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for the Blind

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DOTS for Braille Literacy (Development of Teacher Support) Volume 19, Number 1, Fall 2013

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

The field of visual impairment and blindness (or "the blind biz" as my boss Carl Augusto calls it) is fortunate to have so many luminaries in its ranks. As the DOTS newsletter starts its 19th year, I want to dedicate this column to three people who have had an enormous effect on our field and on braille literacy in three quite distinct ways.

First, I want to thank Natalie Hilzen, Director and Editor-in-Chief of AFB Press. Natalie has had a huge positive influence on professional publishing in the area of braille literacy. It was due to Natalie's efforts that books such as Foundations of Braille Literacy (Rex, Koenig, Wormsley & Baker, 1995), Instructional Strategies for Braille Literacy (Wormsley & D'Andrea, 1997), Beginning with Braille (Swenson, 1999), The Braille Trail set (D'Andrea & Swenson, 2004) and Braille Literacy: A Functional Approach (Wormsley, 2004) were published. Numerous authors have worked with Natalie over the years as the catalog of AFB Press books expanded. Many of the textbooks used in university personnel preparation programs were prepared by authors who worked closely with Natalie. In 2010, AER presented Natalie with the C. Warren Bledsoe award in recognition for all she's done to advance professional literature related to visual impairment and blindness. Natalie is retiring from AFB Press at the end of 2013, and we wish her well as she pursues new endeavors. Best wishes, Natalie!

I also want to mark the passing of two important people who died during 2013. Dr. Abraham Nemeth's name is well known to many of us. Perhaps less known is the story of how he came to develop the code we now use. Abe Nemeth always loved mathematics, but as a young man he was discouraged from pursuing it as a career because it was considered too complex for blind people—and the Taylor math code, then in use, didn't have the symbols necessary to do higher level math. So he invented his own system! That system eventually grew into the Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation that has been used in this country for 50 years. If you ever had the pleasure of hearing Abe give a speech, you'd never forget it; he was the consummate storyteller. His wit, intelligence, and passion for braille will long be remembered.

Lastly, I want to mention Martha Pamperin, who died this past February. Many people know Martha as a long-time instructor for the Hadley School for the Blind. Martha also served for many years as chair of the literary braille committee for the Braille Authority of North America. Martha was a dedicated teacher and a devoted advocate for braille. Her patience and good humor made her a valued and much-loved colleague. When I first started teaching braille at the university level, Martha was the person I turned to when I had questions about rules and how best to explain them to my students.

I consider myself very fortunate indeed to have known such amazing people. Aren't we lucky that we have such people in our lives?

-Frances Mary D'Andrea, Editor, DOTS for Braille Literacy

AFB Webinars

The American Foundation for the Blind eLearning Center has added a number of new online professional development webinars aimed at educators who work with students who have visual impairments. The latest series was developed and presented by Dr. Betsy Flener on different aspects of using the iPad in the classroom.

image for Creating Tactile Overlays for the iPad and Tablet Devices - a boy wearing glasses touching an iPad The first session in the series is Creating Tactile Overlays for the iPad and Tablet Devices. The presentation provides a rationale for making tactile overlays for the iPad and tablet devices. The presentation also describes factors in the conductivity of the iPad and the inexpensive "toolkit" to be assembled in making tactile overlays. Dr. Flener describes features of applications to be selected for overlays including 5 different examples. The presentation concludes with examples and descriptions of various iPad accessories.

image for 
iPad and Communication for Students with Visual and Multiple Disabilities - girl looking at an iPad The second webinar, iPad and Communication for Students with Visual and Multiple Disabilities, provides information to those working to develop systems of communication for students with cortical visual impairment, cerebral palsy, autism, and deaf-blindness. The webinar describes basic communication functions, symbols, and assessing students with complex needs. It also explains how tactile symbols can be used with the iPad, including features and suggested applications. Additional considerations and applications for low vision students are discussed along with important iPad accessories. The webinar is appropriate for speech/language pathologists, teachers of the visually impaired, occupational therapists, parents, and assistive technology consultants.

image for Reinforcing Braille Literacy Using the iPad: braille dots displayed on a tablet device The third and final session in the webinar series is Reinforcing Braille Literacy Using the iPad. In this presentation, participants are provided information on the features of applications conducive for creating fun pre-braille and braille activities including the use of tactile overlays. Various examples of activities are presented, including pre-braille activities and the ability to customize braille identification, phonics, and spelling activities using specific applications with the iPad with tactile reinforcement.

