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American Foundation for the Blind Textbooks and Instructional Materials
Solutions Forum

Training and Other Needs Work Group

What is a braille transcriber?

A braille transcriber determines how to most accurately present information from a print textbook into a braille version and then transcribes it into braille so that a student who is blind or has low vision gets the same benefits from the information as his or her sighted peers.

What skills must a braille transcriber have?

In addition to deductive reasoning, transcribers must have specialized computer skills to effectively transcribe a textbook into braille. They must be fluent in the English Literary Braille Code, be knowledgeable in the use of braille translation software, be able to import publishers' electronic files, and be knowledgeable in formatting principles from Braille Authority of North America (BANA). Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription (1997). Louisville, KY:American Printing House for the Blind.

Formatting principles influence the placement of information on a page. This enables the reader to tactually pick out information presented in a print book, as quickly as a sighted reader gathers information by glancing at a page. The reader immediately can know there are footnotes, paragraphs, lists of items and tables by scanning the page with his/her hand. The formatting principles are highly structured and specific to braille.

What challenges do braille transcribers face?

Current print textbooks are highly visual and graphically rich, known in the publishing industry as "extreme" textbooks. The more colors, boxes, maps and artwork printed on the page, the longer it takes to format a book for the braille user. All the information must be presented to the reader in a clear and consistent manner, so they understand the context, as well as the content on the page.

Why does the job of braille transcribing require special training?

There are complex and distinct codes and rules that have to be mastered and executed to produce error-free textbooks. Up until now, braille transcribers have been trained and certified through a self-study correspondence course through the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).

At the end of the correspondence course, the applicant develops and submits a manuscript and then applies for NLS literary braille certification. However, the self-study training does not integrate many critical areas necessary to become a proficient braille transcriber or a braille textbook transcriber, such as using textbook formatting and working with publishers' electronic files. The NLS training program is the predominant way transcribers are trained now, but the reported rate of success is only 30 percent.

Who is currently transcribing textbooks?

Textbooks are currently transcribed by a very dedicated group of braille transcribers. There are some transcribers who receive pay for their work, but most transcribers are volunteers. Braille transcribers working throughout the United States have provided a tremendous legacy in braille textbook production. Braille transcribers have been ensuring that quality and professionalism are embedded in each book or instructional material they produce.

As the numbers of blind or low-vision children have grown over time and the pool of volunteer braille transcribers has decreased, states and local school districts cannot meet students' ever-expanding demand for braille textbooks and ancillary learning materials. In addition, we know there is a limited pool of braille transcribers familiar with using publishers' electronic files and appropriate textbook formatting.

What is the contribution of a braille transcriber to the education of blind and low-vision schoolchildren?

Access to the general education curriculum is vital to all students and when textbooks arrive late or not at all, students with visual impairments miss out on educational opportunities. This is a national issue with complex fiscal, technological and political implications.

Braille transcribers have a tremendous impact on the education of blind and low-vision students. Transcribers allow blind and low-vision students to be on equal footing in the classroom. They provide them with the same information that their sighted peers receive, but in the format they need. Braille textbook transcribers play an important role in helping students achieve their goals both now in their education and in their future endeavors.

Why is the development of the new career—braille textbook transcriber—so important?

There is a significant shortage of braille transcribers throughout the country. Because of this shortage, blind and visually impaired schoolchildren go weeks and sometimes months without the textbooks that their sighted peers have for their core or elective classes. This significant shortage of braille transcribers impacts the college-bound students too. It is estimated that the United States needs 380 full time transcribers now, will need 735 additional transcribers in five years, and 1,020 additional transcribers in ten years.

Braille transcribers are not always paid for their invaluable work, and the U.S. Department of Labor does not recognize their job as a formal profession. Unless this changes through advocacy efforts, the children will continue to suffer. They will not have access to the general education curriculum and will not be learning on a par with their sighted peers.

What are the trends surrounding the career of braille textbook transcriber?

The AFB Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum conducted three national surveys in 2000 concerning production and delivery of textbooks, training and recruitment of braille transcribers and access to multimedia textbooks (www.afb.org/solutionsforum.asp). From the national surveys, and a response from 43 states, it was found that:

  • Forty percent cited a need for more braille transcribers,
  • One in every five textbooks arrives late,
  • States recognize a need for more braille transcribers and admit there is a lack of recognition of a braille textbook transcriber as a bona fide job or career,
  • Fifty-eight percent of the current full-time transcribers are volunteers,
  • Only half of the full-time transcribers have attained certification by NLS,
  • Blind children rely more on volunteers to produce their braille texts and materials than on paid employees, and
  • Ninety percent of textbooks are produced from paper copies and into paper copies.

Why has a college curriculum been developed and what will it provide?

Despite the immense efforts of our current braille transcribers, the profession is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor or by businesses as a bona fide job or career. The college curriculum was developed to gain acceptance for the braille textbook transcriber career at the federal and state levels, and to ensure the future of quality braille for students and adults.

The results from the AFB Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum's 2000 surveys provided a clear direction for defining steps to eliminate the shortage of braille transcribers, providing timely access to textbooks and instructional materials, and increasing the quality and quantity of accessible materials. To see the surveys and fact sheets, go to www.afb.org/solutionsforum.asp and to the Production and Training Work Groups.

The AFB Solutions Forum, in conjunction with the AFB National Education Program, AFB National Literacy Center and the Texas Education Agency, partnered with Northwest Vista College in San Antonio, Texas, to develop a series of courses and a curriculum to train people to become braille textbook transcribers.

In August 2001, Northwest Vista College used a three-stage employability skills assessment process called WorkKeysTM to define the tasks and workplace skills necessary for the profession. Two ACT WorkKeys Occupational Profiling meetings were conducted by Northwest Vista College with nationally recognized braille transcribers who were NLS certified and knowledgeable of publishers' files.

From the WorkKeys process, 31 tasks were found to be critical for the job/profession of a braille textbook transcriber. To view these tasks, visit the Training Work Group area at www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=44&TopicID=16&SubTopicID=35. For more information about the braille textbook transcriber courses, visit Northwest Vista College at www.alamo.edu

What courses are included at Northwest Vista College?

There are 12 courses assigned to this four-semester program. The program consists of 39 credit hours leading to NLS certification and a college certificate. Among other course objectives, the curriculum includes reading and writing braille, transcribing and formatting braille textbooks, working with publishers’ files, creating tactile graphics, technology for braille transcription and production, and managing a small business. The future goal for the college-based program is to replicate the curriculum and program at community colleges in strategic states across the United States and target these course for an online format. For more information about the college curriculum at Northwest Vista College, go to www.accd.edu/nvc/areas/braille.

How will the AFB and Verizon National Campaign address access to textbooks and eliminate the shortage of braille textbook transcribers?

The National Campaign for Literacy, Textbooks, Transcribers and Technology is a public awareness and advocacy program promoting the new career of braille textbook transcriber at the federal and state levels and raising general awareness of the needs of blind and low-vision schoolchildren for timely access to textbooks and learning materials (www.afb.org/verizon.asp).

