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DOTS for Braille Literacy (Development of Teacher Support) Volume 18, Number 3, Summer 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

Summertime is when many teachers recharge their batteries . . . and catch up on their reading. For a number of years, I have used the summer issue of DOTS as a way to pass along the names of some recent books that might be of interest to you all.

Far From the Tree: Parent, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon, is a book that affected me greatly this year. In this well-researched nonfiction book, Solomon synthesizes interviews he conducted with over 300 families to address the complex issues that surround families who have exceptional children. While there is not a chapter specifically about blindness, there are chapters devoted to autism, deafness, severe disabilities, mental illness, and other "differences." Solomon writes with compassion and understanding, seeking themes and commonalities of experience while clearly explaining challenges and decisions that families make about the children they love. I could not put this book down and many of the stories have stayed with me. At almost a thousand pages, this is not a casual book but I found it deeply affecting and rewarding. To learn more about the book and read additional comments from families, Solomon has set up a website:

If you're looking for a teacher-friendly book for professional development, I enjoyed reading the new edition of an old favorite: Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan and published by The Guilford Press. This second edition is now almost twice as long (over 200 pages) and reflects new research and developments in teaching vocabulary to children, but it remains practical, inventive, and filled with enjoyable activities. One of the findings of the Alphabetic Braille, Contracted Braille (ABC Braille) study that was conducted in the last decade was that our students who are braille readers were behind their same aged peers in vocabulary development. While this book was designed for general education teachers, most of the strategies described here work well with children with visual impairments.

The last book I'll mention is the memoir Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie. Rushdie was in hiding and protected by special forces in England for almost a decade; a death sentence had been placed on him by the Ayatolla Khomeni because one of Rushdie's books of fiction was deemed offensive. Interestingly, the book is written in third person as if by "Joseph Anton," his assumed name during this time period.

While Rushdie does not always describe himself flatteringly, what I liked about this book was his devotion to the power of literature and the importance of free speech. About literature, Rushdie said: "Man was the storytelling animal, the only creature on earth that told itself stories to understand what kind of a creature it really was." Those of us who lose ourselves frequently in books can understand this need for stories as a way to understand the world. About the use of threats to silence dissent and open discussion of ideas, Rushdie said, "... free speech isn't absolute. We have the freedoms we fight for and we lose those we don't defend." What have YOU been reading lately?

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

The Braille Bug® Comes to Your Classroom!

The popular ladybug who presides over AFB's Braille Bug website ( is now available on a poster for classroom use! This large and colorful teaching tool displays the braille alphabet along with the Braille Bug® herself, together with photos of children reading and using braille technology. The Braille Bug® Alphabet Poster is sure to help your students with visual impairments—and you—intrigue the entire class and highlight the importance of braille.

Braille Bug Alphabet Poster, available from the AFB Press bookstore

The poster is 36" x 24" (ships folded) and is available for purchase from AFB Press for $14.95. For ordering information, visit or call toll free 1-800-232-3044.

World Braille Usage, 3rd Edition Available

Twenty years after its last publication, the new edition of the long-awaited reference World Braille Usage is now available.

This edition of World Braille Usage includes 133 languages that have been transcribed into 137 different braille alphabet and punctuation codes, representing 142 countries. Developed with support from Perkins, the International Council on English Braille (ICEB), and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), this important resource illustrates an updated perspective on braille use around the world. The book is available as a free download from; print copies can be obtained for free from NLS.

Please note the following from the Perkins website: "This searchable online version of World Braille Usage 3rd Edition has been developed for an international audience including braille transcribers, educators, researchers, developers, and other audiences interested in identifying specific character sets for braille symbols in various languages. Because of the highly graphical nature of the publication, which lists alphabets in over 133 languages, the graphical symbols for the characters are not readily accessible to assistive technology users. Perkins is working to identify funding to produce an electronic braille (.brf file) for this publication that will further enhance its usability within the braille-reading community. It is hoped that this version will be available by the end of 2013."

