On this episode of Change Makers, we’re talking how APH gets its funding and what you can do to provide your input.
Podcast Guests (In Order of Appearance)
The federal government provides substantial financial support for special education, including education for students who are blind or visually impaired. Each year, Congress decides how much funding to allocate to programs like APH. Congress will soon be making those decisions.
Parents, educators, and students, are the best messengers to educate Congress or state legislatures about the educational needs of students who are blind or visually impaired and the services that ensure success.
Providing information to educate a member of Congress or other policymaker is legal, expected and very helpful to them in doing their job. An email or phone call describing your experience with available educational material like accessible books, technology or special instruction aids is very useful.
Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA)
Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We're talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here's your host. Hello, andSara:
Welcome to change makers. I'm BPH is public relations manager, Sarah Brown. And today we're going to talk about how APH gets the funding to develop educational products for students who are blind or visually impaired. We'll also going to talk about what you can do to provide your input to the leaders in Washington. After that we'll have a check-in with partners with Paul here to talk about president Biden's budget for the next fiscal year and how that impacts APH . We have APH Vice President Government and Community Affairs, Paul Schroeder. Hello, Paul, and welcome to Change Makers.Paul S. :
Happy to be here.Sara:
Paul, can you tell us how APH is included in the federal budget?Paul S. :
Yeah , it has changed a little bit over the years, but for now, and for the last several years, APH has funded under something called Special Institutions for Persons with Disabilities under the Department of Education. And just for fun, I'll tell you other organizations under that area would include Gallaudet the university that focuses on the needs of deaf students. Um, the Helen Keller national center serves deaf blind people, of course, and the national, oh, it's NTID it's National Technology Institute for the Deaf, maybe in Rochester. Um, all also receive funding under that part of the Department of Education. So it's kind of interesting. We have a couple of post-secondary institutions in there, along with , with APH.Sara:
Okay. Paul, the president recently proposed his budget request for the next fiscal year, which starts in October. So it is on the horizon and that expenditure is increasing by 3 million dollars in the coming year. What are the next steps and finalizing funding levels. And when will the decisions be finalized?Paul S. :
Uh , when will the decisions be finalized is always a tricky question , uh , and has been for a while in Washington. Unfortunately it is very hard for Congress, but let me do a little one-on-one on how the budget works. Uh, and first say that we were very appreciative of the president and the, the Biden administration for , uh, recommending a $3 million increase for , for APH , uh, which as you pointed out will go directly into support for students in the form of quota and research and outreach , um, that we're going to be able to do with that funding. But here's how the process works. It has changed a bit over the years, the President recommends a budget , uh, and that usually happens in February. It is always delayed when there's a new president, because as you know , you all know the president comes in January 20th and getting that Federal budget done in about 10 or 11 days , uh, that would be near impossible, you know, back in the old days, people might read it . Remember , um, presidents would talk about and put their hand on that budget. And I don't know, it's a book, it's a series of books, that's waist high or something. If you, if you were to print it out, it's no longer printed out in paper, but if it were, so that happens usually in February this year, it happened in may, June, I guess, actually. So some of it may, and then a more detailed look in June so much later, of course, but here's the , how the process goes. The president recommends a budget. The Congress then decides what it's going to , um , what, what is the top line number they call it? What's the big number that we're going to spend? You know , how many trillion dollars, how many billion dollars are we going to spend this year? Totally. And federal money. What's, what's going to be our outlay. Then they start to allocate that across agencies. How much are we going to spend in education this year? How much are we going to spend in health and human services, et cetera. Um, this is how the process supposed to work. So the president makes a recommendation. Congress makes a decision about numbers , big numbers, overall numbers. And then they have subcommittees that get down to work in both the house and Senate they're called the , the there's a committee called the appropriations committee. And then on that committee or subcommittee, there are 12 of them and they have each subcommittee has a series of agencies that they focus on. Um, I believe defense is the only one that is one agency because defense occupies so much of our budget. Um, but , but for example, the American printing house for the blind, as we are in the department of education, we're part of a subcommittee call the subcommittee on labor health and human services, education and related agencies. And didn't true, Washington speak, we all call it the labor H subcommittee. Um, so it doesn't even get education into that short name. So labor H um, but it is where