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The Braille Highway

For your reading convenients below you will find all the Braille Highway published in 2016

January 2016

Happy 2016!! Wishing you & yours a year of happiness, Prosperity, and full of health. In commemorating Louis Braille’s birthday, on January 4, I thought I would write an article about him. Louis was born in a small town near Paris France in 1809. It was a horrible accident at a very young age that caused his blindness. Wanting to be like his father working with tools, Louis picked up an awl (a sharp tool for creating holes), and it slipped and injured his eye. The injury became infected and spread throughout both eyes, causing his blindness.

At the age of ten, Louis received a scholarship to attend the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris. He was an impatient young boy with great eagerness to learn. At the time, most learning was done audibly, with just a small collection of books. These books were difficult to read with their raised letters.

Then, in 1821, Louis was inspired by a visit from a former soldier, Charles Barbier. He shared his invention of “Night Writing”; a code using twelve raised dots. He created this style of writing to allow soldiers to share top secrets on the battlefield without having to speak with one another. However, this code was too hard for the soldiers to read. Awe, but not for twelve-year old Louis!

By the time Louis was fifteen years old he changed Barbier’s format from twelve dots to 6 and adjusted the system. In 1829 he published the very first braille book. But as previously stated, Louis was not only eager to learn, but determined to develop more “reading” materials for the blind. He then created symbols for mathematics and music in 1837.

However, with the development of this new system, the public was still skeptical. So, unfortunately, blind students had to study braille on their own. This was true even at the Royal Institution, where Louis taught after he graduated.

It wasn’t until 1868 that braille became known worldwide due to a group of British men, who took up the cause. They formed what is now known as the Royal National Institute for the Blind. Currently braille is used in just about every country in the world. Thanks to Louis Braille for his motivation and determination blind people can communicate independently.
Remember to stay on the dotted line of life!

February 2016

This month’s article is all about different tips and techniques for reading braille. If you are a long time braille user, then I am sure you have developed your own set of tips and techniques that work for you. I would be delighted to share your suggestions with our readers, just email me at the address above.

The below tips are geared more for those of you who are just beginning, or who have been reading for a short period of time. These are also good refreshers for those of you who may have taken a break from reading in braille.

Preparation
Hands:
Make sure your hands are warm and dry. This will make it easier to read the braille. You may occasionally need to shake them, or wiggle your fingers to keep circulation flowing.
Position:
Sit in a comfortable spot and in a comfortable position.
It is important to keep your hands, arms, and shoulders relaxed, as these tend to tighten up.
Getting Started:
*Use two hands; even if you read with just one, keep the other hand moving with your reading hand
*use the pads of your fingers to read; it is the most sensitive place on your fingers
*make sure your fingers are always pointed toward the top of the page; this will keep you in line with the braille
*use a light touch; this may be difficult at first, but it really makes reading easier
*use flat hand scanning to determine the page set up; paragraphs, columns, etc.
*remove things that may be a distraction for you; turn off the radio or TV
*read when you are alert and mentally focused; this will enable you to concentrate better
*read every day, even if it’s just a short paragraph; practice, practice, and practice

As previously stated, I would love to share your tips and techniques when it comes to reading braille.
And as always, remember to stay on the dotted line of life!

March 2016

The month of March is upon us and in North America, spring is just around the corner. Can you hear the birds chirping? The topic for this month is where braille is important in my opinion. A bit of old business before diving in to the main topic of this article. A gentleman named Michael sent me an email about a reading tip that works for him. Please read a piece of his email here, “I read with interest your piece in the February edition of “Blind Perspective,” (The Braille Highway). Your suggestions therein are excellent and I’d like to add something that works well for me. As you recommend one should use two hands and when my left hand is about two-thirds of the way across the current line, I move it back to the beginning and down to the next line in order to try to keep the flow of reading moving smoothly. I find this especially helpful when I’m reading aloud to my grandchildren.” Thank you Michael for that excellent tip! If you readers have any suggestions or comments on something you have read, just send me an email at the address above.