In addition, Erik Weihenmayer, legendary blind mountaineer, is serving pro-bono as Verizon Literacy Champion and Campaign spokesperson.

The campaign has four distinct goal areas:

  1. Raise broad-based awareness across America of the needs of blind or low-vision schoolchildren for access to textbooks and instructional materials.
  2. Achieve acceptance at the policy level for the new career and advocate for the employment of trained and credentialed transcribers.
  3. Deliver broad access to the career course work by replicating the series of courses through community colleges across the country.
  4. Promote the new career and access to the training to potential recruits across America.

How does the publishing process work?

The selection of textbooks is conducted in two different ways across the United States. Twenty states use the state adoption process where the state adopts the same textbooks for all school districts. Thirty states use the open territory process where every local school district selects the textbooks to be used that year. For the most part, states and local districts enter into contracts with publishers to create and publish the textbooks.

Transcribers do not receive publishers' files from the publisher. They receive the production order from an authorized entity such as a state braille production center or local school district.

Production and delivery of braille are handled differently in each state. Some states contract with transcribers in their own state and in other states to develop the braille files. Embossing and proofreading textbooks are handled in a variety of ways, but most often at a braille production center. Many states or local districts purchase the finished braille textbook from another production center in another state. Publishers do not pay the transcriber and publishers do not distribute braille textbooks.

For more information on braille production and delivery, go to http://www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=44&TopicID=192&DocumentID=1286.

What national support systems are available now for braille transcribers?

There are two membership organizations supporting braille transcribers. The National Braille Association (NBA) has been an active leader for more than 40 years in supporting braille transcribers as a membership service organization. The California Transcribers and Educators for the Visually Handicapped (CTEVH) is another membership group for braille transcribers. There are continuing education programs offered by both organizations.

To receive their journals and additional information about their conferences and workshops, contact NBA at www.nationalbraille.org or at their headquarters in Rochester, New York, at 3 Townline Circle, Rochester, New York 14623-2513; phone: 585-427-8260 and CTEVH at www.ctevh.org; CTEVH, 741 North Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, California 90029; phone: 323-666-2211.

Selected Resources

American Foundation for the Blind
Professional Development

11030 Ables Lane
Dallas, Texas 75229
469-522-1803
Fax: 214-352-3214
E-mail:

AFB—Atlanta
100 Peachtree Street, Suite 620
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
404-525-2303
Fax: 404-659-6957
E-mail:

American Foundation for the Blind CareerConnect®
AFB TECH
949 Third Avenue, Suite 200
Huntington, WV 25701
304-523-8651
Fax: 304-523-8656
E-mail:

Selected Readings:

Dots for Braille Literacy
(free newsletter from AFB's National Literacy Center)—
www.afb.org/section.asp?SectionID=6&TopicID=19

CTEVH Journal
CTEVH Publications
719 Boyer Road
Marysville, CA 95901
Phone: 530-742-8537

NBA Bulletin
National Braille Association
3 Townline Circle
Rochester, NY 14623-2513
Phone: 585-427-8260

Web Resources:

To order an AFB Press Publication, visit the AFB Bookstore or call: 1-800-232-3044 or fax: 412-741-0609.

June 2003

Seeking teachers of students with visual impairments and their students to pilot test the new iBraille Challenge iPad app.

Based on The Braille Challenge®, this app is aimed at supporting literacy development. The pilot testing will consist of a pre/post test and 16 week intervention.

To be a part of this groundbreaking project, contact Dr. Cheryl Kamei-Hannan at 323-343-6297 or by email. You may also email Seanarae Smith.

merican Foundation for the Blind,
Northwest Vista College (San Antonio, Texas) and the
Texas Education Agency

The AFB Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum, in conjunction with the AFB National Education Program and National Literacy Center, has taken a leadership role in attacking the critical shortage of braille transcribers and offering new skills to current braille transcribers. In May 2001, the AFB Solutions Forum began an important and revolutionary project to define a new occupation as a braille textbook transcriber. AFB, Northwest Vista College in San Antonio, Texas, and the Texas Education Agency have built a partnership to develop a new profession through a curriculum and a series of college courses. Because AFB’s National Literacy Center received federal appropriations funds through the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the curriculum development process was able to begin in 2001.

In January 2000, the Division of Special Education at the Texas Education Agency held a meeting with braille production specialists from across the United States. This was an important meeting to build the case for developing a community college level program to train new, certified, braille textbook transcribers.

The national need for more qualified textbook transcribers became widely known through the results of two of the three national surveys conducted in the Spring of 2000 about training and recruitment of braille transcribers and the production of textbooks. For the complete review of the results of the surveys, please go to www.afb.org/education.asp .

The series of courses are being developed in the spring of 2002 and the initial course will begin in the summer of 2002. The new career is aimed at creating a career-based curriculum that can be replicated at other community colleges throughout the United States and therefore increasing the number of employed braille transcribers available to meet the critical need in this area.

Two ACT Work Keys Occupational Profiling meetings were conducted by Northwest Vista College on August 17 & 18 and August 24 & 25, 2001. A final report was developed by Northwest Vista College for AFB. In October 2001, we asked experts in braille textbook transcribing to assist us in grouping the refined list of  31 job tasks (from the August 24/25 meeting) that are similar and complement the other associated tasks. We defined four distinct subject areas with individual job tasks supporting these subject areas.

The numbers shown below reflect the ranking of tasks as to the importance of each task to performing the job as a braille textbook transcriber. The list of 31 tasks shown below is from the final Work Keys Occupational Profiling meeting held on August 24/25.

Braille Textbook Transcriber

THIRTY-ONE JOB TASKS WERE BROKEN OUT INTO FOUR SEGMENTS

October 17, 2001

BRAILLE

Ability to read and write braille.

  • 1. Demonstrate proficiency in transcribing, in proofreading, and in correcting Braille errors
  • 6. Acquire the ability to read ASCII braille
  • 7. Appropriately utilize quality control to ensure dot quality, accurate braille, and accurate format
  • 17. Demonstrate basic use of tactile graphic production methods
  • 21. Have awareness of appropriate use of specialized codes: Nemeth, Music, Computer, Foreign Language and Chemistry
  • 22. Possess the ability to read single-sided and interpointed braille
  • 23. Understand simple graphics such as pie charts or simple graphs
  • 24. Acquire the ability to produce 6-key computer direct entry braille
  • 27. Acquire an appreciation and basic knowledge of how brailled texts are used and how blind students learn
  • 28. Obtain NLS Literary Certification
  • 29. Acquire knowledge of national certification requirements and types of certification
  • 30. Acquire the ability to manually produce hard copy braille with a Perkins and a slate and stylus
  • 31. Acquire the knowledge of the evolution of braille and braille production

FORMAT

Correct placement of print to braille on a page.