education has found the, both the house and Senate do it the same way. They've got the large committee. Then they've got the sub committees that focus on particular agencies and those subcommittees that's where the action is. Um , those sub committees , these will take the president's request. I'll also look at what the house or Senate told them. They could spend how much money they have available to them. Uh , it's kind of like your allowance. And then they start putting it into jars and decide how much it's going to go. And they get down into the details down to the American printing house for the blind , uh, and our , you know, 30, some odd million dollar appropriation, right ? You decide how much they will recommend through the subcommittee process to give us. Then it goes to the full committee. If it's a good year , uh, both committees , get the, get the numbers. They decide, they make another decision. They might make another , uh, they might make some changes to , uh , if they need to cut spending to accommodate other priorities. And then it goes to each house it gets voted on. And then the two houses, I go into something called a conference committee where they decide what the ultimate appropriation will look like. If all of this were done the way it was supposed to do that would be done August or September, that would be completed. We'd sail into the fiscal year with a completed signed budget. Everyone would be cheering just like in school house , truck . The thing of it is it never worked. It hasn't worked that way in a long time. And it most likely won't this year. So what's really going to happen is the house is doing it's work right now. The subcommittee , by the time you hear this podcast might well have made its decisions and recommendations. And even the full house committee might've made this record foundations for spending in the labor age. Remember that's the labor, HHS and education subcommittee , uh, or area of agencies. So they might, well, it made that decision. That's supposed to be by mid July at this point, then the house will take up the bill and probably passed because , uh, the house tends to have an easier time of doing as long as there's a, they have an easier time getting things like that done. So by the end of the summer, we might well know what the house says. Uh, APH and other federal programs are going to get this year. The Senate on the other hand will likely not agree , uh , because they can't agree. It's a 50, 50 Senate, even if it was , um, even if it were 55, 45, they still probably wouldn't agree because the nature of the site and it's very difficult body to get agreement, especially on stuff , pending issues. And so what's probably going to happen is we'll get close to October. Senate won't have act , yeah. A house might have, and they'll pass something called a continuing resolution, which means they keep spending at the same level of this year, which for APH 34 million, 430, 30 $1,000. Um , and they'll just put that in again. So that's what they'll start spending on October 1st because they have to have something, some of you may remember that , uh, there have been times in the past when they couldn't agree, even on the continuing resolution and we shut down the federal government. So we've had that happen October, a couple of times , uh , where there was not agreement, but likely there'll be that agreement we'll get to December and they might then be able to, to reach some kind of an agreement from the Senate with the numbers. So it's hard to know , uh, when you say this finish, we don't know , um, we will , I wish that it would finish in September the way it's supposed to. It likely won't, but I do feel good about the fact that the president has made a , a request for APH. Then it's an increase. That's the first time, I think in a little while that we've, that the president had made has made a request to increase APH . Usually Congress does, does that when we've been, when we've received increases in the past, and I'll just close this by saying the president also requested a significant increase in funding overall for the individuals with disabilities education act for the funding that goes to states to support that law, which is great federal Republicans and Democrats, both agree that the federal government needs to pay more than it has for special education services. So it's good to see , uh , the president putting that forward and hopefully that, you know, whatever that number will be, it will be a nice increase. And then they've also , uh , proposed a nice increase for heavily disadvantaged schools, which are part of the department of education and just another area to try to focus on , uh, creating better opportunities in educationSara:
And what can listeners do if they want to support funding for APH or provide their own input.Paul S. :
So believe it or not , uh, members of Congress, their staff, instead of , they really do want to know what their constituents care about and appropriations that the members who sit on the appropriations committee, and I should say that, you know, members of Congress choose to be on the committees that they think are going to be of most interest to them or most use . They don't always get what they want. I mean, it's a , you know, it's a process like anywhere else in life where I want to be on this committee. Now there's too many people you don't get to be on that committee this year. Um, appropriations committee is definitely considered to be one of the committees you want to be on as a member because most members care about programs and they care about how things , uh, help people in their districts. And they want to know how those programs are work. They, they, they really do want to hear from people even on something that's by federal budget numbers , fairly