As I have mentioned many times in previous articles, Audio and tactile identification are all awesome. Here is an example of where braille would be the prime method of identifying something or giving blind people a sense of independents. Usually when people go out for a meal, they are accompanied by someone sighted. However, there may be an occasion where both are not able to read a regular menu. Yes, now we have the great technology of the KNFB Reader app. something can be said about the ease of which is only through the ability to read. For instance, to be able to flip back a page or 2 in order to find that other dish that intrigued you. Then flip back again to compare the two dishes, and rather quickly.

Other examples that I would find braille a quick reference point rather than taking out my phone & taking a picture are as follows:
*On vending machines, having a braille label on each button which would be a quick and efficient way to convey what I can buy from this machine.
*Hotels, having room numbers on the doors in braille. Not to mention the labeling of public men & women’s washrooms. It is great to be directed to a general area where the restrooms are located, but then it is an entirely different chore to identify which door is for what gender.

I also would like to point out 2 popular public places that do their part in helping blind people identify certain things:
*In the United States, the restaurant chain, McDonalds, have soft drink covers that are labeled in braille. It is on the push tabs on the top. That is such an uplifting feature for an adult blind person who may be taking a young person out. It empowers the blind individual to be able to identify the different beverages. Many McDonalds have braille menus, just ask.
*The other popular chain is the coffee conglomerate Starbucks. When a friend purchased a gift card for me, on the top was the word Starbucks in braille.
In today’s society with so many gift cards, credit cards, and picture Identifications in our wallet, it could take quite a long time trying to find the right one. However, Starbucks has us in mind, and we will have no time finding their gift card. It is a great achievement and it is awesome for their executives to make the decision to put the name in braille. Starbucks also provides menus in both large print and braille upon request.

Other sources of braille:
*There are many restaurant chains as well as independent ones who provide their menus in braille.
*Many financial institutions will also provide your statements in braille, just ask.
*Many other services offer their invoices and or business cards in braille.

We should thank these companies and organizations that think of our needs and wants. If one day you find yourself needing to decide whether to give your hard earned money to an establishment who provides a menu in braille over another one who does not, I hope you choose the one that provides the braille menu. Even if you are not a braille reader, think of it logically., If x y z company thinks of providing a braille menu, then they would be more receptive to making other changes or adjustments in order to make people with different disabilities life better. The old saying is so true, you wash my back and then I will wash your back in return.

I could go on for a very long time, but I will leave you with this one last thought:
. If you are using an elevator that does not have the audible floor indicator, you could potentially run into a problem if you become the only one in the elevator. Even though the elevator button panel has the braille embossed on it, there may not be any indication that you have stopped on the floor you want. Sometimes other people get on and off, sometimes the elevator stops and no one gets in, and sometimes you may press the wrong floor by accident. Wouldn’t it be nice and a great accommodation if the elevator outer wall panel has in large print & in braille the floor number. This would enable you to confirm it is the floor you are wanting to disembark. This is in some buildings, but it needs to be in a lot more, especially public buildings.

I would encourage you to send me any other places preferably national or better yet, international companies that offer their clients or customers something in braille. If you think of a situation where braille would make life a heck of a lot less stressful or more convenient, please email me.
Until next month, remember, to stay on the dotted line of life!!

April 2016

Hello and wishing you an awesome month of April. I have received an email from Lillian who has informed me of a company that has braille on its packaging. Find part of the email here:
“I love Braille and hope it is to stay forever! Just to let you know the store L’Occitane which sells many products for the body such as soaps, body wash, face products and a myriad of products and what is so great about this company, the packaging is all in Braille. Many of the products are from France. Many malls have these stores.”
Thanks Lillian for that great piece of information! Like always, I encourage you the readers to email in at the email address above.

As you probably have all gathered by now, I am a big advocate for braille, in both reading and writing. It is very refreshing receiving several emails from readers who have similar points of view. I feel it is important for the blind community to educate the sighted community about braille, which leads me to this month’s topic.

