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DOTS for Braille Literacy (Development of Teacher Support) Volume 19, Number 2, Spring 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

This has been a particularly cold and snowy winter here in Pittsburgh and, as much as I love the change of seasons, I'm already thinking ahead longingly to spring and rejuvenation. When I get weary and tired, reading bracing ideas always seems to revive me. Reading gives me a mental "pick-me-up" as I consider refreshing ideas that give me pause. I thought I'd share some things I've read lately that opened a mental window for me.

For example, here's one that had me thinking for days. This quote was taken from an article in Reading Today (September 2013 issue) regarding the importance of seeing teaching as a profession. As such, teachers are not simply "trained" but are prepared for the complex and nuanced task of applying their knowledge to individual children and situations. P. David Pearson summed up the difference by saying, "The distinction between training and preparation is substantive; it's not just a minor semantic distinction that makes us talk past one another—training is technical but preparation is principled" (p. 27).

Another book that gave me food for thought recently was Diane Ravitch's Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools. There are any number of stimulating quotes I could have chosen to share from this book. However, the one I read aloud to my husband over dinner was from the chapter on high stakes tests. Ravitch decries the current state of standardized testing and says:

"Anyone who truly cares about children must be repelled by the insistence on ranking them, rating them, and labeling them. Whatever the tests measure is not the sum and substance of any child. The tests do not measure character, spirit, heart, soul, potential. When overused and misused, when attached to high stakes, the tests stifle the very creativity and ingenuity that our society needs most" (p. 241).

Ravitch's proposed solutions to improving the educational policy in the United States are bold but also common sense. I'd be interested to hear what DOTS readers think of this book.

My final refreshing quote comes from a daily email I receive called A Word A Day. The AWAD list, compiled and sent by Anu Garg, shares interesting and often underused words along with their origins, and some representative quotes featuring those words. At the bottom of every message is a thoughtful quote. I've been receiving A Word A Day for at least a decade and I've enjoyed learning about words such as fustilugs, mumpsimus, sprezzatura, and hebdomad (look them up—they're wonderful words!), but I've also enjoyed the many quotes that Garg selects. This one is from Sydney J. Harris, journalist and author:

"Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows." Interested in words? Then you might enjoy AWAD, too! To subscribe, visit And what revitalizing words, quotes, and books have you been reading lately?

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

AFB News

eLearning for You: AFB's eLearning program offers professional development opportunities through online courses. New titles include "A Brief Overview of Unified English Braille," and "Creating Tactile Overlays for the iPad and Tablet Devices." Check out all the titles at Don't forget, you can read articles in the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness for continuing education credits, too!

AccessNote Update: The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has announced that its note-taking app for the iOS platform, AccessNote, has been updated to version 1.2. AccessNote is a notetaker for Apple's iOS operating system that has been designed to take advantage of the accessibility features of iOS. AccessNote has a clean, uncluttered interface and uses standard iOS elements so that VoiceOver users can quickly operate the app using Apple's VoiceOver screen reader. With AccessNote, AFB is striving to bring the efficiency of a conventional standalone notetaker to iOS. AccessNote retails for $19.99 and can be found here in the Apple App Store.

AccessNote version 1.2 includes many bug fixes and several enhancements. The Find function has been completely redesigned to be more streamlined and, by popular request, it is now possible to import .brf files without changing the extension. To learn about all the changes and enhancements in AccessNote version 1.2 visit the complete change log: AccessNote 1.2 Release Notes.

Policy Updates: On March 12, 2014, American Council of the Blind (ACB) and AFB hosted a free national teleseminar to learn about recent activities in the U.S. Congress to promote Medicare coverage of low vision devices. During the teleseminar, topics included pending legislation in Congress, the array of policy implications of a permanent change in the Medicare program, and how advocates can participate in the policy process.

Award Winners: Congratulations to Jane N. Erin, Ph.D., recipient of the esteemed 2014 Corinne Kirchner Research Award, honoring individuals whose leadership and dedication illuminate the most pressing needs of people with vision loss through timely, innovative and authoritative research. Dr. Erin is a professor at The University of Arizona, where she has coordinated the program in Visual Impairment since 1994. Among her many accomplishments, she served as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) from 1998 to 2001.

