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Chris Tabb, Orientation and Mobility Consultant

Abstract: The author presents an overview of orientation and mobility instructions for students with significant disabilities in addition to visual impairment.

Keywords: orientation and mobility, functional skills, movement, concept development

Note: This document was intended for all members of a student’s IEP Team. The pronouns are intentionally varied; “student” will be used at times and “child” will be used at others. Though it may appear that one section is intended for a parent and another for an education professional, all strategies can be implemented both in the home and the educational setting.

Encourage Purposeful Movement

Having times in the day which allow students to practice moving independently will help them to develop skills that can be generalized to new areas and longer duration travel. Purposeful movement can be as simple as bringing a hand to a preferred toy that is next to or even on the body. When there are structures in place to support and encourage this movement at home and at school, the motivation to travel and begin moving with purpose will increase. Examples of establishing a supportive environment for purposeful movement include having a location for preferred toys that the students can access at any time and reliably find favored objects there. This strategy can be enhanced or extended by using tactile markers that show certain areas are “their” areas, such as marking a cubby and coat hook with a texture or small object that will help them to know where their own things are at school. The marker can also include a braille label so they begin develop the concept that braille is associated with names of things. Other places where it would be helpful to include “their” symbol or tactile marker are their chair, desk, door to their room at home, etc. With an expectation of predictability and control in the environment, student are more likely to initiate travel on their own and also begin developing a sense of self-mastery and confidence for travel as they receive their own, earned reward when they reach their favored objects or destination of choice. This natural reinforcement perpetuates the motivation to move.

Another helpful strategy is to plan some “free exploration” time into the student’s day, just a brief period (e.g. 10 to 20 minutes) where they can practice navigating in the school and or home environment (even outdoors when the terrain and other conditions are safe for doing so). This gives an appropriate and educationally beneficial opportunity to satisfy and encourage curiosities they may have about their environments.  If they become disoriented or find something unexpectedly, it becomes an excellent opportunity to develop problem solving skills.  An example might be finding a hallway in the school that allows them to take a new route to class, or finding a library cart in the hallway and learning how to navigate around it safely.  During this time, an adult is nearby to assist as necessary, but the student is deciding what to do and where to go, rather than the adult providing the agenda and directing their actions.

Developing Sensory Efficiency

Encouraging the student to become aware of all of the sensory input they have the physical ability to attend to in the environment will help them begin developing the skills related to sensory efficiency. Remember to include tactile, auditory, kinesthetic, proprioceptive, olfactory, and if there is the ability to receive visual information, then vision as well.

One way to think of the difference between kinesthetic and proprioceptive input is how you feel on a hill. When walking up or down a hill, you feel different muscles being used; and, if you are walking up the hill you certainly feel the additional strain and effort needed to ascend the hill. This muscle sensation is kinesthetic. This is a way to tell whether there is an elevation change on a path regardless of vision. Proprioceptive would be the sensation that you feel in your joints, such as in your ankle as you flex forward or backward to be upright while standing on a hill. The same sensation can be recognized while standing on a foam roll, or while leaning on the edge of a step or curb. These are not typically “taught” to children as most children have already recognized they are on a hill with their vision, it is considered incidental learning. When we take the time to deliberately draw attention to these other sensory inputs available to our children, we help them learn tools that they can use to access information about their environment at any time.

When teaching, we will often say “look at this” or “do you see how…”; these visual representations are often the way that adults learned and they convey the information they are teaching to students in the same manner. By thinking about the other senses available to our students we can help them to “visualize” their environments through these other, or additional sensory channels. It might be clapping hands in the gymnasium to hear the echo and then comparing the same clapping sound in the smaller and often more auditorally reflective bathroom; or, listening for the sound change while passing interconnecting hallways in a quiet main hallway. As adults likely learned about the world in a wholly different manner, it may take some additional thought and creativity to introduce sensory exercises, but the dividends returned in independence in the children is tremendous. Once they begin recognizing all the sources of information available to them and continue attending to the sensory information, their ability to visualize (visualized through a variety of sensory channels, such as sound waves that make a picture for sonar) their world continues to develop.