In order for others to understand how blind people read and write, they need to be educated, shown, and have the opportunities to experience braille for themselves. We as blind people, and users of braille can do this in different ways. Why not start with the very young? Preschoolers and early elementary aged children are eager to learn, get their hands on new things, and full of questions. You could talk with the administrative staff at your local school about the possibility of you coming to talk and teach the children about being blind and using braille.
Here are a few suggestions for educating young children:
*Supply the children with many hands on materials, such as a brailler (if possible), different slates & stylus, books in braille (and print), alphabet cards, etc
*If you are able to get the student’s names beforehand, braille each child’s name on an index card for them to take home
*Allow the students to use and touch the various materials
*Read a braille book to them, letting them see you reading the braille with your fingers
*Show them large braillable pictures, and see if they can identify them
*Encourage questions, and answer them in a very simplistic manner
**Note: You could possibly do these same things at your local children’s library

Here are some suggestions for educating students in Middle School:
*provide braille tools; brailler, slates & stylus
*have books more geared to their grade level, and produced in interpoint
* provide other materials with braille on it; rulers, calendars, magazines, newspapers, etc.
*engage them in conversation about reading and writing in braille
*ask questions: Have they ever seen braille? If so, where?
*encourage them to “write” and “read” in braille
*Bring in common things like playing cards, and or popular games that you may have in braille such as scrabble

For students in High School:
*Along with the Middle School suggestion you can talk more about the disability, rights, and access for blind people

Informing and educating your local town or city officials and business owners is also very important. For example, if city documents are not available in braille, then there should be an alternative method provided in order for blind people to access and complete forms/process bills if needed.
Is there braille in the public buildings? Such places would include elevators, restrooms, room numbers, offices, etc.
One of the best things we can do as blind individuals is to educate other people.

I live in Canada and I used to participate in a speakers bureau for The Canadian National Institute for the Blind. I used to go in to elementary schools, retirement homes, and many other places. You would be amazed at how people are fascinated with braille and by the way things are adapted into having braille on them. The braille playing cards and my braille watch were always a big hit. So if this has sparked an interest, perhaps you can approach a blindness organization and see if something similar already exists and or help set something up in your city and or state. We are our own greatest ambassadors.
Remember, to stay on the dotted line of life!

May 2016

Hello, happy May to you, and a special thanks to you for reading The Braille Highway!
I have had a bee in my bonnet about this month’s topic. I was encouraged to cover this topic by a reader named Brian. Here is an excerpt of his email: “It's a real shame that the companies that sell products specifically for the blind refuse to provide braille manuals and catalogs in braille even upon request. They provide only audio cd's and give all of the same old tired arguments about high costs and 10 percent of blind people actually read braille. Try to look up an item on an audio cd not very efficient is it? The worst cd that I have encountered is from APH they provide their catalog on a text cd but there is no way to look up an item so you have to read the whole catalog just to find what you want. These companies should be ashamed of themselves and this should be an ADA issue it's extremely discriminatory against the blind.” Thank you Brian for sending me your email!

My family has been in business for my entire life so I can see both sides of the argument being put forward by company’s who sell goods specifically for the blind. I can understand not wanting to provide the majority of the paper work that one finds in the packaging of a newly purchased item. At the very least provide the instructions in alternative format(s).

I cannot name the countless times I have purchased something specifically for the blind like a talking thermometer, a talking blood pressure machine, and a talking alarm and not 1 piece of important information was offered in an alternative format. If the argument being put forward by these vendors is cost, well then perhaps something can be worked out for a braille copy. As I am sure, you the reader have experienced yourself, trying to figure out what button is what on a newly purchased item can be extremely frustrating and annoying.

So, charge a bit extra for a braille copy of instructions if you feel the need to do so. At the very least companies that sell items specifically for the blind, should provide if not in the box with the item, a downloadable mp3 with audio instructions on how to use the item. By providing this service as a downloadable item, it cuts down on your costs of providing a device to hold the audio file. It does not necessarily need to be recorded in a recording studio with a professional output, although that would be wonderful. Just a basic information on how to use the item and what the buttons are used for, would be so helpful and greatly appreciated.

In a perfect world all items that are vital information would be easily accessible. Since it is not, we must find ways to access this information in the best way we know how. So once again when we have a choice to make as to ware to buy that talking scale; hmm, place A that sells it for $2.00 less than place B? Well place B provides instructions in alternative format. I would hope you would choose place B over place A, who is trying to provide an extra service and trying to make our lives a bit easier. The same thing applies about restaurants, even though you may not read braille, choose the restaurant that thinks about our needs and offers a braille menu.

