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for the Blind

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DOTS for Braille Literacy (Development of Teacher Support) Volume 18, Number 1, Fall 2012

DOTS (Development of Teacher Support) for Braille Literacy is published three times a year and is available online at

In this issue...

From the Editor

Have you ever wondered what Louis Braille himself called the code he developed? The original code was called anaglyptographie. It wasn't named after Louis Braille until after his death.

I learned this word last month when I fulfilled a dream and went to Coupvray, France, and visited the Louis Braille museum in Braille's childhood home. It is difficult to express how moving it was to sit in the house, walk in the garden and imagine Louis himself walking around his beloved hometown.

The guide at the museum spent a great deal of time showing us the many treasures in the collection. One book in the collection was called Anaglyptographie et Raphigraphie de Braille which explained how to use Braille's dot system and the machine he helped invent, the raphigraph. The museum guide even demonstrated how to write my name with the raphigraph, which creates print letters made with small, embossed dots.

Also in the collection were a number of old embossed books in various codes. It's interesting to contemplate how many types of embossed symbols were attempted over the years, from embossed print, Moon code and various others. None of these other codes caught on with the same popularity and flexibility as Louis Braille's 6-dot system.

Braille continued to make improvements to his code during his short life. For example, his original code included short horizontal lines, a feature dropped in later versions. I often wonder what other changes he would have made had he lived to see his code adopted not only in France but around the world. The wonderful braille code continues to evolve and develop as print itself has changed over the decades. One thing hasn't changed, however: braille continues to be essential, elegant, and fundamental to literacy for people who are blind.

—Frances Mary D’Andrea, Editor, DOTS for Braille Literacy

the outside of Louis Braille's home in Coupvray

Caption: A photograph of the outside of Louis Braille's home in Coupvray. The photo shows the corner of the home with a sign that says "Maison Louis Braille." A plaque is visible on the side of the house.

Braille Readers Are Leaders!

It's time to start reading! The reading period for the annual Braille Readers Are Leaders contest for adults began November 1. Registration for the contest is now open! You can register at now through the end of the contest, January 4, 2013.

The contest is for adults who read braille, with categories for all levels of braille readers, from beginners to experts. Participants read for prizes, practice, and pleasure. Whether you love the competition or are spurred on simply because it's a great way to promote and refine your braille skills, this contest is for you.

For more information visit the website There you will find forms and reading logs needed to participate. If you still have questions, please contact the Braille Readers Are Leaders team at 410-659-9314, ext. 2312 or

Put your fingers to the paper and start recording what you are reading today!

Celebrate Holidays with NBP

Books are perfect holiday gifts! Luckily, National Braille Press has plenty of ideas for your holiday shopping list, from the youngest children to older students and family gifts.

Selections for younger children:

1. Pookie Pig for the Holidays

Sandra Boynton is America's best-known author of engaging board books, and NBP has been offering her books for years. And now, we have a little Pookie pig to cuddle with, while reading two of her best-selling titles: Let’s Dance, Little Pookie and Night-Night, Little Pookie. One inspires daytime romps, the other is for getting the wee-ones to bed—that means little Pookie, too!

Let's Dance, Little Pookie (print/braille board book): $5.99

Night-Night, Little Pookie (print/braille board book): $5.99

Little Pookie Piglet (6" seated plush doll): $6.95

2. Corduroy and His Bear

Don Freeman's classic character, Corduroy, is even more popular today then when he first came on the scene thirty years ago. To bring the story to life, we are offering both the print/braille storybook along with a squeezable, plush Corduroy bear, decked out in green corduroy overalls with yellow buttons and a patchwork pocket. He stands 12 inches high—so cute! For ages 3-5.

Corduroy (storybook in print/braille): $6.99

Corduroy bear: $9.95

3. Braille Magnetic Letters

Here's a great learning tool! Not only is each colorful magnetic piece in the shape of a print letter, but the braille equivalent is embossed onto each letter as well. Each piece is over an inch tall, has a sturdy magnet embedded in the back and braille dots embossed on the front. Stick them on the fridge, filing cabinet, or cookie sheet to leave notes and practice spelling!

Braille Magnetic Letters: $9.95

4. Braille Caravan

New and improved from Creative Adaptations for Learning! These bright yellow blocks, with finger-adjustable braille pegs, now adhere to each other with magnets safely tucked inside. Unfortunately, this improvement added to the manufacturing costs; fortunately, NBP is subsidizing the difference! Buy a set of 15 magnetic braille caravan blocks and promote braille literacy at the earliest age.

