Programs & Services
Newsletter - October 2020
In This Issue
- President's Message (Natalie Martiniello, BLC President)
- Braille Trivia is Here!
- When you ask: Why does braille matter? (Natalie Martiniello, BLC President)
- In memory of Kelsey Chen (Betty Nobel)
- Braille Zoomers: Virtual get-togethers for Adult Braille Learners (Jen Goulden, BLC Past President)
- Learning Braille as a Mature Adult (Mike Jolls (Braille Monitor, June 2007 Edition))
- ICEB 7th General Assembly (Leona Holloway, ICEB Public Relations Officer)
- Come and Join the Fun!
- Printbraille books available from CELA (Lindsay Tyler)
- Braille Trivia Revisited
- Social Media Updates
By Natalie Martiniello, BLC President
Dear BLC members and friends,
On behalf of the entire board, we hope you are all navigating these unusual times safely and in good health. We know that this fall has been especially busy and unpredictable for the many teachers in our community, and we continually celebrate all that you do. So many of us, me included, have benefited firsthand from the creativity and dedication of a teacher. As you move through the school year ahead, many of you working virtually, we send you all our support and solidarity!
Over the summer months, BLC has continued to work on many initiatives. Our Brailler Bounce program, which repairs and rehomes unused braillers to braille users across Canada, remains strong thanks to the support of our donors and our volunteers. I would also like to thank all of our dedicated repair personnel for getting those braillers fixed and shipping them off to waiting recipients! Remember that if you or someone you know is in need of a brailler, regardless of what level of braille skills you have, we invite you to reach out to us at email@example.com. We are also starting to run out of braillers! Do you have some braillers hiding away in an office closet that no one is using? Please contact us and we will happily help rehome them, at no cost to donors or recipients.
Our Braille Zoomers initiative is an especially exciting new initiative BLC launched this past spring. Braille Zoomers offers peer-support to adult and older adult braille learners across Canada. We do this through a virtual peer-support get-together held on the first Saturday of each month (on Zoom) and through our Braille Zoomers listserv, where participants can continue to share resources and ask their braille questions between sessions. Whether you are thinking about learning braille, learning it now or learned it sometime in adulthood, this is a great way to network with other adult braille learners!
We are especially excited to announce the launch of our Braille Zoomer starter kits. These kits include a variety of fun and useful items to support adults on their braille learning journey: slate and stylus, braille playing cards, flash cards, short stories for adults, a braille labelling device, "Just Enough to Know Better" (a braille primer for family members) and much more! We are now in the process of shipping the first kits to excited recipients -- stay tuned for the next issue to learn more! If you are an adult braille learner, or are thinking about learning braille, and you feel that this program would help you - reach out to us for more details! We are also inviting anyone who is able to donate to consider doing so; even a small donation can purchase several items in these fabulous kits! Write to us to learn more about how you can support this initiative: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Braille Promotions committee has been hard at work! They have recently held popular workshops on using a braille display with iOS and a detailed tutorial on how to use braille screen input on the iPhone. If you've missed it, contact us for the recordings. Remember that these sessions are free of charge to members! The next teleconference will be a special celebration in honour of our 30th anniversary, set to take place in November - Announcement coming in the next few weeks!
Our social media committee is keeping the BLC #SixDotsStrong hashtag thriving on Twitter! Each day in September, we posted a braille trivia question in honour of International Literacy month. September is over but the fun is not! Be sure to follow us on twitter @brllitcan or find BLC on Facebook to stay up to date!
Ready for another announcement? BLC is now on YouTube! You can already find a recording of the BLC teleconference "Getting started with Braille Screen Input on iOS" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrdcCSf1PXQ&t=5s.
We are also happy to announce that BLC will be represented at both the English and French CNIB Connecting the Dots conferences this October. At the English event, we will be holding a workshop all about our Braille Zoomers initiative, where one of our enthusiastic participants will be sharing her experience, and at the French INCA conference, we will be present as exhibitors with information for our French-speaking members - We hope to see you there!