As I reflect back on this topic, I can find so many things out in the world that are legislated by different levels of government that in fact should have been implemented by businesses all on their own. The argument of competition and keeping cost down so to be able to pass it on to the end consumer is a bunch of baloney. It has always been a dollar & cent mentality in the world of business. If we as consumers would make our opinions known by patronizing stores, physically or on line that give that little extra, like providing things in alternative format over the place that is cheaper. The cheaper places would understand when we hit them directly in the pocketbook by not shopping at their place of business and buying the same things, but at a place who provides that little extra. That is the only way they will understand; by not giving them our hard earned money. Then perhaps, hopefully they will see the errors in their ways and they would come around and offer the extras like alternative formatted instructions etc.
You take care of yourself until June and remember to stay on the dotted line of life!

June 2016

Hello and happy June (the midway point of 2016) to you! I have a homebased braille production company. With this in mind, I am going to write about some of the braille embossers I use.
As always, I am going to place excerpts of 2 emails I have received and feel worthy of sharing with you. The first email had no name associated with it so I will refer to this one as mystery person:
“I think you should concentrate on more positive things. You should be thankful that there are companies willing to sell specialized items for the blind.”
Well mystery writer, I am thankful but I also think such companies should have the end user in mind and make some appropriate accommodations.

The second email I am sharing is from Gail in Florida:
“I totally agree with your last article. And even for things that aren’t bought from a blindness product organization should have a text (braille would be nice but there’s that perfect world wish again) downloadable manual. Here’s my latest gripe. Blindness products are so outrageously expensive. Even those of us who are working can’t afford this stuff. I realize it’s the supply and demand thing. But, for example, if we could purchase a braille note taker for the same price as a sighted person could get a lap top, wouldn’t the vendors sell more of them?”
Gail, that would be wonderful but as you alluded to good old supply and demand just would not make it financially doable. As the Movers and Shakers article mentioned in the May issue, if Braigo makes braille embossers become a reality we can buy one for $500.00. Would that be great, or what?
A reminder that if you want to share your opinion on something you have read in this article or have something constructive to say you can email me at the address mentioned above. Hey you never know you just may read part of your email in the Braille Highway.

I have used for both private, and commercial use 3 different embossers. An embosser is a braille printer for lack of a better description. I have used, and am still using the following make: VersaPoint, ET, and the Express 100. I have to say that all 3 embossers are work horses. They are all noisy, dust making, braille producing machines.
I started with my VersaPoint in the 90s for notes and personal documents. In the early part of 2000 I bought my ET for my adventure into my homebased braille production business. The Express 100 came as the need arose.

The VersaPoint is a single sided embosser which is pretty slow. It produces braille at approximately 25 characters per second. The maximum characters per line is 40 with 25 lines per page. This unit uses tractor feed braille paper. It has a braille intensity nob with 5 settings. So one can adjust at what pressure the machine’s strikes the paper. If it is light weight paper I would use the lightest setting and as the paper’s thickness increased I would turn the knob to accommodate that. The VersaPoint has met my needs and is still a grate stand by embossing unit.
The ET is an interpoint embosser. What interpoint means is that it can produce braille on both sides of the page. My ET has the single page feed feature, as well as tractor feed paper. If a customer wants a couple of lines of brailled texts on an already printed sheet I would be able to make them happy with the single sheet feature that I had added on to my unit when I purchased it. The ET can braille up to a maximum of 40 characters per line and 26 lines per standard braille paper. It can produce braille at 60 characters per second on both sides.
The major production embosser I have and use for big quick jobs is my Express 100. It is an interpoint unit. It has and braille impact intensity nob as well as it comes with a clear speech letting me know for a multi copy run at what copy number it is embossing, among many other settings and features. The express produces Brailled at 100 characters per second on both sides. Since it is running so fast it has 2 sets of tractor feeds one on both end of the embossing head to keep the paper straight. With the 2 sets of tractor feeds you lose one page per production run. This would be the page on the end side of the embossing headthat would be left blank. With the Express 100 it can emboss a maximum of 44 characters per line and 26 lines per standard braille page.

Keep in mind that there are many types of embossers offering different features and at differing price ranges. I am fortunate to have a local company that can fix and maintain my 3 units rather than having to transport them which would increase my costs.
If you are in the market to buy a braille embosser there are many resources on the internet to review and compare. Make use of your favorite web browser and have fun researching and talk to people who already own or use an embosser. Finding out their likes and dislikes can assist you in your decision making.
Have an awesome rest of the month of June and remember to stay on the dotted line of life!

