Skip to Content

AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

DOTS for Braille Literacy (Development of Teacher Support) Fall 2004, Volume 10, Number 1

In this issue. . .

From the Editor

Welcome to the beginning of the tenth year of the DOTS newsletter!

This is the 28th issue of this newsletter. DOTS started from humble beginnings as part of a federal grant, Braille Literacy Mentors in Training, awarded to the American Foundation for the Blind in 1995. Now DOTS is received by more than 3,000 people all over the world and read by many more online (current and back issues can be found at

I am extremely grateful for the support I've gotten from many people in the years I've put together this newsletter. A number of people at AFB have assisted by contributing stories, editing, and disseminating this newsletter (in four formats, no less). The members of the AFB National Literacy Center advisory committee have shared invaluable advice and suggestions. I'm especially grateful to our readers who provide stories and much useful feedback. I also want to thank my husband Stephen who has cheerfully volunteered his time and talent for the past nine years by providing the graphic design for this newsletter.

Some of you will have already heard that I'm moving into a new part-time role at AFB. Rest assured that this newsletter will be one of my continued duties (and pleasures) at AFB's National Literacy Center. This does mean that AFB is currently recruiting for the position of Director of the National Literacy Center. View the job description now.

I'm looking forward to providing another year of DOTS to all of you braille lovers. Thanks again for supporting braille literacy!

—Frances Mary D'Andrea, Editor, DOTS

Bridging the Gap Now Online!

Free, Flexible Web-Based Class for Rehabilitation and Adult Literacy Education Fields

Participating in "Bridging the Gap: Best Practices for Instructing Adults Who Are Visually Impaired and Have Low Literacy Skills" just got a lot easier. The American Foundation for the Blind's (AFB) National Literacy Center has launched an online version of their long-standing program for educators that integrates information about visual impairments and adult literacy.

Originally developed as a three-day workshop, "Bridging the Gap" is now available to individuals as a free online course, at Participants can register for the class online by simply choosing a username and password. They can work their way through several content sections on their own time, at their own pace, and in a manner that suits their specific needs.

"Bridging the Gap" online is made up of various content modules designed to provide an understanding of the social, legal, and practical issues educators face when working with adults with vision and literacy problems. The course also aims to familiarize participants with the full range of instructional theories, technologies, and resources they can draw upon for their work.

Five of six content modules are currently available online. A sixth module on the topic of technology will be launched in the summer of 2005. For more information on "Bridging The Gap" and how to enroll in the online course, visit or contact

AFB Braille Bug® Travels Far in 2004-2005

This year, the selections for the American Foundation for the Blind Braille Bug Reading Club take readers around the world! Our Braille Bug® is a world traveler, so this year the Reading Club will feature books that take children North, East, West, and South.

Another world traveler featured on the Braille Bug® site is Helen Keller who traveled to 39 different countries in her lifetime. (To see a list of all of them, visit This school year the Braille Bug Reading Club will be celebrating Helen Keller's 125th birthday, In honor of her achievements, the Braille Bug Reading Club will take readers on a world tour. Each selection highlights a different part of the world that was visited by Helen Keller.

You'll also notice that the first letters of the words: North, East, West, and South spell NEWS! Throughout the year, check the Braille Bug® web site for news about reading and writing events, about Helen Keller, and about Louis Braille.

First Quarter: North In September, October, and November readers will travel north. The Braille Bug Reading Club selections are Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (Sweden) and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (Canada).

2nd Quarter: East The selections for December, January, and February will take students on a trip east. In these months, the Reading Club selections are Shipwrecked by Rhoda Blumberg (Japan) and Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz (China).

3rd Quarter: West In March, April, and May, the compass points west. In those months, children will read Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa by Don Brown (Western part of the African continent) and Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (Western part of the United States).

4th Quarter: South Finally, the readers' travels will turn south for the summer. June, July, and August will feature the following books A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck (rural southern Illinois) and The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (Alabama, United States).

Children have the opportunity to post their thoughts about the books they read on the Braille Bug Message Boards. Braille games based on the selected books are found in the Games area of the web site.

The Braille Bug Reading Club was established to encourage reading and discussion of high-quality children's literature by children who read print or braille. Each book selected is easily available in print from the public library or bookstore, as well as available in braille. (We make every effort to select books that are also available electronically as well so they can either be read on a refreshable braille device or embossed in braille.)