Here are some activity examples to practice:

  1. Localizing sounds, such as identifying the location of dropped objects or pointing at a person who is walking and following the sound of their steps.
  2. Aligning with sounds
  3. Walking toward and away from sounds
  4. Walking around sounds to circumnavigate something
  5. Identifying patterns in sounds
  6. Using echoes and reflected sound (passive and active echolocation)
  7. Distinguishing sources of sounds, such as car, lawnmower, airplane
  8. Estimating distance of sound
  9. Estimating direction of sound; is it coming toward or going away from?
  10. Understanding when one’s own ability to use sound is impacted by changes within the environment, or within one’s self
  11. Finding other sensory means to verify or confirm what is being received or interpreted through the auditory channel

The tactile sense can include touching different textures or temperatures. It might be a lesson in feeling the sun on the skin for maintaining alignment along a route and determining direction of travel by knowing the location of the sun.

The olfactory sense can aid orientation and connection with the environment to provide clues for what might be happening in the environment, such as smelling the aroma of a bakery, or recognizing a strong smelling dumpster that you have to walk past every day in the parking lot as you approach the school.

Advancing Concepts

Rough and smooth, inside and outside, more and less, fast and slow, these are all concepts that can be developed across educational settings and in the home. The more concepts that are developed and used in varied places and settings, the greater the power and connection of the concepts. Those that are originally introduced at a desk activity might later be used when matching textures of clothing, discerning landmarks, etc.

Often concepts that would be learned through exploration by children who are visual learners must be taught more deliberately to students who are blind and visually impaired as they may not otherwise recognize learning opportunities that are in the environment. This might include feeling the glass windows and discussing the qualities of glass; it holds temperature and is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, it is very often smooth and hard yet it makes a different sound than either wood, metal, or plastic. Each of these materials can be explored, and new concepts related to their qualities introduced, compared, and contrasted.

Consistency in Learning Environments

Regular repetition and having all team members working on the same concepts and skills, with the same language for these, will facilitate the acquisition of the concepts and skills. Keeping the number of new concepts and skills to a minimum level that is represented and reinforced in multiple areas across settings (i.e. in the classroom, with each related service, and at home) keeps the new information at the center of attention and learning and allows for a maximal number of occurrences to connect the concepts with different situations and environments. The more the concepts are experienced the quicker the acquisition, and the more they are encouraged the stronger their resiliency and meaning.

Routines in the student’s day provide natural repetition and opportunities to learn new concepts and practice others that have already been introduced. Ensuring that the child has the same routine presentation will help them achieve increasing levels of independence within the activities of the routine; photographs with descriptions of the steps for the routine and its set up can be laminated and placed near the routine area so that whoever is working with the student will set it up the same way. This allows the student to focus on learning the routine itself and any concepts that are being deliberately included rather than having their attention distracted by differences in setup or preferences of the adult they are working with.

An example for the early stages of purposeful movement is an activity mat or rug, where toys are placed in consistent locations (e.g. the musical toy always goes in one corner, the vibrating toy diagonal to the first, a plush toy in the third, and a squeeze toy in the final corner).  With the toys being placed in consistent locations, regardless of the adult the student is working with, they will be more inclined to explore, as they will be able to predict where their favorites will be, and then successfully achieve getting what they want independently. These skills can then be generalized to larger areas, such as travel within the classroom, the school building, and ultimately the school area, including the outdoor recess area.

Value Sharing

Interactive games and value sharing time where the student is met at their own place and level of interest is the best place to begin developing rapport. This rapport development is a foundation for later expansion of skills when students are presented with possible fear at learning new skills (e.g. entering loud environments, crossing streets, etc.) and can rely on the trust they have developed with the adult they are working with.

As adults we often forget to be truly listening to the student, especially when the child is non-verbal. We need to remember to join them in their moment whenever possible rather than starting by trying to coax them into the moment we would like them to be having. We are much more apt to get their “buy in” to the activity we are proposing for them to do if we have first met them where they are and shared what they are involved in. In this way, we are already connected and communicating before offering what we would like them to consider doing.

Motivators and Communication

Keep track of what is motivating and aversive to your child. These items or sensory experiences can then be used as “carrots” or motivators for other activities if they are positive motivators for your child, or if they are aversive stimuli they can be helpful for demonstrating conceptual understanding with preferences and aversions. This can be during a choice sequence with a calendar system to verify that an item that is expected to be viewed as aversive by the child will not be chosen, and a preferred item will be selected. Once these items are consistently communicated using the actual object, they can then be transitioned to a symbol or piece of the item, such as the chain from the swing to represent the activity of swinging. Eventually the symbol will become even more abstract, such as one link of the chain or even a raised line drawing, just as print and braille words are an abstraction of the physical and concrete things they represent.