The cost of the series is $69, or $29 for each individual session. Continuing education credits through ACVREP are available. For a full list of AFB eLearning opportunities and how to purchase them, visit AFB's eLearning Center at

Holiday Gift Ideas

You know what makes a perfect holiday gift? Braille! The following are some sources for braille-related items that make perfect holiday presents.

Seedlings Braille Books for Children offers a wide variety of books in braille for all ages and in all "flavors" of braille. For example, you can browse through a selection of picture books in uncontracted braille or contracted braille, a selection of books for older students in print and braille (uncontracted or contracted), short or long fiction books in contracted braille, poetry, nonfiction and biographies in braille, and e-braille books! Seedlings also has bronze or silver charms that feature braille words, wooden braille blocks, t-shirts and sweatshirts in a variety of sizes, and more. Visit or call 800-777-8552.

More gift ideas can be found at National Braille Press. NBP is having a holiday sale: order three books from a list of available volumes and get the fourth book free! To see the list of books included in the sale visit: NBP also has available their print-braille Dr. Seuss Calendar for 2014, braille magnetic letters and numbers, braille jewelry, print-braille magnets with inspirational sayings, and Louis Braille key chains, pins, and note cards. Visit or call 800-548-7323.

The Braille Superstore sells books and gifts as well. Browse their selection of toys and games for holiday fun. The store has a selection of card games (such as Uno), board games (e.g., chess, backgammon, Monopoly), beep balls and bell balls, puzzles, and a wide variety of novelties. Visit or call 800-987-1231.

The Chicago Lighthouse Tools for Living Store™ is another good source of braille items, including games (chess, Old Maid, Uno, low vision playing cards), slate and stylus sets, puzzles, a braille alphabet wordbuilding kit, and more. Visit the Chicago Lighthouse Tools for Living Store or call 800-919-3375.

And don't forget the Braille Bug! AFB's famous Braille Bug is now featured on a brightly colored, large (2 feet by 3 feet!) poster that presents the braille alphabet—just right for your classroom or a child's bedroom wall. The Braille Trail activity book is available as well. The activity workbook can be purchased with a slate and stylus, or with a parent/teacher guide that provides additional information about the topics covered. To order these items, visit or call 800-232-3044.

Braille Bug poster displaying braille alphabet and images of kids reading braille


BANA'S UEB Transition Forum Brings Braille Leaders Together to Plan

Planning for the implementation of Unified English Braille (UEB) took a huge step forward on Wednesday, October 16, when the Braille Authority of North America convened 48 delegates representing 31 organizations from the braille community in a UEB Transition Forum in Louisville, KY. The Forum was a full day of collaborative planning designed to help delegates and their representative organizations determine the steps and timetable through which the United States will make an effective transition to Unified English Braille.

The Forum, organized and facilitated by BANA, provided the rare opportunity for delegates from various braille-related communities to meet face-to-face. The ambitious agenda focused on identifying specific actions and strategies required to develop plans for a smooth and effective implementation of UEB.

Forum planners recognize that the transition plan must take into consideration all aspects of using, learning, teaching, and producing braille. With that as a guiding principle, the Forum was organized into facilitated workgroups through which Forum delegates identified and prioritized actions needed in the following areas:

  • quality UEB training for transcribers, proofreaders, and educators;
  • the building of UEB transcription capacity;
  • system adjustments for the procurement and delivery of braille materials in UEB;
  • a smooth transition to UEB for children's braille reading and writing instruction and educational assessments;
  • a smooth transition of adults' braille instruction to UEB and increased knowledge of UEB among adults who already use braille.