New From NBP: Book on iPad® Accessibility

School districts across the country are purchasing and providing Apple iPads® to students across grade levels, and integrating their use into classroom curriculum. How can we ensure that students who are blind have equal access to all the iPad features and can use them successfully? iOS Success: Making the iPad Accessible, A Guide for Parents and Teachers is a helpful new resource from National Braille Press.

iOS Success, written by Larry Lewis, a blind user and iPad instructor, gives step-by-step instructions for every pertinent accessibility feature the iPad has to offer. The book assumes the reader has never used an iPad and provides thorough explanation for people new to the Apple operating system (the "iOS" referred to in the title).

Tips include getting acquainted with VoiceOver and Zoom, setting accessibility options, pairing external devices such as keyboard and refreshable braille displays, setting up Apple accounts to buy apps, use iBooks, the Cloud and Dropbox, and much, much more. The last chapter includes tips from blind students who use their iPads daily and one very committed parent who is mastering iOS technology alongside his blind sons. Although it is geared to parents and teachers, there is plenty of useful advice for blind users as well.

The large print edition is $28; it's also available in braille, eBraille, DAISY, ASCII, mp3, or Word for $20. Order online from National Braille Press at, or call toll-free 800-548-7323.


The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) held its 2013 spring meeting April 11-13 in Washington, D.C., hosted by the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), a BANA member organization. During its three-day meeting, the BANA Board reviewed and acted on semiannual reports from its eighteen committees, considered committee recommendations, and deliberated issues and challenges facing braille users and producers. The UEB Task Force reported on the development of a plan for the transition to UEB in the United States as well as the collaborative steps that have been taken to initiate dialogue and planning among the various braille communities that will be impacted.

Actions taken at the Board Meeting included the following:

  • The review and approval of a major revision of the organization's entire set of bylaws and policies as recommended after intense study by the BANA Bylaws Committee.
  • Approval of the applications for two new member organizations: the Council of Schools and Services for the Blind (COSB) and the Hadley School for the Blind. BANA welcomes both of these organizations and looks forward to working with them.
  • Approval of a recommendation from BANA's Braille Mathematics Technical Committee that the following be added to the Nemeth Code:
    "Rule XIV, §86c. When the expression being modified is a single digit or a letter, lower-case or capitalized, from any alphabet, and in any type form, and when the modifier is the horizontal bar directly under such a single digit or letter, the digit or letter, followed by the directly under symbol and the bar, serves to express the modification. This construction should be regarded as a contracted form of expression and must be used whenever applicable. If the modification includes a superscript, subscript, or prime, the five-step rule of a above must be followed. The five-step rule may be used in conjunction with the contracted form without fear of confusion."

On Saturday morning, BANA hosted an Open Forum at the Arlington Public Library, Arlington, VA. The forum was well attended by DC area braille readers, students, and teachers. Participants also traveled from West Virginia and Maryland to attend. BANA Board members and forum participants engaged in a dynamic dialogue that centered on the characteristics of UEB and the coming transition. The tone of the forum was extremely upbeat with numerous questions and comments about the importance and future of braille; the well-spoken students added their individual and open-minded perspectives.

For additional resource information, visit

News & Opportunities

US Department of Education Issues "Dear Colleague" Letter

On June 19, 2013, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services released a "Dear Colleague" letter, reiterating the importance of braille instruction. The 6-page letter is available online as a pdf at and as a Word file from

Solo Brand Sunglasses Gives Back

SOLO, a company that makes eyewear and sunglasses, will donate a portion of its proceeds to provide glasses and cataract surgery in developing countries through their "Vision to Give" program. For more information, visit

Global Network for Youth with Disabilities

INDY (International Network for Disabled Youth) is an internet-based global network for young people with a disability, aged 16-30, to network, skill share, and knowledge share, created through an Oxfam International Youth Programme (OIYP) project. The aim of the project is to set up an internet-based forum/network where young people with disabilities can share and discuss the issues affecting them and their experiences of being disabled in their respective countries.


