News

Next Tuesday: An Introduction to Braille on Android

If you’re a blind Android user, you’re bound to have come across Steve Nutt at Computer Room Services. He’s blind himself, been in the accessible smartphone business for over 20 years, and has a vast amount of knowledge and experience when it comes to using smartphones with braille displays.

We’re delighted that he’ll be joining us on Tuesday 18 May at 7:30 PM to present an introduction to using an Android device with a braille display. We’ll cover which braille displays work with Android, how to connect them, how to navigate the operating system, other key concepts, and how to use braille input. There will also be time for your questions.

To register for our Android session, please use this link: https://is.gd/RUH5vc

Book Club Begins “Just William” by Richmal Crompton

Our Book Club has now finished reading its third book and will be starting its fourth on Thursday at 6:00 PM.

Just William, the famous book of short stories by Richmal Crompton, was chosen because it’s available in both electronic and hard copy editions, in both grade 1 and grade 2, and it’s not especially long. The hard copy braille edition can be obtained from the RNIB Library, whilst the electronic braille edition can be downloaded from RNIB Reading Services or found on the SD card which shipped with Orbit Readers from the RNIB from April 2020 onwards. For readers in the US, we understand that Just William is also available via BARD, the Braille and Audio Reading Download facility of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled.

We will be reading this book in three breakout groups to suit different reading speeds: beginner, intermediate and advanced. You don’t have to choose your group in advance, and you can move to another group at any time if you think it would be more suitable.

Anyone is welcome and no registration is required. Just turn up and enjoy reading!

Join link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89353220947
Meeting ID: 893 5322 0947

Catch the Braillists on the AT Banter Podcast

Based in Canada, the AT Banter podcast provides a balanced and entertaining look at the field of Assistive Technology, with insights and discussions from varied specialists.

Braillists Secretary Matthew Horspool Appeared on episode 239, where he talked about the state of braille in the UK and some of the challenges faced by organizations which work to advocate for, and teach, braille.

The Braillists Foundation got a mention too, of course! Check it out via the links above or search for “AT Banter” wherever you get your podcasts.

HumanWare is Seeking Private Beta Testers!

If you use a BrailleNote Touch Plus notetaker or Brailliant BI X braille display, and would be interested in testing new software before it’s released to the general public, we encourage you to read the below message from Andrew Flatres, Product Manager – Braille Products, HumanWare:

In light of new improvements to the products life cycle, HumanWare seeks beta testers to ensure stability and customer satisfaction in new firmware. HumanWare knows the importance of these products, so we want to ensure that any future software enhancements have been thoroughly reviewed and tested by actual users.

By becoming a beta tester, you will have first use of the latest firmware, where you’ll be asked to use and validate new features introduced in addition to its normal usage. Beta testing does, however, involve good communication skills and dedication.

If you are interested in potentially becoming a beta tester and have already got in the hand a new BI X display (20X or 40X) or a BrailleNote Touch Plus, please register your interest by filling out this Google form.

Please note there is limited space available. Therefore, please ensure you have submitted your interest by the Closing date 31st May 2021.

For further information about this opportunity, please email Andrew directly.

Two Braille Drop-Ins This Week!

Our popular Braille Bar returns for its third week on Tuesday (11 May) at 7:30 PM. No registration required – just turn up and ask your braille questions.

Join the Braille Bar here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88035088878?pwd=NHdkR2s1aDZsV1RCUmpQNWh3YWNaQT09

The day before, on Monday 10 May, friend of the Braillists Stuart Lawler, from Dublin, is back on Clubhouse with a braille music drop-in session at 8:00 PM.

Join Stuart’s braille music session here: https://www.joinclubhouse.com/join/braillists-foundation/4tfYBkxZ/xjLa7WKg

Finally, don’t forget that we’ll be offering an introduction to braille on Android next Tuesday (18 May). We’ll be talking about which braille displays you can use, how to set them up, common braille display commands, braille input on the Android touch screen and much more. You can find the registration link on our Events page or in next week’s newsletter.

Announcing the 2021 Braille Literacy Canada symposium: Friday 4 June, 6:00-11:00 PM

Braille Literacy Canada Symposium: From Braille Literacy to Empowerment

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

The schedule of events is as follows:

  • 1:00pm EST: Creating Empowerment Through a Joy of Reading and Writing (Cay Holbrook)
  • 2:00pm EST: How Many Braille Readers? (Frances Mary D’Andrea)
  • 3:00pm EST: An introduction to the Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind (Michael A. Hudson)
  • 4:00pm EST: An Instant Translation – Creating printed math output on the BrailleNote Touch Plus (Peter Tucic)
  • 5:00pm EST: Braille Trivia – Tea Time / Happy Hour

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!

Please see the workshop page on the BLC web site for all of the latest details!

TO REGISTER, please write to [email protected] on or before Wednesday, May 26th, 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 6pm BST (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.

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 7pm BST (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.

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 8pm BST (3pm EST, 12pm Pacific, 1pm Mountain/Saskatchewan, 2pm Central, 4pm Atlantic) by Michael 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.

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 9pm BST (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 10 to 11pm BST (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!


Visit our web site or join us on social media:

What is a BRF and why would you want one? Tuesday at 7:30 PM

We’re starting to hear more and more about BRF files. They’re the default braille format on platforms such as RNIB Reading Services; they’re regularly used in the transcription industry to share braille versions of documents between producers; and notetaker users have used them to transfer files from one brand of braille device to another. But questions still prevail:

  • What, exactly, is a BRF?
  • Why would you use BRF files over more mainstream file formats?
  • What are the limitations of BRF?
  • How do you read BRF files?
  • How do you navigate through them?
  • How do you create them?

Matthew Horspool will be answering all these questions and more on Tuesday 4 May at 7:30 PM.

To register for our BRF session, please use this link: https://is.gd/RUH5vc

Braille Bar, BRF Files and Android

Our popular Braille Bar returns on Tuesday (27 April) at 7:30 PM. No registration required – just turn up and ask your braille questions.

Join the Braille Bar here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88035088878?pwd=NHdkR2s1aDZsV1RCUmpQNWh3YWNaQT09

We are also delighted to announce the next two Masterclasses in our new series:

  • On 4 May, we’ll be demystifying BRF files: what is a BRF? Why would you want one? How do you read BRF files? How do you create them? We’ll be answering all these questions and more.
  • On 18 May, by popular demand, we’re pleased to be offering an introduction to braille on Android. We’ll be talking about which braille displays you can use, how to set them up, common braille display commands, braille input on the Android touch screen and much more.

Stay tuned to this newsletter for more information in the coming weeks – but if you can’t wait and you’d like to register straight away, you can do so here: https://is.gd/RUH5vc

Braille Music: Let’s tackle the basics!

Friend of the Braillists Stuart Lawler, from Dublin, is pioneering a new initiative to support the learning of Braille Music, using the Clubhouse social network.

Each session will run for 45 minutes with time at the end for questions and general discussion. Sessions will take place at 8 pm UK time, on the last Monday of each month, starting on April 26th. No prior knowledge of Braille Music is necessary, and the sessions are aimed at those with little or no knowledge of the Music code.

You can join the first session on Monday at 8 pm here: https://www.joinclubhouse.com/event/xqjV5o8l