Future Reflections        Summer 2013

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APH Quota Funds:
How to Access Free Educational Materials for Blind and Deaf-Blind Students

by Amber Bobnar

Reprinted with permission from <www.wonderbaby.org>.

From the Editor: "Get it from Quota Funds." Parents of blind and deaf-blind children often hear this advice when they need to obtain educational materials. Easy to say--but what are Quota Funds, and how does the system actually work? In this article, Amber Bobnar demystifies the Quota Fund program and explains how it serves as a resource for parents and teachers.

Have you heard of APH (American Printing House for the Blind) Quota Funds? I had heard Quota Funds mentioned at IEP meetings, but I never understood how the funding really works or who is eligible for this program. I decided to do a little research, and this is what I found.

What Are Quota Funds?

A young boy uses his Braille notetaker in a classroom.APH Quota Funds are based on a federal law called the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind. This act, passed by the US Congress in 1879, recognizes that students who are blind or deaf-blind, with or without additional disabilities, require special materials to access the school curriculum.

Rather than telling school districts or individual families that it's their responsibility to purchase these items on their own, Congress sets aside funds every year so that schools can buy blind students the materials they need. These materials range from Braillers and Braille textbooks to items that facilitate self-help or sensory development, but they only include items that can be purchased through APH. These funds cover a variety of items that your child may need in school, so it's important to understand how to access them.

Who Distributes Quota Funds?

Each school district or education department in the United States has someone called an Ex Officio Trustee who decides how Quota Funds are spent. The Ex Officio Trustee is responsible for approving and processing all orders, as well as conducting an annual census of eligible students in the area. This census is really important, because the number helps Congress determine how much money to put into the account for each school district every year.

You can find a list of Ex Officio Trustees, ordered by state, on the APH website, <www.aph.org>. Just look up your state and find your Ex Officio Trustee. If your child is not on the Ex Officio Trustee's registry, you can ask him or her to add your child and develop the best way to serve your child in the program. If there is an underserved population in your district, it is always possible that an additional Ex Officio Trustee could be added to your area, but most likely you will work with the person who is listed in the directory.

Who Is Eligible for Quota Funds?

The law is actually very inclusive. It includes all blind and visually impaired public-school students in a school district, as well as infants and toddlers in early intervention programs, students in parochial and private schools, and students who are homeschooled. As long as the student's educational program meets the guidelines and/or procedures in effect within each individual state, and as long as the student has a written education plan (an IFSP or an IEP), the child is eligible for the program.

What Can You Buy with Quota Funds?

Quota Funds can only be used to purchase products that APH sells. On the APH shopping site and in its catalogs, the items NOT available for purchase with Quota Funds are clearly marked. Most of the things APH sells are Quota eligible, but there are a few things that APH sells from other vendors. For a product to be eligible to be sold for Quota Funds, it can't be commercially available anywhere else, or, if it is, it has to be adapted in some way to make it unique to APH.

How Much Money Do You Get with Quota Funds?

The answer to this question depends on what the federal budget has allocated for a particular fiscal year. In the recent past it's been over $300 per student.

When you hear that a product is "available on Quota," this really means that it has been approved for purchase with federal Quota Funds, not that it can necessarily be purchased solely with the per capita amount of one student.

Many of APH's products exceed the per capita amount for each child. APH strongly encourages states to operate within the framework of an Instructional Materials Center. In that model, products are held by the Materials Center until they are needed by a student. They are then loaned, or checked out, to that student. The loan might be for a year or it might be for several years; it just depends on the student's needs. In this manner, states are better able to leverage the funds they receive and provide more products for a greater number of students.

Will every school district be able to purchase every single thing every teacher or student wants? Probably not. But by warehousing materials and distributing them as they are needed, the school district can meet a lot of needs.

Can You Use Quota Materials at Home?

The young student reads Braille with his notetaker.If items are purchased through your school district with federal money, do they belong to you or to the state? Can you use them at home?

Technically the items belong to your school district, but their use depends on your child's needs. Items purchased for infants in early intervention programs or for students who are homeschooled will most likely need to be used at home. Where a product "lives" is determined by the Ex Officio Trustee. The decision depends on the student, his or her needs, and what it is the district is purchasing.

Ultimately, the program would like to see products used in such a way that the greatest number of students can benefit from them. Sometimes that means a long-term loan. Sometimes it means that a product stays with a child, and sometimes it means a product may be shared by several students in a classroom.

If your child is using material that is essential to her day-to-day work in class, it would make sense that the material move with her as she advances from one grade to another. Again, this totally depends on your child, her needs, and the material she is using. If your child moves from one school district to another (or from one state to another), the material may not move with her. But maybe you can look at it as an opportunity to "upgrade" and get something newer!

Whom Should You Contact?

If you want to purchase items for your child through the APH Quota Fund, you probably should begin by talking to your child's teacher or your school district's special education director. If they are unfamiliar with the program, use the APH directory and contact your Ex Officio Trustee. Because this is a program administered through federal funds, you as a parent don't register your child or file paperwork requesting materials; the process needs to go through your school district and the Ex Officio Trustee. This is actually kind of nice, if you think about it. For once you won't be the one responsible for filling out forms!

If you need more information about how this program works, you may contact APH directly at info@aph.org, or contact Janie Blome, Director of Field Services, at (502) 899-2367; (800) 223-1839, ext. 367; jblome@aph.org.

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