Programs & Services

June 14, 2024 Workshop: 2024 Braille Literacy Canada Symposium: Touch The Future

Date : Friday, June 14, 2024

Time : 1:00 PM (EST)

Braille Literacy Canada (BLC) held its fourth annual virtual braille symposium on Friday, June 14, 2024 from 1 – 5 PM EDT (10am-2pm Pacific/11am-3pm Mountain/Saskatchewan, 12pm-4pm Central, 1pm-5pm Eastern, 2pm-6pm Atlantic, 5pm-9pm UTC).

Watch this space - videos and transcripts to come!

Schedule of Events

Each presentation will be approximately 30 minutes long, followed by a 15 minute question-and-answer period, and then a 15 minute intermission.

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

We would like to take a moment to thank our sponsors, Humanware, CNIB Beyond Print, Canadian Assistive Technology and Crawford Technologies, who through their generous support, are helping to make this event a true success, including by donating incredible door prizes!

Presentation Information and Speaker Bios

Teaching Braille to Adults: Beyond Just Knowing the Code (English)

Speaker: Jennifer Ottowitz, CVRT
Time: 1 PM Eastern

Adults of all ages who are blind or have low vision may benefit from learning braille. In addition to goals for using braille for extensive reading, even learning a few symbols can result in increased independence with identifying items or increased socialization through playing games. Whatever the braille goal, effective instruction involves more than just teaching the braille code. How do you get started and what approaches work best? Discover how to incorporate adult learning theory into assessment and instruction to make learning more meaningful and relevant. Information will be shared about a free resource that provides strategies and suggestions for how to approach braille learning with adults, how to use assessment and instructional strategies for reading and writing braille, and how to keep learners motivated. Customizing instruction for individuals with unique learning needs and additional comorbidities will also be discussed.


Jennifer Ottowitz is a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist and Older Blind Specialist with the Older Individuals Who Are Blind Technical Assistance Center (OIB-TAC) which is part of the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision housed at Mississippi State University. She received her Bachelor of Science in Education degree in Special Education for the Multiply and Orthopedically Handicapped from Kent State University and her Master of Science in Education degree in Special Education for the Visually Impaired from Northern Illinois University. She is co-editor of the Foundations of Vision Rehabilitation Therapy textbook and brings over 30 year’s experience providing direct service to adults who are blind or who have low vision. As a braille reader herself she understands firsthand the importance of braille as a tool for literacy and independence.

Qu’en est-il des ressources francophones sur le braille musical au Canada? (en français seulement)

Présenté par Ioana Gandrabur et Jen Goulden.

NOTE : Vous pouvez vous inscrire à la session française ici, gratuitement. Si vous souhaitez également assister aux présentations en anglais, veuillez également vous inscrire aux sessions du symposium en anglais.

Joignez-vous à nos panellistes pour une discussion informellesur l’univers des ressources francophones sur le braille musical au Canada. À partir d’expériences personnelles, nos panellistes discuterons de l’offre de partitions en français au Canada et ailleurs. Ils cibleront des ressources et des sources francophones liées au braille musical.

Ioana Gandrabur naît à Bucarest, en Roumanie, où elle amorce ses études musicales à l’âge de cinq ans en commençant par le piano. À l’âge de 12 ans, elle tombe sous le charme de la guitare, qu’elle commence [à étudier. À peine deux ans plus tard, elle remporte la première place au Concours national de guitare de Roumanie, ce qui fait d’elle la plus jeune lauréate de cette compétition. En 1989, Ioana émigre au Canada, où elle poursuit ses études au Conservatoire de musique de Montréal et obtient un Prix avec grande distinction. Elle est diplômée des conservatoires de Cologne et de Düsseldorf, en Allemagne, ainsi que de l’Académie de musique de Bâle, en Suisse. Ioana s’est produite en concert en Europe, en Amérique du Nord et au Maroc. Elle a réalisé un album et divers enregistrements pour la radio et la télévision, et a été invitée à donner des classes de maître à travers le monde. Elle travaille aussi comme pair formatrice au CAÉB, où elle offre, entre autres, des webinaires auprès des abonés.

Jen Goulden, EDP, UEB Technical, est responsable du soutien à la conformité en matière d'accessibilité chez Crawford Technologies. Elle a 20 ans d'expérience dans le domaine de l'accessibilité des documents. Elle est titulaire d'une maîtrise en linguistiques de l'Université d'Ottawa et elle parle anglais, français et espagnol. Elle est transcriptrice braille certifiée et membre du groupe de travail DAISY eBraille. Elle a été présidente de Littératie braille Canada de 2011 à 2018 et elle est trésorière du Conseil international du braille anglais depuis 2016. En outre, elle représente l'INCA auprès de la Braille Authority of North America (BANA) et, en janvier 2022, elle en devient la présidente. Jen est pianiste, se passionne pour la lecture et adore le chocolat noir.