  • 3. Acquire basic knowledge of production process including formatting, transcribing, proofreading, correcting, and reproduction
  • 4. Demonstrate basic troubleshooting and problem solving in formatting braille
  • 5. Demonstrate proficiency in applying: Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription
  • 7. Appropriately utilize quality control to ensure dot quality, accurate braille, and accurate format
  • 9. Acquire techniques for quality control
  • 10. Demonstrate proficiency in applying: English Braille American Edition (EBAE)
  • 11. Develop the ability to effectively interpret and appropriately describe pictures and graphics in print books
  • 12. Understand and translate literary contents
  • 17. Demonstrate basic use of tactile graphic production methods
  • 22. Possess the ability to read single-sided and interpointed braille
  • 23. Understand simple graphics such as pie charts or simple graphs
  • 27. Acquire an appreciation and basic knowledge of how brailled texts are used and how blind students learn

TECHNOLOGY

Using software and hardware to produce braille textbooks

  • 2. Acquire the ability to use current braille transcription and translation software
  • 8. Demonstrate a knowledge of computer applications to include programming techniques
  • 13. Demonstrate computer literacy which includes knowledge of appropriate components
  • 14. Acquire the knowledge of appropriate use of current scanning software to include imaging, editing, OCR enhancements
  • 15. Create, zip/unzip, save and transfer different braille software formats
  • 16. Demonstrate basic troubleshooting and problem solving techniques, such as software, computer equipment, and interfacing different equipment
  • 18. Possess the ability to appropriately use network expertise
  • 19. Use e-mail and appropriate attachments to transfer files
  • 20. Acquire basic knowledge of braille production equipment
  • 23. Understand simple graphics such as pie charts or simple graphs
  • 24. Acquire the ability to produce 6-key computer direct entry braille
  • 26. Obtain knowledge of various media commonly exported from publishers' files

BUSINESS PRACTICES

Job practices that will develop for-profit strategies as a braille textbook transcriber

  • 9. Acquire techniques for quality control
  • 18. Possess the ability to appropriately use network expertise
  • 20. Acquire basic knowledge of braille production equipment
  • 25. Develop knowledge in administering a small business and/or setting up private contracts

TEA, November 2001 DRAFT

Download Flowchart in Word (doc) format (50k)

  1. The IEP team determines braille needed.
  2. District identifies specific books or portion of books needed.
  3. Is the book a state- adopted textbook? http://tea.texas.gov/textbooks/materials/bulletin/
    1. Yes - go to step 4.
    2. No - go to step 5
  4. Order the book from the TEA Textbook Division at no cost to the district. (end of process)
  5. Search the online APH Louis database at http://www.aph.org/louis.htm
    Is the book listed in the APH Louis database as available in either embossed format or in file format?
    1. Yes - go to step 6
    2. No - go to step 23
  6. Is the book available in embossed format?
    1. Yes - go to step 7
    2. No - go to step 13
  7. Is the book also available in file format in the APH Repository?
    1. Yes - go to step 8
    2. No - go to step 10
  8. Calculate the cost of embossing the book or specific pages needed and compare to the cost of the embossed version.*
  9. Is it more cost/time effective to order the embossed version?
    1. Yes - go to step 10
    2. No - go to step 15
  10. Is the embossed book available from APH via Quota funds?
    1. Yes - go to step 11
    2. No - go to step 12
  11. Order from the TMCVI at the TSBVI. There is no cost to the district. (end of process)
  12. Order from the source identified in the APH Louis database. The district is responsible for any costs. (end of process)
  13. Is the book available in file format in the APH Repository?
    1. Yes - go to step 15
    2. No - go to step 14
  14. The local district arranges to have the materials brailled by:
    • local transcriber,
    • contract transcriber,
    • ESC-if they offer this service, or
    • APH ATTIC http://www.aph.org/atic/
    • The district is responsible for any costs. (end of process)
  15. E-mail an order for the file from the TMCVI at the TSBVI at no cost to the district for the file.
  16. The TMCVI downloads and forwards file to ESC Region IV or ESC Region XX Braille Production Centers (BPC)
  17. The BPC determines quality of file. Can the file be embossed without major revisions to the file resulting in additional costs?
    1. Yes - go to step 19
    2. No - go to step 18
  18. The BPC contacts the district, and negotiates cost to produce the product. *
    1. go to step 20
  19. The BPC contacts the district, determines actual needs, and tells district actual cost. *
  20. Does the LEA elect for the BPC to produce book?
    1. Yes - go to step 21
    2. No - go to step 22
  21. The BPC produces materials and ships to the district. The BPC bills the district directly. (end of process)
  22. The local district arranges to have the materials brailled by:
    • The district is responsible for any costs.
    • Local certified transcriber,
    • Contract transcriber,
    • ESC-if they offer this service,
    • VI teacher (if caseload allows).
    • APH ATTIC http://www.aph.org/atic/ (end of process)
  23. Check other listings of previously brailled books e.g.
  24. Is the book available in either embossed format or in file format?
    1. Yes - go to step 25
    2. No - go to step 14
  25. Order or download from the source. The district is responsible for any costs. (end of process)

For additional information see: Textbooks: The Right Book at the Right Time for Students with Visual Impairments



Presented to the AFB Textbook and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum

Louisville, Kentucky

October 11, 2000

Download RTF version (42k)

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Survey Information

A. Development of Survey

B. Survey respondents

C. Survey acronyms

III. Major Impressions

Introduction

Recognizing that timely provision of textbooks and instructional materials in the appropriate accessible media continues to be a major problem confronting students who are blind or visually impaired in America's classrooms, the American Foundation for the Blind formed the Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum. The AFB Textbook and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum includes representatives of agencies and organizations involved in the production and distribution of textbooks and instructional materials. It's focus is the development of a coordinated action plan for assuring equality of access to instructional materials for students who are blind or visually impaired.

The AFB Textbook and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum is directly related to Goal #7 of the National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities (Corn, Hatlen, Huebner, Ryan, & Siller, 1995). This goal is one of eight goals that are being addressed at national, state and local levels. Goal 7 reads:

Access to developmental and educational services will include an assurance that instructional materials are available to students in the appropriate media and at the same time as their sighted peers.

The Training and Other Needs Work Group is one of five work groups of the AFB Textbook and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum that addresses different issues related to Goal 7. The other work groups include The Electronic Files and Research and Development Work Group, Legislative and Policy Making; Production; and Communication and Collaboration. These work groups address:

  • Lack of standardization of electronic file formats provided by textbook publishers
  • Inaccessibility of multimedia textbooks, especially those delivered via the Internet and CD-Rom
  • Variation in state textbook regulations for accessible instructional materials
  • Inconsistent interpretation of copyright law provisions
  • High expense of producing specialized materials and the lack of fiscal incentives to develop new technologies
  • Shortage of qualified Braille transcribers and production resources
  • Communication and collaboration barriers, including duplication of efforts

The Training and Other Needs Work Group seeks to identify the necessary steps required to increase the number of qualified Braille transcribers and identify the skill sets needed for training people associated with the creation and use of textbooks and instructional materials for students with visual impairments.

