Programs & Services
Newsletter - July 2022
In This Issue
- A Final Message From Our Outgoing President (Natalie Martiniello, BLC Past-President)
- A Message From Our Incoming President (Daphne Hitchcock, BLC President)
- 2022-2023 Board of Directors
- Announcing the 2022 Edie Mourre Scholarship Winners
- Braille Challenge: Celebrating 22 years of braille literacy! (Daphne Hitchcock, BLC President)
- A Note From Your ICEB Rep (Jen Goulden)
- BANA and ICEB Updates (Jen Goulden)
- Get to Know the BLC Board: Jessica Blouin
- Get to Know the BLC Board: Riane Lapaire
- Social Media Activity
A Final Message From Our Outgoing President
By Natalie Martiniello, BLC Past-President
Dear BLC friends,
We have all heard the saying "time flies when you're having fun" and in the case of Braille Literacy Canada, this is most definitely true. I first joined the board in 2013, beginning in the role of secretary, before transitioning to President. Now, as my time as President has drawn to a close, I remain grateful for all those I have met along the way, all we have managed to accomplish together, and all that still remains ahead of us as we look into the future.
For me, like so many others, braille literacy is a core part of who I am and who I have become, just as print is for the sighted. It is true that print readers don't often consciously think about the code they read or how incredible it is that it exists at all. I think that the reason we often attach this unique feeling to braille is because we do know that there was a time it did not exist. That time was not actually that long ago. Had we been living more than 200 years ago, not only would we have little opportunity for literacy, but education for blind children (not even blind adults yet at that point) was still in its infancy. The opportunities for blind people as a whole were far narrower than they are today.
Even as we work towards greater access to braille, we can and should take immense pride in the strides we have taken since those days not so long ago. So many of you reading this have played a part in promoting, supporting and strengthening the braille code and for this we thank you. We have also been so fortunate to fund all of our programs thanks to fundraising efforts from those both on and off the board, many private donors (including an extremely generous matching donor), several grants, and the continual support we receive from CNIB.
The sheer amount of talent and commitment towards braille literacy was on full display this past June, when BLC held our second annual virtual braille symposium. Once again, this event brought together over 100 participants from around the world to celebrate braille and to hear from a line up of exceptional speakers. Matthew Horspool and Dave Williams from the Braillist's Foundation (based in the U.K.) told us about their incredible initiatives, including the launch of remote braille instruction for adults and their incredibly successful podcast all about braille (in addition to so much more). Douglas Walker and Dr. Kim Walker from Hadley shared information about their newly revised braille course for adult learners, with some exciting insights about future courses, including contracted braille for adults. Dr. Robert Englebretson spoke about the science of braille reading, including important insights on how ongoing research can contribute to evidence-based approaches to teach and continually develop the braille code. Kate Borg from Paths to Literacy shared details about their exciting new website, with a focus on braille literacy resources for learners of all ages. Thanks to our incredible sponsors (Humanware, Crawford Technologies, Aille Design, Kid Can Press and Purdy's Chocolateer), there were also a number of door prizes distributed throughout the day. We thank our sponsors and our speakers immensely for making this event such a success once again. Stay tuned for recordings and transcripts! The symposium was followed by a fun virtual braille trivia event, led by BLC board Director Tami Grenon, where even more door prizes were won! Thank you to all those (both on and off the board) who contributed to the planning of this event, and to all participants who attended!
We all have our own stories about how our journey with braille first began. For me, it began - like for so many others - with a great book and a life-changing teacher. We also all came to BLC in different ways. For me, it began with a phone call I made to our previous Past President, Jen Goulden, after attending an AGM and feeling inspired. However your story with braille and with BLC began, we thank you for being a part of this organization and look forward to having you move forward with us in the years to come.
BLC is strong because of our past but also because of the incredible leaders who commit to steering us forward. I would like to first thank our Past President Jen Goulden, who has now completed her term, for her continuous support of BLC, for being such an incredible board member and for the many countless hours she has devoted to all that BLC does. I would also like to express my immense congratulations to Daphne Hitchcock who is now our new President.