Visit the Braille Bug Reading Club at for more information about the club, where to find the books, and enrichment activities. And encourage all students to travel the world this year—through books!

NBP News: ReadBooks!

Thanks to the continued generous support from Reader's Digest PFS Foundation, Mellon New England, and others, National Braille Press (NBP) is continuing to distribute book bags of free braille materials and parent resources to potential braille readers. Recipients must be under age eight, live in the United States, and have not received a bag previously. NBP distributes both to families directly and to professionals who deliver them to the families with whom they work. Bags are available in English and Spanish and serve three different age groups: birth-three, four and five year olds, and six and seven year olds. Book bags may be ordered by telephone, e-mail, or on their website,

Professionals must review, print, sign, and return the participation agreement to take part in the program. When ordering, remember that requested bags must be given to specific families at the time they are received and are specifically funded and designed to be used in the home, (no requests for professional use, please.) For additional information, or for any additional questions/concerns, contact Amy Ruell, National Program Manager, ReadBooks! Because Braille Matters, National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen St., Boston, MA 02115; phone: (888) 965-8965 Ext. 34; e-mail:; web site:

Sign Up Now to Take the 2005 Braille Challenge

The Braille Challenge (TM), a program by the Braille Institute, is a two-stage academic contest designed to motivate school-age braille readers to excel in this vital medium. The preliminary-round contest period will be from January 1 to March 7, 2005, and is open to all braille readers ages 6-19. The top-scoring contestants who are performing at grade level will advance to the final round—the National Braille Challenge Invitational (TM) in Los Angeles on June 25, 2005.

Contestants are divided into five age groups and asked to complete a series of exercises demonstrating proficiency in braille reading and writing, comprehension, spelling, proofreading and use of tactile graphics.

This will be the third year of this exciting contest. More than 300 students took part in the preliminary round last winter and every one was a winner just by participating. The chance to take part in the National Braille Challenge Invitational (TM) can be a great motivator for all braille-reading students. Many contestants improved their score from the year before. Others had a great day of fun at regional events across the country by participating in a family event that celebrates excellence in braille literacy skills. The top-achieving contestants earned the opportunity to come to Los Angeles as finalists, vying for top honors, savings bonds, and adaptive technology prizes.

The preliminary-round contest may be individually proctored for students by their teacher, or given as part of a regional daylong event similar to the Braille Literacy Celebration, which has been held annually by The Carroll Center for the Blind in Massachusetts for students throughout New England. The goal this year is to encourage more regional agencies to host their own preliminary events. Braille Institute provides all contest and program materials as well as instructions on how to administer the contest.

As a national event, The Braille Challenge also raises public awareness about the importance of braille skills to a blind student's academic success and future employability. Contest results also will help researchers examine the development of literacy skills for students who are highly effective braille users.

The National Braille Challenge Invitational (TM) is part of Braille Institute's braille literacy initiative dedicated to making a variety of children's literature available in braille, providing services that complement academic goals, supporting the accessibility to adaptive technology through subsidy and loan programs for students, and helping to provide innovative products and programs that support braille as a primary medium for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Members of the national advisory committee for The Braille Challenge include leaders in braille literacy that are providing consultation for the contests and strategies for tracking national braille literacy trends. Joining Vicki Liske and Nancy Niebrugge from Braille Institute are: Frances Mary D'Andrea, American Foundation for the Blind; Cay Holbrook, Ph.D., University of British Colombia; Janie Humphries, American Printing House for the Blind; and Karen S. Ross, Ph.D., Carroll Center for the Blind.

TVIs must order their Preliminary Contest Packets by December 13, 2004, and return their students' completed contests to Braille Institute by March 7, 2005. Call 1-800-BRAILLE for more information, or visit their web site at Parents are also welcome to contact Braille Institute directly for information on how to have their child participate. Contact Nancy Niebrugge, Director of Universal Media Services, Braille Institute of America, Inc., 741 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90029; phone: 323-663-1111, ext. 3165; e-mail:


Online Resources

    This web site for the Argonne National Laboratory and the Division of Education Programs hosts the popular "Ask a Scientist" area. Teachers and students can pose a question about a wide range of science subjects or can search the archives for past questions and answers. The web site is available as a text only version as well.

    This web site was developed by a national non-profit organization as a resource to teachers seeking assistance with educational technology.

