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for the Blind

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DOTS for Braille Literacy Volume 5, Number 2, Spring 2000

This sample UBC document referred to in this newsletter is available only as a duxbury attachment. If you would like it sent as a duxbury attachment, please contact the editor at . If you would prefer it to be mailed in print or braille, please contact the editor with your mailing address. Thank you.

From the Editor

If you have been a long-time reader of DOTS, you may have read articles about the Unified Braille Code, a research project of the International Council on English Braille (ICEB). The UBC is still in the research phase, and is being completed by various committees within ICEB. (See related story in this issue.) It is up to each country's individual braille authority to decide whether or not to accept the proposed code. The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) has voted that it will not approve the proposed code until further work is done to finish it, a field test has been conducted, and additional information has been received from consumers, transcribers, and educators.

The American Foundation for the Blind, as a member organization of BANA, supports its position of promoting education and outreach about the research project. To that end, this issue of DOTS contains a sample story written in the proposed UBC. The story starts with a transcribers' note of the new symbols you'll encounter, and continues with a transcription of a typical lesson that might be found in a 7th grade math book. I would urge each of you to look at this document carefully. Compare it to the codes you use now, and think about how you might teach it to your students and clients.
Your feedback is important. If you have questions or comments about the project, please contact me at 404-525-2303 or ; Phyllis Campana, BANA chair, at 800-223-1839 or ; or Darleen Bogart, UBC project chair, at 416-480-7530 or Additional information is found at the ICEB web site,

New Braille Curriculum Guide

Overbrook School for the Blind has announced the formation of Towers Press, which will publish books and articles related to the work that the school does with children who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision—many of whom have additional disabilities. The Press' first book, Braille Literacy Curriculum, by Dr. Diane P. Wormsley, is now available and can be purchased directly from Overbrook.
Braille Literacy Curriculum presents strategies for incorporating braille into the total curriculum. The curriculum contains fifteen sections that include information about outcomes for emergent literacy, outcomes for basic literacy, learning media assessment, assessment and record keeping, tips and techniques, and more. There are extensive sections for resources, references, and a glossary. The materials are packaged into a sturdy binder with room for teachers to add their own notes and student information. The Curriculum supports the goals of the National Agenda for Children and Youth Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired. It was tested in the classroom by experienced braille teachers and reviewed by independent readers.
The Braille Literacy Curriculum costs $35, plus shipping and handling (US priority mail adds $8.50 per book; US standard mail costs $6.50 per book; all shipping outside the US is $22 per book). Payment can be made by check, money order, or purchase order. To order, and for more information about this and other books being developed, contact Dennis Brookshire, Editor in Chief, Towers Press, Overbrook School for the Blind, 6333 Malvern Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19151; phone: 215-877-0313; e-mail:

The next issue of DOTS will be published in June, 2000. If you would like your issue mailed to your home address rather than to your school, please contact the Editor at: AFB, 100 Peachtree St., Suite 620, Atlanta, GA 30303; e-mail: ; phone: 404-525-2303; fax: 404-659-6957.

Reader's Exchange

I received the following message from Shirley Keller, director of CAL, Creative Adaptation for Learning, in response to the "Dear DOT" column about tips for children who read both braille and print:
"Here is another tip to add to the ideas presented to ‘Dual Dilemma' about teaching both braille and print to the same child. CAL-tac Illustrated Alphabet Cards include letter in both braille and raised print with a clearly represented tactile picture. The child can trace over a letter, color the picture, make a rubbing, and read the word in braille. The words and pictures have been carefully selected so that they have no contractions in their spelling (with the exception of ‘xylophone' which is spelled using grade 1 braille). CAL-tac cards can be washed and reused. They are light-weight, portable, and kids can use them with their sighted friends. This may sound like a commercial (I guess it is in a way) but, don't you think that CAL-tac Illustrated Alphabet Cards should be included in the mix for the ‘Dual Dilemma' child?" The phone number to reach CAL is 516-466-9143; web site:
I also received this message from Marlene Culpepper, a teacher in Columbus, Georgia: "While at a conference for teachers of visually impaired students last month, a teacher expressed concern over the difficulty she's experienced visually reading books produced in interpoint (braille embossed on both sides of the page). Here is a solution that was passed on to me several years ago and that I have used successfully many times. I recycle my old blushers and keep them on hand for such instances. If I'm having trouble seeing the dots on a particular page, I simply brush that area with a little blush and the dots come to life, so to speak. It can be messy, but it works! For you male teachers out there, keep a copy of this article handy to show your wife when she catches you taking her make-up to work. A mere explanation may not suffice."

