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for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

DOTS for Braille Literacy (Development of Teacher Support) Volume 19, Number 3, Summer 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,
Have you found yourself getting into debates with colleagues and friends about the benefits—and downsides—of electronic texts? Every time I open a newspaper or magazine I read another article that proclaims that text on paper is dead and will be replaced by electronic information, along with angry responses from readers who claim that physical books and other paper media will never go away. Other articles I've read claim that the demise of physical books is grossly overstated and that the disadvantages of e-books will keep them from ever replacing paper.

I must confess, I truly love getting the daily newspaper and I even love getting that ink all over my hands. But when I travel, I appreciate being able to keep up with my paper electronically through their web site. I love reading magazines that I can stick in my backpack when I'm on the go, but have you seen the iPad version of National Geographic? It's truly amazing; its embedded videos and other enhancements have added wonderful content to an already excellent magazine. I love physical books and my personal library, but I have to admit that it's convenient to have a device on which I can load any number of lengthy books to read when I'm not at home.

My point is, why does it have to be either-or? Why can't we embrace both—the benefits of books on paper (e.g., they can be read in the tub and don’t need batteries) and the benefits of e-books (e.g., enhanced content and portability)? For braille readers, the profusion of electronic texts has made material more available than ever before. It's easier to procure, easier to emboss, and easier to read with refreshable braille displays. Paper braille will always have its place (try being a student and doing geometry on a one-line braille display). Aren't we lucky we have both?

Now, let's work on a truly affordable refreshable braille display . . . but that's a story for another time. In the meantime, keep on reading!

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

AFB News

E-Learning for You: AFB is pleased to announce that the webinar Teaching iPhone and iPad Basics to Seniors with Vision Loss is now available in the AFB eLearning Center. This 75-minute presentation by Rachel Buchanan, CVRT, is geared toward new and practicing vision professionals who work with seniors. More and more often, vision professionals are being asked to train consumers on their iPads and iPhones, and it is no longer just traditional technology students who are asking. Seniors are learning to use these devices and improving their quality of life in the process. This webinar takes a step by step look at how to introduce and teach an iDevice to a senior who is blind or visually impaired. The webinar has been approved by ACVREP for 1.25 hours of continuing education credit.

This is a pre-recorded webinar that will be available to you for a full year to access as often as you would like and when it is most convenient for you. There is no specific date and time you need to be available. Upon purchase you will be able to access the audio, transcript, and slides for the webinar. The webinar can be purchased for $49 from the AFB bookstore.

AFB Press News: Essential Elements in Early Intervention Visual Impairment and Multiple Disabilities, Second Edition is a complete sourcebook and guide for early interventionists, teachers of students with visual impairments, and other professionals who work with young children with visual impairments, dual sensory impairments, and multiple disabilities. It includes comprehensive information on vision and hearing examinations, functional vision and hearing assessments, and effective methods of providing early intervention services. The new edition includes expanded, updated information on federal special education legislation, best practices in early intervention, evidence-based outcomes, and the role of the early interventionist, as well as strategies for working with families and educational teams successfully. To order, visit this link to the AFB Bookstore: AFB Press.

Policy Updates: As reported in the last issue of DOTS, AFB's Policy Center is working hard to urge the U.S. Congress to ensure that Medicare will cover low vision devices. To that end, AFB has started a petition through that has already gathered thousands of signatures. More signatures are needed, however! If you haven't signed the petition, do so at If you have already supported this effort, please send this to your colleagues, friends, and families and encourage them to sign as well.

Professional Development Opportunity:

Free Online UEB Course

RIDBC Renwick Centre in Australia is delighted to announce the launch of its first online training course in Unified English Braille (UEB), entitled "UEB Online for Sighted Learners."

UEB Online consists of 30 lessons that are sub-divided into two modules. The course may be accessed using a Mac or PC computer and any web browser (e.g., Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome). The course is not available via a tablet (e.g., iPad). Lessons are completed with a standard computer keyboard using a number of keys to replicate the keys of a brailleWriter. Marking is fully automated so that learners receive immediate feedback as they progress through each lesson. There are a number of lesson support videos under “video resources” in the “resources” section of the course. The videos are also available via YouTube.