This Training and Availability of Braille Transcribers Survey was developed to provide a national overview of the numbers of trained Braille transcribers, skill sets necessary for the job tasks they typically perform, and to explore recruitment and retention issues. It was anticipated that data could be used to define new solutions for continuing challenges and to provide information for long range planning.

The Training and Availability of Braille Transcribers Survey focuses on textbooks and instructional materials associated with textbooks rather than teacher-made materials. However, it is understood that Braille transcribers may, as part of their jobs, create day-to-day materials that are used within general education classrooms.

The Training and Availability of Braille Transcribers Survey data are divided into several sections: introductory and general information about the survey; major impressions from the findings; availability of Braille transcribers; funding, salaries and contracted services; current and future needs for Braille transcribers; recruitment; standards and quality of Braille; training; continuing education; and advantages, disadvantages, and recommendations for change.

Data are provided based on the researchers' judgement about whether the number of states, percentage of respondents, or other information would be most useful for readers. When percentages are given, they are given for those respondents who answered the specific question, this would also represent the number of states as one response was provided by each state. When the number of states responding to a particular question is very small or when the number responding is of interest, the exact number is given (e.g., n=5).

Means are provided for many items as they help to illustrate the "picture" of the status and needs for Braille transcribers in the country as a whole. However, the reader should always give due consideration to the range of responses. While all states contribute to overall means, some states' responses may begin with 0. Hence, some states may not have a foundation on which to build training programs for Braille transcribers.

This survey reflects the responses of states. It does not include information pertaining to Braille transcribers hired by the American Printing House for the Blind. Further, this survey does not address the Braille transcribers currently employed, volunteering, and/or needed in U.S. territories, e.g., Puerto Rico.

Certification refers to that provided through examination by the National Library Service.

This is an executive summary, emphasizing the findings of this survey. It is recommended that these data along with data from other surveys of the AFB Textbook and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum be considered together for a richer understanding of the status and needs for textbooks and other instructional materials in the U.S. As time and resources are available, the researchers welcome requests for additional data or presentation of data in different formats.

Within the next few months, manuscripts will be developed for submission to professional journals. At that time, a more thorough discussion of the findings will become available.

Survey Information

Development of Surveys

On October 14, 1998 thirty-five stakeholders met in Louisville, KY. They represented textbook publishers; educators; policy makers, access technology specialists; producers of Braille, large print and recorded textbooks; parents of children who are blind or visually impaired; and adults who are blind or visually impaired. At this initial meeting of the AFB Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum, attendees discussed many issues, concerns, and challenges relating to textbooks and instructional materials for students with visual impairments.

During the initial meeting, a significant issue was identified concerning the critical shortage of qualified Braille transcribers. In January 1999 a plan of action teleconference was held and the Training and Other Needs Work Group determined the critical shortage of Braille transcribers was an area the work group would address. It became clear to the work group that national information from states was needed. A survey would identify areas of need, especially related to pre-service and in-service training and long range planning.

Larry Brown, representing the Oregon Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Handicapped, was the lead person organizing the survey project. Following is a timeline of how the survey was developed and distributed.

March 6-7, 1999

Through numerous teleconferences, a draft survey was developed by the work group. At the AFB Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute (JLTLI) in Washington, D.C., the 125 education participants were asked to respond to the draft. Comments from the JLTLI participants indicated the following data would be of prime importance: numbers of transcribers in each state, current training needs of Braille transcribers including skill sets needed by transcribers, training currently available to transcribers, resources for continued training, and suggestions for recruitment and retention of Braille transcribers.

July 1999

The work group continued developing the core list of questions through e-mail and teleconference and gave their feedback to Larry Brown and Mary Ann Siller, AFB Solutions Forum project coordinator.

August 1999

The work group wanted additional assistance about the appropriate type of questions needing to be included in the survey. AFB's Social Researcher, Dr. Corinne Kirchner, was asked to review the survey. Her comments were sent back to the work group for review.

Another focus at this time was to identify the appropriate stakeholder in each state who would receive the survey. This person would be asked to coordinate his/her state's answers. Larry Brown and Suzanne Dalton from the Florida Instructional Materials Center coordinated the development of a list of people who would receive the survey and the people receiving copies of the cover letter only.

October 21, 1999

At a meeting of the Association of Instructional Resource Centers for the Visually Handicapped (AIRCVH), held in concert with the annual meeting of the American Printing House for the Blind, participants were asked to comment on the current list of questions of the draft survey. During the APH Annual Meeting, the Training and Availability of Braille Transcribers Survey was given a high priority for discussion and review during both the Association of Instructional Resource Centers for the Visually Handicapped (AIRCVH) meeting and the Association of State Education Consultants for the Visually Impaired. Larry Brown and Mary Ann Siller were the discussion leaders.

November 1, 1999

The work group determined that in most cases the AIRCVH representative would be the lead person asked to coordinate the responses for his or her state. In other states the state consultant for the visually impaired or other individual in a leadership capacity was asked to coordinate the responses for the state. In addition, as appropriate, additional individuals in leadership positions received a copy of the cover letter. Therefore, while one state response was expected for each of the 50 states, it was vital to have input to these responses from key individuals.

A pilot of the survey was initiated and sent to the AIRCVH representative in Arizona, South Dakota, West Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kansas and Washington.

December 1999

Drs Anne Corn and Robert Wall of Vanderbilt University received a contract to assist with further development of the survey, to conduct the statistical analyses, and to prepare the executive summary.

January 19, 2000

Dr. Corn and Dr. Wall reviewed all information from the pilot surveys and additional ideas from the work group to suggest the appropriate set of questions for the final survey. Using this information they further developed the survey.

March 2, 2000

Prior to the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute in Dallas, Texas, the AFB Solutions Forum met. This national meeting provided yet another opportunity for feedback from the experts in the work group.

A pilot of the revised survey was sent to Colorado, West Virginia, Texas, and Kansas.

Their comments were reviewed by Dr. Corn, Dr. Wall and Mary Ann Siller for inclusion in the survey.

April 10, 2000

The survey and cover letter were sent to the key contact person identified by the work group with copies of the cover letter to people in the state who were involved with the production of textbooks or training of braille transcribers. The return date was May 4.

May - August 2000

Data entry was organized by Dr. Wall as soon as surveys were returned. Calls and email messages to the key contact people who had not returned the survey were made by Larry Brown and Mary Ann Siller. On July 26, 32 states had returned the survey. On August 23, it was determined the analysis must begin and additional calls to states with outstanding surveys would be stopped.

August 10, 2000

As we entered the analysis phase, the AFB Solutions Forum was asked to identify the most critical sets of questions from the survey that must be analyzed for the Training Work Group to better define future strategies for training and recruitment.

Respondents

40 states responded to this survey.

16 (40%) of those who completed surveys were directors of state IMCs or IRCs. Others completing the surveys included state vision consultants, superintendents of special schools, and coordinators of Braille and Talking Books programs.