Once the child is demonstrating the ability to use symbols they can be used to communicate planned activities, make choices, and express preferences. They can also be used to create functional routines and reasons for practicing routes, such as going from the classroom to the playground to reach the swing, or visiting the office to deliver a daily attendance record as part of a job routine. These activities can then be reviewed with the symbols to “talk” and communicate about the experiences of the activity; this further develops concepts, literacy, and a sense of understanding and control within the environment as well as the social benefit of sharing about an event.

Experience is the Best Teacher

Let safe accidents happen. We learn from mistakes and if we prevent a child from having accidents, we are depriving them of the opportunity to learn from the mistake or accident. If a child is walking on the playground and tumbles on the ground due to a change in elevation, they learn what it is to fall, they learn how to get up, and with enough occurrences they learn to shift their balance and prevent themselves from falling. It has to be lived, to be learned. Certainly there are some accidents that are beyond the scope of safety, such as the fall from the top of the swing set or stepping into a street with moving vehicles. These are indeed areas the adult should intervene. But, if an accident will not result in bodily harm it can be an opportunity for learning to occur. Sometimes we pre-teach a skill to a child, such as a protective technique that includes bringing the hand up and in front of the head to prevent bumping into a table when bending down; generally the skill is only truly acquired when the child bumps the table with their head and is able to make the connection within themselves that bringing the hand up before bending down could prevent the bump in the future. If as adults we always provide the prompt or cue to implement the protective technique for them to avoid bumping their head, we are interfering with the natural learning process. There are certainly times we have to help the child to process the event and connect the technique with the desired outcome, but eventually they must learn to self-initiate the technique for it to be effective and having the “safe” accident happen is truly the best teacher.

Celebrate the Successes

There are many “milestones” that are printed in books but it is important to keep track of personal “milestones”. The first time your child rolls over and is able to get to a toy, it is a milestone. Reaching an arm out to touch something that draws their attention is a milestone; it warrants celebration and a note in a family journal. These celebrations of successes in life are at least twofold. They help us track the succession of accomplishments that your child has and they help us to see how far they have come. Sometimes, in the day to day challenges we forget how far we have come, how many challenges we have in fact overcome. The awareness of growth helps us to have confidence that we will continue to move toward greater levels of independence and to remember “the best is yet to come!”

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Patrick Van Geem, TVI, Educational Consultant,
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach

Abstract: The author discusses standards and practices in tactile graphics, along with some related braille formatting including information relevant to the use of Duxbury and the Tiger embosser

Keywords: Braille Production, Tactile Graphic Production, BANA template, Duxbury, MathType

In 2011, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) published a book titled Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2011 .  The publication can be downloaded as a PDF file for free from the tactile graphic section of the Braille Authority website at: .

Figure 1:  Front cover of the BANA Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010 book.

The book explains the braille formatting style of elements on a worksheet or textbook page (headings, titles, list, directions, paragraphs, etc.) and their placement arrangement on a tactile graphic document.  The first seven units are of particular importance.  Following standards explained in these units could generate school-base tactile graphic documents similar to layout placements in textbooks and/or testing materials.

Responsibility to the Student

The production of school-based worksheets and reference materials have always included some formatting structure, however the tactile graphic layout and formatting styles have varied greatly.  The concern was that school-based tactile graphic document layout differed from testing material graphics and textbooks.  Teachers of students with visual impairment would teach students how to read and interpret tactile graphics that appear on state high-stakes testing materials while receiving worksheet documents from local production centers in a different format.  This situation could add to the cognitive load of the student.

Cognitive Load

Cognitive load is essentially how much thinking a person needs to do during a task or activity.  A student with a visual impairment has to develop skills in three areas in order for him to learn content within the instructional environment.  The skill set includes:

  • Knowledge of  Preferred Assistive Technology
  • Prerequisite Knowledge of Content
  • Clarity of Format and Layout Structure (readability)

Reduction of cognitive load of the student depends on how familiar he is with skills required in each of these areas to actually learn the content.

Braille and tactile graphic documents produced in a consistent format, regardless of the information content (textbook, high-stakes testing, or school-based documents), means that students only need to learn one formatting and style layout.  Since textbooks and high-stakes testing materials follow the guideline standards, it would also make sense to develop school-based instructional materials this way.  Predictable layout on all documents can reduce time spent searching, retrieving, skimming and reviewing information.  The student can spend more time learning the content instead of understanding the layout of a document.