The delegates to the Forum acknowledged that the transition to UEB will take time and necessitate extensive preparation and collaboration among all the systems and infrastructures involved. Their work on October 16 laid a foundation that will help leaders build a carefully crafted timeline and coordinated plan. Detailed timelines are under development by individual organizations, and transition efforts are now being initiated. The consensus of the delegates was that January 2016 is a reasonable target date for the implementation of UEB. The work accomplished at the Forum will assist the braille community as it builds and adapts the infrastructure necessary to meet the proposed implementation date.

BANA's UEB Task Force as well as the BANA Board will meet in early November in Louisville. At this meeting, they will discuss the transition to UEB with the goal of setting a definite implementation date, which will then be formally announced. For additional resource information, visit

News & Opportunities

Dot Power for Kids!

The Statewide Vision Resource Centre (SVRC) in Melbourne, Australia sponsors a program called Dot Power. Braille readers from 4 to 8 years old come in to the center for a day of fun and learning. One visit might include reading recipes and cooking; another day might entail magic and a tea party. Every Dot Power day incorporates the Expanded Core Curriculum, singing, braille, and fun! To read more about Dot Power and see lesson plans and resources, visit

Making Tactile Books

The website Tactile Book Advancement Group (T-BAG) in England is a source for information on making tactile books for—and with—young children.

Make MORE Tactile Books!

The Paths to Literacy site, a joint project of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Perkins School for the Blind, is chock full of ideas for teaching reading and writing to children with visual impairments. One activity featured on this site was contributed by Diane Brauner of North Carolina. She describes how to make a tactile story of "The Five Little Monkeys" for young children. See the details at

Computer Game Designed for Children Who Are Blind

Sonokids has developed a new computer game for all children, including children who are blind or visually impaired or have other special needs. Ballyland is an engaging and interactive game for Macs or Windows computers. The games are easy to play, making them ideal for young children or those who are just learning to use a computer keyboard, and reinforce skills such as matching, cause and effect, listening skills, memory, creativity, and early literacy and numeracy. For more information, visit or send an email to

Seedlings Book Angels

US and Canadian children who are visually-impaired can get two free braille books every year from Seedlings Braille Books for Children.

Sign up today on Seedlings' website: Here's the direct link:

Seedlings Braille Books for Children
734-427-8552 fax

Dear DOT

Dear DOT,

What are we going to do about our braille technology when we implement Unified English Braille? I'm really concerned about this!

Signed, Diane

Dear Diane,

This is a great question and I'm glad you asked! Remember that Unified English Braille (UEB) is already an international code, adopted in seven English-speaking countries. Many portable braille devices ("notetakers") such as the BrailleNote and the BrailleSense already support UEB. You simply have to change the code in the "Options" menu to have the braille display show UEB. Remember, though, that you'll then have to input information in UEB as well—which is a great way to learn.

Several teachers have told me that their students already discovered UEB when they updated the operating system on their Apple device (such as iPhones or iPads) to iOS7 recently. The default braille code in iOS7 is UEB when using VoiceOver with a refreshable braille device. Apple devices support 40 different braille displays (for a list of supported displays, visit If your students are using devices with earlier versions of the operating system, by changing the language used in the "Settings" to Australian English, the display will be in UEB. This could be a fun and interesting way for students (and you!) to learn more about UEB. If you have the Duxbury Braille Translator (DBT) software, you already have the means to produce UEB. DBT does a number of different languages and the software will do different versions of English. Under the "document" menu, go to "Translation" and search for "English/Unified" to have your documents embossed in UEB.

For more details about using technology with UEB read "Tips and Resources for Learning More about Unified English Braille" on the website of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA).

Other resources are on the BANA website as well, including sample documents in UEB that can be downloaded as braille files or in simulated braille. The transition to UEB in the United States will take some time, but you and your students can certainly start familiarizing yourself with the code, looking at the resources online, and playing with UEB built into your braille devices!


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