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DOTS for Braille Literacy (Development of Teacher Support) Volume 20, Number 3, Summer 2015

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,

Twenty years ago . . .

Bill Clinton was president of the United States. Microsoft developed something called Windows 95. The space shuttle Atlantis docked with the Mir space station. Steve Fossett became the first person to cross the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon. Toy Story, the first full-length feature film completely computer-generated, was released. Postage stamps cost 32 cents, and the average price of a dozen eggs was 87 cents. The DVD format was created, as was Yahoo!, the first search engine service. America Online offered access to the World Wide Web. And the first issue of the DOTS newsletter was published by the American Foundation for the Blind.

The DOTS for Braille Literacy newsletter was established as part of a federal grant called the Braille Literacy Mentors in Training (BLMIT), a three-year project to connect experienced braille instructors with new teachers. BLMIT was what brought me to AFB in January of 1995, hired by Dr. Diane P. Wormsley, director of the AFB Southeast office in Atlanta and the person who wrote the grant. Over the three years of the grant I had the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most wonderful teachers of braille to children and adults I've ever met. The DOTS newsletter was a vehicle for sharing ideas, strategies, and resources about braille reading and writing instruction. By the end of the first year, there were 1,000 subscribers; by 2005 we had 3,325 subscribers. In this issue, we'll take a look back at stories from two decades of DOTS.

This issue will be the last for the DOTS newsletter. Times change and the way we communicate with each other is part of that change. When I first started working at AFB in 1995, hardly anyone I knew had an email address. Now, we routinely check our email on our phones and watches, and share news almost instantly with tweets and text messages. AFB has an active website (, a Twitter account (@AFB1921), and at least three Facebook pages. I have had the privilege of serving as editor of DOTS for 15 of its twenty years; for five years, my friend and colleague Marie Amerson ably served as editor. Thank you for reading, for sending your stories, for sharing with me your questions, songs, and games. It has been such a pleasure to get to know you all and to share our love of braille.

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

Twenty Years of DOTS

A look through some back issues of DOTS is like a time machine of what has been going on in braille for the past two decades. While it's not possible to list every project, this article will highlight some of the most noteworthy items, particularly from its early years of publication. The first issue, Spring 1995, announced a series of workshops sponsored by AFB as part of the braille mentor grant. This issue also included a story submitted by Hilda Caton about the spring meeting of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) held in conjunction with the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) meeting of the "Unified Braille Code Project." A follow-up story in the second issue of DOTS (Summer 1995) reported that an initial evaluation of the unified code would commence and then a major field evaluation in all seven ICEB countries would be conducted. Other BANA news included publication of the newly revised English Braille American Edition 1994, and the Interim Braille Code for Columned Materials and Tables. The fall 1995 issue of DOTS encouraged readers to attend the second biennial "Getting in Touch With Literacy" conference, held in Austin, Texas, in December of 1995. The Braille Enthusiast's Dictionary by Alan Koenig and M. Cay Holbrook had just been published by SCALARS Publishing, and the Computerized Braille Tutor by Gaylen Kapperman was available from AER on 3.5 inch diskettes.

The Spring 1996 issue announced the publication of the Assessment of Braille Literacy Skills by Alan Koenig and Carol Farrenkopf, as well as Children with Visual Impairments: A Parent's Guide, edited by Cay Holbrook. By summer of 1996, DOTS was available not only in print and braille but was being distributed electronically as well. That fall, the "brl-help" listserve was launched by AFB as another way for teachers of braille reading and writing to connect with one another.

Issues of DOTS published in 1997 featured resources for children with additional support needs as well as resources for adult learners of braille. Other articles highlighted MENVI, the Music Educators Network for the Visually Impaired, the publication of Replenishing the Well: Insights and Inspiration from the Field of Visual Impairment edited by Cay Holbrook, and the New International Manual of Braille Music Notation.