    This site includes the position paper "Tech Tonic: Towards a New Literacy of Technology" with its timely reminder to let children develop and grow with an emphasis on "relationships in the real world."

New Books from AFB Press

AFB Press announces the publication of three important new titles.

The Unseen Minority: A Social History of Blindness in the United States, by Frances A. Koestler, was first published in 1976 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). The book was hailed as an important social history by the mainstream press at the time and went on to receive the first C. Warren Bledsoe Award presented in 1977. Because of its documentation of the overriding trends and issues of the blindness field in the first part of the twentieth century, it is an invaluable resource that has been reissued to include a new foreword and historical chronologies of events extending to the present and bringing readers up to date on current developments. Seasoned professionals and new practitioners will both benefit from reading this presentation of landmark events and the forces that shaped them. The Unseen Minority is 672 pages long and is priced at $59.95; it is available in paperback and ASCII disk.

The National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities is the result of a remarkable national effort to define essential educational services for students who are blind or visually impaired and may have additional disabilities. This revised version outlines new critical goals and the ways in which to achieve them. This edition contains a new introduction as well as information on key contact people and organizations working together for effective educational programs for children with unique needs. The National Agenda, Revised, is 48 pages long and is available in both paperback and ASII disk and at a price of $60.00 for a pack of 25 copies.

When You Have a Visually Impaired Student in Your Classroom: A Guide for Paraeducators, written by Joanne Russotti and Rona Shaw with Susan J. Spungin as consulting editor, is an essential primer for paraeducators who are working with students with visual and other disabilities. A companion to AFB's When You Have a Visually Impaired Student in Your Classroom: A Guide for Teachers and When You Have a Visually Impaired Student with Multiple Disabilities in Your Classroom, this user-friendly booklet offers basic and practical guidance in clear language on how to assist in classrooms with students with visual impairments. Available in paperback and ASCII disk, it is 126 pages long and priced at $14.95 for a single copy and at $35.00 for a pack of five. AFB Press will also be offering special prices for these booklets as a set.

To order these books or for more information, contact AFB Press at 800-232-3044 or

Barron's SAT II Math Study Guide Now Available in Braille

The Braille Institute has transcribed Barron's How to Prepare for the SAT II Math, Level IIC Study Guide, 6th Edition, by Howard P. Dodge. This comprehensive workbook contains 211 tactile drawings that are comb-bound in 21 braille volumes. This is an invaluable resource for any college-bound braille reader looking for extra testing practice. It is available from the Braille Institute for $209 per copy.

This braille version includes the book's five-chapter review section and eight model examinations with answer keys and explanations. Concepts covered include polynomial and trigonometric functions, absolute value, polar coordinates, logic, statistics, probability and permutations. Each chapter includes concept definitions, examples and fully explained exercises. All geometric charts and graphs are presented in tactile graphic format with braille labels. Model tests include official College Board directions and reference information and formulas.

To order a copy call Braille Institute's Universal Media Services at 323-906-3104, between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Payment may be made by purchase order, check or credit card. For information call 1-800-BRAILLE or visit: or

Readers' Exchange

[Editor's Note: Teachers of students with visual impairments are always looking for ideas to use with their beginning braille readers. The following story was sent in by DOTS reader and teacher Marion Young who has taught young children who are blind or visually impaired in Nebraska and in Texas.]

Making Tactile Books—The Easy Way!
by Marion Young

Early literacy books have a big picture accompanied by one word, two words, or a short sentence. Students with visual impairments are often unable to benefit from these books. Here is an easy way to make tactile books for students with visual impairments and blindness ages 3-8. By creating tactile books students will work on identification of the object, counting objects, and tactile awareness of both braille and tactile pictures.

Choose objects that will fit on either half a page or a full braille page. For example, I choose buttons. Here are the directions:

1. Cut four pieces of braille paper in half.

2. Write in braille and print the following words and numbers:

On the first page, the title: My Button Book
Second page: 1 button
Third page: 2 buttons
Fourth page: 3 buttons
Fifth page: 4 buttons
Sixth page: 5 buttons
Seventh page: leave blank (just like print books)

3. Glue the correct number of buttons to the pages. Glue one button on the title page. Of course, you may solicit help from your student in counting the objects and gluing them to the pages.