Summer Music Institute

The Summer Institute for Blind College-Bound Musicians is for blind high school students who are planning to make music a large part of their college study. Now in its fifth year, the three-week program teaches braille music and other special skills while providing a campus environment. Students live and work with professionals in the field and young people like themselves. Students develop confidence, independence, and the tools and outlook needed to chart their future goals.

The Summer Institute offers a wide variety of courses, including:

Braille music. Students learn enough braille music to start reading parts for their instruments and to begin to incorporate it into their music study at home.
Music theory. Students broaden their understanding of music concepts and the terminology used in discussing print music notation.
Technology. Students are introduced to and use state-of-the-art computer equipment to learn how to submit theory assignments in print independently, and to experiment with recording multi-part music arrangements.
Ensemble. For many Institute students, playing in an ensemble is a first-time and exhilarating experience. They learn to combine their various talents into a group performance, give public concerts, and learn strategies for working with other musicians.

Students also work with instructors who are blind, go back stage at concerts, and visit with people who have made their careers in the world of music. Social and cultural activities are also part of the program.
The Institute will take place at the National Resource Center for Blind Musicians in Connecticut, July 9–28, 2000. To be eligible, a student should have good academic standing, be fluent in an instrument, and be reasonably independent. Cost of the program (which includes room and board) is $2,000. Some scholarship assistance is available. In addition to the application, an audition tape and teacher recommendations are required. Applications must be received by April 15, 2000.
To request an application, contact: David Goldstein, Director, National Resource Center for Blind Musicians, Music and Arts Center for the Handicapped, 600 University Ave., Bridgeport, CT 06601; phone: 203-366-3300; fax: 203-368-2847; e-mail:


The board of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) met October 29–31, 1999, in Annapolis, Maryland. The meeting was hosted by the National Federation of the Blind.
The following officers were elected for the year 2000:
Phyllis H. Campana, Chairperson
Eileen Curran, Vice-Chairperson
Frances Mary D'Andrea, Secretary
Susan Reilly, Treasurer
The Braille Institute in Los Angeles, CA, was accepted to become a member organization of BANA.
Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Translation 1997 (Volume 1: Rules) is now available on the Web at, a site maintained by the Shodor Foundation under the auspices of BANA. A link to the site is maintained on BANA's web site,
Through the generosity of the American Printing House for the Blind, permanent office space has been provided for BANA. The new mailing address is P.O. Box 6085, Louisville, KY 40206. Any mail or inquiries may be sent to this address.
BANA passed a motion renewing its commitment to the Unified Braille Code (UBC) Research Project, and pledged to take a leadership role by committing financial support to facilitate face-to-face meetings for those UBC committees who have not completed their work.
At the November 2-5, 1999, meeting of the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) in Baltimore, MD, which was hosted by BANA, the following officers were elected:
Betty Niceley, President
Darleen Bogart, Canada, Vice-President
Raeleen Smith, New Zealand, Secretary
Kim Charlson, USA, Treasurer
Reinette Popplestone, South Africa, Public Relations
William Poole, UK, Member-at-Large
Jean Obi, Nigeria, Member-at-Large
Bruce Maguire, Australia, Member-at-Large