small, like the American printing house for the blind. I think members in their staff would be delighted to hear , uh, from people who have something to say about the program. Now, Paul hopes it's positive, but truly , um, I think if people have things to say about how APH does its work, it would be important for Congress to hear that information. So a couple things to note the most important, there's always, there's always people that are more important than other people and that's true in Congress. So the ones that matter the most are the ones that are on the subcommittee on appropriations that concerns our area. And that's that labor age , labor, health, and human services and education subcommittee for house and Senate. The , the leaders of that committee, that subcommittee , for example, our Congresswoman Rosa, DeLauro from Connecticut and Congressman Tom Cole from Oklahoma. That's on the house side and on the Senate side, it's Senator Patty Murray. Who's a Democrat from Washington and , uh, Roy blunt, who is a Republican from Missouri Senator. Those are, so those are the, these, those are the most, the most important , uh , because they're the ones that share the sub committee or lead the sub committee . They have the most knowledge of the programs in their committee . So if you happen to be in Missouri, Oklahoma, Connecticut, or Washington state , uh, your views are really important and really of interest to those leaders on that subcommittee , the other members on those subcommittee . And I won't walk through them all, and I can't remember them at this point, but , um, there's, you know, there's several there's there's folks from California. And , uh, that I've said that I can't remember all of a sudden blanking on where anyone else's from. Uh , but there are members from different parts of the country on that subcommittee . And they would be very important to , uh , because they want to hear , uh , what you think, and then the appropriations full committee, which has those members plus others is also important. Um, not as important because they don't focus on APH unless they're on that subcommittee . But again, they are , they're all about federal spending. So they do want to know if these federal programs are doing any good, are they helping? Are they really making a difference? And if they are, they'd like to know what that means. So, you know, we've had some of our , uh, ex-officio trustees tell some great stories to their members of Congress, about how much products or services have meant , uh, in , in their education and how much it is enabled students to pursue their opportunities. And we've had parents and individuals talk. So that's the second thing I want to say. If you're a parent or an individual who has received these services, or who was interested in these services, you are a very important part and a very important messenger. And I would strongly encourage you to contact your member of Congress to describe, and to talk a little bit about your experience, not only with APH, but any federal program , um, because they do need to hear this information. And finally, even if they're not on the appropriations committee, look, a member of Congress is a member of Congress. They're important. Uh they're they make decisions about policy. They make decisions about spending. They ultimately are whoever they are, they're ultimately gonna vote. Um, uh, what decisions are made for federal spending. So any member of Congress is an important member of Congress, and any member of Congress will want to hear from you about your experience with these programs. They really do care about these things. You might think you're a member, oh, my members , these are so-and-so, or she's a so-and-so doesn't care about people, not true for one thing. Uh, and to , uh , they really do care about these issues. They might not speak out very much on special education or disability, but they do care. Uh, and some will, some will surprise you , uh, some people who you think aren't going to be interested. I've I'm not going to mention names, but I've had some offices that I didn't want to go into. Cause I , I thought they were just people that didn't care about my issues. And it turned out that they were some of the, some of the better champions that we had. Uh, so people will surprise you at what they care about. You don't know what family impact they might've had or where they might have an experience with disability. Um, so they might well be a supporter that you never thought would be. So don't write anyone off you can't, we can't afford to, you can't afford to. And , uh, as long as they're going to be your representative, they should hear from you about what you care about.Sara:
And is there anything else you'd like to share about federal spending?Paul S. :
So, as I mentioned, yeah, the, the timing and the flow of things is a challenge. It is not easy to understand what's happening. I'm always happy to help explain , uh, these issues to folks. Um, your, your member offices might be as well, but to simplify it as much as I possibly can. Um, there are these couple of these sub committees in the house and Senate that will make decisions about the programs that are most interesting to most of our listeners, education, rehabilitation, et cetera. It's important for you to try as best you can to seek information about what's going on. Uh , we'll try to have some more of that on the APH website, so you can follow what's happening. So as, as decisions get made in those subcommittees , as the president makes recommendations, we'll try to make sure you stay on top of that, but if we're not doing it, feel free to Google search and see where things are at as you start to get into the summertime, Congress every year should be starting to talk a lot more about appropriations. It's