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for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

DOTS for Braille Literacy (Development of Teacher Support), Volume 14, Number 3, Summer 2009

In this issue...

Keep in Touch with News

Since DOTS is published only a few times each year, the announcement of some workshops and events of interest to teachers of students who are blind or visually impaired slips through the cracks. AFB eNews and the Professional Development Department's newsletter, Connections—both of which you can receive for free by registering at—as well as the AFB Calendar of Events usually have the latest information on activities. Also, AFB and the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) host a web site where local and national events of interest to families are posted:

Please make a habit of checking the AFB web site and other web sites and links identified in this newsletter. Perhaps subscribe to an electronic discussion list such as AERnet to keep up with news related to teaching and promoting braille literacy. Connect to and follow the link to subscribe to the AER electronic discussion list; you can choose to receive it either as individual e-mail messages or as a digest that includes several messages at one time.

From the Editor

"What if ...?"

Two little words—what if—can open the doors to all sorts of wonders?

What if Louis Braille never had the childhood accident that led to his blindness? What if he was not a genius who was eager to read and learn?

What if there were competing theories on the best way to improve the braille code and no organization to consider how seemingly minor changes would impact braille readers and producers?

What if technology moved full-speed ahead with no effort to make equipment, software, or web sites accessible to all potential users?

You can ponder those questions, and although some might call it worrying, we can actually use it as a way to see how far we've come. A young Louis Braille did, in fact, introduce a system of raised dots for reading and writing in the early part of the 1800s, and this year we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth. Competition to develop the best embossed type resulted in revisions and improvements to the braille code, and thanks to organizations such as the Braille Authority of North America we have a standardized system. Braille readers have always been a strong voice for equal access to information, often working with innovators to ensure accessibility of new technology.

If we look at "what if" only in terms of the past, it can help us appreciate the present, but the fun comes when we project the question onto the future.

What if...textbook publishers employ braille transcribers to help ensure their products have the added value of accessibility when they are released rather than needing to be adapted at a later time?

What if...web site designers and social networking developers learn that accessibility is a universal standard for doing business?

What if...parents, students, educators, and administrators do everything possible to build a partnership which results in a strong foundation for lifelong literacy skills?

What if? Two little words that help us appreciate the past and present or dream about the future we want to see. Enjoy your own "what ifs?"

—Marie J. Amerson, Editor

Louis Braille Bicentennial Celebrations Continue

Agencies and organizations around the world continue to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille's birth.

AFB Press and the editor of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) invited Susan Jay Spungin, retired vice president for International Programs and Special Projects at AFB, to serve as the guest editor of the JVIB Louis Braille bicentennial celebration. Each 2009 JVIB issue will feature special essays written by notable members of the field of visual impairment and blindness in the United States and abroad. The articles will be available at the JVIB Year in Braille link on AFB's web site. Celebration essayists have included Spungin, Sheila Amato, M. Cay Holbrook, and Marc Maurer.

The AFB Louis Braille Bicentennial Celebration page also provides links to the Louis Braille Museum, an illustrated exhibit; The Reading Fingers, full text of Jean Robin's 1952 biography of Louis Braille; The War of the Dots, a document recounting the struggle to develop a uniform system of braille in the United States; The Braille Bug, AFB's award-winning site that introduces children to the magic of braille; Helen Keller's essay on Louis Braille; and more. Related announcements and events link the reader to information on the 2009 Louis Braille Commemorative Coin, National Braille Press Louis Braille Tour, and Canada Celebrates: The Bicentenary of the Birth of Louis Braille.

Enabling Technologies offers an essay on "How Braille Began" on its web site. The document provides a history of Louis Braille and information on the evolution of the braille code to its current form.

The New York Institute for Special Education's site on the history of braille includes photographs from their Braillewriter Archives.

National Braille Press has produced a 20-panel traveling display, in print and braille, that takes a viewer through the highlights of Louis Braille's life, the braille production process, and why braille remains important today. Ten of the panels are available for viewing on the NBP web site, and a text-only link provides the text featured in each panel. To see a schedule of the Louis Braille Bicentennial Traveling Exhibit, visit

News Briefs

News from BANA

The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) promotes and facilitates the use, teaching, and production of braille. Their mission and purpose are to assure literacy for tactile readers through the standardization of braille and/or tactile graphics. BANA operates through a number of technical committees (such as Computer Braille Code, Nemeth Code, Literary Braille Code, etc.) and committees designed to help with specific operational goals of the organization (Outreach, Research, Publications, etc.). Technical committees review codes for necessary changes, and make recommendations to the board for those changes to be adopted as BANA Code.

One BANA project nearing completion is the Tactile Graphics Committee's publication on Guidelines for Tactile Graphics. Currently, BANA's Research Committee is piloting a survey to be used for review and feedback on the document. Once the feedback is received, a revised document will be released to the publications committee for consideration.

A new edition of the Braille Formats Guidelines is well under way. The Formats and Literary Technical Committees are working to assure the guidelines will mesh with recent changes in the Literary Braille Code.

In honor of the 200th birthday of Louis Braille, BANA created the Braille Excellence Award to be given to people or organizations that have developed or contributed to a code, developed materials or software that support codes, and/or represent the highest standards of braille production. The first Braille Excellence Award was presented at the Spring 2009 BANA Board meeting in San Francisco, California. The recipient was Abraham Nemeth, developer of the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation which was adopted in the United States in 1952. The BANA press release noted "Abraham Nemeth's contributions have made math and science accessible for blind people around the world."

