Programs & Services

June 17, 2022 Workshop: 2022 Braille Literacy Canada Symposium


Date : Friday, June 17, 2022

Time : 1:00 PM (EST)

Braille Literacy Canada (BLC) held its second annual virtual braille symposium on Friday, June 17th, 2022 from 1 – 5 PM EDT (10am-2pm Pacific/11am-3pm Mountain/Saskatchewan, 12pm-4pm Central, 2pm-6pm Atlantic). This event will be of interest to braille readers, educators, transcribers, parents, producers and anyone else with a passion for braille literacy!

The schedule of events is as follows:

Each presentation will be approximately 30 minutes long, followed by a 15 minute question-and-answer period, and then a 15 minute intermission. More information on our exciting line up of speakers is provided below. Live automatic captioning will be provided through Zoom, and written transcripts of the presentations will be made available after the event.

We would like to take a moment to thank all of our sponsors who, through their generous support, are helping to make this event a true success, including by donating some incredible door prizes and special offers that you will not want to miss!

  • HumanWare is the global leader in technology-based solutions for the visually impaired. We offer a wide range of innovative products including the BrailleNote Touch+, Brailliante braille display, the entire line of Victor Reader digital audiobook players, Connect 12 electronic magnifiers, Reveal 16 screens, and Explore ultra-compact electronic magnifiers.
  • Aille Design (pronounced: eye) is an inclusive clothing brand making a fashion statement you can feel. We work directly with the blind and visually impaired community to create clothing with beautiful braille messages that are fully legible and customizable. Our designs can be used for the functionality of the legible braille, can be dressed up as a unique fashion piece, or worn to initiate conversation about disability inclusion and the importance of braille. 5% of t-shirt sales are donated to low vision organizations and all braille beadwork and accessibility cards are handmade by Aille Design founder, Alexa Jovanovic. Request an accessibility card with your purchase to receive detailed product information in braille and large print format.
  • Kids Can Press, part of the Corus Entertainment family, is the largest Canadian-owned children’s publisher and the 2017 recipient of the distinguished Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publisher, North America. The publisher’s catalog includes an award-winning list of over 700 picture books, nonfiction and fiction titles for children and young adults that are translated and sold around the world. Kids Can Press will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2023.
  • Crawford Technologies, an award-winning, global provider of software solutions and services that help enterprises optimize and improve the secure and accessible delivery, storage and presentment of their customer communications. With over 1,800 customers on six continents, CrawfordTech solutions and know-how enable the largest banks, insurers, healthcare providers, utilities and print services companies to use their existing technologies, documents and data in new ways.
  • Purdys Chocolatier, a proud, family-owned Canadian chocolatier that prides itself in its exclusive use of sustainable cocoa, and which has gained world-wide attention for its introduction of their fully accessible, braille-labelled 18 pc Braille Box chocolates!

Revitalising Braille through a Grass Roots Community

Presented at 1pm EST (10am Pacific, 11am Mountain/Saskatchewan, 12pm Central, 2pm Atlantic) by Matthew Horspool and Dave Williams of the Braillists Foundation

Since 2014, the Braillists Foundation has been connecting UK braille users with braille product manufacturers, and building a community of braille enthusiasts. In 2020, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, activity went online and the Braillists community was made global. Through remote Braille for Beginners courses, Masterclasses, a Book Club, a podcast, email discussion groups and drop-in sessions, perceptions of braille within the community have grown exponentially more positive, and collective enthusiasm about braille has peaked the interest of external organisations and individuals who were previously unconvinced about braille's future.

In this workshop, you will hear first hand the story of the Braillists and learn more about how our initiatives work. We will share how much of the braille code we teach in our Braille for Beginners courses, explain what factors we consider when programming our Masterclasses, and demonstrate how teamwork and determination can lead to even the smallest of organisations growing into a vibrant global movement.

Matthew Horspool has been formally involved with the Braillists since it was registered as a charity in 2020, and took up the post of General Manager in 2021. His career started in a school for the blind, where he worked as a braille transcriber and teacher of technical braille codes. In addition to his work with the Braillists, he is Braille Subject Lead for the UK Association for Accessible Formats and works closely with the International Council on English Braille. In his spare time, he sings in the choir at Coventry Cathedral, where braille is invaluable to his success.

As Customer Experience Manager for RNIB, Chair of the Braillists Foundation, blind parent and marathon runner, Dave Williams is a strong advocate for accessible experiences. through his work as Director of ACB Radio, Product Manager for one of Europe's oldest and most respected assistive technology companies, Dolphin Computer Access, and correspondent for BBC Radio, Dave nurtured and mentored the talents and creativity of the blind community. Dave's passion for braille was reignited when he wanted to read the bedtime story with his baby son. Dave played a key role in the team that brought to market a screen reader for touch screen Devices at a time when touch screens were considered inaccessible. As ACB Radio Director Dave launched a listen on-demand service years before BBC iPlayer. He also has delivered live streaming coverage of the World Blind Union General Assembly, and helped deliver the first vertual General Assembly of the International Council on English Braille in 2020. At RNIB Dave regularly advises developers of braille technology on functionality and usability. As Chair of the Braillists Foundation, Dave steered the organisation through the pandemic, growing resources, participation in braille learning and with his team of volunteers and freelancers gained widespread recognition for their efforts to grow braille literacy among blind adults around the world.