In 1998, a number of resources became available such as Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription, and The Braille Code for Chemical Notation. Gaylen Kapperman, Toni Heinze, Jodi Sticken, and Mario Cortesi released The Computerized Nemeth Code Tutor that year that included strategies for math instruction as well. The BLMIT grant was completed that year, but AFB continued the DOTS newsletter, now funded through generous donations from the UPS Foundation, Hearst, and others. News from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) announced the upgrade of the CARL ET AL database into the new "Louis" database of accessible media. The "Braille Through Remote Learning" site was founded through the Shodor site, and Art History Through Touch and Sound was published by Art Education for the Blind.

In 1999 and into 2000, additional updates of the Unified Braille Code project (as it was known then) were submitted from BANA representatives such as Sally Hering (National Braille Association), Phyllis Campana (APH), and Darleen Bogart (CNIB). The General Assembly of ICEB was held in Baltimore, Maryland, in November of 1999, and a lengthy sample of the proposed code was published in DOTS so people could read it for themselves. This was also the time that the word "English" was included in the name of the project, so we read about the "Unified English Braille Code Project" now referred to simply as UEB. UEB samplers were mailed out with the Summer 2001 issue of DOTS.

Fall of 2000 was the debut of AFB's Braille Bug® featured in our annual packet for Braille Literacy Month. By fall of 2001, the Braille Bug® had her own website (I always think of the Braille Bug® as "she" and not "it"!), complete with accessible games and activities for promoting the love of braille. Anna Swenson wrote much of the content of the original Braille Bug® materials, and the Bug herself was designed by the world-famous team of Stephen D'Andrea and Justin Winslow. In the Spring 2002 issue, a Braille Bug® poetry contest was held, and that summer, the Braille Trail® activity book and teacher's guide was published by AFB Press. The Braille Bug® site continues to be popular and is one of the most visited areas of the AFB website.

The AFB National Literacy Center was officially established by Fall of 2001 and a number of new projects were initiated. One project I recall with particular fondness was the Bridging the Gap workshops and national symposium on adults with visual impairments. That project, led by AFB Literacy Center staff member Tina Tucker, created partnerships between adult literacy programs and rehabilitation centers in 16 states. DOTS has always promoted braille literacy for all ages, and throughout the years many resources were published for rehabilitation teachers who teach braille to adults.

A story in the Spring 2003 issue of DOTS described the Alphabetic-Braille, Contracted-Braille Study, otherwise known as the "ABC Braille Study" a longitudinal research project that investigated outcomes for young children learning braille reading and writing. The Braille Bug® Reading Club started that summer, and Diane P. Wormsley's Braille Literacy: A Functional Approach was published by AFB Press that fall.

The continued progress of the UEB project was featured in the Summer 2004 issue as an extended article describing the ICEB 2004 General Assembly and the resolutions passed, including the resolution that Unified English Braille was sufficiently complete for individual countries to consider for adoption.

In summer of 2005 I left AFB to return to teaching and then became a student myself again (University of Pittsburgh!), and turned over the editorship of DOTS to Marie Amerson. The newsletter was published online that year as Marie did her usual thorough and creative job of keeping DOTS readers informed about all the news in the braille world. Over the next five years, Marie made sure we knew about new resources being published, encouraged us to enroll our students in the Braille Challenge, relayed news about the braille transcriber course at Northwest Vista College, and reminded us to attend conferences such as Getting in Touch with Literacy (which is still going strong). After five years Marie retired (again!) and I was lucky enough to become editor once more. I have tried to keep up the braille news and share it with readers near and far.

Looking back over the 20-year history of this publication, I'm struck by several things. The first thing that I notice is the incredibly hard work and substantial output of braille materials and resources, from so many organizations: AFB Press, APH, American Council of the Blind, BANA, Braille Institute, Dancing Dots, Exceptional Teaching, MENVI, National Braille Association, National Braille Press, National Federation of the Blind, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the National Resource Center for Blind Musicians, Seedlings, and so many others made repeat appearances in the pages of DOTS over the years.