July 2016

Hello to the readers of the Braille Highway! I have received quite a few emails over the last little while. I thank you for taking the time to send me emails! It is surely comforting knowing that there are folks who are interested in what I have to say and that they take the time and effort to send me emails.
The first email is from a lady named Cathy. She is a person who enjoys her Braille Blazer. Here is a little sample of what Cathy has to say:
“Hi Nat, I haven’t seen any of my emails to you in the newsletter yet, but I am still waiting patiently. I have a Braille Blazer which is quite old but still works. What I wonder is whether or not I can use it with win7. And, it so, do I need Duxbury or some other translator to braille with it? I used to be able to put the file into Kurzweil for formatting and then use a serial printer port. But hmm, I don’t think my current computer even has a serial port.”
I am not too familiar with the different types of hook ups etc. All I know is what I use, which is either the old style parallel printer cable to my braille embosser. The other one I use is a USB to the parallel printer cable. I use my Duxbury translator to format and create the braille documents. Thank you for being patient and persistent. Cathy, see, your email has made it in to one of my articles!!

David from Louisiana, has also written in and he is another Braille Blazer user. Here is a bit of what David had to say:
“I use an old Braille Blazer. I have to hook it to my Hims Braille Sense U2 Mini, and use a parallel to USB converter. It seems to do okay. I can’t connect directly because the Blazer is that old parallel stuff. I wish they’d have modernized it, but I think it’s not being made anymore. I hope the new generation is even smaller and better. That Braigo thing sounds amazing. That’s the Lego braille embosser, right? I hope they get it out soon.”
Yes, the Braigo is the braille embosser that was mentioned a few issues back by my colleague who is the editor of this newsletter, and the author of the Movers and Shakers segment. I agree with you David, we all deserve a smaller and economical choice for a braille embosser. I hope we see the Braigo sooner than later.

The third and final email excerpt I will present is from Sandra. Here is a little of what Sandra had to say:
“As an avid Braille reader from first grade, I look forward to reading your column every month in The Blind Perspective. I saw the excerpt about Occitane, and plan on checking their website out. Braille is such a time saver, and sometimes, a lifesaver as well. When we get a package and can’t distinguish it from something similarly packaged, there’s a risk of miss-applying or making dosage errors. Another company that makes Braille labels is "foryournose.com." Wonder why, so far, the only companies to venture into Braille labels are those that distribute skin care and fragrances…”
I honestly do not know why that is Sandra. When I went to Italy on a little Vacation in 2010, I felt braille on the packaging of some medication at a pharmacy. It was some allergy capsules which had the name in braille, as well as the dosage. I was both surprised and thought at the time I wonder when the same would be occurring in North America, where I make my home.

Changing the gears totally now, I would like to focus the spotlight on affordable refreshable braille displays. I came across an email that has a link to information about Orbit20 refreshable braille display. Apparently, it supposed to have 20 cells of refreshable braille and it is going to be selling for around the $500.00 range. Here is the link for you to check out the exciting news: http://www.aph.org/research/orbit-reader-20-details/

If and when I can get my hands on a unit, I will seriously consider buying one of these displays. It would definitely open up lots of doors for me again. I used to have a Braille Lite 40 unit from Blazy Engineering. They were bought out by Freedom Scientific and they stopped making those particular braille notetakers. I used to connect that notetaker to my computer and use it as a display. I would love the opportunity to be able to buy another display and not have to break the bank in the process.
I welcome you to email me at the above mentioned address; giving me your point of views as well as different topics for discussions.
Remember to stay on the dotted line of life!!