UEB Online is an ideal course for professionals, parents, and community members who wish to learn braille. It may be used by classroom teachers as a project for their students, or by specialist and mainstream educators and support staff who wish to obtain a qualification in braille. The next phase of the project will be the development of an accessible version of UEB Online for people with vision impairment, and a more “fun” version for children.

Visit to sign up and get started!

RIDBC Renwick Centre & the University of Newcastle

Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children?

361-365 North Rocks Road

North Rocks NSW 2151?AUSTRALIA


Happy 30th Anniversary, NBP Children's Book Club!

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Children's Braille Book Club at National Braille Press (NBP)! For three decades, NBP has been delivering braille books to children who are enrolled in this innovative program. Families can choose to simply pay $100 and receive a book automatically each month, or can sign up to receive monthly notices about the book of the month and decide to buy it at the same cost as the print version. In honor of this milestone, NBP is collecting video stories from families who wish to share their memories and thoughts about the Book Club. They ask participants to use their creativity but please keep the videos to two minutes or less. Videos can be uploaded from mobile devices by emailing it to Send Mail For more information about the Book Club itself, visit


Recent Actions: BANA Held Spring Meeting in Philadelphia

The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) held its 2014 spring meeting April 3-5 in Philadelphia, PA. Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, (ASB), a BANA member organization, hosted the meeting. All sessions were held at ASB.

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. The development of resources for training teachers, transcribers, consumers, and family members is a focus of BANA's efforts at this time.

BANA welcomed three new organizational representatives to their first meeting as members of the Board. Dawn Gross is the new representative from the Alternate Text Production Center of the California Community Colleges (ATPC). Peggy Schuetz now represents the California Transcribers and Educators of the Blind and Visually Impaired (CTEBVI). Kyle Key has recently been appointed as the representative from the Clovernook Center for the Blind. In addition to extensive deliberations involved in the 44-item meeting agenda, the actions of note included the following:

  • Revisited and revised organizational priorities in order to balance BANA's work during this time of focus on the transition to UEB.
  • Approved a recommendation from the Tactile Graphics Technical Committee that any braille volume containing one or more tactile graphics should contain a note on the Transcriber's Notes page stating: "The Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010 was used in the preparation of the tactile graphics."
  • Approved a document detailing specific factors and specifications that should be employed when producing braille signage. This new fact sheet will be posted on the BANA website.
  • Voted that, in light of the major revision underway to align the Braille Formats publication with UEB, BANA will not produce for sale hardcopy editions of Braille Formats 2011, which can be downloaded free of charge from the BANA website and printed or embossed. The Board also voted to add the recently posted errata in the HTML, PDF, and BRF files of Braille Formats 2011 that are posted on the BANA website. These decisions followed an extensive deliberation of the complex issues impacting BANA's current obligations and resources. NOTE: Braille Formats 2011 went into effect on January 1, 2013. Materials now being transcribed should follow these guidelines.

On Saturday morning, BANA hosted an Open Forum, which was well attended by individuals from the Philadelphia community. BANA Board members and forum participants enjoyed reading example documents transcribed in Unified English Braille and discussing the characteristics of the code. They also discussed the progress of the transition to UEB as well as ongoing plans for informing braille readers and preparing educators and transcribers about specific code changes.

For additional resource information, visit

You can follow the work of BANA by signing up for BANA-Announce, a one-way email list that disseminates news and information. To join this list, send a blank email message to Sign Up and follow the directions in the confirmation email that will be sent in response. You can also follow BANA on Facebook and Twitter!

News & Opportunities

Free Slates and Styluses!

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is giving away—free of charge—slates and styluses to any blind individual in the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Requests may be made as often as once per year.

The slate and stylus is the only braille-writing device that has the same portability, flexibility, and affordability as a pen and pencil. To request a free aluminum 4-line, 28 cell slate with the Whozit logo, and a round plastic bulb stylus, visit this online free slate and stylus application form now. NFB also offers a fillable PDF form that can be completed on computer and print, or simply downloaded to print and complete by hand and mailed to NFB. Completed applications should be mailed to: Free Slate Program, National Federation of the Blind, 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, Maryland, 21230.

