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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 November 2005 Issue  Volume 6  Number 6

Book Review

Braille.com and Beyond, by Anna Dresner

National Braille Press; 119 braille pages (also available as a PortaBook or ASCII disk); $10.00.

Each of us has a different learning style--techniques and approaches that work best to facilitate the understanding of new material. To understand how to check the oil in an automobile, for example, some people learn most quickly by listening to a lecture, others by looking at pictures, and still others by putting their hands under the hood to handle all that grease and metal. For people who are blind, the best recipe for learning sometimes requires even more specific ingredients. Some of us need combined audio and visual input, some of us need audio and tactile input, and some of us know that the best approach to learn something new is to sit down with a braille book in hand and read all about it.

For blind computer users who are fairly new to navigating the World Wide Web and shopping online--and who happen to be among those "braille is best" learning types--Anna Dresner's Braille.com and Beyond is a compact and concise road map to getting that "how to do it" picture in a flash.

Using the National Braille Press (NBP) web site as her teaching model (which can be reached using either <www.nbp.org> or <www.braille.com>), Dresner outlines and explains every detail of the navigation process. The book teaches you how to navigate web pages, follow links, save favorite pages to your Favorites folder, locate specifically desired information, and more. Best of all, because this book was written specifically with users who are blind in mind, Dresner not only tells you what to do but how to do it, including specific keystrokes every step of the way. When a general Windows key command is available (one that is a feature of Microsoft Windows itself and thus available to any user of the program, sighted or blind), she includes it in the main narrative. If screen-reader commands are needed, the keystrokes for both Jaws for Windows and Window-Eyes are indicated in parentheses.

Users of screen readers may laugh out loud when they first read an exact reproduction in braille of what one hears if one is listening to the synthesized speech of a screen reader. To show the reader what a page looks (or will sound) like, words like link, image, and graphic are all represented on the braille page. For example, a portion of a braille page describing a particular screen appears like this:

list of 3 items
link UEBC Perspectives, in contracted braille
link UEBC Perspectives, in Microsoft Word
link UEBC Perspectives, in ASCII text
heading level 2 Christmas Carols
Includes lyrics to 14 popular Christmas carols.
list of 1 item
link Christmas Carols, in contracted braille
list end

The instructions are consistently thorough and clear. Dresner walks the reader step by step through browsing, downloading, and ordering materials. As an added incentive, NBP is offering a free book, Front Porch Tales, in either hardcopy braille or electronic format, as the reward for readers who make it to the end of the lesson and learn to order it online.

Although this book is primarily for beginning web shoppers and information seekers, there is something in it for computer users at any level. The five appendices at the back of the book, which make up roughly one-third of the entire volume, are crammed with useful information on resources that can be located quickly and easily. Among other things, the appendices list other sources of assistance in learning the two screen readers; tips for Lynx users; detailed instructions for downloading a variety of types of files; and, best of all, a comprehensive list of all keyboard commands--in Windows, JAWS, and Window-Eyes-to use Internet Explorer successfully with a screen reader.

This book is a simple and compact resource at a bargain price. If you already know how to order online, you can order it online. If you need it to learn how to order online, NBP offers a toll-free number. Contact: National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115; phone: 800-548-7323; web site: <www.nbp.org> or <www.braille.com>.

Related Articles

Finding eBooks on the Internet, by Anna Dresner by Deborah Kendrick
Getting Your Forms in Shape by Crista Earl and Elizabeth Neal


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Copyright © 2005 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved. AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

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