The Document Elements

Regular print worksheets that include an illustration usually consist of a series of "document elements".  These elements make up the format of the worksheet.  In print versions, the layout of these elements varies greatly.  Some common elements used in printed worksheets are:

  • Running Headings
  • Titles
  • Headings
  • Paragraph Headings
  • Sidebar "special interest" textboxes
  • Captions
  • Content Information
  • Example Boxes
  • Illustrations
  • Legends (Keys)

Here is an example of a 6th grade math school-based worksheet:

Figure 2:  School-base Mathematics Worksheet that includes these elements:  title, question/information, a Cartesian graph, and four Scantron answer choices.

Tactile Graphic Document Arrangement

The first number in parentheses indicates the cell in the first line at which the characters begin, the second number in parentheses indicate the beginning cell if there is text run over on the following lines.

  • Title (Centered Heading)
  • Caption Information (1-3)
  • Directions (5-3)
  • *Questions(1-5)
  • Answers (3-5)
  • Transcriber's Notes Symbol (in cell 7)
  • Transcriber's Notes (7-5)
  • Key Symbol (7)
  • Blank Space
    • Title (3-3)
    • Key Information (6-8 text format)
  • Letter Label (2 lower case letters)
  • Tactile Graphic Illustration (close to left, aligned with inline text)

* If there were only questions without answers then the format number combination would be (1-3).

If there is room for all content on one page, the same 6th-grade math worksheet (displayed below) contents elements arranged according to the BANA Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphic, 2010.

Figure 3: School-based worksheet where the elements are rearranged. The order of the arrangement is listed below.

BANA Guideline Arrangement of Elements on a Tactile Graphic

  • The title is still centered.
  • The questions are still above the graphic.
  • The questions begin in cell 1 and runover in cell 5 (1-5).
  • The answere choices are still below the graphic.
  • The answer choices begin in cell 3 with runover in cell 5 (3-5).
  • The answer choices are listed as a, b, c, and d.
  • The graph illustration is below the question/answer section of the document and is left justified.
  • The x label is just to the right of the x-axis arrowhead
  • The y label is just above the y-axis arrowhead.
  • The y-axis identifier is above the y-axis line.
  • The x-axis identifier is below the x-axis numeric indicators and aligned with the left-most numeric indicator on the x-axis.

Preparing the Tactile Graphic Document Illustration

Below is a typical mathematics worksheet from a 6th grade class.  When a braille production center receives this worksheet via email or hardcopy several decisions are considered before producing it as a tactile graphic document. 

Figure 4: School-based Mathematics Worksheet that contains from top to bottom: title, name and date blanks, double bar graph, directions , seven questions and source information.

According to the Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics book Unit 3, Section 3-3, here are some questions to consider:

  • What text needs to be included on the graphic?
  • What text or illustration can be eliminated?
  • What needs to be resized?
  • What can be distorted or consolidated?
  • How to separate the document components if needed?
  • Are transcriber's notes needed (explaining changes in format or description to support graphics)?

Elements to consider for production are identified as these 11 on this particular print document.  

illustrated chart
Figure 5:  School-based Math Worksheet; 1-11 numbers are positioned next to or over particular style elements contained within the document.
  1. Running Heading:  This may be eliminated but the math teacher needs to be consulted first before this is done.  This not a decision the braille production personnel should make.  It is the decision of the teacher of record.
  2. Name and Date fill-in-the -blank:  This can be (and should be eliminated) without requesting consent of the teacher.
  3. Title:  The title of the tactile graphic is the print title of the bar graph.  This is centered as the first element on the tactile graphic.  The braille text is styled as a centered title.
  4. The illustration is placed in the same position as textbook example or in high-stakes state-wide test problem. The illustration as a tactile graphic will be a larger scale then the print version.  It is also left justified.
  5. The y-axis information is never vertically displayed on a bar graph document.  It is positioned above the y-axis line, in line with the vertical line numeric place marker labels,
  6. The text-based x-axis place maker labels may need abbreviated two letter labels in order for it to fit on the appropriate place maker.
  7. The legend just to the right of the illustration will be part of a key on the tactile graphic document.  Never use the word "legend". It is always "key" on a tactile graphic.
  8. On the tactile graphic document the x-axis label needs to align with left-most x-axis place maker label.
  9. This is a direction on the activity the worksheet offers (answer questions on this worksheet). It is styled as in the braille document as starting in cell 5 with run over in cell 5 (blocked).  In a Nemeth (math) document the first word in the sentence starts in cell 5 with runover in cell 3
  10. The questions are considered a list of items.  It is a level 1 list  (has no sub list).  It is styled in braille with the first left character beginning in cell 1 with run overs beginning in cell 3.  If there are questions with answers, these are considered level 2 lists.  The question starts in cell 1 with runover in cell 5 while the answers start in cell 3 with runover in cell 5.
  11. This is a source.  This is usually information about the publisher. It can be eliminated from the braille (tactile graphic) worksheet.

