as a producer of educational materials for children who are blind or visually impaired. Most recently you may have heard the buzz about the Book Port. We invited Tuck Tinsley, president of APH, to explain APH's mission and to give us an update on what's been happening at APH's headquarters in Kentucky. Here is what he shared with us.

The American Printing House for the Blind was founded in 1858 in Louisville, Kentucky, to provide embossed books for blind people. Today, APH produces books, magazines and other materials in braille, large type, recorded and digital formats. APH also manufactures hundreds of educational, recreational and daily living products. APH's mission is "to promote the independence of blind and visually impaired persons by providing specialized materials, products and services needed for education and life."

While sales at APH continue to increase annually, APH's workforce has remained around 330 for the past decade. "We have been quite successful in increasing efficiency; thus, we are able to increase production without increasing the number of employees," Tinsley said.

At the 2005 conventions of ACB and NFB, consumers purchased over $23,000 worth of products at the APH exhibit. APH's best sellers this past summer were the Book Port, a book reading device with computer and Internet access; the Colorino, a talking color identifier; and the Table Top Recorder/Player, a recording and playback machine that has been popular with audio readers for many years.

Collaboration is key for APH to successfully fulfill its mission. "Utilizing the expertise of organizations and professionals throughout the field of vision has proven invaluable in our efforts to produce the highest quality products and services possible," Tinsley said. Input from customers frequently determines what products APH develops and offers for sale. Ex Officio Trustees, teachers, parents and consumers are encouraged to submit product suggestions and to work hand-in-hand with APH staff as selected products are developed. Feedback from product users is continually being gathered and used to update and improve products.

Most of the services APH provides across the country are collaborative in nature. Through the University Loan program, APH loans products to universities educating future teachers and rehabilitation specialists. The National Instructional Partnership program links APH staff with professionals working in the field of vision across the country to provide requested training and networking opportunities. The ABC Braille Study currently underway--a multi-year study to determine if students learn best using contracted or uncontracted braille--is a partnership between APH and Vanderbilt University.

APH is the world's largest company devoted solely to researching, developing and manufacturing products for people who are blind and visually impaired. Founded in 1858, it is the oldest organization of its kind in the United States. In 1879, Congress passed the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind. This was the first federal legislation regarding special education, and it identified APH as the official source of educational materials for pre-college level legally blind students in the United States.

The Federal appropriation for educational materials through the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind comprises approximately 50 percent of APH's total sales. Competitive contracts, endowment income and revenue from product sales to state and local agencies and to individuals provide the remaining funding.

APH is working on a number of exciting projects including: improving and expanding the delivery of braille learning materials by a complete redesign of the braille production area, consolidation of key staff and operations in one location and the development of more efficient work-flow systems; the addition of a research specialist in the core curriculum, who will help to ensure that blind and visually impaired students receive the educational opportunities they need to perform well when tested; and APH's 150th anniversary celebration in 2008. Planning has begun to recognize the contribution that APH has made over the past 150 years in the lives of blind and visually impaired people across the United States and around the world.

To learn more, contact the American Printing House for the Blind at 800-223-1839 or APH's fully-accessible Web site features information about APH products and services, online ordering of products and free information on a wide variety of blindness-related topics. One popular feature of the site is the Louis Database, a free tool to help locate accessible books. APH products can be ordered through Louis.