Mission: The American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. (APH) promotes the independence of blind and visually impaired persons by providing specialized materials, products, and product-related services needed for education and life.
Founded in 1858, APH began as a small company with a single printing press that produced tactile books. In order to ensure that APH’s uniquely designed educational products would continue to be available, leaders in the field of education of those who are blind worked to secure a permanent funding source that would supplement APH’s income from private donors. They were successful. In 1879, the federal Act to Promote the Education of the Blind designated APH as the official source of educational texts and aids for legally blind students throughout the United States—a mandate which continues to the present.
Today, APH’s employs over 300 people and occupies a 280,000 sq. ft. facility. It is the world’s largest nonprofit organization that creates educational, workplace, and independent living products and services for people who are visually impaired.
The need for APH products continues to rise. Vision impairment is increasing among people of all ages. There are over one million people in the United States who are blind, and another four million who are severely visually impaired. Since the level of vision varies among customers, APH must design an array of products to suit a range of needs. It makes publications in braille, large type, recorded, and computer disc formats and produces other items used in education and everyday life such as tactile globes and maps, board games, specialized tests, and talking software.
Most products are designed in-house, under the guidance of project leaders from the Educational and Technical Research Departments. Since information contributed by outside experts is also essential for the development of quality products, teachers, administrators, and individual consumers are encouraged to suggest ideas for new products, help with field-testing, and act as consultants. The issue of quality permeates every aspect of corporate culture, from the design areas to the factory floor. APH has programs to encourage continual employee input to improve production methods.
In addition to the core business of producing in-house designed products, APH’s custom production service reformats regular print into accessible media for government agencies, corporations, libraries, restaurants, and a host of other groups that want their materials to be available to visually impaired customers, employees, and stockholders.
APH is looked upon as a national resource:
• Local and national news media, local, national and international politicians, and television and movie producers often consult APH when they need information about various aspects of blindness or to have materials made accessible. For instance, APH has created braille labels for the national Very Special Arts Exhibition in DC, and when President Obama was elected, APH was asked to produce the braille documents that described the week-long inaugural celebration.
• APH‘s award-winning museum is unique in the country; it’s exhibits are international in scope and relate to the educational history of blind people.
• The Hall of Fame, a national effort that honors leaders and legends of the blindness field, is housed at APH.
• The M. C. Migel Memorial Library, one of the largest and most important research collections on the non-medical aspects of blindness and visual impairment in the world recently moved to APH from its long-time home at the American Foundation for the Blind in New York.