Braille Caravan blocks (15 per set): $20

For older students:

5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Greg Heffley, the main character in this droll, witty tale of a middle-schooler, tries very hard to be popular. He fails in his attempts, mostly because of his deeply uncool best friend Rowley Jefferson. This graphic novel series is so popular it has inspired several movies; the added cartoon descriptions make it completely accessible to blind middle-schoolers, male and female.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, including cartoon descriptions

Braille (2 vols.) and eBraille: $13.95

6. iPhone Mania

It seems to have happened overnight. iPhone mania is overtaking even the most intrepid user of technology, and here’s why: This is the first mainstream tech product that can be used right out of the box. NBP offers four useful publications to help make the switch to Apple:

Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS5 for Blind Users
(Braille, eBraille, Word, DAISY, or ePub): $22

iPhone Tactile Screenshot Quick Reference Guide
(Large print/braille/tactile drawings): $27

26 Most Useful Apps for Blind iPhone Users
(Braille, eBraille, Word, DAISY): $9

21 Apps We Can't Live Without
(Braille, eBraille, Word, DAISY): $9

7. Text Messages

Sending text messages is a great way to communicate. Texting a message enables you to communicate in real-time, but if the recipient doesn't happen to be available, the message still goes through. Anna Dresner has just finished writing a little booklet called The Quick Guide to iMessaging. iMessage is a free service for Apple users—iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch running IOS5 or later, or Macs with Mountain Lion—for texting anyone else with an Apple device. Buy this book, which has the latest iOS6 information, and start iMessaging today!

The Quick Guide to iMessaging
Braille, eBraille, Word: $5

8. Mix It Up!

If you're looking for a useful gift for the whole family, buy this book of delectable recipes geared to young, inexperienced cooks—no kitchen know-how required! Make some treats for the neighborhood dog, a holiday punch for the family gathering, or a corn pudding side dish to go with the stuffed turkey. And why not wrap up the book with some braille-marked measuring cups and spoons?

Stir It Up: Recipes & Techniques for Young Blind Cooks
Large print/braille/color illustrations all in one book: $20

Braille-marked measuring cups & spoons: $15.00
(Cups: 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, and 1 cup. Spoons: 1/4 tsp, 1/2 tsp, 1 tsp, 1 Tbsp)

And because it's not too early to think about February. . . Valentines!

Every year National Braille Press creates original print/braille Valentines for blind kids to share with their sighted classmates. They come packaged in lots of 20 or 32—just right for the classroom or family and friends. NBP tries hard not to make them too mushy, so boys and girls will be comfortable passing them out. This is a great way to promote braille, even among adult friends!

To Order

Contact NBP by mail, phone, fax, or email. They take major credit cards or checks in US funds. There is a $5 processing fee for agencies that need an invoice; no charge for prepaid orders. Everything is sent Free Matter for the Blind, unless you prefer to pay for UPS service.

UPS rates keep going up, averaging about $8 per book. If you order by mail and are paying by check, please call the Customer Service Department at 800-548-7323 to find out the UPS fee for your order.

National Braille Press
88 St. Stephen Street
Boston, MA 02115
Toll-free: 800-548-7323
617-266-6160 ext. 520
Fax 617-437-0456


BANA Adopts Unified English Braille (UEB) for United States On November 2, 2012, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) set a new course for the future of braille in the United States (U.S.) when it adopted Unified English Braille (UEB). The motion, which passed decisively, specifies that UEB will eventually replace the current English Braille American Edition and that the U.S. will retain the Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation.

The transition to UEB will not be immediate and will follow a carefully crafted timeline. Implementation plans will be formulated with the input and participation of stakeholders from the consumer, education, rehabilitation, transcription, and production communities. Plans will take into consideration the various aspects of creating, teaching, learning, and using braille in a wide variety of settings. The plans will be designed to provide workable transitions for all involved in braille use and production and to minimize disruption for current braille readers. UEB is based on the current literary braille code and was developed with input from many people, primarily braille readers, who worked to achieve an optimal balance among many key factors. Those factors include keeping the general-purpose literary code as its base, allowing the addition of new symbols, providing flexibility for change as print changes, reducing the complexity of rules, and allowing greater accuracy in back translation.

Letters and numbers will stay the same as they are in the current literary code. There will be some changes to punctuation, but most will remain the same. Some rules for the use of contractions will change. Nine contractions will be eliminated, and some contractions will be used more often. A FAQ providing more detail about changes is available on the BANA website.

After implementation, the official braille codes for the United States will be Unified English Braille; Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, 1972 Revision and published updates; Music Braille Code, 1997; and The IPA Braille Code, 2008.