For those who don't already know Daphne, I can share that BLC will be in incredible hands. Not only is Daphne a TVI who has devoted decades to supporting braille literacy, but she has also served as Vice President throughout my Presidency and has worked very hard behind the scenes on so many of our projects. The Braille Zoomers starter kits is only one example. Daphne is enthusiastic, passionate about braille, a very busy bee - always going above and beyond - and an incredible person to work alongside. It is an honour to have her as our President.
With that, I look forward to serving as Past President and continuing to play a role, alongside our many other talented board members and organization members, as we continue to fulfill the BLC mission: promoting and supporting braille literacy for all those who benefit from it.
With all best wishes and many thanks to all of you.
Natalie Martiniello, Ph.D., CVRT
Past-President, Braille Literacy Canada
A Message From Our Incoming President
By Daphne Hitchcock, BLC President
Dear BLC members and friends,
Happy New Year! It may be June, with summer now upon us, but it is a 'new year' for BLC. During our June AGM we reflected on the work and development of BLC. This past year, under the strong and vibrant leadership of our very own Natalie Martiniello, Braille Literacy Canada continued to deliver a variety of workshops, participated and presented in conferences, hosted the ICEB mid-term meetings and most recently delivered a well-attended Braille Symposium; all this and more, while growing our Zoomers group and increasing distribution of Braille Zoomer Starter Kits. Thanks to the incredible generosity of a matching donor, BLC was able to meet its financial obligations and initiate a fund with the Vancouver Foundation. The purpose of the fund is to establish working capital to offset organization expenses, with the goal of BLC becoming independent and self-supporting. This is just the beginning and will provide an ongoing opportunity for donors set up legacy gifts and donations.
It is often said that many hands make light work, but it takes a strong leader to keep everyone organized. Thank you, Natalie, for all you have done to move BLC forward these past years. Anthony Tibbs also deserves a big round of applause. We could refer to him as 'odd job Bob' as Anthony not only served as treasurer but he also navigated the intricacies of all things IT, set up many systems to streamline the running of BLC programming and provided thorough explanations regarding the business side of things. Jen Goulden will also be stepping away from the executive and board, but fortunately for us she will stay involved with committee work. Jen continues to be an incredible support and a true stalwart of Braille Literacy Canada.
As I step into the role of president, I am feeling both excited and challenged, but yet supported. We have a truly amazing Board of Directors, each bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to BLC. I am honoured to take this new position and to be part of this organization. Braille is alive and doing well. However, as we all know, there is much more that we can do. If we want to see the development of braille and braille accessibility, then we need to provide the resources and programmes. During the Braille Symposium, our presenters shared with us some pretty exciting ideas for programming and resources, and invited us to share ideas or partner with them. In the coming year, we can look forward to exploring new means of enhancing our braille literacy outreach, education and research.
With summer here, I am wishing each of you lots of sunshine and some quality R&R
President, Braille Literacy Canada
2022-2023 Board of Directors
We would like to welcome the incoming board, including returning board member Jessica Blouin (T-Base Communications representative) and Riane LePaire (from the National Network of Equitable Library Service, NNELS).
- Daphne Hitchcock (President)
- Kim Kilpatrick (Vice-President, rep for Canadian Council of the Blind)
- Jen Jesso (Secretary)
- Riane LaPaire (Treasurer)
- Natalie Martiniello (Past President)
- Adam Wilton
- Ashley Shaw
- Anthony Tibbs
- Cathy Ausman (rep for W. Ross MacDonald School)
- Dwila Nixon
- Glenda Parsons (rep for APSEA)
- Jessica Blouin (rep for T-Base Communications)
- Melanie Romer-Noel (rep for CNIB)
- Tami Grenon
Announcing the 2022 Edie Mourre Scholarship Winners
Braille Literacy Canada was pleased to announce at this year's AGM three recipients of the Edie Mourre Scholarship award. This award, created in honour of Edie Mourre, a long-time CNIB library employee and braille transcriber, supports outstanding individuals who are training to become braille transcribers, proofreaders, or braille educators.
This year, we are pleased to announce that three recipients were chosen for the Edie Mourre Scholarship and two scholarships have been awarded. (One applicant had to subsequently withdraw their application, but we wish them all the best with their future braille goals.)