Acronyms

AER Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired

AIRCVH Association of Instructional Resource Centers for the Visually Handicapped

BANA Braille Authority of North America

IMC Instructional Materials Center

IRC Instructional Resource Center

DOE Department of Education

NBA National Braille Association

NLS National Library Service

TVI Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments

Major Impressions

The following impressions are derived from the data. They are not offered in any significant order. They should be reviewed both individually and with a thorough review of the data presented in this summary report.

  1. Blind children rely more on volunteers to produce their Braille texts and materials than paid employees. For example, 57.7% of the full time transcribers are volunteers.
  2. A low percentage of transcribers are currently certified. For example, of the full time transcribers, employed and volunteer, only 51.8% are certified by the National Library Service.
  3. There is a current and expanding shortage of Braille transcribers to meet needs. For example, it is estimated that the 50 states currently need 380 full time transcribers. Within 5 years the U.S. will need 735 transcribers, and within ten years there will be a need for 1,020 additional transcribers.
  4. There are significant problems associated with recruitment, training and continuing education processes as well as the ways in which proficiency is demonstrated for various areas of Braille production. For example, while use of the National Library Service training program is the predominant approach to preparing Braille transcribers, the overall reported rate of success is 30.7%.
  5. Several states indicate that transcribers' proficiency in specific skill areas (e.g., tactile diagrams and foreign languages) is demonstrated through the National Library Service certification. However, this certification covers only literary and mathematics transcription and proofreading, and music Braille transcription.
  6. The status of Braille transcribers is not clear and/or without recognition. More formal job descriptions, career paths, and professional training needs to be addressed at state an national levels. For example, low pay for transcribers and the difficulty recruiting staff who could receive higher salaries with jobs requiring comparable skill levels were often cited as obstacles to recruitment.
  7. Funding for transcribers, their equipment, and the resources they need for carrying out their job roles need to be addressed. For example, the funding for equipment, computers, training, and even paper were indicated as needs in various states.

Report of Braille Production Specialist Focus Group Meeting
January 2000

Equal educational opportunity for students who are blind requires timely access to textbooks workbooks and other instructional materials. Adapted textbooks, workbooks, tests, classroom materials, and instructional software are needed by students to master the general curriculum along with sighted peers. Despite a long established Texas system for braille textbook production, critical shortages of trained transcribers and recent changes in the Texas textbook adoption process, have led to concerns about the state's future capacity to produce braille textbooks in the quantity, quality, and timeline needed by students.

In January 2000, the Texas Education Agency convened a Focus Group of national experts to provide input to Texas on strategies to address the ever present but growing state and national shortage of certified braille transcribers with the skills to produce high quality braille textbooks. Members of the Focus Group were chosen for their specialized expertise and experiences in all aspects of braille textbook production. The three major braille production centers within Texas as well as programs in New York, Illinois, California, Washington DC, Louisiana, Florida, Oregon, and Kentucky were represented. In addition, representatives from Northwest Vista Community College in San Antonio, Texas, provided information on the possibility and process for developing a training program within the community college system.

The specific purpose of the meeting was to determine whether a partnership between the Texas Education Agency, Texas braille production centers, and the Texas community college system could lead to an increased supply of skilled transcribers to provide braille state-adopted textbooks in a timely manner for students in grades one through twelve.

The Focus Group was asked to verify the need for an organized training program, to confirm the feasibility of such a program as part of a community college system, and to provide information and recommendations related to implementation of this initiative. The experts were asked to describe the current status of braille production across the country, outline the specialized competencies needed in order to produce quality braille textbooks; and define the scope of a potential community college training program.

The group confirmed the need for new and creative initiatives to recruit and train an adequate supply of personnel for this field. It developed and endorsed a set of braille transcriber competencies that expanded the traditional expectation of knowledge of literary braille, to knowledge of formatting, graphics, braille production, and higher-level braille code skills such as Nemeth (math) and foreign language codes. Experts identified sources of data necessary to establish a viable training system and made recommendations concerning recruitment of new personnel. An action plan was agreed upon to pursue this initiative.

Review of National Issues Related to the Status of Braille Production

The Focus Group identified the following common issues that are related to the current shortage of braille transcribers, both nationally and in Texas. There are many common features of braille production systems across the country, each with subtle differences based on numerous variables.

Systems

States address braille transcription in many and varied ways. Several, such as Texas and California, have state-level systems to ensure that their state-adopted textbooks are made available in braille. Some states have statewide instructional material centers that provide braille versions of any textbook for their local districts. Some, including Texas, use their statewide systems only for the state-adopted textbooks, leaving local districts to develop the means to produce or acquire braille versions of state-adopted ancillaries, non-state-adopted textbooks and ancillaries, supplemental novels, and teacher made materials. Others, such as California, provide textbooks for certain grade levels but not all. Many states have no statewide system and accessing materials in braille is the responsibility of the local district. There are several national braille production houses such as the American Printing House for the Blind and the National Braille Association that are available to produce braille for those states and districts that do not have internal systems. State and national systems typically have some competency requirements resulting in transcribers with higher-level skills, while most local districts have few or no standards governing their level of competencies, resulting in transcribers with a wide range of competency. Many are only able to use computerized braille production software, but do not have the skills to ensure the accuracy of the automated braille product.

Compensation

Historically, volunteer community members, usually women, have been the primary producers of braille. This pool of volunteers has been significantly shrinking in the last decades. A pattern of aging volunteers with few new, younger, replacements is similar across the nation. For example, the average volunteer producing braille for the Helen Keller Services for the Blind/Braille Library in New York, is over 70 years old. Still, in most states, a volunteer workforce produces the majority of braille.

Because of the increasing difficulties in recruiting and successfully training volunteers, there is a growing recognition of the need to consider braille transcription as an occupation or profession and the need to pay the highly skilled individuals commensurate with the technical level of work they perform. (It is estimated that the skills of a transcriber are comparable in degree of difficulty to those of a court reporter.) An increasing number of braille transcribers are being paid. These paid transcribers may work as salaried permanent full-time or part-time employees for large braille production centers, or as paraprofessionals for local school districts. Others work on a contract basis for the large braille production centers and/or for the local districts. Contracted transcribers are paid by the hour, page, or project. There are no national or state guidelines for determining transcriber pay scales.

A few local school districts in the country have tied pay scales for paraprofessionals producing braille, to experience and levels of the Library of Congress National Library Service braille transcriber certifications. (The National Library Service is the only recognized braille transcriber certification entity in the country.) In California, a 1997 survey indicated that those with National Library Service certification earned an average of $12.73 per hour compared to those without certification, whose average was $12.58 per hour. San Diego ISD established three levels of paraprofessional positions related to serving students with visual impairments. The salaries increase with higher training and skill levels: paraprofessional, braille specialists, and certified braille transcribers. This is not typical, nationally. For example, in Texas, paraprofessionals employed by local school districts generally do not receive additional compensation for successfully completing training for National Library Service certification in braille transcription.