Where are We Now? An Update on the Monarch Dynamic Braille and Tactile Graphics Display (English)

Speaker: Peter Tucic
Time: 2 PM Eastern

Join Peter Tucic, the Director of Strategic Partnerships at HumanWare, for a discussion on the Monarch tactile graphics and multi-line braille display. With the release being only months away, Peter will provide updates on availability, results of educational field testing and teacher trainings, and the feature set that will be ready for launch for this revolutionary device. Peter will also talk of what is to come, and will have time to answer participant questions.

Peter Tucic graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History. Peter is currently the Director of Strategic Partnerships at HumanWare. He travels throughout the US and Canada, supporting teachers and students and presenting at state and national conferences. Peter has presented at such conferences as the National ACB and NFB, in addition to the CSUN and ATIA conferences amongst many others. Peter has also been published in Closing the Gap magazine and regularly creates written and video tutorials for a wide array of products.

What's the Problem with Pre-Braille? Re-Visiting Early Braille Literacy (English)

Speaker: Adam Wilton, Ph.D.
Time: 3 PM Eastern

This presentation looks critically at the skills and techniques generally referred to as "pre-braille" skills in the early literacy development of learners who are blind or partially sighted. We'll look at how strategies and approaches have evolved to support the development of these skills in increasingly digital learning spaces. We’ll review the tactile strategies that are essential to early braille reading and writing and how they can be adapted for a range of learner profiles – using the Braille Bites series as a foundation. Finally, the presentation will provide a rationale and call to action for prioritizing tactile strategies for all blind and partially sighted learners. Join us for a lively discussion of tips and tricks about touch!

Adam Wilton, PhD, is the Program Manager of the Provincial Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired (PRCVI) in Vancouver, British Columbia. He has been an educator for 17 years, working mostly as a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments and Orientation and Mobility Specialist. Adam has numerous connections to the braille world - he is a Director for Braille Literacy Canada, the Coordinator of the BC Regional Braille Challenge, and the past Chair of the Canadian Association of Educational Resource Centres for Alternate Format Materials.

Braille Music – using technology, how do we learn it, how do we find resources? (English)

Speaker: Jordie Howell Time: 4 PM Eastern

It is incredible to think of Louis braille, a teenager in the 1800s geeking around with dots to create what we now call braille and braille music. In addition to literary braille, Louis Braille’s system for music in braille is still the only international braille code in existence. If you borrow a braille music score in Canada, Australia, Norway or Vietnam, you will recognize the note values, time signatures and fundamental signs. Formatting differs quite drastically though.

This presentation will be split into three parts:

  • Introduction: brief description of what braille music is and how does it work?
  • Resources available to learn braille music: books, YouTube videos and podcasts. I will direct participants to some online resources in different countries to assist them to begin their journey in braille music learning.
  • Demonstrations of braille music translation programs from a braille using perspective on how to convert print music into braille. Examples of conversions with Goodfeel, Musescore and SMB will be included as well as an overview of the DAISY Music Braille Project.

Jordie is the Immediate Past Chair of the Australian Braille Authority, and the Australian representative to the International Council on English Braille for which she also chairs the music committee. She is a braille music transcriber for Vision Australia where she works with volunteers to convert print music to braille, as well as help develop automation processes in braille music translation. Jordie is also the music teacher with the Statewide Vision Resource Centre in Victoria where she enjoys working with children learning braille technologies along with braille music, and running professional development for teachers in braille music. Braille music has been a vital tool in Jordie’s professional singing and teaching work. Jordie is a classical soprano and sings professionally as a soloist and in choirs. A passionate advocate for braille and a lifelong braille user, Jordie is in her happy place when braille and music are in almost every aspect of her life.

Braille Literacy Canada / Littératie braille Canada, founded in 1990 as the Canadian Braille Authority, is a national charitable organization dedicated to the promotion of braille as the primary medium of literacy for those who are blind or visually impaired. BLC is recognized by the International Council on English Braille as the authority for the development, adoption, and establishment of standards relating to braille in Canada. With a membership comprising organizations and individuals, educators, braille transcribers, braille producers, parents of braille users and braille users themselves, BLC represents a broad cross-section of those working with or impacted by braille and is led by a volunteer board of directors elected by the BLC membership.