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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 2, Winter 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 may slip through the cracks. AFB eNews and the Professional Development Department's newsletter, Connections—both of which you can register to receive for free at www.afb.org/myafbnewsletter2.asp—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 called FamilyConnect™, where local and national events of interest to families are posted: www.familyconnect.org.

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 www.aerbvi.org 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

"Day by day nothing seems to change, but pretty soon everything's different."
—Calvin & Hobbes

Celebration! January 4, 2009 marked the 200th anniversary of the day Louis Braille was born. The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), National Braille Press (NBP), National Federation of the Blind (NFB) chapters, Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), and many other organizations and agencies celebrated the bicentennial that is so important to individuals who use tactile systems to read. As a matter of fact, National Braille Press produced a 20-panel traveling display that takes the viewer through highlights of Louis Braille's life, the braille production process, and why braille remains important today. Similarly, AFB offers online the Louis Braille Museum, an all-new illustrated exhibit tracing the history of braille and the life of this remarkable inventor, and The Reading Fingers, the full text of Jean Roblin's classic 1952 biography of Louis Braille.

Before the bicentennial year is through, more and more people should know the impact Louis Braille had on the lives of people who are blind and how his work opened doors to literacy. The celebration might also prompt us to learn more about others who have helped improve access to literacy. Consider the American Printing House for the Blind's Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field, where you can learn about people like Samuel Ashcroft, William Hadley, Samuel Gridley Howe, Kenneth Jernigan, Anne Sullivan Macy, Sally Mangold, Abraham Nemeth, Josephine Taylor, and many, many others.

It might be interesting to review a timeline of assistive technology events such as product releases and updates, the founding of companies, and publication of books and magazines important to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Finding such a chronicle on the AFB web site reminded me that less than 50 years ago, in 1970, a portable electronic print-reading device—the Optacon—and closed circuit television (CCTV) were just being developed; IBM introduced a personal computer in 1981, four years after Apple II computers became the first pre-assembled computers available for personal use; the AFB National Technology Center was established in 1986; and NLS launched Web-Braille, a system for distributing books via the internet in 1999.

We have much to celebrate in our field—and much to look forward to. Imagine how Louis Braille would celebrate the state of literacy today!

—Marie J. Amerson, Editor

News Briefs

A Brief History of Tactile Writing Systems for Readers with Blindness and Visual Impairments

Sometimes it is interesting to look back at the recent and not-so-recent past in order to see how we are doing today or to see just how much things have changed over the years. In the Spring 2006 issue of See/Hear, a newsletter from the Outreach Department of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, an article by Holly L. Cooper, Ph.D., describes and illustrates a variety of tactile writing systems used with individuals who are blind. A Brief History of Tactile Writing Systems for Readers with Blindness and Visual Impairments discusses New York Point, Boston Line Type, American Modified Braille, Moon Type, Fishburne, and standard braille. You can view the article at www.tsbvi.edu/Outreach/seehear/spring06/history.htm.

Getting In Touch With Literacy Conference Call for Proposals

Planners for the international Getting In Touch With Literacy (GITWL) are looking for workshops in several categories for the conference to be held November 12-15, 2009, in Orange County, California. The deadline for the Call for Proposals has been extended to March 16, 2009.

GITWL features sessions, vendors and activities related to meeting all forms of literacy needs for all people with visual impairments. The planners are seeking proposals that are research-based, interactive, and offer practical solutions and usable information. They want to know "what you are doing to expand literacy opportunities for your students or clients."

To submit a proposal or view the presenter guidelines and requirements visit www.gettingintouchwithliteracy.com/callforpapers.htm.

AFB Press Announces New Book on Assistive Technology

Assistive technology is essential in today's world to enable people who are blind or visually impaired to participate fully in school, work, and life. But how can you keep track of all the devices and software and each one's function? And what assistive technology tools are right for your students? If you've asked yourself these questions or others like them, Ike Presley, M.Ed and Frances Mary D'Andrea, M.Ed. have written the resource you need.

Assistive Technology For Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: A Guide to Assessment is a comprehensive handbook in which you will find a wealth of technical information translated into clear, user-friendly terms. The book includes:

  • An overview of the full range of assistive technology that students can use to manage information in print or electronic formats—whether they use vision, touch or hearing to access information.
  • How to select appropriate tools and strategies.
  • A structured process for conducting a technology assessment.
  • A detailed assessment form that can be used to determine students' technology needs and solutions to address them.
  • Advice on writing up program recommendations based on assessment results.
  • Tips and insights on working with technology effectively.
  • A summary of laws and regulations relating to assistive technology.
  • A resource section of assistive technology producers.
  • Readings about technology instruction.
  • Reproducible, blank assessment forms.

This book is essential for teachers of students with visual impairments, members of the IEP team, administrators, technology professionals, and anyone who needs to keep up with the ever-changing world of technology.

Visit the AFB Bookstore to find Assistive Technology For Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: A Guide to Assessment.

AFB Assistive Technology Workshop

The American Foundation for the Blind will sponsor a two-and-a-half day training on conducting assistive technology assessment for students who are blind or visually impaired. Participants will learn techniques to determine the technology needs of students for accessing printed information, accessing electronic information, producing written communication, and producing materials in alternate formats. Dates for the workshop presented by Ike Presley are April 23-25, 2009.

Space for the workshop is limited and applications must be received by March 12, 2009. Contact Shirley Landrum at slandrum@afb.net or Ike Presley at presley@afb.net or call 404-525-2303 to request an application or if you have questions.