Updated Ashcroft Text

For decades, many universities have used the Ashcroft's Programmed Instruction in Braille textbook to teach pre-service teachers how to read and write braille. The book has now been updated and renamed to reflect the changes in braille codes. The new book, Ashcroft's Programmed Instruction: Unified English Braille will be available this summer from SCALARS Publishing, ready for fall university courses. The 12 chapters of the book were designed for university students in teacher preparation programs to learn braille from the beginning—no previous knowledge of braille is required. In addition to the textbook, an instructor's manual is available to qualified instructors, and a "companion reader" in embossed braille for students to use as a supplement to their learning. The exact titles and ISBNs are:

  • Ashcroft's Programmed Instruction: Unified English Braille ISBN 978-0-9960353-0-9
  • Ashcroft's Programmed Instruction Instructor's Manual: Unified English Braille ISBN 978-0-9960353-1-6
  • Ashcroft's Programmed Instruction Companion Reader: Unified English Braille ISBN 978-0-9960353-2-3

For more information about these resources, contact SCALARS Publishing by calling 901-737-0001 or visiting their website:

Massachusetts UEB Training

The Northeast Regional Center for Vision Education (NERCVE), in collaboration with the Carroll Center for the Blind and Perkins, is pleased to present "Understanding and Implementing the New Unified English Braille Code" during their Summer Institute 2014 for Massachusetts special educators. Both summer and fall dates are listed and graduate credits are available. For more information, contact Sandy Smith at Send Mail or visit:


On May 22-24, 2014, the midterm meeting of the ICEB Executive was held at the Rose Park Hotel in Auckland, New Zealand. The meeting was proudly hosted by The Braille Authority of New Zealand Aotearoa Trust (BANZAT) with support from the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (Blind Foundation) and the Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ (BLENNZ). The meeting agenda covered a great deal of updates from the eight ICEB member countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Additional updates were given from the chairs of the Code Maintenance Committee, Music Braille Committee, and the Technology Committee. The next ICEB General Assembly will be held in 2016; the location and dates will be announced soon.

A Poem a Day

Every day starts out right when it starts with poetry! Get a new poem delivered to your email "inbox" every day by subscribing to Poem-a-Day from the Academy of American Poets. To subscribe, visit their web site:

Dear DOT

Dear DOT,

My students are so bored during the summer. What can I suggest they do over the summer to keep their minds and bodies active?

Signed, Lena

Dear Lena,

Funny you should ask! I was just reading the new position paper about the power of leisure reading. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in conjunction with the International Reading Association and the Canadian Children's Book Centre, has published a paper Leisure Reading, urging teachers and families to encourage reading for pleasure. Research indicates a number of benefits of reading for fun including increased comprehension and vocabulary, as well as boosting self-confidence. That in turn increases motivation to read and positive attitudes toward reading. In the long run, all this reading contributes to general knowledge and, interestingly enough, greater empathy and understanding of others.

The love of reading starts early. You may have read that the American Association of Pediatrics has released a policy statement encouraging parents to read to their newborns, and is promoting literacy from the moment a child is born. Reading to babies encourages language development and enjoyment of books that leads to later school success. Of course, it also helps build attachment between babies and their caretakers and social-emotional skills.

How can we encourage students to read? The Leisure Reading position statement suggests allowing children to choose their own books and to make available a wide variety of genres and materials. Children should also be part of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) so they have access to free books all summer long. Braille books are available from any number of sources nowadays (see the link to the Perkins Scout site below).

An important aspect of literacy success is background knowledge: the more we know, the more we bring to the reading process, and the more we want to learn. So while we're at it, let's encourage our students to build concepts and knowledge about the world by being active and involved with others. One way to do this is through sports and recreation activities they can do both in groups and independently. A terrific resource for teachers and parents is the book, Physical Education and Sports for People with Visual Impairments and Deafblindness by Lauren Lieberman, Paul Ponchillia, and Sue Ponchillia. The book includes excellent tips on adapting sports and games and provides helpful teaching methods. I found this to be a terrific book for encouraging active participation and lifelong fitness.

Active minds and active bodies! That's what we want for our students this summer and all year long.

Sincerely, DOT

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