Congratulations also to recipients of the 2014 Access Awards, which honor individuals, corporations and organizations that eliminate or substantially reduce inequities faced by people with vision loss. The awards went to four organizations for their efforts to create products and services that are accessible to everyone: Fleksy, Image Searcher, Inc., Independence Science and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Migel Medal was established in 1937 by the late M.C. Migel, AFB's first chairman, to honor professionals and volunteers whose dedication and achievements improve the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. The AFB Migel Medal was presented to James Kesteloot and Oral Miller. James M. Kesteloot has had a distinguished career in the blindness field, serving for over 40 years with The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired and was the president and executive director from 1996 until his retirement in 2009. Oral Miller is well known for his work with the American Council of the Blind, where he served as president from 1978 to 1981, and as a member of the Board of Directors for many years. Miller is also a founding member of the American Blind Lawyers Association, serving as treasurer, director, and president at various times.

Professional Development Opportunity

For the fourth year, the Washington State School for the Blind will host a workshop on teaching computer science to students with visual impairments called the "Experience Programming in Quorum Workshop" (aka EPIQ Workshop). The workshop will be held on July 17-23, 2014.

As part of the workshop, participants will learn programming basics in a Java-based programming language called Quorum. The inventor of the language, Dr. Andy Stefik, will lead the workshop and teach you how to use Quorum to create dynamic websites with your students. The platform is 100% accessible to all students, including those with visual impairments and blindness.

The language and curriculum developed by Dr. Stefik and his colleagues are also being used in specialized schools for the blind, and in middle and high schools across the nation, because of the simplicity of the language. Interested teachers of students with visual impairment (TVIs) are encouraged to apply for this opportunity this summer in Vancouver, Washington. Registration, housing and most meals are free to TVIs. Financial assistance for travel will be provided as funds are available.

For more information about the workshop and the application please go to

Touch of Genius Deadline Extended

National Braille Press invites applications for an award that honors innovation in the field of tactile literacy. The Louis Braille Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation was developed to inspire an innovator to continue the promotion of braille literacy for blind and deafblind people worldwide. Winners could be awarded up to $20,000! The prize will be granted to an individual, group of individuals, or a company who has developed an innovative and accessible product in one of the following categories:

  • Professional software & apps
  • Educational software & apps
  • Gaming software or apps that promote tactile & braille learning
  • Braille or tactile-related hardware

Louis Braille was an innovator—and this award seeks to identify and inspire future innovation. Potentially, the award process will inspire new strategic directions for National Braille Press. The project must demonstrate some aspect of tactile literacy for blind people and promote Braille literacy or access to information. The Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation is provided through support from National Braille Press and The Gibney Family Foundation. Applications must be received by April 15, 2014. For more information and to download the application please visit the


Developers of Tactile Graphics Guidelines and Standards Honored with BANA's Braille Excellence Award

The international committee that developed the landmark publication Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010 was recently honored with the Braille Excellence Award from the Braille Authority of North America (BANA). CBA-BANA Joint Tactile Graphics Committee, which was co-sponsored by the Canadian Braille Authority (CBA) and BANA, received the award on December 5 in Providence, Rhode Island, in a showcase session at the 2013 Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference.

The volunteer members of this collaborative CBA-BANA ad hoc committee donated their time and talents for nearly a decade, meeting by phone almost weekly year-round. Together, they defined, refined, and established in writing a comprehensive, user-friendly set of research-based guidelines and standards for the design and production of tactile graphics for braille users.

The members of the CBA-BANA Joint Committee on Tactile Graphics honored with BANA's Braille Excellence Award are:

  • Lucia Hasty, Colorado, USA
  • John McConnell, New Brunswick, Canada
  • Janet Milbury, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Irene Miller, Alberta, Canada
  • Allison O'Day, Minnesota, USA
  • Aquinas Pather, Ontario, Canada
  • Diane Spence, Texas, USA

The publication of Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010, which includes a manual and an accompanying supplement that contains hardcopy examples, was approved by BANA in the fall of 2010. The manual is available free of charge on the BANA website at Hardcopy editions of the manual and the supplement can be purchased from the American Printing House for the Blind.

