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for the Blind

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DOTS for Braille Literacy (Development of Teacher Support) Volume 20, Number 1, Fall 2014

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

Dear Readers,
"It has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought — that is to be educated."

Edith Hamilton, educator and writer (1867-1963) penned those words decades ago but they still resonate for me. It seems to me that in the last decade, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on raising standardized test scores, creating new (and untested) standards that are supposed to be more "rigorous," and punishing schools for not meeting arbitrary benchmarks that are widely perceived to be unfair and unreachable.

Where in this push toward "rigor" measured through test scores has there been room to consider a wider view of what it means to be an educated person? To me, a well-educated person has creativity, a desire to learn, curiosity and appreciation of the natural world, value for the arts, and is a life-long learner. That may or may not translate into high test scores! There has been a documented narrowing of the curriculum in recent years as more time is devoted in schools to testing and test preparation (see, for example, Blazie, 2011). While progress monitoring is important to ensure that our students are on track, assessment data should be used to inform and improve our instruction of individual students, not penalize students and teachers for not reaching unsupported mandates. Learning should be a joyful opportunity, and we should ensure that our students have access to a wide variety of experiences to become independent and well-educated in all areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum. Of course braille books are an important part of that learning! Fostering a love of reading will have life-long rewards, and add to the "enormous interest" and enriching life we want our learners to have.

Keep on thinking, keep on reading, keep on learning!

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

AFB News

The American Foundation for the Blind eLearning Center announces a new series of webinars called CVI Focus: Assessment, Intervention, and Literacy for Individuals with Cortical Visual Impairment. This series of five webinars by Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy presents in detail a thoughtful, structured, and sequenced approach to work with individuals who have been diagnosed with cortical visual impairment (CVI). The series covers the following topics:

1. Beginning with the Basics
2. Using the CVI Range for Functional Visual Assessment
3. Designing Interventions and Opportunities
4. Facilitating Literacy
5. Building Language and Learning Skills

Each webinar can be purchased separately for $49; the entire series is only $179. ACVREP credits are available and those who purchase the webinar series will receive a 10% discount on Dr. Roman-Lantzy's award-winning book Cortical Visual Impairment: An Approach to Assessment and Intervention. For more information, visit the AFB eLearning Center.

Do You Have a "Touch of Genius"?

Are you the inventor or creator of a product or idea that supports tactile literacy? The Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation was established by National Braille Press with the support of the Gibney Family Foundation to award innovative thinking in promoting braille and tactile learning (e.g., tactile graphics, 3-D modeling, etc.). The $20,000 prize will be granted for professional software & apps, educational software and apps, gaming software or apps that promote tactile and braille learning, and braille or tactile-related hardware.

The Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation has attracted innovators from all over the world in the fields of education, technology, engineering, tactile graphics, and general literacy. This is the only prize to foster and reward innovation and offers a direct and compelling incentive for researchers, teachers and the like to support literacy efforts for blind people. Among past recipients of the Touch of Genius Prize are Pranay Jain and Anshul Singhal for their submission of the "Tactile Caliper"; Emily Wharton for her submission of "Code Master Adult Braille Instruction System"; Karen Gourgey and Steven Landau for their submission of the Talking Tactile Tablet; Molly Brown, Jeff Witkowski, Patrick Cleary, and Ben Braggins for their "Retrofitted Braille Embosser to an Inkjet Printer"; and Christine Short for her "Feel the Beat: Braille Music Curriculum."

For more information and an application, visit the National Braille Press Touch of Genius website.

Applications are due January 7, 2015.

Holidays with the Braille Bug®

Holiday gift giving just got six dots—and six legs! Your favorite Braille Bug is now decorating several items that will be perfect gifts for the braille lover on your list! You know her from her site,, cheerfully teaching children and adults about braille. In an earlier issue of DOTS, you read about the beautiful Braille Bug poster. Now you can wear the friendly Braille Bug on a white short-sleeved T-shirt, available in a variety of sizes for only $20. Start your day with a warm cup of coffee or tea in your very own Braille Bug mug, 11 or 15 oz. size in white with the Braille Bug logo, for only $15. And you can carry all your braille gear with you as you travel with the roomy Braille Bug canvas tote bag, a bargain at $18. Check out the AFB Press Bookstore for these and more gifts for the holidays.


Implementation of Unified English Braille (UEB)

The following statement was approved by the BANA Board on November 9, 2014:

On November 2, 2012, the United States members of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) voted to adopt Unified English Braille (UEB) to replace English Braille American Edition in the U.S. Based on extensive dialog and planning that involved more than 30 organizations as well as individual consumers, teachers, and transcribers, BANA established January 4, 2016, as the date by which the United States will implement UEB.

BANA is working toward implementation of UEB in four phases:

2013: Information year—BANA developed and disseminated information about UEB and gathered input from constituents.

2014: Infrastructure year—BANA and other organizations planned for procurement and production of braille materials in UEB and developed training materials.

2015: Instructional year—Readers, producers, and educators will become proficient in UEB.

2016: Implementation year—All new transcriptions will be produced in UEB; educators will teach the code. Devices and software will fully and accurately incorporate UEB.