Another thing that's quite noticeable upon re-reading DOTS is that the progress of the Unified Braille Code Project (now UEB) had been followed and reported closely for 20 years. Almost every issue has news from BANA and/or ICEB. One can trace quite a bit of history of the project by reading DOTS. This is not surprising, since AFB has been a member of BANA since its inception in 1976, but it was good to see the contributions from many BANA representatives over the years to the pages of DOTS. Whether you are excited about UEB or not, it's a project that has had a long and thoughtful history with substantial input from many people around the world—including those here in the United States and Canada.

Reading through these pages also reminds me of why I love the field of visual impairments and blindness so much. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of so many individuals who submitted strategies, ideas, stories, poems, song lyrics, resources, and encouragement over the years. I wish I had room to name everyone who sent in something; the list would read like a "Who's Who" of experienced and enthusiastic people who are passionate about braille literacy. Some of these people are retired now, some are no longer with us, but many are still out there teaching a new generation of braille readers. It also reminds me how much work is done quietly and yet with thoroughness by teachers who aren't household names but are known locally for their dedication and love of literacy.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't thank a number of people at AFB (now and in the past) who nurtured DOTS over the years including Carl Augusto, Susan Spungin, Paul Schroeder, Scott McCall, Mark Richert, Terry Allen, Natalie Hilzen, Maureen Matheson, Liz Neal, Crista Earl, Marlo Scoggins, Barb Gallman, Tina Tucker, and Karen LaFontaine. Many thanks especially to my buddies still holding down the fort in Atlanta, Ike Presley and Shirley Landrum. And special thanks to Stephen D'Andrea—you all have no idea how much work he's done for AFB over the years, including laying out all 30 of the print issues of DOTS (often at 1:00 in the morning), and making me laugh at all the right times. I am grateful for all of you more than I can say.

—Frances Mary D'Andrea

AFB News

The American Foundation for the Blind has announced the recipients of the Helen Keller Achievement Awards. Congratulations to Apple, Inc., recognized for their accessible technology breakthroughs; to Charlie Cox, actor; to musician and band leader Ward Marston; and to Vanda Pharmaceuticals for their treatment of sleep disorders that can affect people who are blind. The awards will be given in New York City on June 18, 2015.

AFB has made its accessible video player, The AFB Accessible Player, available as a free download. This HTML5 player allows for equal access to online videos for people with low vision and for those who use screen reading software or refreshable braille displays. AFB's new HTML5 player is available for download free of charge at

AFB Press has recently published Vision and the Brain: Understanding Cerebral Visual Impairment in Children by Amanda Hall Lueck and Gordon Dutton. This extensive and well-researched book provides a wealth of information about students who have CVI, the most common cause of visual impairment in the United States. Its 24 chapters include comprehensive information about assessment of children with CVI as well as meaningful interventions. The book is available in paperback or as an e-book from AFB's online store.

Congratulations to Seedlings!

Happy 30th birthday to Seedlings Braille Books for Children! This Michigan-based non-profit organization has started its fourth decade of providing low-cost braille books for children. Seedlings depends on donations and its devoted volunteers who have created thousands of braille books, including print-braille volumes, print-braille-picture books, and books in braille for older children.

In addition to a wide variety of children's books, Seedlings also offers The Rose Project, which send encyclopedia articles in embossed braille to children; the Angel Project, which will send two free books to registered children; and other gifts such as braille jewelry, sweatshirts, and other items.

Best wishes for a long and happy future to our friends at Seedlings! Visit their website at, or call toll-free at 800-777-8552.


The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) met for its spring meeting May 7-9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts, hosted by member organization National Braille Press. BANA officers for 2015 are Chair Jennifer Dunnam, representing the National Federation of the Blind; Vice Chair Mary Nelle McLennan, from the American Printing House for the Blind; Secretary Ruth Rozen, representing the Hadley School for the Blind; and Treasurer Jackie Sheridan, from National Braille Press.

The Perkins School for the Blind joined BANA as a full member in January 2015. Kim Charlson serves as the Perkins representative to the BANA Board. BANA now has 18 full members, plus its three associate (nonvoting) member organizations.