4. Bind the pages together. I use the plastic binders. I always include a title page and a blank page at the end of the book—just like a print book.

5. Optional: number the pages in braille and print.

6. Remember to read the objects from left to right thereby reinforcing left to right progression. Read and count!

I have created books with feathers, small circles, paper clips, and Popsicle sticks. Feel free to add more pages with more objects. Also, you may create a book that counts backwards.

Hadley School Adds New Courses

The Hadley School for the Blind has expanded its free course offerings to professionals who work in the field of blindness and visual impairments. Teachers and other service providers can enroll in Hadley's Professional Education Program if they are a blindness professional or paraprofessional, or if they work with blind individuals at time of enrollment (or plan to within the upcoming six months). In addition, participants must be able to read and understand courses written in English at the high school level.

The first new course is Learning Through Play, available both through the mail or online. This course gives suggestions for parents and early intervention providers to encourage play in young children who are blind or visually impaired to promote growth and development.

Two other new courses are available to help teachers improve their skills in access technology. A new online course, Internet Basics, explains how the Internet works, how to get e-mail, how to search the Web, and participate in online discussion groups.

An introductory course, Access Technology: Beginnings, explains the basics of computer access for people who are blind or visually impaired. A computer is not required to take this course; it is available in braille, print, or on cassette.

For information about any of the courses in Hadley's Professional Education Program, or for information about Hadley's offerings in the areas of Adult Continuing Education, High School, or Family Education, visit the Hadley web site at or call Hadley toll-free at 800-323-4238.

Dear DOT

Dear DOT,

I have a student who just isn't achieving the kind of braille reading success I'd like to see. What are some suggestions for kids who are having trouble learning to read?


Dear Vera,

There are some children who seem to soak up reading and writing like little sponges. But there are many children who need considerable help and support in gaining literacy skills. Your question is quite broad—there are many reasons why some children seem to be struggling as they learn to read. Before you seek specific suggestions, it is worth the time to first consider the following four key factors:

  1. Consistency of braille instruction: Does the student receive daily direct instruction from a trained and certified teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI)? To me, this is the most important and major factor. Children who do not receive daily instruction and the opportunity to engage in braille literacy activities throughout the day will have difficulty becoming proficient at their reading medium. Consider the amount of time the student receives in direct instruction from the TVI. Consider how many braille materials the student uses all day long (rather than sitting passively or just listening) and what kind of feedback the child receives from his or her reading and writing attempts.

  2. Method of reading instruction: Would the student benefit from using another approach to reading/writing instruction? There is no one "perfect" method for teaching students to read and write, whether in braille or in print. Perhaps the program that you are using is not a good fit for the student. Consider whether the student has a good conceptual understanding of the content of the reading program. Consider if the student needs additional emphasis on skills such as phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, and fluency. Consider if the student needs additional emphasis on meaning and highly motivating materials that keep his or her interest. Is the student integrated enough with his or her peers and their language arts program? Or does the student need additional one-on-one instruction? Consider the balance between integration and individual instruction.

  3. Classroom environment: Is it excitement or chaos for that individual student? Consider the student's learning style and how he or she fits in that classroom. Is the classroom too rigid for this student? Or is it too flexible? How does the student "fit" in the classroom and its activities? Is the student seamlessly integrated or isolated? Consider how evident braille is in the classroom—does the student encounter braille words, letters, and numbers in many different contexts and in many different places in the classroom? Or does the student use braille only when the TVI is there?

  4. Careful assessment to pinpoint specific areas of need: Have you documented exactly what areas the student needs assistance with (e.g., reading rate, comprehension, vocabulary, etc.)? It is difficult to remediate or offer direct instruction if you have not identified the areas of need. An informal reading inventory and miscue analysis can be good sources of information on the processes the child uses while reading.

Once you have carefully considered these factors, and talked with the student's parents or caregivers, and the classroom teacher, the team can develop a plan that will lead to greater success for the student!


Short Takes

New version of braille translator: Duxbury Systems announces that DBT WIN 10.5 is now shipping. This version of the Duxbury Braille Translator includes a number of new features. For more information, visit their web site at or write Duxbury Systems, Inc., 270 Littleton Rd., Unit 6, Westford, MA 01886-3523; phone: 1-978-692-3000.