We have such a wonderful board and community of members. It is always hard to say goodbye, but in true BLC style, goodbye often just means "see you later". I would like to announce that two of our board members have recently had to step down due to changing work schedules in light of COVID-19 and other responsibilities that are limiting their time. Laurie Moore has been our W. Ross representative and a director on our board, as well as our board liaison for the Teaching and Learning committee. Jessica Blouin has been our T-Base Communications representative and board liaison on the Grants committee. I would like to thank them both for their incredible work throughout their time on the board; for helping to foster such a positive and fun environment, and for being such wonderful team members. We will miss you but wish you all the best with your new chapters!
With this being said, we are also happy to announce that Cathy Ausman, W. Ross representative, has been appointed to replace Laurie on the BLC board. Cathy, who is a teacher at W. Ross and longtime braille user, served as a director on the BLC board in the past, and we are thrilled to have her back on the team. Welcome back, Cathy!
October is a busy month for our community. Among the events to come is the Virtual ICEB (International Council on English Braille) General Assembly. Have you registered yet? If not, we invite you to learn more here: https://www.ukaaf.org/iceb2020/. As in previous years, BLC will have delegates and observers present and we look forward to reporting back with updates afterwards! (If you haven't done so already and are interested in serving as an observer, we invite you to contact us.)
In this issue, you will find some personal reflections on the meaning of braille, the benefits of learning braille as an older adult, some braille trivia to keep you on your toes, details on our Braille Zoomers program, and much more. We also include a very special tribute in honour of Kelsey Chen, a young braille reading student written by longtime member and teacher Betty Nobel.
We hope that you enjoy this latest issue of the newsletter, and thank all those who contributed entries.
With warmest wishes always,
President, Braille Literacy Canada
Braille Trivia is Here!
In honour of International Literacy Month BLC has launched a Braille Trivia social media campaign. See how much you know about the braille code and its history!
Here is just one of the questions that was posted on Twitter. Check the end of the newsletter for the answer.
What do we call the debate about tactile reading codes that took place early in the twentieth century?
When you ask: Why does braille matter?
By Natalie Martiniello, BLC President
Some things that I would not be able to do at all (or that I would do very badly) without braille:
- Refer to notes during a presentation without missing a beat or looking away from the audience.
- Do statistics or learn how to read/write a foreign language, or read music
- Properly edit any of my writing, because without braille I'd easily miss punctuation, spelling mistakes or other font details if I only used speech-output.
- Bring a list of items with me when shopping that I can easily access without the need for batteries and headphones
- Study a tactile map of a physical location when available and get way more information than I would from a verbal description alone.
- Access notes during a meeting by just referring to the paper (or display) in front of me.
... the list can go on. But do you know which one is the most important -- the very, very most important?
It is the one answer that is far harder to quantify and visibly see. So many people who do not understand braille look for tangible answers. They look for an answer that proclaims loudly and boldly, "Ah ha! This is why braille matters!" We can give you these answers for days on end, but you are searching in the wrong places. You will find important reasons in the examples above, but not the answer.
It is a feeling. It is dignity. It is choice. It is equality. It is freedom. It is our history, woven deep within the fabric of our community, just as print is woven within yours.
Braille is our Gutenberg. Except -- braille is more than that. Before print, the sighted still mattered. Before the printing press, the sighted still had a platform. They were still educated. They still worked. They were still viewed as equal human beings with the right to strive for anything.
So when you ask me, "Does braille matter?", I ask you -- does print? I ask you to turn your question around and consider what about blindness -- and what about me -- leads you to assume that my right to literacy is less valuable than yours; that just as technology has not erased this right for you, it has not done so for me.
Braille matters because what it does for my life -- and for the lives of millions of blind people around the world -- leads to a feeling. A feeling of dignity and possibility. And those are the feelings that ignite dreams. Those feelings fuel fires that make the only difference that truly matters in the end -- the difference you feel deep inside you.
Braille matters, because it changed me. Braille has made me literate, and while you can remove everything else around me -- all the tools I own -- that will never change. Even if I lose more sight. Braille remains a part of me.