More detailed information about UEB and the motion that BANA passed can be found on the BANA website at

News & Opportunities

Seedlings' Book Angel Program

Seedlings sells low-cost braille books for children all year long, but also has some special free programs like the "Book Angel Program." You can register your students online by going to and clicking on "Book Angel Program." Just list four books from our catalog that they might like and we will send two of them (as time and materials allow). If you have any questions or if you would like a catalog, please call Seedlings at 800-777-8552 (M-F, 9-5 Eastern) or email For more information visit

Braille Reading Pals Club

The National Federation for the Blind Braille Reading Pals Club (BRPC) offers early exposure to literacy. The NFB BRPC fosters positive attitudes about braille for children and their families and promotes a love of reading by encouraging parents to read daily with their blind or low-vision child. NFB BRPC is free for children up to age seven. When parents sign up their child for the program he or she will receive an annual free dual braille-print book, a stuffed animal "reading pal," a monthly electronic newsletter, and a quarterly activity page. The August activity page was a connect-the-dot tactile picture that connected braille letter by braille letter. Sign up at This program is free and gives parents extra resources to start their blind child with a great foundation for literacy! For questions about the NFB BRPC please contact Abby Bispo at 410-659-9314, ext. 2312 or

Stories to Listen To, Too!

One way to pique children's interest in reading for themselves is to read, read, read to them! The more children are exposed to good stories and books, the more they are motivated to explore more books on their own. The following two websites are designed for families and teachers who want recorded books on the Internet.

Free recordings of children's stories, for blind children aged 4 to 10 years.

This is a "pay-it-forward" school project by students of Eden College, Durban (South Africa) involving reading and recording stories using mobile phones as recording devices. Every day a few more stories, received from around the world (including stories read by by adults), are uploaded to the website at

A DOTS reader sent us the following message:

"I recently was contacted by a blind mother with a sighted son and worked with her to make the site JAWS compatible. She's so excited to be able to have access to such a library of children's books and has been sharing it with her blind friends. It made me think it would be good to share with an organization like yours.

I have nothing to gain by sharing this site except great satisfaction of getting to put a smile on more children's faces and have more great books quoted during role-play. I hope you share with parents of young children and please let me know if there are adjustments I could make to make it more user-friendly for your members."

Thank you, Jessica, for sharing this resource with other DOTS readers.

Dear DOT

Dear DOT,

I heard about Unified English Braille but I don't know much about it. What are the major changes in this code? Where can I learn more?

Signed, Lou

Dear Lou,

The Unified English Braille code is based on the current literary code and was designed to make as few changes to our familiar braille code as possible. Changes made were intended to make the code less ambiguous and easier to learn and use. The background of the project, including a copy of the white paper written by Dr. Abraham Nemeth and Dr. Tim Cranmer that started the whole project back in 1991, can be found on the BANA website

Additional resources are being developed right now, but in the meantime, I can share a few basics about UEB. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. UEB follows the original text, so where there's a space in print, there's a space in UEB. That means there are no contractions that "snuggle" together. The contractions and, of, the, for, with, and the word a when next to those contractions always stand alone with spaces between them. This also means that to, into and by are now spelled out—there are no lower sign snugglers anymore. You can use the in contraction for into but have to spell out the to part.

2. Along with to, into, and by, the other contractions that are no longer used are the ones that cause ambiguity. Therefore, ble is no longer used because it can be confused with the numeric indicator; -ation and -ally are not used because they look like capital letters in the middle of words; the dd looks like a period in the middle of a word so is not used; and com looks like a hyphen. The short form of o'clock was dropped from UEB because it caused some ambiguity with capitalization rules. In all, nine current contractions are not used in UEB: to, into, by, ation, ally, ble, dd, com, and o'clock.

3. Short form words now follow a list of allowable extensions, so there's no guessing about whether or not to use them as parts of words. If they're on the list, they're OK. There are a few other rule changes for short forms as well.

4. There are a few changed rules that relax when you can "bridge" syllables. For example, you can now use er and ed between syllables much more often. (For more information about this, see Section 10.11 in the UEB Rulebook on the BANA web site.)

5. UEB has several new symbols, such as the open and close parentheses, the ellipsis, the dash, dollar sign (which now looks like all the other currency symbols that start with a dot 4), and a few others. Other symbols have been added such as the bullet, the underscore, and signs of operation. The good news is that there is only one set of symbols used for every context. There aren't different symbols in braille for the same print symbol.

6. There are now easy ways to indicate a capitalized passage, and we can now show not only italics, but also bold, underlined and even script. There are easy ways to show these type emphasis symbols for single letters, single words, or whole passages.

7. All numbers are in the upper part of the cell in all contexts.

This is NOT a comprehensive list of changes! You can find the UEB Rulebook on the BANA website, as well as some training materials that were developed in other countries that have adopted UEB.

Remember, the code hasn't yet been implemented—it will be many more months before everything is in place for it to be used. Keep checking the BANA web site over the next few months as the implementation plan is developed.



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