As of the implementation date in 2016, UEB, Nemeth, Music, and the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) will be the official codes for use in the United States. BANA is providing guidance on how to incorporate the Nemeth Code into UEB context with the intent that the Nemeth Code will continue to be integral to braille in the United States. The document Provisional Guidance for Transcription Using the Nemeth Code within UEB Contexts is available as PDF and BRF files on the BANA website.

BANA recognizes that in order to make an effective transition to UEB, states and organizations will need to develop customized implementation plans. To maximize efficiency and impact, BANA encourages widespread collaboration and sharing of expertise, resources, and training.

BANA continues to post and update information and materials about UEB at

UEB Reader Available in Hard Copy Braille

The Braille Authority of North America, BANA, has made a number of example documents available in Unified English Braille (UEB). They are available for download as braille ready files (.brf) for embossing and in simulated braille in pdf format for printing.

In response to a number of braille readers who contacted BANA stating that they do not have access to a braille display, an embosser, or even a computer, BANA created a compilation document called The UEB Reader. Everything it contains is already available on the BANA website, This document is being distributed upon request in hardcopy braille only. To receive a braille copy of The UEB Reader, free of charge, contact Kim Charlson at with your name and address for mailing purposes. Requests for the UEB Reader can also be left on the UEB Information Line at 617-972-7248. Include your name, address, and phone number.

For the convenience of teachers who might like to download this compilation document rather than the separate documents it contains, a .pdf of The UEB Reader in simbraille has been added to the BANA web site, as well as a .brf in case you want to emboss braille copies as well. BANA cannot mail print copies of this resource. Please keep in mind that The UEB Reader is aimed at the interest and reading level of adults. It was not designed as a resource for children. The BANA website has an example document of the first chapter of The Wizard of Oz that is produced in UEB and can be downloaded as a braille ready file. That may be more appropriate for younger students. You can also find a UEB version of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech and Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, which may be more appropriate for older students.

BANA will continue to add example documents to the website, so please check back often. More information about UEB is available on the BANA website at

News & Opportunities

Keep Calm and Braille On!

The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, is selling T-shirts in either charcoal gray or teal blue with the words "Keep Calm & Braille On," (a phrase that is a take-off of the popular British poster "Keep calm and carry on" during World War II). The shirts are available for order only until December 1. For ordering information, visit

Research Study Participants Wanted

Doctoral candidate Ting Siu, at the joint doctoral program at Berkeley and San Francisco State, is doing a study related to the use of technology with students who are blind or visually impaired. The survey is comprised of questions based on four scenarios, and should take approximately 45 minutes to complete. Every participant who completes the survey will receive a $15 gift card to his or her choice of vendor (Starbucks, Target, or Amazon).

The survey is available online at this link: You may also request a paper copy of the survey by emailing with a mailing address, and she will send you a packet with the survey, payment card, and stamped envelopes for return. You may also choose this option if you know other TVIs who would prefer to complete a paper, rather than online, version of a survey. You may also request a paper copy by calling 415-857-3887. All survey responses will be anonymous, regardless of online, paper, or phone formats.

Best Practices Document

The CEEDAR Center has developed a series of Innovation Configuration documents that have collected research-based practices. The newest document, available for free download, is "Evidence-Based Practices for Students with Sensory Impairments" by Kay Alicyn Ferrell, Susan Bruce, and John L. Luckner. This resource, which includes best practices for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, visually impaired, or deafblind can be found at the following link:

New from National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind has announced the release of a new version of The McDuffy Reader: A Braille Primer for Adults by Sharon L. Monthei. This braille instructional manual has been used as a braille teaching tool in many rehabilitation settings and has now been revised for Unified English Braille (UEB). The Unified English Braille Edition of The McDuffy Reader: A Braille Primer for Adults is the first UEB instructional guide for beginning adult braille readers to be published in the United States. The book first presents uncontracted braille, then the braille contractions in logical groups. The book contains eighty-nine braille pages in one volume, which is comb-bound with plastic covers. The UEB edition of The McDuffy Reader is available for $20, plus shipping and handling. Contact the NFB Independence Market via email at or via phone at (410) 659-9314, extension 2216 for ordering information.

Dear DOT

Dear DOT,
I understand that Unified English Braille will be implemented in January 2016. How can I learn more about it before then?

Signed, Randall

Dear Randall,
I'm glad you're thinking ahead! There are any number of resources available now to learn Unified English Braille (UEB), and more on the horizon. Many of these resources can be found on the web site of the Braille Authority of North America, BANA.

For people who already know braille and wish to learn more about UEB, the document "Overview of Changes from Literary Braille" is a helpful start. For a more detailed comparison of current code and UEB, The ABCs of UEB by Constance Risjord presents nine "lessons" as well as activities and answer keys to practice what you've learned.

The BANA site also provides resources that were created in other English-speaking countries that have adopted UEB. One popular resource was developed in Canada by CNIB to help transcribers and others make the transition to braille through self-directed lessons with answer keys and cn be found at CNIB Update to UEB. The training manuals developed in New Zealand and in Australia can also be found on the BANA website and downloaded as pdf files. See for those resources.

Of course, others will need to learn UEB from the beginning, particularly if they are new to braille or need a refresher. The UEB Online course, developed by the Renwick Centre in Australia, was designed for them. Visit to sign up and get started!

There are many other resource sheets and example documents available on the BANA web site. I encourage everyone to go to and check out what's there!


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