Braille Music Summer Course for Teachers

The Filomen M. D'Agostino Greenburg Music School at Lighthouse International offers a special summer offering to teachers nationwide who are interested in learning more about braille music. The workshop will cover the principles of braille music code, and provide hands-on training of music notation and braille music translator software. The workshop will be held at the Filomen M. D'Agostino Greenberg Music School at Lighthouse International in New York City on July 12 - 14, 2013. To register, call (212) 821-9660, e-mail or visit

New Edition of Australian UEB Training Resource

The Unified English Braille Australian Training Manual is a series of lessons and practice exercises by which teachers, transcribers, and parents can learn UEB. A new edition of this free resource is now available and can be downloaded from The direct URL to the Manual is:

Sea Divers Tactile Game

KeySense Games has just created their first tactile, "feel-fun" educational board game, designed specifically for students with visual impairments. Sea Divers board game has tactile features, raised edges, a non-slip backing, and includes braille on the board to guide play. Explore the wonders of the ocean, and collect tokens as you move around the board learning about different sea creatures; be wary of the creatures that may take your tokens! Sea Divers is available for $40, and is available from KeySense at For more information, contact:

NLS Braille Summit Video Archives

For those who were not able to attend the Braille Summit, hosted by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and held at Perkins, videos of the keynote speech and panel presentations are available on the Perkins website. To view them, visit:

Storybud Online Story Site

DOTS received the following email:

Greetings from Ireland! I am a visually impaired father of 2 young children and have designed a story site for people in similar situations. The site is accessible to visually impaired persons using speech software and has stories from around the world in text, audio, and combined text and audio formats. However, of course, it can be used by sighted users, too, and content is "blocked" to assist those with reading difficulties. Please tell your members about Storybud. We look forward to hearing from you.

Paul Halligan

Dear DOT

Dear DOT,
How can I encourage my third-grade student to read braille over the summer? She loves stories but tends to want to only use audiobooks. When she got back to school last fall, her reading speed was much slower than it had been the previous spring.
Signed, Audrey

Dear Audrey,
You bring up an interesting issue I hear from many teachers. It's great that kids are listening to books—being read to is an enjoyable pastime. But it's also important for developing readers to get their fingers on the dots! We know that amount of reading practice is related to reading achievement. The more children read, the more they recognize words, which leads to better fluency, stronger vocabulary, and greater comprehension. Reading the words in braille also reinforces spelling skills and attention to punctuation marks and features of text such as paragraphs, headings, and italicized words that bring additional meaning to what is being read. So how can we get hands on the braille? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Provide lots of material at the child's independent reading level. These are books that will provide a high level of reading success for students because they know almost all the words in the book (between 95-99% accuracy) and can comprehend them easily. Books at this level are more enjoyable for children because they are not struggling over many unfamiliar words.
  • Introduce students to books from a wide variety of genres. There are so many excellent children's books available in braille now. Perhaps your student likes traditional stories, such as fables, folk tales, and legends. Maybe the student likes historical fiction, or stories about animals, mysteries, or fantasy books. Or perhaps your student prefers nonfiction and informational books. Stock up on biographies, "how-to" books, cookbooks, sports information, and books about science. Books of shorter pieces such as jokes, riddles, poetry, and short stories might be of interest. You can find suggestions for books available in braille on the Braille Bug website,
  • Make sure the student has an account with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). Your student can receive books in braille directly to the home. Braille magazines for children are also available, including such popular periodicals as Boys' Life, Stone Soup, Muse, and Spider. Visit the Kids Zone area of the NLS website.
  • Braille books are also available for purchase from a variety of sources. Many of these books are affordable due to generous donations to the publishers; some are available for free to families. Visit the websites of Seedlings, National Braille Press, Braille Institute, NFB's American Action Fund Jernigan Library, and the Braille Superstore.

Above all, share your enthusiasm for reading with your student. Talk about the books you are reading, books you want to read this summer, and the books you've loved. You'll find this kind of excitement catches on! Happy reading!

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