The BANA Braille Excellence Award was established in 2009 to commemorate the bicentenary of Louis Braille's birth by recognizing individuals and groups who have made significant contributions to braille. It was presented to Dr. Abraham Nemeth in 2009 and to Mr. Joseph Sullivan in 2011. The extraordinary commitment and contribution of the CBA-BANA Joint Tactile Graphics Committee will have an immeasurable impact for braille readers. Their work and dedication are truly representative of the accomplishments that BANA's Braille Excellence Award was designed to recognize.

News & Opportunities

Update to UEB Rulebook

The Rules of Unified English Braille, 2013 is the new edition of the UEB Rulebook, with a few additions and clarifications. The Preface to the 2013 edition contains a summary of what is new or changed. The following sections of the Rulebook are new:

  • Section 14: Code Switching
  • Section 15: Scansion, Stress and Tone
  • Section 16: Line Mode, Guide Dots

This edition includes two new appendices which are "Appendix 2: Word List," and "Appendix 3: Symbols List." Also new to this edition are UEB signs for the music accidentals (Section 3.18) and the Nemeth Code indicator (Section 14.6). The Rulebook is available for download, free of charge, from the website of the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) at, or from the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) at

Free Print-Braille Books!

The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) together with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library are offering free print-braille books to children who are under six years of age. Books are limited and available on a first-come, first served basis. For more information about this generous program, visit

Math Help

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has had an electronic list called "Blindmath" for many years. Now, the archive has been organized by topic so that useful and frequent questions and themes are easier to find. Search the Blindmath Gems site for topics such as geometry, graphing, Nemeth, statistics, and more. Visit

Recruitment of Student iPad Users and Their Teachers

The AnimalWatch Vi Suite research project at The University of Arizona has developed an iPad app and supporting materials to help students build their math problem solving skills while learning about endangered species such as the snow leopard and sea turtle. The team is recruiting 48 students in the U.S. who are blind or low vision to participate in the intervention study in 2014-2015. Schools will need to approve participation of teachers of students who are blind or visually impaired and their students. To qualify for the study, a student must:

  • Receive direct TVI service a minimum of 1 time per week
  • Be learning math content appropriate to grades 5-9 (fractions, proportions, converting distances, etc.)
  • Be able to see the information on the iPad screen using Zoom if needed (pinch zoom does not work in the app) OR
  • Be able to use VoiceOver to access content on the iPad. The student must be proficient either with gestures, a Bluetooth keyboard and/or a refreshable braille display.
  • Have familiarity with educational apps and have skills to navigate between screens, enter information, etc.

To participate, students must be "iPad literate" and have strong familiarity with this tool. Teachers will receive a small stipend and students a gift card. For more information, please contact Project Director, L. Penny Rosenblum at or at 520-621-1223 or visit

Dear DOT

Dear DOT,

I understand that the date for implementation for Unified English Braille is January 4, 2016. How can I start learning more about it?

Signed, Josie

Dear Josie,

I'm glad you are thinking ahead. The Fall 2012 issue of DOTS included a brief overview of some of the changes, but there are a number of new resources to help you get more familiar with Unified English Braille (UEB).

The website of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) should always be your first stop. If you haven't visited lately, you'll find a web redesign and a number of new resources. One helpful resource is called "Overview of Changes from Current Literary Braille to UEB." This short document summarizes changes from current code to UEB and presents examples. Very soon, a new document will be added to the site called "The ABCs of UEB," written by Constance Risjord. This resource, just approved by the BANA Board, provides a comparison of English Braille American Edition and UEB, as well as practice exercises and an answer key so readers can apply their skills in reading UEB.

For more in-depth information, there are links on the BANA site to the CNIB transcriber course. This self-directed course contains 11 topics with practice exercises and an answer key. The newly revised Unified English Braille Primer: Australian Edition is also on the BANA website, as well as the New Zealand Manual, both of which include short lessons, practice exercises, and answer keys. These courses and manuals are an excellent place to start becoming more familiar with UEB.

Don't forget to look at the growing number of example documents available in UEB in both brf format and pdf (as simbraille). BANA plans to continue adding more example documents for people to download and read, share with their students, emboss, or read with a braille display. A number of additional resources are currently in the works right now—I know of instruction manuals, training materials, online courses, and other helpful aids that are being developed and should be available soon. Keep checking back on the BANA website for new developments!

Sincerely, DOT

Mark Your Calendars

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