Programs & Services

June 4, 2021 Workshop: Braille Literacy Canada Symposium: From Braille Literacy to Empowerment


Date : Friday, June 4, 2021

Time : 1:00 PM (EST)

Braille Literacy Canada (BLC) held its first virtual braille symposium on Friday, June 4th, 2021 from 1 – 6 PM EDT (10am-3pm Pacific/11am-4pm Mountain/Saskatchewan, 12pm-5pm Central, 2pm-7pm Atlantic). This event was of great interest to braille readers, educators, transcribers, parents and anyone else who is passionate about the empowerment that braille literacy brings!

Now available: See our playlist on YouTube (also embedded below) to watch all of the presentations and question-and-answer sessions!

We are very happy to report that several generous sponsors will be supporting this event. BLC would like to acknowledge and thank Humanware, Aille Design, and Crawford Technologies for generously sponsoring this symposium, and donating some very exciting door prizes for our participants. There will definitely be some door prizes you will not want to miss! We thank all sponsors not only for their support, but for their continued commitment to braille literacy.

Sponsor logos

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.

The event will be free of charge to members (or members of organizations who are corporate members of BLC) and $20 for non-members. Interested in becoming a BLC member? Annual membership is $20 - check out our membership section for more information!

TO REGISTER, please write to info@blc-lbc.ca on or before May 31st, 2021. You will receive the Zoom link to join the symposium a few days before the event. Note that live automatic captioning will be provided through Zoom, and written transcripts of the presentations will be made available after the event.

Creating Empowerment Through a Joy of Reading and Writing

Presented at 1pm EST (10am Pacific, 11am Mountain/Saskatchewan, 12pm Central, 2pm Atlantic) by Cay Holbrook, Ph.D.

Parents and teachers spend a great deal of time in the early developmental years addressing the skills of reading and writing. While skills are critical to the task of reading and writing, this is only part of the story. It is not sufficient that children are able to decode words and produce letters that form words. Instead, the big picture of literacy has a component of exploration, creativity, fun and joy. This presentation will focus on joyful literacy and how to build empowerment through love of reading and writing.

Photo of Cay Holbrook

Cay Holbrook is currently a professor at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada where she has lived since 1998. Cay began working as a teacher of students with visual impairments. She completed her Ph.D in 1986 and held faculty positions at Johns Hopkins University and The University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Cay's research and scholarship have focused on literacy in all forms for individuals with visual impairments. She has published several textbooks, several on the topic of braille and/or literacy. She continues to conduct research in the area and is currently involved with colleagues at Rice University in a large research project designed to explore the way that braille is taught and used by school-age children.

How Many Braille Readers?

Presented at 2pm EST (11am Pacific, 12pm Mountain/Saskatchewan, 1pm Central, 3pm Atlantic) by Frances Mary D'Andrea, Ph.D.

How many braille readers are in the United States? This question is surprisingly difficult to answer. This presentation will report on research conducted with colleagues to search for "the statistic" that is so elusive. The project included a search of the literature from the early 20th century up to the present day to determine the number of braille reading children and adults in the United States, describing the terms and definitions used by different sources. More importantly, this presentation will invite a discussion about why this is an issue with important policy implications. Has there been a decline in braille readership in recent years? Has the nature of what is means to be a "braille reader" changed with the advent of technology? What research needs to be conducted regarding braille literacy? These and other public policy issues will be discussed in light of the search results.

Photo of Frances Mary D'Andrea

Frances Mary D’Andrea, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of practice at the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to joining the faculty at Pitt, she was an educational consultant specializing in literacy issues for students with visual impairments, and was an adjunct instructor at several U.S. universities. She was a teacher of students with visual impairments in various schools; from 1995-2005, she worked at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), and helped establish their National Literacy Center. She is a past-chair of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA); she has served as AFB's representative to BANA since 1998. She is currently secretary of the International Council on English Braille. She is co-author of several textbooks including Ashcroft Programmed Instruction in Braille: Unified English Braille. She serves on numerous committees and national task forces related to the education of students with visual impairments.

An introduction to the Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind

Presented at 3pm EST (12pm Pacific, 1pm Mountain/Saskatchewan, 2pm Central, 4pm Atlantic) by Micheal A. Hudson

Join Museum Director Mike Hudson for a walk through the Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville Kentucky. Founded in 1858, APH is the world’s largest manufacturer of braille and educational products for folks that are blind or visually impaired. The museum opened in 1994 and Mike joined the team in 2005. The collection and exhibits tell the history of education and rehabilitation efforts since the late 18th century and the first tactile books, a large collection of braillewriters and braille slate, fascinating electronic travel aids and other technology, a cornucopia of educational aids, tactile maps, and countless photographs and documents. The museum recently added the AFB Helen Keller Archive, cementing it, in Mike’s opinion if nobody else’s, as an essential stop for anyone with an interest in blindness history.

Photo of Micheal A. Hudson

Micheal A. Hudson has been the Museum Director at the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, KY since 2005. He has degrees in history from Kentucky Wesleyan College and the University of Delaware.

An Instant Translation – Creating printed math output on the BrailleNote Touch Plus

Presented at 4pm EST (1pm Pacific, 2pm Mountain/Saskatchewan, 3pm Central, 5pm Atlantic) by Peter Tucic

Join Peter Tucic, Brand Ambassador of Blindness Products for HumanWare, for a discussion of working with math content on the BrailleNote Touch Plus. Peter will run participants through the workflow a student can easily implement to turn in assignments at the same time as sighted peers. Peter will also discuss how one can send documents containing math content to a student for viewing on the BrailleNote Touch Plus and how a student can in-turn send completed work to teachers via electronic means. This is especially relevant during these times of extended remote learning and will continue to be relevant as we move forward within the connected classroom.

Peter Tucic graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History. Peter is currently the Brand Ambassador of Blindness Products for 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.

Braille Trivia - Tea Time / Happy Hour

Hosted from 5 to 6pm EST (2-3pm Pacific, 3-4pm Mountain/Saskatchewan, 4-5pm Central, 6-7pm Atlantic) by Tami Grenon

Join us as we celebrate Braille Literacy Canada and the empowerment of literacy through braille! To wrap up the symposium, we invite all to join us for tea time or happy hour (depending on where in the country you live!) and enjoy a fun game of virtual braille trivia, where you and your teams will test your knowledge of braille related facts! Plus, there will be door prizes! Fun, friends, and prizes – all wrapped up in a celebration of braille literacy!