Braille production is more than transcription. It includes transcribing, proofreading, embossing, and binding. Frequently, the transcriber will perform all of these functions. In the large braille production centers, braille production is a team process, with different personnel trained to carry out the different steps of the process. For example, the American Printing House for the Blind, Inc., has established the following four job levels related to braille production, with different pay scales associated with each level.

  • Level One: collating, binding, shipping

  • Level Two: machine operators: braille presses and printers

  • Level Three: proofreading and copy holding

  • Level Four: transcribing and editing

(See Attachment B for selected examples of current transcriber pay scales.)

Recruitment Strategies

It has been difficult to recruit new braille transcribers for training (even for paid positions) partly because the financial incentive is minimal. For example, local school districts train existing paraprofessional aides to become transcribers but, despite the complexity of the training and high level of skills required, transcribing is frequently assigned as an additional job duty with no increase in pay.

Recruitment to this profession is also difficult because there is no guarantee of consistent paid employment. The state and local district textbook adoption processes are cyclical and seasonal. Usually, during the spring and summer there are more books to be transcribed than there are transcribers, but later in the school year, transcribers may not have work. There is no system to facilitate an efficient, consistent distribution of work among transcribers. While there may be a glut of books to be transcribed in one state, there may be transcribers in other states without assignments. In Texas, braille textbook production centers are able to support year-round work for a limited number of permanent employees, while supplementing their efforts by contracting in- and out-of-state for services during peak periods. However, even with permanent positions available, it is difficult to find applicants for those positions with the prerequisite skills.

It is also difficult to recruit individuals because the general population is unaware that there is such a job as braille transcription. This is not a profession listed in any career resource or database on available jobs.

Use of Certification Standards

State-level braille textbook production efforts usually require National Library Service certification. The large braille production centers typically hire untrained staff and provide in-house training leading to mastery of the National Library Service competencies.

The competencies for National Library Service certification are currently based upon what many consider to be the somewhat obsolete six-key entry method. The National Library Service is currently developing new competencies for transcribers that reflect the more sophisticated and common practice of using packaged software translation programs that use the standard computer keyboard, rather than modifying the keyboard to resemble a manual braillewriter.

Most local school districts that employ paraprofessionals to produce braille for their students do not require or recognize or compensate for National Library Service certification or other training. As a result, there is a pool of individuals with at least basic, and sometimes excellent transcription skills that are unavailable to the large braille producers during the heavy brailling seasons because they do not have the required certification. This is particularly frustrating since the local transcribers typically do not work during summers and could otherwise be available when the majority of state-level textbook brailling occurs. Those few districts that do provide competency-based training typically use the National Library Service standard.

In both local and statewide braille production, uniform standards regarding job description, personnel classification titles, and salary ranges do not exist for personnel who produce educational materials for blind students.

Training Strategies

Many states offer refresher courses for transcribers, using training resources from the National Braille Association (NBA), or California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped (CTEVH), but none currently provide or require basic skills training for new transcribers in a systematic fashion.

Across the country, training is provided primarily through an apprenticeship, on-the-job training model. Many local school districts pair a teacher of the visually impaired with a paraprofessional for informal instruction. In large braille production centers, seasoned transcribers mentor and supervise incoming personnel, usually using National Library Service training materials as well as on-the-job coaching.

Periodically, agencies such as braille production centers, local school districts, or regional centers will sponsor group National Library Service certification programs. Individuals may independently acquire the National Library Service training materials and begin the self-pace training alone. However, only a very small percentage of those who begin a certification program actually complete it. The National Library Service program is designed for independent study and is a very demanding course. Many of the trainees are attracted to the program because of an idealized image of helping blind people, but are not aware of the degree of detail, hard work, and time required to complete the training. The Focus Group estimates that there is only one successful certification out of 20 initial participants in this training program.

The Focus Group agreed that to increase the success rate of trainees, a training program should incorporate the following characteristics.

  • Train with a mentor/supervisor and on-site support

  • Use the NBA training materials now offered through the Internet

  • Design "fun" training strategies

  • If the trainee is to work for a local district, provide software and equipment in the local school districts during and after training

  • Include formatting and editing skills in addition to the basic literacy skills

Current Supply of Certified Transcribers

There are no reliable numbers currently available to identify how many active transcribers are available nationally. The National Library Service has statistics for those who have passed the certification tests, but these do not reflect those transcribers who braille but do not have certification. Nor does it indicate whether these individuals are actively working in this profession. One indication that there is a severe shortage is the American Printing House for the Blind estimate that of the 3000 new textbook titles published last year, only 78 are now available in braille nationwide.

The shortage of certified literary braille transcribers is severe, but the shortage is even more pronounced for transcribers with the specialized certifications needed for the more technical subjects such as math, science and computer literacy. Different types of textbooks require different levels of skilled transcribers. Textbooks without math, computer, or scientific notation require skill in the braille literary code. These have become relatively fast (weeks/months) to transcribe into braille using computer translation software and high-speed braille embossing machines, if publishers provide appropriately formatted electronic files to work from. However, math and higher-level science textbooks require an additional special braille code, Nemeth Code, and can take twelve to eighteen months to complete. Translation software does not currently work with math-based subjects. The Texas Education Agency estimated that to braille all of its new math adoptions for the 1998-1999 adoption year, on time, would have required more than the total number of Nemeth certified braille transcribers in the nation, working full time only on those texts.

The American Foundation for the Blind is currently developing a set of three national surveys that are designed to provide in-depth data about braille transcribers. The report is projected to be available by August 2000.

The Texas Braille Production System for State-Adopted Textbooks

The Texas Education Agency contracts with braille producers through a bidding process for braille transcription of newly adopted textbooks. There are currently three major braille textbook producers in Texas, based at Educational Service Center Region IV in Houston, Education Service Center Region 20 in San Antonio, and at Visual Aide Volunteers in Garland, Texas. These entities employ permanent transcribers and contract with independent transcribers in Texas and in other states. The Texas Education Agency publishes a request for bids for braille transcription of new textbooks. The producers receive publisher's electronic files for all but the high school math, science, and music textbooks. A single transcriber brailles an entire textbook to ensure formatting consistency. (Other production centers may use several transcribers to braille one book.)

Historically, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) adopted a limited number of textbooks in each subject area for districts to choose for local adoptions. Each of the books was transcribed the year of the adoption and over the six-year adoption cycle period, each title was requested in braille. In recent years, the SBOE began a new adoption process that greatly expanded the list of adopted books, resulting in a tremendous strain on the braille production system. In response, the state's braille textbook production process is being analyzed and modified. Obviously, it will take more transcribers to produce the increased number of adopted textbooks in a timely manner.