National Braille Press 2008 Hands On! Award

National Braille Press (NBP) was proud to honor Sabriye Tenberken with the 2008 Hands On! Award at their annual Hands On! Books for Blind Children gala. A native of Cologne, Germany, Sabriye became blind at the age of twelve. She studied Central Asian Sciences at Bonn University where she learned Mongolian, modern Chinese, modern and classical Tibetan, sociology, and philosophy. In order to continue her coursework, Sabriye had to adapt her class materials which eventually led her to develop the Tibetan braille code. In 1998, Sabriye and her partner, Paul Kronenberg, founded Braille Without Borders, a non-profit organization dedicated to literacy and vocational skills training and motivation for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

The NBP announcement of the 2008 Hands On! Award noted that those at NBP were not the only ones to notice the great impact on braille literacy that Sabriye has had, and they congratulated her for recent recognition by a periodical owned by China's State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs. A video clip of the Braille Without Borders founder receiving her award can be found at www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/support/sabriyeclip.html.

Braille Bug Site at AFB Updated

The Braille Bug, a ladybug with the six dots of a braille cell on her back, welcomes children to the AFB web site designed to teach children in grades 3 through 6 about braille. As they explore the site, children will learn about the efficiency and versatility of braille; learn why and how Louis Braille invented the literary braille code; learn to recognize braille letters and numbers; and find different resources where they can learn more about braille, blindness, and related topics. The web site also offers a submenu for "Parents and Teachers."

The Braille Bug Reading Club staff selected titles for the 2008-2009 school year that highlight stories of people who face challenges because they are different than the majority of their families and friends. Two different books are featured every few months, one for children who are reading at the 2nd to 3rd grade level, and one for older students reading at the 4th to 6th grade level. The books were selected because they are easily obtainable in both print (preferably in paperback) and in braille (or via Web-braille, through the Library of Congress); they were considered "high quality" as recognized by an award or citation (such as a Newbery winner, American Library Association Notable book, or International Reading Association Children's Choice); and the books commonly appear on state adoption lists for literature.

Children read the featured book and can post their reactions and questions about the book to other students on the Braille Bug Reading Club message board. The goal is for the students to go beyond a simple reporting of the plot or emotional reaction (e.g., "I liked it" or "I hated it"), and to make personal connections and reflections, inferences, interpretations, and evaluations of the book. Strategies are provided for the teacher and/or parents to help children get the most from the Reading Club selections.

The article Braille: Deciphering the Code has been updated to include an explanation and some examples of contracted, or grade 2, braille. In addition, the Braille Bug has added three new articles under What is Braille? about foreign language braille, music braille, and the Nemeth code used for mathematics notation.

Braille Technology Information

Information about specialized equipment that people who read braille can use to access information on a computer screen or provide hardcopy information from computer devices is sometimes hard to explain to colleagues in the regular classroom or to administrators. The braille technology page on the AFB web site takes readers to brief descriptions of braille displays, braille printers, electronic braille notetakers (accessible PDAs), and more. One feature that may be especially useful is the link to a short video on braille transcribing software and braille embossers.

"Braille Camera"

In late 2008, Time magazine catalogued its selection of the best inventions of the year, and coming in at number 50 was the Touch Sight camera. The device makes it possible for individuals who are visually impaired to record a digital photograph of their surroundings using senses other than vision.

Designed by Chueh Lee from Samsung China, the camera uses a braille-like screen to make a raised image of whatever the lens sees. It records sound for three seconds after pressing the shutter so the user can then use the sound as a reference when reviewing and managing the photos. The camera has a lightweight, flexible braille display sheet and the image can be saved on the camera or uploaded to share with others. You can learn more about the Touch Sight camera at www.image-acquire.com/samsung-touch-sight-camera/ or search the internet for the term to read what various news sources are saying about this fascinating gadget.

Calendar Dates of Interest

  • March 5-7, 2009. Washington, DC. Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute (JLTLI). Visit the 2009 JLTLI conference page for more details.
  • March 12-15, 2009. Burlingame, California. California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped (CTEVH). Visit www.ctevh.org for more details.
  • March 16-21, 2009. Los Angeles, California. Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN 2009). Details at www.csunconference.org.
  • April 1-4, 2009. Seattle, Washington. CEC 2009 Convention & Expo. For information, contact Council for Exceptional Children at 800-224-6830 or www.cec.sped.org.
  • April 23-25, 2009. Atlanta, Georgia. Assistive Technology Assessment for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired. Check the AFB Calendar of Events for information on this training workshop.
  • July 3-8, 2009. Detroit, Michigan. National Federation of the Blind National Convention. Check www.nfb.org for details.
  • July 17-19, 2009. Costa Mesa, California. Families Connecting with Families Conference. Visit www.familyconnect.org for updates and information.
  • October 15-17, 2009. Louisville, Kentucky. APH Annual Meeting. Contact the American Printing House for the Blind at 800-223-1839 or e-mail info@aph.org for information.
  • October 28-31, 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 www.atia.org.
  • November 12-15, 2009. Costa Mesa, California. Getting In Touch With Literacy Conference. Visit www.gettingintouchwithliteracy.com 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: www.afb.org/dots 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
E-mail: literacy@afb.net

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 (slandrum@afb.net) 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 www.afb.org/dots; and if you are a braille format subscriber, you will continue to receive your DOTS newsletter in braille.

[Web visitors, please visit www.afb.org/myAFBnewsletter2.asp and follow the instructions there to sign up. You can then log in and update your profile at any time to alert us to changes in your contact information.]

Subscribe to the brlhelp-afb electronic discussion list by sending the message: brlhelp-afb-subscribe@igc.topica.com.

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