BANA is pleased to share a new, first-of-its-kind publication—Guidelines for Transcribing Knit and Crochet Patterns. This document was authored by the BANA Crafts and Hobbies Technical Committee and approved by the BANA Board. It is provided as accessible PDF and BRF files on the BANA website at this direct URL: The BANA page dedicated to Unified English Braille (UEB) has been reorganized and additional resources are now available such as example documents transcribed in UEB, links to resources for learning the code, and manuals and reference materials. Visit

Online UEB Training!

Two new online UEB training projects are nearing completion and should be available this month. These projects were funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services and will run for the next several years.

The UEBot (Unified English Braille Online Training) project, presented by Northern Illinois University, is a free course that starts this summer, and will be available for either continuing education or university credit. The course is designed to be a month-long MOOC (massive open online course) and will cover the basics of UEB in this first year, and then more advanced topics. For more information, visit

From Portland State University comes UEB PREP (Unified English Braille through a Powerful and Responsive eLearning Platform). This free course will also start with UEB basics in the first year and then expand its content in subsequent years. The course will include educational crowdsourcing and use of social media to build networks of users, educators, and families. For more information, visit

Both courses are exciting new ways to learn UEB that take advantage of new and accessible technology and formats. There's a great deal of anticipation and enthusiasm about both learning opportunities. Thanks for the project staff at both universities for their creative ideas and inviting course offerings!

New from National Braille Press

Several NBP items are now available in Unified English Braille! National Braille Press now uses UEB to translate their weekly editorial magazine, Syndicated Columnists Weekly (SCW). This 36-page braille weekly contains the best editorials of the week from diverse papers such as The Washington Post, Salon, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, etc. It's a great collection, and now, an easy way for braille readers to become familiar with UEB. Each issue will include a short symbols chart highlighting new or unusual changes to the code, but not all changes, which should be easy to decipher in context. If you do not already subscribe to SCW, a yearly subscription is $24 ($45 for two years) — only 46 cents per week.

NBP's Braille Spelling Dictionary for Beginning Readers by Gregory Hurray is now available in UEB. It contains 1,400 elementary-level words, listed alphabetically without definitions, enabling elementary school-age children to look up the spelling of words independently. Both the contracted and uncontracted braille version of each word is given. The new edition is in print/braille, so sighted and blind children and teachers or parents can use it together. In one volume for $15.

New books in the NBP's Children's Book Club are also available in UEB such as Put Me in the Zoo, Rotten Ralph, and A House is a House for Me.

For more information about any of these resources, visit or call toll-free 800-548-7323.

News & Opportunities

Braille Challenge Mobile App Pilot Sites Needed

Many of you are quite familiar with the Braille Challenge, the international event sponsored by the Braille Institute in Los Angeles. The Braille Institute along with CalState-LA has received a grant to develop an app that will provide some practice tests similar to those students do during the Challenge, as well as games and activities that help students build various reading skills such as letter recognition, spelling, making inferences, reading speed and accuracy, and more.

The project staff is now recruiting students in 1st-12th grades who are reading at grade level or no lower than 2 grade levels below (with a minimum reading level of 1st grade). The equipment needed for this project includes an iPad and braille display, but if participants don't have those items, the equipment is available for loan. As with any research, signed consent/assent forms must be sent to the project staff. For copies of the consent forms or for more information, contact and Include in the email the student's name, grade level, and reading level. Thanks for your interest in participating in this project! It promises to be educational AND a lot of fun.

CCSSO Offers UEB Implementation Guide

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has partnered with the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) to provide helpful guidance to states on implementation of Unified English Braille (UEB). Two webinars were presented about UEB, and recordings and handouts from those sessions are available on the CCSSO website. In addition, the UEB Implementation Guide is available as a free PDF download; a BRF version will be available on the BANA website this month. For more information, visit the Resources section of the CCSSO website.