New edition of British Braille: British Braille is the main publication of the Braille Authority of the United Kingdom (BAUK) and sets out the rules of Standard English Braille as used in the United Kingdom. A new edition has just been published, incorporating ideas and suggestions of braille users and producers collected since the last update in 1992, as well as making corrections. Copies in print or braille may be obtained from the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). Both a capitalized and a non-capitalized braille edition are to be made available, though, at present only the capitalized version is ready and in stock. For more information contact RNIB customer services at

Cortical Visual Impairment: The American Printing House for the Blind has created an area on their web site devoted to sharing information about cortical visual impairment, which is currently the fastest growing visual impairment diagnosis in young children. Visit the web site at

New nonprofit encourages reading: Read Aloud International is a newly incorporated nonprofit organization based in Richmond, Virginia. For nearly two years, Read Aloud International has been working to form an organization which will: provide an international voice for individuals and organizations that promote reading aloud; facilitate the exchange of information and resources; and provide startup assistance for new groups whose focus is reading aloud. For more information, visit their web site at

More braille books: Seedlings Braille Books for Children has published their 2005 catalog which includes 63 new books. Seedlings now offers more than 600 low-cost children's books in braille, print-braille, and picture books with both print and braille. To receive your catalog, contact Seedlings at P.O. Box 51924, Livonia, MI 48151-5924;

Position Available

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is recruiting for a Director to lead our National Literacy Center in Atlanta, Georgia. We are seeking a candidate who can provide expertise and leadership in administering programs that focus on training and information related to literacy for children and adults who are blind or visually impaired. This is a leadership position within AFB and reports directly to the Vice President for Programs and Policy.

The duties for the Director include:

  • Identify, develop, and implement programs, services, training modules, and other projects focused on achieving systemic change.

  • Provide information and guidance regarding critical trends, issues, policies and best practices in services for persons who are blind or visually impaired.

  • Supervise departmental staff.

  • Develop funding proposals and manage funded projects.

  • Cultivate Board members and provide support for the National Center Board.

Qualifications: Graduate degree or equivalent in education, rehabilitation, social services or related fields. Five to ten years of professional experience in the field of blindness in literacy or education including three years of managerial experience. Requires excellent oral and written communication skills; ability to facilitate interdisciplinary cooperation among professionals with widely diverse backgrounds; and political sensitivity and awareness regarding blindness and disability issues.

Send resume to:

American Foundation for the Blind
Human Resources and Board Relations Department
11 Penn Plaza, Ste. 300
New York, NY 10001
An Equal Opportunity Employer

Save the Dates!

ASERT/MACRT Professional Conference (Association of Southeastern Rehabilitation Teachers and Mid-America Conference of Rehabilitation Teachers), November 11-13, 2004, Doubletree Downtown Nashville, Nashville, TN;

California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped, March 4-6, 2005. San Francisco Airport Marriott at Burlingame, San Francisco, CA;

Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute, March 11-13, 2005. Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel, Boston, MA;

Council for Exceptional Children convention and Expo, April 6-9, 2005. Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, MD;

National Braille Association, April 14-16, 2005. Marriott Quorum, Dallas, TX;

Canadian Vision Teachers Conference, May 13-15, 2005. APSEA (Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority) Center, Halifax, Nova Scotia;

"A novel is not an allegory . . . It is the sensual experience of another world. If you don't enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny, you won't be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel. This is how you read a novel: you inhale the experience. So start breathing."
—Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

This newsletter is published by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and funded in part by contributions to the National Literacy Center. However, information contained herein does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of AFB or its contributors and no endorsement by AFB or its contributors should be inferred.

© 2004 American Foundation for the Blind
Contents may not be reproduced without permission.

DOTS is published three times a year (October, February, and June), and is available in regular print, braille, via e-mail, or on disk. If you'd prefer to be reading this in a different format, please contact the editor at:

American Foundation for the Blind
100 Peachtree St., Suite 620
Atlanta GA 30303
Telephone: 404-525-2303
Fax: 404-659-6957

Subscribe to the brlhelp-afb listserve by sending the message

services icon Directory of Services

book icon Featured Book

JVIB Special Issue on Critical Issues in Visual Impairment & BlindnessJVIB Special Issue on Critical Issues in Visual Impairment & Blindness

JVIB Special Issue on Critical Issues in Visual Impairment & Blindness

Join Our Mission

Families, students, professionals and others rely on AFB because we rely on you.