So if those feelings matter to you -- or if you can tangibly know what it is like to ever be in a position where you must justify your rights to those feelings -- then and only then will you understand what braille means to me.
In memory of Kelsey Chen
By Betty Nobel
Editor's Note: We thank Betty for sharing this lovely tribute and on behalf of everyone at BLC, we send our very warmest thoughts and deepest condolences to Kelsey's family during this time.
I met Kelsey a few years ago when she was five years old. She played the piano in a talent night organized by the youth in Blind Beginnings. She was all dressed up in a beautiful dress and she was very excited about being in kindergarten.
Throughout her life, Kelsey was challenged by her illness, but she didn't let it define her. Her blindness was caused by a brain tumour. She learned braille very quickly. By the end of grade 1 she knew most of the contractions. In grade 2, she won the Braille Reading and Writing Accuracy Competition for her age group. She learned to use a laptop with a braille display and when she could not go to school, she did school work using her braille technology. Her teacher emailed her documents and she would download them and work on them. Kelsey loved reading braille. Her favourite books were the Rainbow Fairies Series. She read every single one that the provincial resource entre had on the shelves. Because Kelsey loved books so much, she had a dream about starting a library for homeless children.
Kelsey was a wonderful little girl with a gentle but strong spirit. She passed away recently not long after her ninth birthday. She will be missed by everyone who loved and knew her. A web page has been set up to help the family and fund funeral costs. Should you wish to donate, the link is below.
Braille Zoomers: Virtual get-togethers for Adult Braille Learners
By Jen Goulden, BLC Past President
As many of you are aware, in April of this year we launched the Braille Zoomers group, a monthly virtual get-together for adult and older adult braille learners.
Many participants have shared that they were discouraged from learning braille. Some were told that it would be too difficult and others were told that they had too much vision and should wait until they had lost mor sight before even considering braille as an option. We're glad they didn't give up, and we believe that this program will provide much-needed support to adult braille learners across Canada. It is never too late - or too soon, for that matter - to learn braille!
"As a child with low vision growing up in the 1960s, I was denied the opportunity to learn Braille as it was thought that I would never learn to use my residual eyesight. While I am able to read print with glasses, I read very slowly. Braille Zoomers is providing me with support from like-minded others who want to learn or improve their Braille skills, regardless of age." - Shelley Ann Morris
We'd like to include a testimonial from our Braille Zoomers in each issue of the newsletter, so if you have participated in any of these sessions and would like to submit a comment you can send it to email@example.com.
The next monthly Braille Zoomers virtual get-together for adult and older adult braille learners will be held in November. Whether you are in the process of learning braille now or you learned it as an adult at some time in the past, come join us!
Each virtual get-together is an informal opportunity to share resources, support and ideas for adult braille learners. While there is a general theme each month, members will determine the direction of the discussion so that we can best support your braille learning journey. If you have specific braille-related questions you'd like us to address or if you want to register for an upcoming session, you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learning Braille as a Mature Adult
By Mike Jolls (Braille Monitor, June 2007 Edition)
BLC Editor's note: Following up on the above "Zoomers" discussion, we present an excerpt from this article, which was originally published in the June 2007 edition of the Braille Monitor. You can read the full article at https://www.nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm07/bm0706/bm070606.htm.
From the Editor: Mike Jolls has been a student at the adult training center at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind. As you will see, he clearly benefited from the training he received while a student there. This is his story.
I've learned at least three things in my life: not to judge a book by its cover, to give things an honest chance before making a decision, and to remember that nothing worth doing or having comes without hard work and perseverance. Internalizing those ideas has helped me to grow, learn new things, and expand my knowledge and ability to cope with life. Without them I would not be here to tell you about my experience learning Braille.
I'll start by encouraging everyone who struggles to continue reading print as an adult to learn Braille. Some of you may only be starting to consider Braille. Some may actually be learning it and getting frustrated. Still others may be clinging to print reading even though it's a real struggle because you refuse to touch Braille with a ten-foot pole. When I began learning Braille, I was a bit skeptical, but I'm here to tell you that Braille works. When reading print is a struggle because you can't see it easily, Braille is the way to regain your independence. I know, because that's exactly what I have done.
ICEB 7th General Assembly
By Leona Holloway, ICEB Public Relations Officer
The International Council on English Braille is pleased to confirm that the ICEB 7th General Assembly will be held from Sunday 18th October through to Friday 23rd October 2020. The event will be held daily online via Zoom.
Further details will be forthcoming shortly at https://www.ukaaf.org/iceb2020/.
Thanks are extended to RNIB and UKAAF for organizing and hosting the Assembly. We look forward to connecting with you all in a week dedicated to braille.
For more information please go to http://www.iceb.org.
Come and Join the Fun!
Not a member of BLC? We'd love for you to join us! You can fill out the form on our web site by clicking on the following link: http://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/personal-membership.asp
You can also complete the membership form online and then send your payment by Interac e-Transfer to email@example.com. If you prefer to pay with your credit card over the phone (VISA/Mastercard), send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will make arrangements to speak with you.
If you don't wish to become a member but would like to support the work of BLC you can also donate to BLC.
Your donations will help us to promote literacy and increase access to braille across Canada. You can make either a one time or a monthly donation, and all donations are tax deductible!
Printbraille books available from CELA
By Lindsay Tyler
Just in time for back to school - we are excited to reintroduce our full collection of more than 700 printbraille titles. The printbraille collection from CELA includes a wide variety of children's picture books with the text on each page in both print and uncontracted braille.
Readers can enjoy favourites, such as books by Robert Munsch, classics, and beautiful new award winners like Africville by Shauntay Grant and Eva Campbell. There are books available for toddlers and preschool children up to grade 4.
This collection is intended to support the early literacy needs of children who are blind or low vision by allowing them to read or explore braille text along with their families or educators. The collection is equally available for adult braille readers who want to read with the children in their lives. Educators of young braille learners may also borrow printbraille books to share with their students.
For more information about CELA's printbraille collection and to browse available titles, visit https://celalibrary.ca/services/kids-and-teens#printbraille.
To register for CELA services, whether as an eligible individual or as an educator or other professional, visit https://celalibrary.ca/register.
Braille Trivia Revisited
And the answer is ... The War of the Dots!
Social Media Updates
Here are just some of the gems posted on the BLC social media pages since the last issue. To receive these updates instantly, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!
Issue 8 of the ICEB newsletter is now available! http://iceb.org/PR.html?fbclid=IwAR2avnYLXuDjFjUQfke137BUVNtzYWeYFcQbgH25NRfcoYbCSWoxGkZAo0M#newsletter
National Braille Association Professional Development Conference: https://www.nationalbraille.org/what-we-do/professional-development-conference/?fbclid=IwAR0csjRdENXfd_568s0tRhmcqUGBS80iTG--jXgZrrUyON4e4y_i7vjrCCHM
Beginning Braille webinars for parents, teachers and paraprofessionals: https://www.pathstoliteracy.org/resources/beginning-braille-webinar-series?utm_content=138696141&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&hss_channel=fbp-31294868677&fbclid=IwAR1AasnXEM-PqMjQ6tN3LX9ZQXCmuQGJp1WThUgf7FnnFaGDpEo2oAaJpeY
The Braille Buzz app from APH: https://www.aph.org/product/braillebuzz-app/?fbclid=IwAR37ES7lyE9DI65yqeLix7ZfhpHKgdOFQKjHNtPLvDBcjReLWTBzoVBJ6vU
Three youngsters launch the Tactile Times newspaper for braille readers: https://www.elystandard.co.uk/news/youngsters-launch-the-tactile-times-newspaper-for-young-braille-users-1-6776987?fbclid=IwAR37LrDTsTxeVKFHoqmAbX1HW1_rI15RGOL-HtxZLyElXNIcgIuxUdjhdOM
Apple looks back on 30 years of the ADA: https://www.macobserver.com/news/30-years-disabilities-act/?fbclid=IwAR3CbXn5nZaU-n0JEoqBEUhY-vjBEClbgL0h080GTPpzSPn8HkM-IC4viTg