This document is basically divided into three sections:

  • Content
  • Transcribers note (if needed)
  • Tactile Graphic

Putting It All Together

A tactile graphic document can be divided into sections; the content information section, transcriber's note and key section, and the tactile graphic illustration section. A document containing these sections will usually consist of multiple pages, especially if there is a transcriber's note with a key.  A tactile graphic (same for textbooks and high-stakes testing materials) will always list the sections with the content component first at the top of the document, followed by a transcriber note and key, and ending with the actual tactile graphic illustration.

Content Page

Figure 6:  Screen Shot of a Word Document.  The Styles task pane is activated with an arrow dash line starting at the Title style and pointing on the Word layout at a line of text that is changed to that particular style.

The content section consists of text information that can be translated into braille.  Titles, headings, directions, captions, questions and answers are a few examples where braille text is directly entered on a Word. Each text elements is then assigned a BANA template style. It is now saved in Word and closed.  Be sure to save it as a .doc (Word 97-2003) document instead of the default .docx (Word) document. 

Next it is opened in Duxbury 11.2. At this point the text is translated into braille.  Be sure to include at least one MathType number in the text or else it will not translate numbers to the questions in the Nemeth numbering format style.

Figure 7:  Screen shot of a Duxbury layout window with text translated into a braille font.

Check again for braille formatting as well as braille text errors within the document.  Corrections may have to be entered manually by the six-key entry method that include the use of these keys s-d-f-j-k-l.  Cells 1,2,3 are keys f, d, s and cells 4,5,6 are keys j, k, l. 

Formatting the Tiger Way

On documents prepared for Tiger translation and embossing, all braille styles need to be formatted manually. One way to format manually is to activate the gridline and set vertical and horizontal spacing at .25".  This width is somewhat similar to the width of a braille cell. Doing it this way makes it easier to count blocks to the correct placement of each braille format element.  Configure and activate the gridlines by first opening the "Drawing Grid" dialog window in Word.

Figure 8:  Screen Shot of the Drawing Grid Dialog Window.

Braille Formatting Process Using the Tiger Software Suite for Translation

  • Set the grid setting spacing to .25" for both horizontal and vertical.
  • Set the margins at 1" then check "Use margins".
  • Enter the information (all information) first at the left margin (left justified).
  • Translate using the Tiger Software Suite.
  • Activate the gridlines.
  • By using the spacebar and Enter keys, properly place content according to the
  • braille format guidelines.

Take a question and answer combination like the example below.  Since this combination is really a level 2 list, the question is formatted 1-5 while the answer choices are formatted 3-5.  The first character of the question is in "block" 1(left side of the document) with runover starting in block 5.  The answer choices start in block 3 with runover in block 5.

Figure 9: Part of a Word Document with the Gridline Activated.  The information on the display contains the words: question at 1-5, answer at 3-5, count 4 spaces to start text in cell 5, count 2 spaces to start text in cell 3 and set margins to 1".  Braille text is also on the Word document with the first line starting in cell 1, the second line starting in cell 5 and the third through fifth line starting in cell 3.

If mistakes were noticed on a page translated by the Tiger Software Suite, braille can be type in using the regular letter keyboard except for contractions and special symbols.

Entering these symbols requires a working knowledge of ASCII.  Usually shift plus a number key represents certain contractions or symbol in braille, such as ! representing "the" or < representing gh. Number keys also represent contractions:   1 is "ea", 2 is "be", 3 is "con", 4 is "dd" or "dis" or ".", 5 is "en", 6 is "!" or "to" or "ff", 7 is "were" or "gg",  8 is "?" or "his", 9 is "in",  0 is "was" or "by".

This chart displays the special character key symbol and its braille contraction equivalent.

ascii chart
Figure 10:  Screen shot of a Braille ASCII Chart

Transcriber's Note Section

If a transcriber's note is needed to explain the key, this section is followed by the content (directions, questions, answers, and other information) and comes before the actual tactile graphic illustration. A transcriber's note begins in cell 7 with the transcriber's note symbol.  Wording on a transcriber's note needs to be in the vocabulary understood by the student (i.e., second-grade vocabulary for a second grader).