August 2016

Hello readers, wishing you a fantastic month of August! I would like to extend a personal thank you to Susan and Lillian, for taking the time & trouble to send me an email. Like I always say, reader’s emails are welcomed and appreciated.
This month’s topic is going to be a bit different than my usual. I hope to gain some information from you, the readers, by asking some questions. And in turn I hope you will send me an email with your replies.
With newspapers, books, and magazines moving from the traditional paper form to the electronic copy, we are thinking of offering the newsletter in a hard copy format. Currently, The Blind Perspective is only available electronically. We would like to know if you would be interested in other formats such as; large print, braille, or audio format. Before any dollar amount is set, we would like to get an idea of what you may desire.
Staying on the braille hard copy theme, there has been some readers asking if they are able to request a collection of the recipes in a braille format. Maxine, the author of the Cooking Concoctions has given us permission to reproduce all the recipes we have published in The Blind Perspective Newsletter (2015 & 2016). Furthermore, as an added bonus, Maxine has stated that she will provide us with the remaining recipes, to complete this calendar year. If you are interested in purchasing the collection of 24 recipes for $21.95, email me at my email address noted at the beginning of this article.
Now I would like to gage the level of interest braille readers may have in purchasing a subscription to word puzzle books. For example, a word search book that would include such themes as; world capitals, world cities, world leaders, and many others. Another braille puzzle book would contain word scramble. In this book, there are different categories, such as names of automobiles. Then there would be a list of 15 letters & immediately below that would be hyphens indicating how many letters the answer has in it. Once you have determined how many letters are needed for the answer, then you can start assembling the correct letters needed to form the right word. In both examples given, there will be an answer key at the end of the booklet.
In the recreational aspect of our lives how much would you be drawn towards the items listed below:
*A Tactile Braille Puzzle: A diagram like a heart or teddy bear in an 8x by 10x puzzle, cut into 54 pieces. Either on the box, or within the box would be a small version of the braille picture for your reference as you assemble the puzzle.
*Braille Greeting Cards: On the front of the card would be a braille picture, while inside the card would have a standard greeting, or left blank for you to create your own personal braille message.
*An Adaptive Board Game: A board game that has been made accessible with braille
*Braille Playing cards: If the price is substantially lower, would you purchase instead of making your own?
If you are reading this paragraph, I thank you for reading the entire article!! Like many of you have stated in your emails to me, and I whole heartedly agree, braille is a wonderful language. I am pleased that I was taught it and I still make it a big part of my life. I look forward to reading your emails with all of your opinions and points of view.
Remember to stay on the dotted line of life!!

September 2016

Happy September with us soon leaving behind one season and beginning a new one. A little housekeeping, thank you to everyone who replied with their opinions of my questions in the August article. If the word puzzles and or the tactile puzzles ever get produced I will definitely let you all know, and how to buy them.
For this month’s article, I was in pursuit of an organization or someone who is as excited about braille as me. I happen to find an organization and in turn a person who is a big braille advocate. Please read on and learn about Mr. Andrew Stauffer and The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.
It was my pleasure to have the opportunity to interview Andrew Stauffer, from The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. I found him to be very articulate and his enthusiasm for braille was evident and infectious.
Andrew was born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania and he was born blind. He attended regular school along with his sighted peers. Andrew started learning braille at the same time as his sighted counterparts learned the printed word, at around 5 years old.
While living in Boston, in his twenties, Andrew was involved in a para teaching program where he taught a student both English as a second language and braille. His first love is making music. Andrew plays the keyboard among other instruments. He travelled all around the United States performing and even all the way to Alaska. He still plays but mostly for fun these days. Andrew now makes his home on the west coast in Seattle, Washington.
The following has been taken directly from the Lighthouse website. The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. is a private, nonprofit social enterprise providing employment, support, and training opportunities for people who are blind, DeafBlind, and blind with other disabilities. The Lighthouse has provided employment and support to people who are blind in our community since 1918.
Our philosophy maintains that each employee is provided with the support necessary for success in the workplace. This includes an in-house sign language interpreting department to ensure effective communication for DeafBlind employees, staff mobility instructors to teach independent travel with a white cane or guide dog, and over 100 computer workstations adapted for use by individuals who are blind. The Mission statement is: to create and enhance opportunities for independence and self-sufficiency of people who are blind, deaf blind, and blind with other disabilities.
Mr. Stauffer has been employed by The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. soon going on 6 years. He used to work as a tri pod builder. He is quite proud of that since he was only 1 of a handful of people building tri pods. He also worked for the Lighthouse Contact Center for 2 years. He was working at the braille library on a part-time basis until about 9 to 12 months ago when it developed in to a full-time position. One of the big claims to fame for The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. is their machine shop. This machine shop is AS9100 certified. They make parts for among others aerospace companies such as Boeing. The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. has eleven other locations they run. These are located primarily on the west coast with a new facility that opened in April in Summerville, South Carolina.
Andrew teaches fellow employees braille. It is all part of the braille literacy program. He informed me that pay stubs and work orders are offered in braille. They have their own internal transcription services. The library of which he works from has many magazines, and books in braille. Currently Mr. Stauffer has 24 students at differing levels to whom he teaches braille. He uses a braille writer, slate and stylus, and even a braille display to teach his students. At the moment he teaches one on one basis. When I asked if braille is a dying code? He emphatically stated no. All one needs to do is look around in our community and find signage in braille, hotel door numbers, and many other new places where braille is being implemented. Andrew thinks that Unified English Braille (UEB) is an excellent change since now braille readers can see exactly what the sighted person reads. A couple of letters italicized or part of a word being boldface and the remainder having an underline. From a transcriptionist point of view when a red circle with blue lettering appears they now have the ability to transcribe that as a transcriber’s note.
Speaking with Andrew Stauffer, I have learned that braille is healthy and its knowledge is growing at The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. I would like to send out a big bouquet of kudos to Mr. Stauffer and The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. for implementing the braille literacy program.
Until October, remember to stay on the dotted line of life!