Braille Advocate Dies

We mourn the passing of a good friend and advocate for the importance of braille literacy. Betty J. Niceley, 65, died Sunday, February 13, 2000, in Louisville, KY. She was a retired employee of the Kentucky Department for the Blind, where she worked 28 years, and a former member of the executive board of the National Federation of the Blind. Betty had served as vice-chairperson of the Braille Authority of North America, and had recently been elected as chair of the International Council on English Braille. Betty was also a board member of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. She is survived by her husband, Charles S. Niceley, a daughter, a stepdaughter, and seven grandchildren.
Those who knew Betty remember her as not only an outspoken advocate for braille and the abilities of blind people, but also for her sense of humor, her kindness, her spark, and her tremendous energy. She was a "can-do" person with a positive attitude. She will be very much missed.

Dear DOT

Dear DOT,
Thanks for keeping us up to date about the Unified Braille Code project. What can you tell us about the ICEB—didn't they have a meeting recently? What will happen next?
Signed, Erin

Dear Erin,
The International Council on English Braille, or ICEB, was organized to coordinate and improve standards for braille usage in English. Currently, ICEB consists of representatives named by the braille authorities of the following countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States of America. You're right, Erin—the ICEB general assembly was held here in the U.S. last November, hosted by the Braille Authority of North America (BANA). The major topic of this meeting was the research project on the Unified Braille Code, although other topics were discussed as well.
The Unified Braille Code, which more accurately could be called the "Unified English Braille Code" is a project to create one uniform code that can be used in English-speaking countries worldwide. It would also try to bring together literary, mathematical and scientific, and computer notation into one code. (A sample of the proposed code is included in this newsletter.)
As of this date, the proposed code has not been completed. There are currently five working committees, each made up of members from various ICEB countries who conduct their work primarily through the Internet, although there have been a few face-to-face meetings as well. The committees are:
Committee 2, Base code extension
Committee 3, Contractions
Committee 4, Foreign Languages (when used within English)
Committee 5, Format
Committee 6, Rules Writing
The committees each has listserves that anyone may join as an observer. For instructions in joining a list, check the ICEB web site, The web site also includes documents and archives of work and discussions to date.
The ICEB general assembly discussed the progress of the UBC project so far, but the resolutions passed by the assembly reflect the purpose of ICEB, which is to coordinate and improve standards for braille usage in English-speaking countries. Many of the twenty resolutions relate to the UBC project such as the call for the code to be completed by the next general assembly in 2003 (with a timetable established), that upper cell numbers be the number system used in the code, that it be consistent with the work of the Digital Audio Information Systems (DAISY) Consortium, and the ICEB member countries circulate proposed UEBC materials widely to their constituents. The assembly passed other resolutions to actively promote braille literacy, to establish a Tactile Graphics Project committee, and that if the proposed code is ratified by ICEB a technical committee would be established to develop guidelines for training materials for teachers, readers, and braille producers. The resolutions are listed in their entirety on their web site, so I encourage everyone to read them. If you don't have access to their web site, please contact me and I'll get them to you by mail. The ICEB is an important and interesting organization and its work could have a profound effect on braille literacy throughout the world.
Signed, DOT

New from NBP

National Braille Press (NBP) is renowned for its braille children's books, but it offers a wide variety of books for adults as well. Some of its most popular books are related to the Internet. Brand new from NBP is Captured by the Net by Olga Espinola. (You may remember her name from the 1992 book Solutions, which was also offered by NBP.) Espinola, who is herself blind, offers valuable tips and techniques for blind individuals who want to visit chat rooms, shop online, send electronic mail, join mailing lists and newsgroups, find online tutorials, talk via voice, or just block spam mail! The book was written for beginners—covering both DOS and Windows environments—but there is a great deal of resource information for the more advanced user as well. Captured by the Net is available in braille, on tape, on disk, or as a Portabook for only $19.99; print version (includes postage) is $22.99. A special bonus pack is available—buy all five formats and pay only $75.00.