Hadley’s Braille for Everyday Use

Presented at 2pm EST (11am Pacific, 12pm Mountain/Saskatchewan, 1pm Central, 3pm Atlantic) by Douglas Walker and Dr. Kim Walker of Hadley

Hadley’s new Braille for Everyday Use is a new approach to braille. It is designed to make braille learning more engaging, accessible, and successful. The program is allowing us to better serve the growing population of older adults who are new to vision loss and would greatly benefit from learning braille.

Douglas Walker has been an educator in the field of blindness for more than thirty years. He currently serves as the Co-Director of Research and Development at Hadley. Douglas is responsible for new concept designs as well as, new content creation. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a Masters in Vision from Vanderbilt University and a Certificate in Assistive Technology from California State University Northridge.

Dr. Kim Walker is the Co-Director of Research and Development at the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She has been an educator in the field of blindness for over 30 years. Kim holds a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Tennessee Technological University, a Masters degree in Visual Impairments from Vanderbilt University and a Doctorate degree in organizational leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University.

What is the science of reading, and what does it teach us about braille contractions?

Presented at 3pm EST (12pm Pacific, 1pm Mountain/Saskatchewan, 2pm Central, 4pm Atlantic) by Dr. Robert Englebretson, Rice University

In this talk, I will give an overview of recent research from the cognitive sciences about the neural, perceptual, cognitive, and linguistic underpinnings of reading and writing. I will outline how this is relevant to braille. I will share some of our team’s specific findings from our ongoing research about the reading and writing of braille contractions, and will focus on the problematic nature of contractions that bridge parts of words, such as those that cross the boundary between prefixes and stems (for example the AND contraction in ‘pandemic’ or the ED contraction in ‘redraw’) and those that cross the boundary between stems and suffixes (for example the ED contraction in ‘freedom’ or the EA contraction in ‘mileage’). I will conclude with some suggestions of how our ongoing work may contribute to evidence-based approaches to teaching and to the continued development of braille.

Robert Englebretson is the chair of the Linguistics Department at Rice University, where he teaches courses in linguistic analysis, discourse and grammar, field methods, and research on braille. He has done fieldwork in Indonesia, and has authored a book and several articles on Colloquial Indonesian grammar. Englebretson’s focus on braille research began in 2006 when he was appointed to the International Council on English Braille’s Committee on Linguistics and Foreign Languages. In this role, he revised and published a braille version of the IPA to empower better access to phonetics for blind and visually-impaired people working in language-related fields. In November 2019, the Braille Authority of North America recognized Englebretson with the Darleen Bogart Braille Excellence Award for this work. Also in 2019, a team of researchers including Englebretson, Simon Fischer-Baum (Rice University) and Cay Holbrook (University of British Columbia) were awarded an Exploration research grant from the Institute for Education Sciences (AWARD No. R324A190093) “Exploring the Knowledge, Skills, and Strategies Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments Need to Effectively Teach Braille Reading and Writing.” His work seeks to bring braille research squarely into the mainstream of the reading sciences, and to contribute to evidence-based approaches to improving braille literacy.

Walking Through Paths to Literacy For All Things Braille

Presented at 4pm EST (1pm Pacific, 2pm Mountain/Saskatchewan, 3pm Central, 5pm Atlantic) by Kate Borg, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

The Paths to Literacy website (http://www.pathstoliteracy.org) is a collaboration between Perkins School for the Blind and Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI). By combining our resources and expertise we strive to help stimulate discussion in the field on the many different aspects of literacy for students who are blind or visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities or who are deafblind. In this session, we will explore the new Paths to Literacy website and the many resources that it has to offer!

Participants will gain knowledge to:

  • Navigate the new site
  • Easily find and access resources on braille literacy and instruction
  • Understand how to contribute content to the site

Kate Borg is the Director of Outreach Programs at TSBVI and the Texas Deafblind Project Coordinator. Kate joined TSBVI in 2019 after working at the Utah School for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB) and in Prince William County, Virginia. Kate has been a school principal, instructional coach, classroom teacher, and itinerant TVI working with students who are blind, visually impaired, and deafblind. In addition to leading TSBVI’s Outreach mission, Kate serves as the current president of the Texas Chapter of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (TAER) and sits on research grant committees to improve instruction for students with sensory impairment.