October 2016

Unfortunately, there is no article for the Braille Highway segment this month. Nat had an unexpected surgery and is still in his recovery process. We all here at The Blind Perspective wish him well and look forward to his return!

November 2016

Happy November! Hoping this article finds you doing well? As you already know I was in the hospital for a while, and I had lots of time for reflection and contemplation. I thought about The Braille Highway and decided to seek out a braille minded source for gifts for this Holiday season. That is when I found www.brailleiant.com

I had the great pleasure to speak and interview Julie from brailleiant in Batton Rouge Louisiana. Julie is a 41 year old sighted mother of 3 children. Brailleiant began in 2005 When Julie’s niece Sophie, who is blind, inspired her to create special gifts with a braille component. The name Brailleiant was thought of because in Julie’s opinion Sophie is brilliant and combining braille with brilliant the word Brailleiant was born.

With the holidays in mind, one can find items ranging from $15 to $60 all with a braille component. Julie uses a variety of methods for adding braille to the products. In regards to keychains or dog tags, she punches the dots directly in to the metal. With braille t-shirts, Julie adds ball shaped gems on to the fabric to create the braille word(s). Brailleiant accepts custom orders as long as they are of the PG 13 rating. T shirts and tank tops range from children to adults sizes.

Julie described different bracelets and necklaces that each have either punched in braille or the ball shaped braille dots. A big seller right now are the bracelets with a small flat piece of metal in the middle, and that is where Julie adds the braille. These bracelets are limited to five characters. Some examples of what she has brailled on these items include; love, initials, and/or names.

When I asked for a sneak preview of any new products, Julie told me of a stretchy beaded bracelet. This too, would include the flat metal piece where the braille is added.

Rest assured that you can find many gift ideas for family members, love ones or your furry companions. You can find items either as a gift or stocking stuffer when you drop by on the web to browse through the Brailleiant Boutique. I am sure you will find it a pleasure dealing with Julie as I did interviewing her. Although Julie is sighted, she is most definitely a huge braille supporter and advocate, as she is spreading the use of braille on jewelry and other unique gift items!

Contact information:
Telephone: 225-247-0006
Email: info@brailleiant.com

Website: www.brailleiant.com

Remember to stay on the dotted line of life! Goodbye and take care of yourself until December when we meet again.

December 2016

Happy December and for those of you such as myself, who are counting down the days, 24 more sleeps until Christmas day! In this month’s article, I am keeping with the current theme of people who make braille a part of their lives. Susan Fisher is an awesome example of a person who has made braille a major part of her professional life.

Mrs. Fisher knew from a very young age that she wanted to become a teacher. I asked Susan what it was that caught her interest in braille. When she was in college, she volunteered at a nearby pool. Susan was paired up with a little girl who was visually impaired, and as the saying goes, “and the rest is history”. Susan is sighted and has been teaching at The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired for the last 35 years. She currently teaches Introduction to Braille, contracted braille courses, and Abacus levels 1 and 2. The two former braille courses mentioned are for sighted professionals and family members. Until a few years ago, she also taught the Braille Literacy Series, which is designed for those who are learning to read braille by touch. Prior to teaching at Hadley, Susan was an Itinerant and resource teacher for the visually impaired students in the public school system for 8 years.

Susan also taught braille to future teachers for the visually impaired at Northern Illinois University. I asked Susan who was easier to teach braille to, the sighted or blind students. Susan replied that there is no easier or more difficult group to teach since the important factor is the motivation. For her sighted students, the motivation was the successful completion of the course and their future career. For her blind students, the motivation is independence, literacy, and self-esteem.

With 43 years of braille under her belt, I asked what her opinion of the unified English Braille (UEB) is. Naturally, when she first heard of the implementation of the UEB, it was a bit alarming with the many years of using the old style, and had formed good and bad habits. Once learning the changes, it made total sense to Susan. By reducing a lot of the rule exceptions and having no specific spacing rules for punctuations as well, the translation braille to print and print to braille has become more accurate. When Susan asked her participants of a support group that she staffs, many of them said that learning the UEB appeared to be more troublesome than it actually was to learn. Susan said that we are in a unique situation right now with people who know the EBAE and have learned the UEB are in good shape. But for those who are now learning UEB braille, they may come across some braille materials that were translated pre UEB, and it will take some sorting out by the new braille reader. Changes are relatively minor in the big scheme of things and it will not be too difficult to figure out.

I asked Susan if she thought braille is a dying code. Susan’s enthusiastic reply was she invites anyone to come into her open office time to listen to the participants love and appreciation of braille. Susan referenced a quote, “that braille to a blind person is like a pen or pencil for a sighted person. Just try taking a pen or pencil away from a sighted person even with all this technology available to us.” Author of this quote is unknown. The definition of literacy is the ability to read and write to a competent level. So that removes audio information like a talking book etc. Although Susan was very clear that she does not favor one over the other, but that learning braille is one of the many tools one needs to be more independent, literate, and to maintain a healthy level of self-esteem. It has been proven that people that know braille have a higher level of being employed.

For those of us who are braille users or who are recent users of braille, Susan recommends finding ways to read braille as well as writing it. Ever the teacher, Mrs. Fisher says practice makes perfect. Simple and enjoyable things like playing cards or board games that have braille can improve your reading skills. Making your own notes, jotting down phone numbers, or marking documents for filing will improve your writing skills. My favorite and a big time saver is labelling my CD’s and DVD’s. All these things mentioned above, will assist in making reading braille easier and faster.

I have left a very important piece of information that Susan shared with me for the end of my article. Many of the instructors at Hadley have what they call Office Hours. It was specifically explained that it is not a prerequisite in getting involved with this office hour to be a Hadley student, or intend to become one. In Susan’s office hour, the common bond is braille. Participants cover things such as how one can improve their reading speed or their ability when tracking during reading. Susan has also given detailed instructions on what dot configurations to use to produce a variety of Braillables, a tactile image made with braille dots. Participants have also engaged in other topics such as sharing resources, tips & tricks, and volunteer opportunities. Just recently with the American presidential election, the group spoke about their voting experiences. Susan invites anyone and everyone interested in attending the office hours to drop on in. It takes place every Tuesday afternoon from 3:30 - 4:30 Central Time. Susan’s particular office hour is held via a phone conference. The only cost to you would be the long distance cost if you do not already subscribe to unlimited long distance to American phone numbers.

Contact Information:
Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired: 1-800-323-4238

If you are interested in joining Susan’s Office Hour, please either phone her at her extension or email below:
Extension: 6658
Email: susan@hadley.edu

Hadley’s Website: www.hadley.edu

I would like to state that it was my absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to interview Susan Fisher. I found her to be a very informative and well-spoken person. I also want to thank the Editor of The Blind Perspective, Karen, who put me in contact with Mrs. Fisher.
Editor’s Note: Susan Fisher was my braille and Abacus (Level1) instructor!

A reminder that if you have any comments and or suggestions on topics or of a person of interest that I could interview for an upcoming article, please email me at the address listed above.
Remember to stay on the dotted line of life and I will speak to you in the New Year!!

THE END