Catherine Chapados, who works for the Centre de Service Scolaire des Premières-Seigneuries in Quebec, is planning to pursue certification in music braille transcription. She highlights that there is a shortage of music braille transcribers and that this certification will enable her to better support her students.
Caroline Toews, who works for the Resource Centre for Manitobans who are Deaf and Blind teaching braille to deafblind adults, is seeking UEB certification so that she can better support her students. Caroline is also a lifelong braille user.
We are thrilled to be able to support each of Catherine and Caroline to reach their braille goals, and wish them all the best with their future training!
Braille Challenge: Celebrating 22 years of braille literacy!
By Daphne Hitchcock, BLC President
Braille Literacy Canada extends congratulations to the 5 Canadian finalists who participated in the Braille Challenge in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 25th, Janna C and Keaton H from Ontario, Habiba H and Caden J from Alberta, and Margot W from B.C. Well done, fab five, this is a notable achievement.
The Braille Challenge is an international event. This year nearly 800 students participated in regional Braille Challenges in the US, Canada and the UK. Each student competed to gain a spot within the top 50 finalists. These outstanding students were then invited to participate in the 2022 Braille Challenge in LA. After a grueling day of competition on Saturday, Janna C and Margot W overall accomplished 3rd place for their age-grade category. All five students are to be commended.
The Canadian Regional Braille Challenges are held each year. Our thanks go to the regional coordinators and representatives, Karen Brophey (Ontario), Stephanie Gee (Alberta) and Adam Wilton (Briish Columbia) for organizing these events and for providing the opportunity for our students to participate with other students who read and write braille and tactile graphics.
A Note From Your ICEB Rep
By Jen Goulden
As many of you are aware, the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) brings together English-speaking countries from around the world and is the body responsible for Unified English Braille (UEB).
The midterm meeting of the ICEB Executive Committee took place from June 5-9 at 20:00 UTC and were hosted by BLC. We had nearly 150 registrants in total, not including members of the Executive or the midterm planning committee. Over the course of the meetings we discussed everything from code maintenance to "night writing", to the merits of hard copy versus electronic braille.
Agenda items included:
- Reports from each ICEB member country
- Committee reports (such as Code Maintenance, Public Relations and Braille Research)
- A review of the resolutions passed at the General Assembly in 2020
These were mostly business meetings, but we also had a presentation on the digitizing of braille music scores in the United States. Dr. Sarah Morley Wilkins provided information on work that DAISY is doing to improve access to music braille.
On day three we had a presentation by invited speaker Philippa Campsie. Her article, which is the basis of her presentation, is entitled Charles Barbier: A Hidden Story.
I'd like to take this opportunity to highlight the ways you can still access the midterm meetings if you weren't able to join us on Zoom or via the livestream.
As with the General Assembly in 2020, the meeting documentation will be available on the ICEB web site at http://www.iceb.org. In addition, we've created a podcast of the meetings that includes commentary before and after each day's sessions. Go to live.braillecast.com or search for ICEB General Assemblies and Mid-Terms wherever you get your podcasts.
I'd like to thank Matthew Horspool for all of his technical support and for facilitating the lively podcast commentary. I'd also like to thank Ashley Shaw, Kim Kilpatrick and Natalie Martiniello, my fellow co-hosts on the podcast. I'd also like to thank everyone else who helped to make this event such a great success!
Finally, ICEB produces a quarterly newsletter under the excellent direction of Mary Schnackenberg of New Zealand. We invite you to subscribe to our one-way announce list by writing to email@example.com. You can also follow us on Twitter at @ICEBbraille.
BANA and ICEB Updates
By Jen Goulden
These updates, provided at our recent AGM, were taken from the US country report that Frances Mary D'Andrea submitted to the ICEB midterm meetings earlier this month. Thanks, FM!
BANA held its spring meetings via Zoom on May 19-20, and hopes to have the next semi-annual meeting in person in November.
The document BANA Guidelines for the Transcription of Early Education Materials from Print to Braille was published in late 2020 and is available on the BANA website, http://www.brailleauthority.org. The position paper "BANA Positions on Computer Braille Code and Braille ASCII" was also published in 2020 particularly for the benefit of braille producers and software developers.