a good opportunity for you, especially when a member's home , uh, and holding a town meeting or holding a , uh , on the street corner type meeting, go up and talk to them or talk to their staff. You might be able to get to talk to the member, but you can surely talk to the staff, tell them your story. Talk about special education. If you're a parent, talk about your child. My goodness. Um, I have never met a parent yet who can't , uh, who can't just get anybody interested in what's going on with their child, because you're the best advocate and, you know, well, and , and, and either you're frustrated or you're excited about opportunities either way, tell that story. So I can't stress that enough. When, when you got a chance to get to a member, you don't need to go to Washington, grab them when they're home. That's why they come home. They come home to hear from you. Um, so take that opportunity to tell your story. If you work as an ex-officio trustee and you, and you've been told by your state that you can't talk to members of Congress, I understand that. Um, but I can certainly help you with that. I can take your stories and I can take them even without your name so that we know what's happening in your state. And I can also encourage the members to reach out to you because you can respond to questions. That's certainly appropriate. If a member of Congress wants to know about how special education or APH or something is working in the district, you can answer those questions. Um, so even if you can't reach out yourself, there's a lot of ways that that advocacy can happen. But in the end, advocacy is always about storytelling and it's always about person to person. Um, because that's, it doesn't matter how many mass messages and media buys and all that stuff that pop politics flows on in the end. It's the personal story that will make the difference. That's what a member of Congress will remember because that's what,Sara:
Okay, Paul, thank you so much for joining us on Change Makers today.Paul S. :
Happy to do it and happy to come back and update folks on where things are at, and maybe as we get into mostSara:
Definitely we will invite you back, but you're , you know, you're welcome here anytime. And we will include any links in the show notes, so you can find them and send your messages and your stories to those in Washington. And up next, we're going to check in with Partners with Paul.Paul F. :
Welcome back to partners with Paul. I am pleased to have with me today, once again, Mike Wood from Vispero Strategic Accounts Manager Education. Welcome back, Mike.Mike:
Hey Paul, thanks for having me always a pleasure joining you for these events.Paul F. :
We'll be talking about a different product, a new product today that APH and Sparrow have partnered with, and that is Juno. Mike, can you tell us about Juno?Mike:
Sure thing? Yeah, I'm excited about the Juno. This is a really neat new product, and it was fun working with APH to develop this. Uh , it is a seven inch touchscreen video magnifier with some really cool features , uh, was created and designed to accommodate the needs of students and adults with low vision. So it kind of meets a wide range of individuals and has a lot of cool features in it.Paul F. :
Well, that's great. Let's hear more about that. What makes Juneau especially uniqueMike:
Sure thing. So one of the things that I've found that really make it unique, or the fact that, you know, one it's seven inch it's really portable. Um, but it also have as, excuse me, a barrel camera on the top that actually can rotate. So you can do a little bit of distance , uh, close up. It gives you a lot of functionality for even self-facing , uh , but it's also a touch screen . And then it adds in the capability of scanning and reading. So it's a really powerful product for a seven inch, you know , portable unit. Uh , you can scan and read, you can add guidelines, masking , uh , it's got an HTMI output, Jack, if you want to, you know, push it further to a larger display. And then it also has some really cool teacher settings . So for me, you know, in the education side of things , uh, you know, you have a exam mode where the teacher can lock out certain functionality of the Juno , you know, for when the students are taking the exam, I , you can save multiple pages of documents in there and then recall them at a later time. And there's so many different features. It's pretty cool.Paul F. :
So sounds like we definitely packed in quite a number of features into this product. So how can I purchase it?Mike:
Yeah. So the easiest thing to do would be to go to aph.org and search for the Juno . Uh , you've got a great website. If you search for Juno, it'll pull up the page where you can learn more about it and purchase it. There there's two options. So if you're purchasing it with cash, it's 1295, that's one thousand, two hundred and ninety-five dollars. If you're a quota customer it's 1095 or One thousand, ninety-five dollars.Paul F. :
And if I want to test drive it, is there a way for me to do that?Mike:
There is what I would recommend you do is reach out to [email protected] That's [email protected], email them, tell them you're interested in taking the Juno for a test drive and a member of the APH team will reply back to you and, you know, figure out the next step to go.Paul F. :
Great. That sounds really good. Thanks so much for being on today, Mike.Mike:
Hey, Paul, thanks for having me and look forward to the next onePaul F. :
And check out the show notes. We've included that link to the Juno on a page on aph.org. So you can get more information that way. Thanks for joining us today and back to you, Sara.Sara:
Thanks so much, Paul, and thank you for listening to this episode of Change Makers. Be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.