Braille Sheet Music Available

Opus Technologies is pleased to announce that it has signed a braille music publishing agreement with Hal Leonard Corp. of Milwaukee, WI, the world's largest print music publishing company. The agreement grants Opus Technologies the rights to publish and sell braille editions of music titles from Hal Leonard's extensive catalog of print music. Opus is now accepting sheet music orders that include titles of popular music not easily available in braille from other sources.
For its first offering, Opus Technologies is publishing braille editions of 25 individual sheet music pieces. These consist of the piano/vocal/guitar (pvg), easy piano (ep), or piano solo (ps) versions of the following 10 best-selling popular songs:
1. Forrest Gump Main Title (ep, ps)
2. "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis (pvg)
3. "Heart and Soul" (pvg, ep, ps)
4. "Imagine" by John Lennon (pvg, ep, ps)
5. "Memory" from Cats (pvg, ep, ps)
6. "My Heart Will Go On" (Love Theme from Titanic) (pvg, ep, ps)
7. "Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton (pvg, ep, ps)
8. "Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers (pvg, ep)
9. "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong (pvg, ep, ps)
10. "Yesterday" by The Beatles (pvg, ep)
Each braille music piece is professionally transcribed and proofread according to the latest international standards for the music braille code using uncontracted braille for all literary elements. The braille material is embossed double-sided on standard 11-inch by 11.5-inch braille paper with 25 lines per page and 40 cells per line.
For the piano/vocal/guitar and easy piano versions of songs with lyrics, the braille music consists of three parts: preliminary matter, such as title page and transcriber notes; a vocal-guitar part using the line-by-line method, with three lines for lyrics, chord symbols, and melody; and a piano part using the bar-over-bar method, with three lines for melody, right hand, and left hand. Each part starts on a separate sheet, so that a blind vocalist/guitarist can use the vocal-guitar part while a blind pianist uses the piano part.
For piano solo versions, the braille music typically consists of two parts: the preliminary matter, followed by a piano part using the bar-over-bar method, with two parallel lines for right hand and left hand.
Opus Technologies is selling both the braille and the corresponding print sheet music at the following prices: $9.95 (braille), $3.95 (print), and $12.95 (braille and print). The braille music pieces can be bound individually or together with other pieces, using 19-hole comb binding with plastic front and back covers, for an additional $2.00 per binding. Shipping and handling is $5 per U.S. order ($10 for Canada, inquire for other countries).
Based in San Diego, CA, Opus Technologies has been developing and selling software, print, and braille materials for learning and using braille music since 1992. Opus also publishes the best-selling How to Read Braille Music, 2nd Edition by Bettye Krolick, and distributes the New International Manual of Braille Music Notation, all available in print, braille, and multimedia CD-ROM. Opus customers include blind musicians and students, braille transcribers, parents, teachers and educators, and schools and libraries in the U.S. and around the world.
Contact Opus Technologies at 13333 Thunderhead St., San Diego, CA 92129; phone/fax: 858-538-9401; e-mail: ; website: (note: web pages describing the sheet music are still under construction).