Research Study Participants List

The National Research and Training Center (NRTC) of Mississippi State University maintains a registry of individuals who are blind or visually impaired and interested in participating in research projects. NRTC researchers use this list to recruit participants for current and future research projects, as well as to keep individuals in the loop about projects that may be of particular interest to them. Signing up for the registry does not obligate any person to participate in research. For more information, and to sign up for the registry, visit

UKAAF Electronic Mail List

In association with UKAAF, the United Kingdom Association for Accessible Formats, a listserv has been formed to discuss issues surrounding Unified English Braille (UEB). Since UEB has been adopted almost worldwide, UKAAF hopes that the experience gained by those already using UEB will be passed on to newer adopters.

To subscribe, send a blank message to with the word subscribe in the subject line. (If your e-mail software supports it, you may be able to simply click on the link to create a message and send).

UEB Too!

A supplement to the widely-used program Braille Too is being developed to align with Unified English Braille (UEB). The program, UEB Too: A Supplement to the Braille Too Curriculum, is designed to be used with Braille Too, the program for middle grade and high school students who are learning braille. Digital files will be provided in a USB flash drive and can be embossed using Duxbury Braille Translator software. For more information, visit or send an email to

NLS Adds UEB Books to BARD

As the January 2016 date for Unified English Braille (UEB) implementation draws closer, interest among braille-reading patrons is growing. NLS has already acquired several dozen electronic titles in UEB and has posted them to BARD. More electronic UEB titles will be added in the coming months. A subject heading, Unified English Braille, has been created in BARD to make these titles easier to find. BARD users may view a list of all current UEB titles by accessing the "browse by subject" dropdown, navigating to Unified English Braille, and then selecting the “go” button.

Dear DOT

Dear DOT,

Can you please give us an update on some resources for learning more about Unified English Braille?

Signed, Chris

Dear Chris,

I'm happy to provide a more comprehensive list of resources in this edition of DOTS. Always check the BANA UEB page for updated information.

Basic tools

1. The UEB Rulebook, 2013 The UEB Rulebook, the official list of rules for Unified English Braille, can be downloaded at no charge from the website of the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) or from the BANA website. The direct URL is: This link will take you to three different versions of the Rulebook. A simple PDF version is suitable for printing. The "linked PDF" is ideal for downloading to a computer or tablet because the live links in the document can help the user navigate electronically. Lastly, a "braille-ready" version (BRF) is available and consists of six volumes.

2. Guidelines for Technical Material, 2014 This resource provides additional rules and examples for using UEB in technical materials such as mathematics and chemistry. It can also be found at and is available in PDF, DOC, or BRF versions.

3. "Provisional Guidance for Using Nemeth within UEB Contexts"

Available as a PDF or BRF from this website:

For adults who know braille in the current code but wish to learn UEB

1. The ABC's of UEB

Although this is not a complete instruction manual, this resource provides examples and practice exercises which allow people who already know EBAE to quickly build on their knowledge of braille to understand UEB. This document is available free on the BANA website. This link will take you to the HTML version, but PDF and BRF versions are also available.

2. Hadley School for the Blind courses in UEB

The Hadley School for the Blind is offering a course called "Transitioning to Unified English Braille" for people who already know EBAE. During 2015, fees for professionals are waived.

3. CNIB Training Manual

These materials from Canada can be downloaded and printed or used electronically. The course gives some practice materials and answer keys. It assumes that people know braille already. The materials are available as electronic files for print or braille that can be downloaded free of charge.

4. The Australian Training Manual 2014

Available as a free download in PDF or BRF format, this course is for people who knew Australian Braille and are switching to UEB. The manual includes exercises and an answer key.

5. New Zealand training manual (PDF)

New Zealand previously followed BANA codes, but is now using UEB. Their training manual is similar to the one used in Australia and is available as a free PDF download.

6. The Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired course

The Wisconsin Center has developed a six-part Introduction to Unified English Braille course with videos and accompanying handouts.

Targeted for print-reading adults who do not know braille to learn UEB:

1. UEB Online
This is a free course for sighted people who wish to learn braille from the beginning. Because it is from Australia, there are some spelling differences from United States usage. It provides participants with immediate feedback and people can do lessons on their own and in their own time.