As in many other states, the timelines for the textbook adoption process hinders the timely production of braille texts. Currently, in Texas, there is a November state adoption date, and a deadline for local school districts to notify the Texas Education Agency of required texts for the next school year is April 1. However, there is not enough time between April and the beginning of school in August to produce the books. This is especially true for math and science books. As a result, the braille producers must begin transcribing before they know which books will be ordered the first year. Without sufficient numbers of transcribers to braille all of the books within the first year of an adoption, it may be necessary to develop a prioritization system to determine which of the books will be needed first.

Urgent Need for Transcriber Training Program

Following the discussion of the current national issues related to braille production and the Texas system, the Focus Group verified that there is an urgent national as well as statewide need for a training program to prepare the number of transcribers needed to meet the current and future demands for braille production.

Community College System in Texas

Community colleges train new workers in a growing number of technical professions. Representatives from the Northwest Vista Community College in San Antonio were invited to participate in the Focus Group to provide insight into the Texas community college system and to describe the process that must be implemented to develop a new training program that would result in highly qualified braille transcribers.

In Texas, community colleges have the flexibility to work with community employers to create programs to train the workforce needed by their businesses. The training programs can be designed based on a multitude of models that meet the unique need of the specific industry. Such programs can address €œemerging occupations.€ If the training program will result in degree status, such as an associate's degree, community colleges must seek approval through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB).

In order to create a training program that fits the unique need of a specific profession, the community college develops a job profile, identifies required entry-level competencies, develops appropriate curriculum, and aligns courses and instructional delivery design. There must be an outside source of funding (approximately $40,000) to initiate and complete the job profiling process. Once the job profiling is completed, the remaining costs of developing and implementing the program are provided by the community college.

Job Profiling

Community colleges use the ACT, Inc. Work Keys process to identify skill standards for a profession. (More information is available at http://www.act.org/workkeys/index.html) For the profession of transcriber, this process would begin by selecting several currently employed transcribers and using the Work Keys system to analyze of all of the task categories in their jobs. Then the process would identify needed academic and computer skills (including computer speed), interpersonal skills, and other needed competencies, and cluster those into entry and proficiency level competencies. Information on potential job markets, estimated pay rates, and other factors are included in the analysis. Through this process, the college defines an appropriate occupational title.

Curriculum Development

The community college provides staff to create the methodology and instructional design needed to provide training in the identified skills.

Training Models

Numerous models for community college-level training exist, such as an associate of applied science degree program (60-66 credit hours, typically a 2-year program), an apprenticeship program (fewer hours with a faster start in a paid position after provisional training), or non-credit training programs (under 60 hours). Once the job profiling is completed and competencies have been fully developed, the specific model that best meets the training needs is identified. . If a credit program is the most appropriate, the college will hire a full-time staff person who must be approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Any of the models can establish entrance prerequisites, such as passing the Texas Academic Skills Program (TASP).

The need for certified transcribers is both a statewide and national problem. The Focus Group recommended developing a training program model that has the capacity to address the shortages in other regions and states. Northwest Vista Community College has distance education capabilities, and can provide outreach services once a program is fully developed. Community colleges also have provisions for sharing credits with other colleges, which may be helpful in serving participants from other parts of Texas and the United States.

There may be funding available to pilot a limited version of this training program from a Texas Workforce Commission "emerging occupations" program.

The Focus Group agreed that the systems outlined by the community college participants would provide an excellent resource for training new certified braille transcribers. The results of the job profiling process would have national benefit beyond its immediate focus for Texas. The information could be used by employers to develop appropriate job descriptions, and would be a primary tool for articulating the highly technical nature of the profession that could lead to appropriate levels of compensation. There was unanimous support for pursuing the development of a training program within the community college system.

Initial Information Needed by Community College

In order for the community college to initiate the work to establish a new training program, the following data is required:

  • Number of program graduates needed each year to meet the demand in Texas

  • Estimated openings for transcriber positions over a 1-3 year period

  • Likelihood that other states will contract with graduates from the program

  • Opportunities for consistent employment for graduates

  • List of potential employers

  • Expected wages for graduates of the program - guidelines or standards

  • Number of braille production centers that would hire certified transcribers

  • Number of local school districts that would hire certified transcribers

  • Number of people who currently have National Library Service literary certification and would want Nemeth Code (math) certification and other higher level certification

Projected Timeline

Northwest Vista Community College estimated that if this information were gathered and a funding source identified by the summer of 2000, the community college could complete the job profiling and program approval process in time to begin a pilot program to train experienced but uncertified transcribers during the summer of 2001, and launch a full new transcriber program by the 2001 academic year.

General Recommendations

  • Promote braille transcription as the highly skilled occupation/profession it is, rather than a volunteer or low-level paraprofessional task.

  • Promote transcriber compensation based on experience, training, certification, and skill, with a career ladder.

  • Seek certification status for braille transcribers in the education system.

  • Establish braille transcription as a special education related service that must be provided by an appropriately trained and certified transcriber.

  • Develop general guidelines for appropriate pay to distribute to potential employers, including local districts.

  • Partner with a community college to develop a job profile, needed competencies, occupational title, and curriculum; and to implement a training program for transcribers.

  • Develop a model that is transportable to other regions of Texas and the nation.

  • Rather than a broad based "braille production specialist", focus training on braille transcription, formatting, and editing with some awareness level training of other aspects of braille production. These other skills can be learned on the job.

  • Recruit, screen, and support appropriate students with a high likelihood of completing the training, becoming certified, and being employed as a professional transcriber. Base recruitment strategies on the required initial skills, and competencies, and personal profiles identified in the job analysis process.

  • Build initial training program to focus on literary braille along with formatting and editing skills. Develop "post-graduate" training courses for higher-level certifications such as in Nemeth, music, or foreign language.

  • Provide strong mentoring of students.

  • Produce program graduates that have the skills to work as independent contractors, local district transcribers, employees of braille production centers or a combination of these.

  • Encourage certified local district transcribers to work as contracted transcribers for braille production centers when district needs are low, such as during the summer months.

Recommendations for Certified Braille Transcriber Competencies

The Focus Group identified competencies graduates of a training program should possess in order to meet entry-level requirements for three potential job markets: braille production centers, local school districts, and independent entrepreneurs who solicit work statewide and nationally. Graduates must demonstrate:

The ability to perform basic computer skills (e.g. word processing, internet, importing and exporting files, etc.)

  • A basic awareness of the needs of students who are braille readers including an awareness of how students who are blind learn and how vision teachers will use the materials that are brailled in order to make appropriate formatting decisions.