The ending transcriber's note symbol (same symbol as the opening) is entered right after the last word in the key. There is neither a blank space following the beginning symbol nor before the ending symbol. The symbol consist of dot 6 in the first cell and dot 3 in the next cell.

Figure 11: Screen Shot of the Transcriber's Note Symbol.  The first cell has a dot 6 and the second cell contains a dot 3.

The word "Key:" (k is capitalized and a colon is included) must follow the transcriber's note on the next line (no space) starting in cell 7. Key information follows after a blank line space. If the key contains tactile graphics such a line, point, or area fill patterns, then the text content starts in cell 6 with runover in cell 8. Area fill pattern need to be at least one inch in length.

Example of the Transcriber's Note and Key Page

Figure 12:  Screen Shot of a Braille Transcriber's Note Section Document.

Tactile Graphic Section

On the tactile graphic page, all text and labels are positioned manually.  It is best to "float" the text in textboxes.

The title of the document is repeated on all pages of the worksheet. They are a centered heading.

The number sign is used for the y-axis information if is not "understood" that only numbers are placed at each tick marker (because the x-axis information are not numbers)

The illustration is aligned left justified with left-side labels set on the left margin.  The X identifier is below the first numerical (or letter) tick marker on the left while the y identifier is just above the y axis line aligned with the numbers (or letters) just left of the y axis line.

All key information (lines, points, letter combinations, area fills) have to match the content on the tactile graphic.

Example of the Tactile Graphic Page

Figure 13:  Screen shot of a tactile graphic section document that is translated into braille.

Braille Formats Commonly Seen on a Tactile Graphic Worksheet

The following is a list of the braille formatting styles that you typically use on a document containing tactile graphics. The first number in parentheses indicates the cell in the first line at which the characters begin, the second number in parentheses indicate the beginning cell if there is text run over on the following lines.

Style Task PaneListed in the Word BANA 2014 Template Style
Heading Centered H1
Cell 5 Heading Heading H2 (5-5)
Cell 7 Heading Heading H3 (7-7)
Paragraph 3-1
Paragraph-Blocked 1-1
List (no sub-levels) 1-3
List (1 sub-level) 1-5, 3-5
List (2 sub-levels) 1-7, 3-7, 5-7
List (3 sub-levels) 1-9, 3-9, 5-9, 7-9
Transcriber's Note 7-5
Select All (or Word) Uncontracted (blue color lettering)
Directions (not in Nemeth) Directions (5-5)
Directions (Nemeth) Directions Nemeth (5-3)
Spanish Spanish (red color lettering)

You may now listen to the articles published in our TX SenseAbilities Spring 2015 issue on your computer or mobile device!

Click each link below to listen the the articles individually or download the .zip archive containing all of the audio files in one package. These files are in .mp3 format.

  • Faces of Fitness: Blog by Bev Childress

    A Publication about Visual Impairments and Deafblindness for Families and Professionals Blog article published with permission.
    Abstract: The journey of how a woman with a visual impairment becomes a CrossFit trainer. 
    Listen to "Faces of Fitness: Blog by Bev Childress".

  • What My Parents Did Right: Recommendations for Parents of Children with Blindness

    By Patricia Walsh
    Abstract: The author discusses how her parents helped her become a competent and independent blind adult. 
    Listen to "What My Parents Did Right: Recommendations for Parents of Children with Blindness".

  • Questions? Where Do Parents Go for Answers?

    By Cyral Miller, Director, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach Program
    Abstract: The author discusses local, regional and statewide resources which can provide information and support to families with blind school aged and transition aged students with visual impairment
    Listen to "Questions? Where Do Parents Go for Answers?".

  • New to Deafblindness? Five Tips for Administrators

    By Marina McCormick, M.Ed., Region 4 Regional Day School Program for the Deaf Coordinator
    Abstract: The author discusses ways local school districts can serve students with deafblindness. She emphasizes collaboration, putting the student first, rewarding outstanding staff, and including the student as part of the local community.
    Listen to "New to Deafblindness? Five Tips for Administrators".

  • Learning About My Eye

    Submitted by Cindy Bachofer, PhD, CLVT (with thanks to Maribeth Betton & Cristi Fleming for the invitation to their classroom)
    Abstract: The author discusses ways to teach students with visual impairment about anatomy and functions of the eye, visual impairment, and eye examinations. She lends her personal perspective as a teacher and consultant with visual impairment herself.
    Listen to "Learning About My Eye".

  • General Orientation and Mobility Recommendations for Functional Programs

    By Chris Tabb, Orientation and Mobility Consultant
    Abstract: The author presents an overview of orientation and mobility instructions for students with significant disabilities in addition to visual impairment. 
    Listen to "General Orientation and Mobility Recommendations for Functional Programs".

  • Element Arrangement on a Tactile Graphic Document

    By Patrick Van Geem, TVI, Educational Consultant, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach
    Abstract: The author discusses standards and practices in tactile graphics, along with some related braille formatting including information relevant to the use of Duxbury and the Tiger embosser.
    Listen to "Element Arrangement on a Tactile Graphic Document".

  • News and Views

    Parent Companion Excerpt from Parent to Parent website Announcing Parent Companion and Eye Find Brochure details.
    Listen to the "News and Views" articles.
    Visit Parent Companion
    Download the Eye Find Brochure

  • Texas Works on Implementation Plan for Changes to the Braille Code

    By William Daugherty, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
    Abstract:  Superintendent Daugherty shares information on changes to the braille code.  He reviews the steps to make the transition from English Braille American Edition (EBAE) to the Unified English Braille code (UEB). 
    Listen to "Texas Works on Implementation Plan for Changes to the Braille Code".

  • The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

    By Scott Bowman, Interim Assistant Commissioner,Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Service – Division of Blind Services (DARS-DBS)
    Abstract: Mr. Bowman reviews the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the focus on ensuring that adults and teen with disabilities are prepared to meet the ever changing work world.
    Listen to "The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act".

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Parent Companion

Excerpt from Parent to Parent website

Announcing Parent Companion:
Texas Parent to Parent (TxP2P) & Region 13 Education Service Center are very proud to introduce a new website for Texas families of children birth to 5 years old providing support and information in a parent to parent manner. It includes many articles for families and videos of parents sharing ideas and support. Please check out Parent Companion!

Eye Find Brochure

Are you a VI professional in Texas trying to get the word out about services to infants and toddlers with visual impairment? Are you a parent or other advocate trying to help another parent access educational services for their child with a visual impairment? Do you have connections to pediatricians, therapy clinics, ophthalmologist’s offices or Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) service providers used by families of children with disabilities? Please help get the message out! In Texas, we know that our youngest children with vision impairment and deafblindness are under-served, especially those from birth to age three. Use the Eye Find brochure, print it and distribute it far and wide! Laws and services differ from state to state; this information is specific to services in the state of Texas. 

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William Daugherty, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract:  Superintendent Daugherty shares information on changes to the braille code.  He reviews the steps to make the transition from English Braille American Edition (EBAE) to the Unified English Braille code (UEB). 

Key words:  blind, visually impaired, braille, Unified English Braille (UEB) code, TSBVI, TEA, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA)

The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) has adopted changes to the braille code consistent with most of the rest of the English-speaking countries. BANA is composed of a group of experts and stakeholders involved with braille, and they are the recognized body who make changes to the braille code as needed.  The code currently in use in North America is known as English Braille American Edition (EBAE).  The new code is known as the Unified English Braille (UEB) code.  This change to UEB represents the most comprehensive change to the code in decades, and its intention was in part to address the limitations EBAE had to adapt to the continuous changes in language and to the growing interface between braille and technology.

Although UEB looks like EBAE for the most part, there are some significant changes that will require readers, teachers and transcribers alike to study and become familiar with the appearance of some new signs and the elimination of some others. BANA chose to retain the existing mathematics code called Nemeth code, but UEB also has mathematics and technical code that is likely to find its way into usage based upon decisions by teachers at the instructional level. 

Over the past year all states have been developing plans for the implementation of UEB.  These plans include things such as how to train teachers, students and transcribers in the new code; when and how to make changes to textbooks; when and how to make changes to state assessments such as the STAAR; and in some states like Texas, when and how to develop a UEB-based braille proficiency test for those seeking to become teachers of students with visual impairment (TVI's).

Texas has developed a very good plan, still in the draft stage, which the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will consider for adoption. This plan lays out the many steps it takes to get this accomplished in the form of a timeline.  This timeline culminates in the Spring of 2017 with the goal of having met wholly, or in large part, full implementation of the UEB code in Texas.