The update of the BANA Tactile Graphics Guidelines, 2010 to align with UEB is close to completion and will include examples in both UEB and Nemeth codes. BANA also approved a guidance document on the transcription of braille in languages other than English. This, too, needs to be prepared for publication before being posted on the BANA web site.
BANA Membership and Other Activities
Tamara Rorie served as BANA chair in 2020 and 2021 and has the distinction of leading the Board without ever holding an in-person meeting. She instituted monthly electronic meetings to keep the important work of BANA moving forward even while we were apart. The new chair of BANA as of January 2022 is Jen Goulden, the CNIB representative to the Board.
The BANA website is in the midst of a migration to a new platform which will also provide an opportunity for a welcome update to posted materials. The new platform will make it easier to add materials and still ensure accessibility for all.
Get to Know the BLC Board: Jessica Blouin
1. Who are you?
My name is Jessica Blouin, I am located in the province of Quebec, and I am a Braille transcriber.
2. When did you start learning braille? Tell us your favourite braille related memory.
I started learning Braille in 2008, after falling in love with it during a temporary assignment that turned into a permanent employment opportunity.
3. Tell us a bit about what you do for BLC and what you like about it?
I absolutely love promoting Braille as it is the one and only way to literacy for Blind people. I am an advocate for literacy in general, so ensuring that everyone has access to it, regardless of their health is important to me.
4. Tell us about one gem (e.g. a page or resource) on the BLC website you want members to know about.
The workshop section of the Braille Literacy Canada website is an absolute gem. There are so many available resources on multiple topics that are available to anyone.
5. What are your thoughts about BLC as you look back on the past 30 years?
The Edie Mourre Scholarship is a wonderful project that is focused on giving access to Braille literacy, while assisting those who are pursuing employment as a braille transcriber or proofreader, or as an educator.
6. What are your thoughts on braille and BLC as you look ahead to the next 30 years?
I hope that BLC continues to reach those who are in need of guidance for it is one of the best resources available to blind and/or partially sighted Canadians.
Get to Know the BLC Board: Riane Lapaire
1. Who are you?
Riane Lapaire, Saskatchewan, Treasurer; Braille Coordinator for NNELS.
2. When did you start learning braille? Tell us your favourite braille related memory.
2013 or 2014.
My first simultaneous braille and print release with NNELS (Griffin Poetry Anthology 2019). Second to that, my first simultaneous dual language book with tactile graphics that is commercially available (This is How I Know).
3. anything about your braille background you'd like to share?
I first started working with braille when I was working in a provincial K-12 alternate format library. I'm excited to be coordinating production of braille for all ages in my role with NNELS.
4. tell us a bit about what you do for BLC and what you like about it?
I'm not really involved in anything yet, but I'm looking forward to getting involved with anything I can.
5. Tell us about one gem (e.g. a page or resource) on the BLC website you want members to know about.
The History of Braille page and the List of Braille Producers page. I send libraries and other organizations to the list of producers often.
6. What do you want parents, classroom teachers or the general public to understand about braille?
Some people read with their fingers; some people read with their eyes. It's all reading. The difference is that braille readers have less access to books than sighted people do, and that needs to change.
7. What are your thoughts about BLC as you look back on the past 30 years?
The Guidelines for Signage are awesome, and the Braille Zoomers program is a game changer.
8. What are your thoughts on braille and BLC as you look ahead to the next 30 years?
Braille, and BLC's advocacy and role in the advancement of braille and braille literacy have come a long way, and it's just the beginning of the second period. The next 30 will be a shut out.
Social Media Activity
Here are a few of the items we have posted on our social media platforms in recent weeks.
For the first time ever, CNIB is hosting a Braille Writers' Retreat for children and youth at CNIB Lake Joe! This action-packed fall retreat is perfect for participant (ages 6-19) who are #braille users with a passion for creative writing. Learn more: https://cnib.ca/en/event/writing-feeling-braille-writers-retreat-ages-6-19
This weekend the "best of the best" competed at Braille Challenge Finals. Congrats to the more than 800 students who participated in Braille Challenge this year. You are all winners given your love for braille. For a full list of Finals winners, visit http://braillechallenge.org
Many people still write #braille using a hand frame AKA a slate and stylus. Learn how in the Braillists' An Introduction to the Slate and Stylus masterclass: https://braillists.org/media