  • The ability to understand the purpose of pictures and other graphics in a print book in order to write meaningful descriptions or to create meaningful tactile graphics

  • The ability to use braille translation software

  • The ability to produce braille through direct entry (6-key or ASCII braille)

  • Skill with scanning software

  • Awareness of production equipment such as thermoform machines, and embossers

  • The ability to import and manage source files

  • An awareness of the overall braille production process and quality controls

  • A competitive level of production speed and quality based on established training goals for specific brailling tasks

  • Problem-solving skills that result in meaningful braille translations of textbooks

  • Skills in administering a small business

  • National Library Service certification in literary braille

  • Awareness of Nemeth, foreign language, music, and computer braille codes (training in these codes would be post-graduate courses)

  • Proofreading skills

  • Skill in textbook formatting perhaps using the National Library Service certification in formatting when the certification standards are completed

  • Knowledge of pertinent national resources related to braille production

  • Basic tactile graphics production skills

The Focus Group acknowledged the rapid advances in computerized and other automated braille production technology. However, even with the most advanced systems anticipated in the distant future, the group emphasized that those responsible for braille production must be very knowledgeable of the braille codes. It is not anticipated that there will be a time in the foreseeable future that braille could be produced without this expertise. However, transcribers must have the skills to use a variety of technology and be willing and able to update those skills as the new technology evolves.

Recommendations to Support Recruitment Efforts

The Focus Group suggested a variety of strategies that may lead to successful recruitment of appropriate students into and retention in a transcriber program.

  • Use national organizations to advertise the availability of the training programs.

  • Target individuals in the welfare-to-work programs, especially those who might need a career that can be implemented at home.

  • Look at typesetting programs for the deaf as a source of recruits.

  • Develop a career ladder, with more pay for higher-level skills.

  • Maintain an active apprenticeship system.

  • Hire instructors with charisma!

  • Investigate the use of state dollars for supplementing transcriber salaries.

  • Create systems for increased compensation as a training outcome.

  • Include the provision of a trained braille transcriber as a related service in student's individualized education program (IEP).

  • Teach braille as a high school general education elective to encourage early interest.

  • Develop a scout badge to develop early interest.

The Focus Group agreed that transcriber training should be made accessible to blind applicants as appropriate, as well as for people with other disabilities. Proofreading is a critical component of braille production and is particularly well suited to skilled braille readers.

Action Steps

  1. Gather current statewide and national data on the status of braille transcription personnel in local school districts and braille production centers in salary, training, recruitment, and existing job descriptions.

    • The Texas Education Agency will modify the national survey developed by the AFB Solutions Forum to include specific questions needed for development of a proposal for a new community college training program.
    • The Texas Education Agency will send the modified surveys out in early March to regional education service centers for distribution to local school districts, to Texas braille production centers, and to other national braille production centers.
  2. Pursue development of a new personnel preparation program at the Northwest Vista Community College.

    • The Texas Education Agency will explore funding resources. An estimate $30,000-40,000 is needed to perform the Work Keys job profiling process.
    • Focus Group members will send names of transcribers and proof readers that may be used in the job profiling process to Marty Murrell at the Texas Education Agency by the end of February 2000
    • Northwest Vista Community College will explore funding available in an "emerging occupations program" through the Texas Workforce Commission to pilot a limited version of this program.
  3. Develop uniform job descriptions and certification standards for braille transcribers.

    • The Texas Education Agency will contact the Texas State Board of Educator Certification to pursue state level recognition of new levels of VI paraprofessionals
    • The Texas Education Agency will contact the regional education service center special education directors to start building awareness of the need for trained braille producers.
    • The Texas Education Agency and Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired will make presentations to teachers of the visually impaired in Texas to educate them to the need for higher levels of training for braille transcribers in local school districts.
    • For the future, explore making braille transcription a Medicaid reimbursable expense, as is sign language interpreting.
  4. Develop a training program to certify current experienced braillests through an intensive summer certification program at the community college level.

    • Using products and information from the process to develop the general transcriber program, develop a short-term summer certification program designed for individuals who have experience as braillests but have not obtained NLS certification.

Attachment A

Participants

Jim Allan, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Austin, Texas

Larry Brown, Oregon Instructional Materials Center, Portland, Oregon

Emily Calvert, Alief ISD, Houston, Texas

Judith Cardenas, Northwest Vista Community College, San Antonio, Texas

Suzanne Dalton, Florida Instructional Materials Center,

Jo-Carol Fabianke, Northwest Vista Community College, San Antonio, Texas

Warren Figueiredo, Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Elizabeth Gross, Visual Aid Volunteers, Garland, Texas

Phil Hatlen, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Austin, Texas

Deanna Marotz, Texas Education Agency, Austin, Texas

Chuck Mayo, Texas Education Agency, Austin, Texas

Cyral Miller, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Austin, Texas

Marty Murrell, Texas Education Agency, Austin Texas

Alice Post, Illinois Instructional Materials Center, Springfield, Illinois

Sue Reilly, San Diego ISD, San Diego, California

Mary Anne Siller, American Foundation for the Blind, Dallas, Texas

Diane Spence, Education Service Center Region IV Braille Production Center, Houston, Texas

Mary Lou Stark, National Library Service, Washington, DC

Tuck Tinsely, American Printing House for the Blind, Inc., Louisville, Kentucky.

Bob Walling, Education Service Center Region 20 Braille Production Center, San Antonio, Texas

Gerry Zuzze, Helen Keller Services for the Blind/Braille Library, Hempstead, New York

Facilitators: Amie Young, Marge Sanford, Education Service Center Region XIII, Austin, Texas?

Attachment B

Salary Scales for Braille Transcribers

Three examples of salary structures for braille transcribers and braille production workers were shared with the group:

San Diego School District, California, 1999
Level Certification Competencies Salary Range

Level One

Non-Certified

 

$8.35 - $11.40/hour

Level Two

National Library Service Literary

Grade II braille, textbook formatting

$12.00 - $15.25/hour

Level Three

National Library Service Literary and Nemeth

 

$15.00 - $18.00

 

American Printing House for the Blind
Level Certification Job Description Salary Range

Level One

Non-Certified

Collating, binding, shipping

$8.34/hour

Level Two

Non-Certified

Machine operators of Braille presses and printers

$8.95/hour

Level Three

 

 

 

Copyholder

 

Copyholder

$8.46/hour

Proofreader

 

Proofreader

$8.70/hour

Special Proofreader

 

Special Proofreader

$9.55/hour

Level Four

 

 

 

Transcribing I

 

Transcriber

$9.23/hour

Transcribing II

 

Transcriber

$9.65/hour

Transcribing III

 

Transcriber

$10.15/hour

Transcribing IV

 

Transcriber

$10.25/hour

Editor

 

Editor

$11.62 to $16.70/hour

 

San Antonio Education Service Center Region 20
Level Certification Job Description Salary Range

Braille Production 
Technicians

Non-Certified

Operate machinery, assembly

$8.13 - $9.98/hour

Braille computer 
technician

Certified for Text

 

$11.91 - $14.62/hour

Braille Specialist

National Library Service Certified

 

$11.91 - $14.62/hour

Attachment C

Glossary

AFB

American Foundation for the Blind

APH

American Printing House for the Blind

BANA

Braille Authority of North America

CTEVH

California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped

ISD

Independent School District

LEA

Local Education Agency

NBA

National Braille Association

NEMETH

Special Braille code for math

NLS

National Library Service

TEA

Texas Education Agency

TSBVI

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired