Programs & Services
Newsletter - September 2021
In This Issue
- President's Message (Natalie Martiniello (BLC President))
- A Note From Your ICEB Rep (Jen Goulden (BLC Past-President))
- Get To Know Your BLC Board: Daphne Hitchcock (Vice-President)
- October 2, 2021 Braille Zoomers: Tips and Strategies for Learning Braille
- ICEB Compiles Adult Braille Instruction Resources From Across English-Speaking Countries
- Becoming a BLC Member - or renewing your membership!
- Help make the Brailler Bounce happen!
- My Experience with the Orbit Reader 20 Plus (Betty Nobel)
- Social Media Links
By Natalie Martiniello (BLC President)
Dear BLC members and friends,
It's hard to believe that another summer is behind us, and the fall has arrived. It's a time for many to return to school (whether you are a teacher or a student) and a time when we know many transcribers are busily working on materials for the new school year. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I send my very best wishes for the new season from all of us on the board of BLC. Thank you for all that you do!
Your BLC board enjoyed a restful summer but also worked on various exciting initiatives which we are happy to share with you in this newsletter.
Symposium Recordings and Transcripts
This past June, BLC held its first virtual Braille Symposium, From Braille Literacy to Empowerment. In addition to a fun and lively braille trivia event hosted by our own Tami Grenon, we were so fortunate to be joined by a line-up of exceptional speakers including Dr. Cay Holbrook, Dr. Frances Mary D'Andrea, Mike Hudson from the American Printing House for the Blind, and Peter Tucic from Humanware.
We are thrilled to share that the recordings for each of these presentations, and most of the transcripts (with the rest to come soon), are now available on our website at https://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/en/programs/workshops/symposium2021. You can also find the videos in this YouTube playlist. (A dedicated team of volunteers is completing editing and proofreading of transcripts of each of these presentations.)
We look forward to holding this event again in future!
Braille Zoomers: Virtual Peer-Support for Adult Braille Learners
Our team has been working hard to develop another year of virtual sessions for our Braille Zoomers program, a virtual peer-support initiative for adult and older adult braille learners from across Canada. If you are blind or have low vision and are learning braille as an adult, we invite you to join us for these lively and informal (but very informative) sessions.
In September, our first session after the summer focused on braille labelling tips and ideas -- how to label, what to use to label, what to label, and how braille labelling can support and reinforce your braille learning. We all left with new strategies and resources and are geared up for the October session which is taking place this Saturday -- We hope to see many of you there! Sessions occur on the first Saturday of each month at 1 PM Eastern. Write to email@example.com to learn more.
Braille starter kits
Thanks to private donations in addition to generous grants we have received from Times Colonist and the Government of Canada, we have now implemented a formal process for requesting braille starter kits. These kits, available while funding lasts, provides basic braille items to support adult braille learners. These tools range from a slate and stylus for writing to short stories written in uncontracted braille. For more information on who is eligible and how to apply, please visit https://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/en/programs/zoomers/kits.
French-Print Braille Book Initiative
We are thrilled to officially launch our French-print braille book initiative for elementary aged children with visual impairments across Canada. BLC recognizes that access to braille literacy is essential and that braille readers deserve equal access to learn French as a first or second language.
To this end, BLC will be providing financial support to individuals who are purchasing French print-braille books for children (up to and including grade 6). You can request to have the cost for a print-braille book reimbursed, or submit a quote for consideration. To learn more, visit https://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/en/news/now-available-funding-to-assist-with-the-acquisition-or-pro.
Braille Promotions Virtual Workshops
Our Braille Promotions committee has also been hard at work, preparing a line-up of fascinating workshops for the next few months. This September, members enjoyed a workshop on how to use Duxbury with a braille display. We thank Jen Goulden and Jennifer Jesso for guiding this session and sharing their expertise.
We have an exciting topic coming up in November -- Stay tuned for more details!
Workshops are free of charge to members and cost $20 for non-members. To learn more about membership, visit https://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/en/membership.
A Note on Membership!
This is a reminder that the new membership year will begin on January 1st. If you renew now, this will also count for the new membership year. Members have access to free workshops throughout the year, the BLC newsletter sent directly to your email, access to the braille Zoomers program, the ability to volunteer on any of our committees and working groups, and to vote at our annual general meetings. We hope that you will stay with us and thank you tremendously for your continued support! Renew today!
Brailler Bounce Program
Over the years, we have re-homed and repaired unused braillers to over 60 braille users from across Canada. We thank all those who have help to find those dusty braillers and get them into the hands of waiting braille users. We also thank all those who have played an integral role in repairing our braillers, including Francois Ouelette and the Canadian Helen Keller Center.
We are in need of more braillers for this program to continue. If you have a brailler to donate, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll help you get it to a new home!
In Need of French Volunteers
This past year, BLC was thrilled to launch our new website. The new website is easier to navigate and includes more information than before on all of the projects we run.
We are in the process of preparing to launch the French version of the site, but we are in need of French-speaking volunteers to help proofread different parts of the pages.
If you are able to help, we thank you tremendously in advance and invite you to contact us at email@example.com for more details.
With that, we thank you for your continued support and hope you enjoy the fall edition of the BLC newsletter. If you would like to submit a braille-related article or news item for a future issue (in English or French) you are welcome to do so by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With warmest wishes,
Natalie Martiniello, Ph.D., CVRT
President, Braille Literacy Canada
A Note From Your ICEB Rep
By Jen Goulden (BLC Past-President)
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).
I currently serve as the treasurer and BLC rep to the ICEB Executive Committee. This means that I represent Canada, because BLC is our ICEB member. All right, no more acronyms ... I promise!
The ICEB General Assembly takes place every four years, and the last one was held in October of 2020. The ICEB Executive Committee is elected to serve a four-year term, until the next General Assembly. The Executive holds a face-to-face meeting about halfway through the term. Canada is hosting the upcoming midterm meetings, which are scheduled for early June of next year. Due to travel restrictions and the unpredictability of the current situation, we have regretfully decided that the meetings will take place via Zoom. Observers are welcome, and we will share more details about this event in the coming months.
If you'd like to learn more about ICEB there are several ways to do so. You can visit www.iceb.org for more information. You can also sign up to the ICEB announce list by sending an email to email@example.com. Finally, you can follow ICEB on its social media platforms -- on Twitter: @ICEBbraille and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ICEBbraille/
Get To Know Your BLC Board: Daphne Hitchcock (Vice-President)
Who are you?
I am Daphne Hitchcock from Victoria, BC. I serve as Vice President of BLC. I have enjoyed a career as a teacher with students who have visual impairments.
When did you start learning braille? Tell us your favourite braille related memory.
On a whim and to please a friend, I took the CNIB braille transcription course in 1978 during my final term of university. Within a matter of weeks, I found myself teaching full time in a segregated classroom, a pilot project focused on integrating blind children into their neighbourhood school. It proved to be a steep learning curve, and the five young students were my best teachers, inspiring me to learn more and embrace the world of braille.
Is there anything about your braille background you'd like to share?
Throughout my career and volunteer efforts, I have been drawn to projects and organizations that focus on developing literacy, especially braille literacy. Of particular interest was the ELVI Project, Early Literacy for Visually Impaired and also serving on the executive of BC Vision Teachers' Association.
Tell us a bit about what you do for BLC and what you like about it?
I do love a good project! And at this time, I am super excited about the Braille Zoomers group and also our Brailler Bounce Initiative. Both are addressing a huge need and serving to provide supports and tools for ensuring braille literacy in homes. I also enjoyed working on our Braille Stamp submission.
Tell us about one gem (e.g. a page or resource) on the BLC website you want members to know about.
Just one gem? Our resource page is amazing, my favourite go-tos are Hadley School for the Blind and Paths to Literacy.
However, we don't want forget our Edie Mourre Bursary, now more than ever, we need trained and certified braille transcribers and educators.
Funds from the Edie Mourre Bursary, are a huge help in defraying the cost of certification courses, whether it be braille code, advance technical or music braille.
What do you want parents, classroom teachers or the general public to understand about braille?
Braille is a dynamic and essential tool in ensuring literacy for those who are blind or low vision dual media users. It is more than a tool, it is foundational in developing literacy... even the most basic understanding of braille can start a student (young and old) on their way to reading for meaning. We have others ways of gathering information, but it is braille that gives students the opportunity to interpret and synthesize written language.
What are your thoughts about BLC as you look back on the past 30 years?
I am thankful for the work of past BLC boards, who have championed the advancements in braille literacy research, giving us a better understanding when teaching braille basics and the introduction of braille contractions. BLC has also played and continues to play a vital role in the development of extending the braille code into the dynamic version of UEB. BLC publications such as the Accessible Signage Regulations sought after references, are one of many important resources from BLC
What are your thoughts on braille and BLC as you look ahead to the next 30 years?
As Canada's authority on braille we have a lot of work to do in the coming years. The mainstream use of braille should not be questioned, and braille should be a given, not a consideration, extended and not limited to all signage, government circulars/publications, and beyond.... following the directive of 'where there is print, there, too should be braille'.
We never question the use of print, nor should we question the use of braille.
All libraries across Canada should have a collection of hardcopy braille, especially for youth and those who are emerging braille readers. Accessibility is not a provision of audio files, accessibility includes all formats, especially braille.
Continuing to provide education to all sectors on the importance of braille is an ongoing challenge, in places of employment, in the schools, and in both private and public organizations. Braille Literacy Canada is always up for a challenge, and our commitment to promoting braille is unwavering.
October 2, 2021 Braille Zoomers: Tips and Strategies for Learning Braille
The next monthly Braille Zoomers virtual get-together for adult and older adult braille learners will be held on Saturday, October 2, 2021. This month we'll be reviewing tips and strategies for learning braille. Whether you are in the process of learning braille now or you learned it as an adult at some point in the past, this group is for you!
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, participants will determine the direction of the discussion so that we can best support your braille learning journey. If you have specific braille learning or braille usage questions you'd like us to address, you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our next virtual gathering will take place on Saturday, October 2nd at 1 PM Eastern (10am Pacific, 11am Mountain/Saskatchewan, 12pm Central/Manitoba, 2pm Atlantic).
To participate, write to email@example.com by Friday, October 1st and we will add you to the list. The details on how to join will be sent to you after you register. (NOTE, even if you attended an earlier call, you will still need to register for this meeting, as the call-in details will have changed.)
ICEB Compiles Adult Braille Instruction Resources From Across English-Speaking Countries
August 11, 2021 -- The International Council on English Braille (ICEB) recognizes that as the global population continues to age, there is a growing prevalence of adults and older adults who experience vision loss later in life and who would benefit from braille instruction. For almost 200 years, braille has continued to level the playing field for blind people around the world. Adults use braille for functional tasks such as labeling household items, writing phone numbers and lists, personal record-keeping, engaging in leisure activities, reading elevators and public signage. Braille is also vital for more extensive reading tasks in education and employment. Braille provides blind adults with greater privacy, allowing them to access personal information without the assistance of others. Adults can and do learn braille, but there is a need to better understand the current state of available resources for adult braille learners.
"Practitioners in English-speaking countries are developing and using innovative tools to support adult braille learners and it is important that we share this with others," explains Dr. Natalie Martiniello, Chair of the ICEB Research Committee. "There are also gaps in adult braille learning that need to be addressed as we prepare for the future. The first step is compiling what is already available. ICEB is committed to facilitating this process alongside others from around the English-speaking world."
A list of available curricula and learning resources for adults will be compiled and made publicly available on the ICEB website. ICEB invites both individuals and organizations to share information about the learning tools being used to teach braille reading and writing to adults in their respective countries. This includes:
- names of organizations that provide adult braille instruction in different English-speaking countries
- information about textbooks for adult braille learners and/or available self-paced curricula
- adult braille assessment guidelines and resources
- available websites, games and other strategies used to teach braille to adults
- information about workshops and courses on teaching braille to adults designed for practitioners
- peer-support programs for adult braille learners in English-speaking countries
If you have information or items to contribute to this list, or to learn more, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
The International Council on English Braille (ICEB) was formed in 1991 and provides a forum for international cooperation among those countries that use English-language braille by assisting countries to establish standard-setting bodies in relation to braille codes and practices; working towards the development and adoption of international minimum standards for the production and teaching of braille; and facilitating the exchange of braille materials between member countries. Its members currently include braille authorities from Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. To learn more about ICEB, visit http://www.iceb.org or write to email@example.com.
Becoming a BLC Member - or renewing your membership!
Already a member of BLC? As we approach the end of the year, the time is coming to renew your membership for 2022. The easiest way is to simply fill out a new membership form on the web site. You can then pay online with PayPal, send an Interac email transfer, or get instructions for sending your payment by cheque. To renew, please visit https://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/en/membership/join.
Not a member of BLC? We'd love for you to join us! Your support will help us promote literacy and increase access to braille across Canada. To become a member please fill out our online membership form. If you don't wish to become a member but would still like to support the work of BLC we invite you to visit our web site and donate online.
Help make the Brailler Bounce happen!
At Braille Literacy Canada, we believe that everyone who can benefit from braille should have access to it. As the braillewriter of choice for schools, transcribers, and home users, the Perkins Brailler makes it easy, convenient, and quick for people who are blind to produce braille materials.
Braille Literacy Canada's Brailler Bounce initiative works to get unused Perkins Braillers out of dark and long-forgotten storage places and into the hands of braille users who need them and can put them to good use! BLC makes any necessary repairs to the donated braillers, thanks to our talented brailler repair team including Francois Ouelette and the Canadian Helen Keller Centre, and rehomes them with blind students, adults, and seniors across Canada. The initiative has rehomed over 60 braillers since it began in 2017, but we need your support to keep it going!
Many Canadians who are blind are waiting eagerly to be matched with a brailler right now, but we do not have any more braillers waiting for new homes.
If you have an extra Perkins brailler sitting around that you no longer need, please consider donating it to BLC's Brailler Bounce program! We'll cover the cost of shipping for any donor in Canada. Even if it isn't in perfect working order, we'll see if it can be fixed and find it a new home with one of the many Canadians eagerly waiting for a brailler.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 1-877-861-4576 for instructions on where and how to donate.
Together we can keep the Brailler Bounce going strong!
My Experience with the Orbit Reader 20 Plus
By Betty Nobel
I am what you might call a "dyed in the wool" speech user when it comes to technology. I was brought into the world of braille displays kicking and screaming. This meant that I was reading primarily audio books. I was mostly using braille for choir words, meeting agendas, etc. But then I was able to afford an ElBraille and my world changed.
However, the ElBraille is not affordable for most people, so I want to talk about the Orbit. I was able to trial the Orbit 40 and I really liked it, but I decided that for my purposes, a 20-cell braille display would be lighter. I could live without cursor routing buttons so I bought the Orbit 20 Plus for the price of $945.
I really like it, particularly for a reading device. The braille is very sharp and clear. While it is true that the refresh rate is somewhat slower, that doesn't bother me. Nor does the noise when it refreshes. It is just something you get used to. The ElBraille does not remember where you left off when you are reading, so when using it, you always have to remember a word that you can search for the next time you want to find your place in the book. The Orbit, like most notetakers, remembers where you left off. I like the scroll buttons at either end used for panning. If you use your left hand to pan down and your hand gets tired, you can just use the panning key on the right, so I use them interchangeably. If I decide I don't want to use the panning buttons, I just turn on the automatic scrolling which goes at a comfortable reading speed.
If I want to make a quick note about something such as a phone number, I can quickly switch between the book I am reading and my note. If I want to, I can set two alarms. It even has a calculator. One thing you have to do is to copy the BRF books you want to read on to the SD card. The unit itself only uses three file types: BRF, BRL, and TXT. I have not yet learned how to save the files I create in a different file format, but I am slowly working my way through the manual to determine what the default file type is...probably TXT. However, when transferring the file to a computer, if it is a TXT file, I can put the text into a Word document and format it if I need to do that.
I can connect the Orbit to my computer using the USB cable and I can access anything on my phone in braille by connecting the Orbit via Bluetooth. The one thing that is fairly difficult to do is to get the Bluetooth connection working properly with the computer, but it can be done.
I think that the Orbit 20 Plus is a marvelous device, considering its price. I recommend it for use by new braille readers because it is very easy to learn to use. I can put it in my purse and carry it around. It also seems pretty sturdy. All in all, this is a very good display when you consider its features and its cost.
Social Media Links
Here are a few of the items we have posted on our social media platforms in recent weeks.
Now Accepting Applications for Braille Zoomer Starter Kits - go to our web site to apply: https://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/en/programs/zoomers/kits
Funding to Assist with French Braille Book Acquisition - check out this page on our web site to learn more: https://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/en/news/now-available-funding-to-assist-with-the-acquisition-or-pro
Did you know that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is available in electronic and hard copy #braille? Go to the following link to download or request the Charter in English or French: https://justice.gc.ca/eng/csj-sjc/rfc-dlc/ccrf-ccdl/resources-ressources.html
A braille display is an invaluable tool and a very worthwhile investment. The Braillists Foundation provides some excellent guidance on choosing your next display. When it comes to #Braille displays there's no such thing as a one size fits all approach so it's really important to make sure that you purchase the one that's right for you. Learn more in our How to Choose your Braille Display masterclass: https://braillists.org/media
Want to know how to use Braille in the kitchen without getting bourbon on the BrailleNote or Peri-peri on the Perkins? We spill the beans in our Braille in the Kitchen masterclass: https://braillists.org/media
The next BrailleZoomers virtual get-together for adult and older adult braille learners will be held on Saturday, October 2, 2021. We'll be reviewing tips and strategies for learning braille. To register, write to email@example.com.
If you were unable to attend our Braille Symposium or if you just want to check out one of these fabulous presentations again, go to the following link: https://brailleliteracycanada.ca/en/programs/workshops/symposium2021. Transcripts will be available soon!