It is important to note that during this transition period, which reasonably can be predicted to go beyond the Spring of 2017 on several fronts, that TEA, our Education Service Centers, TSBVI and school districts across the state will figure out ways to minimize the impact on students trying to learn a new code while having books, tests and other materials in the “old” EBAE code.  For a time it will be common to see materials offered in both codes. Students and parents are encouraged to begin conversations with their local educational teams because it may be beneficial for ARD committees to make some decisions on what code will be used for both instruction and assessment. More can be learned about UEB at the BANA website , and TSBVI will be regularly posting related information at

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By Scott Bowman, Interim Assistant Commissioner,
Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Service – Division of Blind Services (DARS-DBS)

Abstract: Mr. Bowman reviews the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the focus on ensuring that adults and teen with disabilities are prepared to meet the ever changing work world.

Key Words: Dept. of Assistive and Rehabilitation Service – Division of Blind Services, blind, visually impaired, vocational rehabilitation, transition services, supportive employment, qualified workforce

There are exciting changes in the world of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) as we move into the 21st century.  These changes are focused on ensuring that adults and teens with disabilities are trained and prepared to meet the ever changing work world.  New federal legislation has been enacted to give every state in the nation new tools to build a qualified workforce.  I would like to share some information about this new law and how it will impact people with disabilities.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law by President Obama on July 22, 2014.  This law replaces the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and amends the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Wagner-Peyser Act, and the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998.  WIOA makes significant improvements for individuals with disabilities, including students with disabilities as they make the transition from education to employment.

There are three major themes to this law.  The first is to be responsive to the business needs of the 21st century.  It is important to be able to fill in-demand occupations with qualified workers and to collaborate with employers.  The second theme is to emphasize services to students and youth with disabilities.  This includes pre-employment transition services and dedicated supported employment funds.  The third theme, is that the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) will collaborate with a group of “core partners,”  including several programs run by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). Together we will build a partnership to ensure that Texans with disabilities will have the support/training they need to be successful in the world of work.

Business needs

In order to meet the demands of a changing job market, it is important to prepare an educated and skilled workforce. WIOA directs the workforce system to be more responsive to the needs of business and industry, including providing training that addresses the skill needs of specific industries or employers, on-the-job training, customized training, and increased development of employer partnerships.  It is necessary that counselors delivering vocational rehabilitation services have a 21st century understanding of the evolving labor force and the needs of individuals with disabilities.  Counselors will need to provide consumers training that meets not just current, but also future employer needs; guiding applicants towards in-demand jobs and training that produces the skills that industry needs.

One of the things on which WIOA will measure VR effectiveness is the wages earned by the people we serve. To help in that area, WIOA encourages VR to consider helping eligible qualified individuals to pursue advanced training in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (including computer science), medicine, law or business.  VR programs have always worked with employers to identify competitive integrated employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The new definition of competitive integrated employment is: full or part time work at minimum wage or higher and with wages and benefits similar to those without disabilities performing the same work and fully integrate with co-workers without disabilities.

Pre-Employment Transition Services

Vocational Rehabilitation agencies are required to make pre-employment transition services available to students with disabilities (in Texas age 10 through 22, which will include DBS transition students) in order to make the transition from secondary school to post-secondary education programs and competitive integrated employment.  These services include job exploration counseling, work based learning experiences, counseling on post-secondary opportunities, workplace readiness training, and training on self-advocacy.  There will be a focus on internships, apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, extended summer work programs, group skills trainings and workshops to address life skills, social skills and the soft skills needed to be successful in a work environment.  WIOA requires that VR agencies set aside at least 15% of their Federal VR program funds to provide these pre-employment services. 

WIOA also requires that VR programs will spend 50% of their supported employment grant on youth with disabilities (ages 14-24).  Supported employment services, including extended services, will be provided to youth with the most significant disabilities in order to assist those youth in achieving an employment outcome in supported employment.  The law also focuses on customized employment which is defined as “competitive integrated employment, for an individual with a significant disability.  Customized Employment is based on an individualized determination of the strengths, needs, and interests of the individual with a significant disability…designed to meet the specific abilities of the individual with a significant disability and the business needs of the employer… and carried out through flexible strategies.”  

Collaboration of Core Partners

DARS and TWC are working closely to develop a framework for increased coordination at the state and local levels.  DARS is coordinating with the Texas Education Agency to assess and implement the provisions of WIOA related to serving transition- age youth.  We will also continue to collaborate with business throughout the state to develop a business relations system that is responsive to the needs of businesses and consumers.

We are excited to see how these changes will increase the opportunities for Texans with disabilities to be successfully employed.