Celebrating Braille Literacy

[Editor's note: I received the following story from a creative teacher who wanted to share her experiences during January, Braille Literacy Month. I'd love to hear from others who have similar stories to share.]
Braille Week—the final frontier. These are the adventures of the Davis Elementary School morning and afternoon kindergarten classes in Plano, TX, in a continuing mission to celebrate Louis Braille's birthday with as many people as possible; show how much fun braille is; and to boldly promote awareness and understanding of braille literacy.
Davis Elementary is the home school to three of the students on my caseload, one of whom is learning braille. When this student was in kindergarten, we began celebrating Braille Week the first week back after winter break. After collaborating with the kindergarten teachers to plan the activities, I was then in charge of teaching the morning and afternoon classes for an hour each day. Lest I sound like a VI teacher who has way too much time on her hands, I do have to cancel some of my students for that week, but I think the experience is well worth it.
I begin the week on Monday by telling the story of Louis Braille and explaining the braille code. I give each student an alphabet sheet to keep and use for the entire week. On Monday, we celebrate Louis's birthday with braille cookise—sugar cookies with M&M's in the configuration of letters of the alphabet. Before the students are allowed to eat the cookies, however, they must say what letter of the alphabet they have. I also explain the "I Spy" contest for the week, in which the students have to find braille in the world around them and bring in a sheet telling me where and when the braille was found. I send a letter home explaining the contest to the parents, with a form they must sign.
On Tuesday, we do braille writing. I set up three stations, which are run by the two kindergarten teachers and me. The first station is using the braille writer, where students are given half sheets of paper to braille on and keep what they wrote. The second station is braille riddles for the students to decipher, and at the third station each student writes his or her name in braille. The kids have about fifteen minutes in each station before they rotate to the next one.
Wednesday, I teach the kindergarten students how we read in braille and give them an opportunity to try reading for themselves. Last year, I was able to have one of my middle school braille students come in and read a book for the class, but I could not arrange it this year.
Thursday, we break the class into two groups and one group plays Braille-O (similar to Bingo, but with braille letters) with me. The winners receive candy prizes. In the other group, students are given a card with someone's name on it, and they have to figure out the person's name and give it to them.
Friday, we review the results of the "I Spy" contest, and the winner receives a braille book.
Braille Week is a lot of work, an enormous amount of fun, and an experience no one should miss!
submitted by Wendy Park, Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Plano, Texas

Braille Revival League Packets

The Braille Revival League has produced its 2000 Special Edition Braille Literacy Packet containing numerous resources for conducting a wide variety of braille literacy activities during the year 2000. The packet includes information on the history of braille, recommendations for possible braille literacy projects, a sample proclamation, a special set containing over 30 8-1/2 by 11-inch newly designed braille character posters, information on the Braille Revival League, a bibliography of books about Louis Braille, an updated internet resource list on braille-related websites and e-mail lists, and other very useful information.
To receive a packet, send a check for $5.00 to cover the cost of production and mailing to:
The Braille Revival League
ATTN: Kim Charlson
57 Grandview Avenue
Watertown, MA 02472-1634
phone: 617-926-9198
fax: 617-923-0004
Also included in the packet of information is an IBM-compatible 3.5-inch diskette that contains ASCII, WordPerfect 5.1, Microsoft Word, and braille-translated files of all documents in the packet. Good luck in conducting braille literacy activities throughout the year 2000!

New Device for Creating Tactile Graphics

Have you ever wanted to present something in a drawing right there and then, but didn't have the means to? Here is a solution for all of those very frustrating times. Woolly Pens are made for those "just in time" drawings, when it's not the lasting image that matters, but the immediate one.
What is a Woolly Pen? It's a drawing implement that dispenses wool yarn as you draw it across a pad that has a contrasting surface. The yarn sticks to the pad leaving woolly lines where the pen has been creating a texture that can be felt by almost anyone. There is a small, safe blade that is used to cut the wool when you are ready to start a new line.
Woolly Pens are also reusable. If what you have drawn is finished, just roll up your last piece of wool, and use it over again. Perhaps use different colored wool, to make the picture more interesting. Anyone can use a Woolly Pen—the uses and possibilities are endless!
Woolly Pens are ideal for classroom use or at home just for doodling. Included in the Woolly Pen Kit are simple shapes such as a house, a circle, etc., just to get started. The Woolly Pen Kit is made in Australia by Quantum Technologies, but is available in the United States. For more information and a brochure, contact Jerry Kuns at AccessAbility, toll-free at 888-322-7200; e-mail:

National TV Turnoff Week

Sponsored by TV-Free America, the week of April 24-30, 2000, TV Turnoff Week encourages people to voluntarily reduce the amount of television watched in favor of more creative and enriching activities, such as reading. Phone: 202-887-0436; web site:

Short Takes

Literacy Conference scheduled. Make a note on your calendar that the dates for the fifth biennial "Getting in Touch with Literacy" conference is scheduled to be held in Philadelphia at the Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel, November 8–11, 2001. (That's next year.) Contact Dr. Diane P. Wormsley at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at for more information.