2. Ashcroft Programmed Instruction: Unified English Braille
The textbook was designed for university programs that prepare teachers of students with visual impairments. Because it was designed for pre-service teachers, its 13 chapters can be completed in a semester (approximately 15 weeks). The book is available in paperback and includes exercises and answer keys so the students can practice on their own and check their answers. Available from:

Mathematics Resources

1. ICEB's Guidelines for Technical Materials
This document was mentioned earlier; it is available in several electronic file formats from ICEB.

2. New Zealand resource: The Hitchhiker's Guide to UEB Maths
When New Zealand adopted UEB, it ceased using Nemeth code. Two teachers of students with visual impairments designed this resource, which can be downloaded in print from the website of the Braille Authority of New Zealand Aotearoa Trust (BANZAT). Called "The Hitchhiker's Guide to UEB Maths," it can be found at:

3. Canadian resource guide
Canada is currently making the transition from Nemeth to UEB. Heather Harland and Cheryl Roberts, teachers in British Columbia, designed a resource called "Unified English Braille for Math for Sighted Learners." It can be downloaded in print at:

4. UKAAF resource guide
The United Kingdom Association for Accessible Formats has created a document guide which gives advice on the approach to use when transcribing math into UEB specifically for school text books and state exams in the UK. While this may not apply to the U.S., it's still interesting to see the approach that was taken:

5. "Provisional Guidance for Using Nemeth within UEB Contexts"
Nemeth code will remain an official code in the United States. This method of switching between the Nemeth Code and Unified English Braille has been developed to ensure the continued viability of the use of the Nemeth Code for mathematics. Available as a PDF or BRF from this website:

One-page resource lists

1. Duxbury has a one-page chart that lists the contractions and short forms in alphabetical order:

2. Aroga Technologies presents the UEB contractions and symbols by category:

American Printing House for the Blind Resources

1. APH plan for UEB implementation described in this press release:

According to a message sent to Ex Officio Trustees on March 10, 2015 regarding Building on Patterns (BOP):

  • APH will have BOP K and BOP 1st grade student materials available in UEB by the beginning of the school year.
  • By January 4, 2016 APH will have the BOP 2nd grade student materials available in UEB.
  • Teachers will NOT need to buy new BOP teacher editions. APH will make a free download available that will tell the teacher what has changed instructionally. For more information, call APH at 800-223-1839.


Mark Your Calendars

A reprint of my favorite "From the Editor" column:

DOTS for Braille Literacy, Volume 7, Number 1, Fall 2001 From the Editor

I ride the Atlanta commuter train, MARTA, to my office downtown every day. After years of being an itinerant teacher, I love my daily train ride where I can plan for my day, daydream, people watch, and read. Many of my fellow commuters are also daydreaming, but a large number of them are reading, too. The daily paper is popular commuter reading, and since my stop is near Georgia State University I see students studying and cramming for tests. And of course, many people are reading books for pleasure.

One morning the train was especially crowded, standing room only as we got closer to downtown. I noticed one young woman engrossed in the very last pages of a thick book. I don't remember the title of the novel she was reading, but it was obviously interesting enough to hold her attention while the rest of us were hot, crabby, and uncomfortable, trying hard not to step on each other. This woman was in another world, oblivious to the overcrowded train. She finished her book, closed it with a sigh, and hugged it to her heart for a moment as she smiled and looked out the window. I smiled, too, watching her, and thought, "That's what we want for the children and adults we teach."

What we want to create is readers—people who not only read well but who choose to read. Readers who are at home in a book, and are transported by reading. We want to create readers who recognize books for the treasure chests they are, and who dip into that treasure again and again. One of the most important jobs of a teacher is to give our students the keys to unlock that treasure chest. Braille is one of those keys. It allows for the immediacy—without the need for an intermediary—to open that chest and send the reader off to another world. Braille goes straight from the page to the heart.

Frances Mary D'Andrea
Editor, DOTS

"DOTS all folks!"

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