BANA is making plans to evaluate the recently completed Nemeth Uniform Braille System (NUBS). According to Dr. Abraham Nemeth, NUBS is an updated version of the Nemeth code and is capable of rendering both literary and technical texts. BANA wants to understand the impact of any change to the Nemeth code and verify that benefits of making the change will outweigh drawbacks. The timeline and other details of the evaluation process are still being determined, but to view the NUBS code or read documents explaining it, visit

The Fall 2009 meeting of BANA will be held September 24-27, 2009 in Pittsburgh, PA. Observers are welcome and BANA offers an Open Forum as well. Contact Judy Dixon, BANA Chair, at for information on BANA, or visit their web site at

Braille is NOT a Language

"Braille is NOT a Language" is the title of a position statement adopted by BANA at their November 2008 meeting. The paper clarifies BANA's position that braille is a systematic code used to portray print symbols, and in fact can be used to convey any language. To read this document, visit the BANA web site link to position papers at

New Reduced Subscription Rate to Leading International Journal on Blindness and Low Vision

The Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB), the premier journal of record on blindness and visual impairment from AFB Press, is now available at a new $25 individual subscription fee for online access and $65 for a combined print and online subscription.

JVIB is the foremost outlet for research in the visual impairment field and provides both applied practice and comprehensive news coverage essential to practitioners in low vision, special education, and related areas. The journal serves an international community in a wide range of professions including teachers of students with visual impairments, low vision therapists, orientation and mobility specialists, rehabilitation specialists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, social workers, assistive living specialists, and more.

An annual subscription also provides access to more than 10 years of archived JVIB articles via AFB's fully accessible, fully searchable web site.

To subscribe to JVIB, please visit

Social Networking and Accessibility

Carl Augusto, President and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind, recently posted a message on Facebook about "Making Facebook Accessible for Everyone." Augusto stated, "When a web site is built without regard to accessible design, screen reading software cannot interpret the information, which prevents the blind person from accessing the site." About two years ago, AFB approached Facebook in order to collaborate on addressing accessibility, and Augusto noted that Facebook has been responsive and committed to finding solutions. For instance, an accessibility-specific help center page is available on Facebook. The page offers instructional tips on using assistive technology with Facebook and provides an opportunity for feedback from the disability community.

In February 2009, AccessWorld Extra asked readers about their use of social networking and social bookmarking sites. A link to the survey was posted on the AccessWorld home page, and a total of 62 people responded. They reported on the sites they used, why they did or didn't use social networking or social bookmarking sites, and commented on accessibility of sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and others. Jay Leventhal, Editor-in-Chief of AccessWorld, compiled the results, and they are available in the May 2009 issue of AccessWorld.

Seedlings: The Rose Project

Seedlings Braille Books for Children is an organization dedicated to increasing the opportunity for literacy by providing high quality, low cost braille books for children. In 1994, Seedlings added The Rose Project, which provides encyclopedia articles in braille for students' projects and reports. It is a valuable resource for students eager to work independently. Generous donations from Seedlings supporters make it possible to provide the service free to visually impaired students in grades 1-12. To order an article from The Rose Project, visit the Special Projects page on the Seedlings web site.

The National Resource Center for Blind Musicians

A division of the Music and Arts Center for Humanity in Bridgeport, Connecticut, The National Resource Center for Blind Musicians is well known for its Summer Institute for Blind College-Bound Musicians. The residential program provides individualized help to students who are studying music at the college level. The Resource Center answers questions related to braille music and special technology, and plans to offer distance learning opportunities in the future.

The goal of the Resource Center web site is to acquaint students and the teachers who help them with the many sources of materials and strategies that give people with visual impairments equal opportunities for learning music. The site offers direct links to music-related services of other organizations, facts about braille music and technology, a collection of articles, tips and strategies, and much more. Visit their web site at

Calendar Dates of Interest

  • July 3-8, 2009. Detroit, Michigan. National Federation of the Blind National Convention. Check for details.
  • July 3-11, 2009. Orlando, Florida. American Council of the Blind Convention. Visit for details.
  • July 17-19, 2009. Costa Mesa, California. Families Connecting with Families International Conference. Visit for updates and information.
  • July 28-30, 2009. Colorado Springs, Colorado. United States Association of Blind Athletes Sports Festival. Find information about the organization and their festival at
  • October 15-17, 2009. Louisville, Kentucky. APH Annual Meeting. Contact the American Printing House for the Blind at 800-223-1839 or e-mail for information.
  • October 28, 2009. Chicago, Illinois. Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA 2009). Contact the Assistive Technology Industry Association at 877-687-2842 or visit their web site at
  • November 12-15, 2009. Costa Mesa, California. Getting In Touch With Literacy Conference. Visit for information on this international literacy event.

DOTS (Development of Teacher Support) for Braille Literacy is published three times a year (October, February, and June), and is available online at: or in braille, by request. For further information please contact:

DOTS Editor
American Foundation for the Blind
100 Peachtree Street, Suite 620
Atlanta, GA 30303
Telephone: 404-525-2303
Fax: 404-659-6957

If you would like routinely to receive an e-mail alerting you to the posting of future issues of the DOTS newsletter, please send a message to Shirley Landrum ( as follows: In the subject line, please write "DOTS notification," and in the body of the message please include your entire name and any changes to your contact information that may have occurred over the last 12 months. You will be signed up to receive notices automatically. If you choose not to receive an e-mail notice, you will still be able to access current and archived issues of DOTS online at; and if you are a braille format subscriber, you will continue to receive your DOTS newsletter in braille.

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