Wikki-Stix ideas. The manufacturers of Wikki-Stix, the waxy, reusable string-like craft materials, are revising their resource manual and would like input from teachers on how Wikki-Stix have been used in their lessons. They hope to create a large section on uses of Wikki-Stix for special needs people, especially children and adults who are visually impaired or blind. They will reward each suggestion or idea with a complimentary package of Wikki-Stix. To contribute an idea, contact Kem Clark, Omnicor, Inc., 2432 W. Peoria, #1188, Phoenix, AZ, 85029; fax: 602-870-9877; e-mail:

Courses for Teachers. The Hadley School for the Blind offers several classes to professionals in the field of blindness. If you are a teacher, a paraprofessional, or administrator who wants to better serve students and clients who are blind or visually impaired, Hadley's professional program courses are designed as a resource and a support. Not only will enrolling in a Hadley course acquaint you with their distance education programs, but the course will also allow you to refresh and sharpen your skills.
Currently, there are five courses available: Abacus I and II, Braille Reading for Family Members, Essentials of Nemeth, and The Human Eye. Each course is free of charge. For more information, contact the Hadley School for the Blind at 700 Elm St., Winnetka, IL 60093-0299; phone: 1-800-526-9909; e-mail:

Literacy Related Events in April

There are numerous days to celebrate literacy with your students and clients all year long. Here is a list of special days this year, and contact information about the sponsoring organizations. This list was compiled by the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress, with which AFB's National Literacy Program is partnered.
April 2000, National Poetry Month, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. This month celebrates the importance of poetry in people's lives and in American culture. Phone: 212-274-0343; web site:
April 2, International Children's Book Day, sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People. It is observed annually on April 2, Hans Christian Andersen's birthday. For more information, call 302-731-1600, ext. 229; web site:
April 8, Connect for Kids Day, the kick-off event for National Library Week, sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and the Benton Foundation. This day will highlight the role of libraries and librarians in connecting children and parents with books. For more information, visit the ALA web site at, or the Benton web site at
April 9–15, National Library Week, sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA). This year's theme is "Read! Learn! Connect! @ the Library." The Library of Congress has joined with the ALA in producing a free tip sheet with ideas to celebrate National Library Week. For more information and to receive a tip sheet, contact the ALA Public Information Office at 800-545-2433, ext. 5044; e-mail:; web site:
April 10–16, Young People's Poetry Week, sponsored by the Children's Book Council and coordinated with the Academy of American Poets. This celebration was established in 1999, and highlights poetry for children and young adults. Contact them by phone at 212-966-1990; web site:
April 16–22, Reading is Fun Week, sponsored by Reading is Fundamental. Phone: 202-287-3220; web site:

"Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st century will read and write more than at any other time in human history. They will need advanced levels of literacy to perform their jobs, run their households, act as citizens, and conduct their personal lives. They will need literacy to cope with the flood of information they will find everywhere they turn. They will need literacy to feed their imaginations so they can create the world of the future. In a complex and sometimes even dangerous world, their ability to read will be crucial. Continual instruction beyond the early grades in needed."
-- Moore, Bean, Birdyshaw, & Rycik, 1999 "International Reading Association's Commission on Adolescent Literacy"

This newsletter is published by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and funded in part by contributions to the National Literacy Program. 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.

DOTS for Braille Literacy is published three times a year (February, June, and October), 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
Phone: 404-525-2303; Fax: 404-659-6957

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Contents may not be reproduced without permission from the editor.

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