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Workshop presented at the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference, 2001. Orlando Florida
by Jim Allan, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, , (512)-206-9315 

Learning Outcomes

  • Attendees will be able to list the problems associated with students receiving braille and alternative media textbooks in a timely manner.
    • time
    • paper text book creation process
      • versions
    • file conversion process 
    • braille production process
      • text
      • graphics
  • Attendees will be able to identify organizations involved in making the braille and alternative media textbook process more efficient.
    • AFB
    • NFB
    • AAP
    • RFBD
    • APH
  • Attendees will be able to identify technologies used in the production of braille and alternative media textbooks.
    • XML
    • SMIL

Students who are blind are not getting their braille and alternative media textbooks at the same time as their non-disabled peers. The cumbersome and time consuming process for converting books and files from publishers into properly formatted braille will be discussed. Currently, many states, national organizations, consumer groups, publishers, trade associations and others are working jointly and separately to ensure students receive their textbooks in a timely fashion. We will review these efforts and technology innovations that should provide textbooks in a timely fashion within the short and long term.

Review of the braille book production process

  1. Braille producers receive print copies of textbooks, publishers disks of textbooks, and reams of editorial/errata sheets.
  2. With producing textbooks, the Braille transcriber usually receives the print copy that is in need of corrections. The Braille transcription is begun and sometimes finished before the printing that the reader will receive is actually complete.
  3. Braille producers review publishers' disks for usability.
  4. The transcribing agency works with the graphics companies that have been contracted by the publishers to get the best type of files possible.
  5. Braille producers work with the publishers and/or the state agency until usable/good copies of electronic files are received. 
  6. Braille production staff (formatting specialists) review textbooks and make formatting decisions about how the books are structured.
  7. Textbooks are assigned to transcribers for brailling and graphics are given to tactile graphics specialists.
  8. Transcriber/graphics specialists prepare the Braille versions of textbooks by using the publishers' disks.
  9. The first proofread version of the file is printed on a Braille printer and graphics are reproduced on a Thermoform machine and/or Braille graphics printer. The graphics are inserted in the appropriate position within the Braille volume. The draft copy of the volume is ready for the first proofreading.
  10. Proofreader and copyholder read each volume of the textbook. A "page and line" report is completed listing the errors in each volume. The report is returned with the volume to the transcriber/graphics specialist for corrections.
  11. Book is embossed and receives final quality check and is shipped.

Current Initiatives

Joint Technology Task Force - a cooperative effort between the American Association of Publishers  textbook division members and the American Foundation for the Blind - Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum. The goals of the new task force include analyzing the National Information System Organization (NISO) XML (Extensible Markup Language) file format to determine its suitability for converting textbook content into braille and other accessible formats and promoting and demonstrating to accessible book producers the efficiency and benefits of using publisher files in NISO XML format.

American Foundation for the Blind - Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum  -- a collaborative national effort represented by agencies and organizations involved in the production and distribution of textbooks and instructional materials. Textbook publishers, producers of specialized media, assistive technology specialists, educators, Instructional Materials Resource Centers, parents, consumers, and others are examining the multifaceted process of producing and delivering educational materials in accessible media to students who are blind or visually impaired.

American Printing House for the Blind  LOUIS - Database of Accessible Materials, National File Repository, developing new conversion tools, Book works (DTB), Accessible Textbook Initiative and Collaboration Project APH

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic/Daisy Consortium/Open Ebook Forum - production and accessibility of digital audio books (refer to Visuaide presentation). RFB&D is the first and only national nonprofit organization in the United States devoted to providing educational materials, such as textbooks and reference materials, to people who cannot effectively read standard print. The DAISY Consortium is establishing the International Standard for the production, exchange, and use of the next generation of "Digital Talking Books". The Open eBook Forum (OEBF) is an association of hardware and software companies, publishers, authors and users of electronic books and related organizations whose goal is establish common specifications for electronic book systems, applications and products that will benefit creators of content, makers of reading systems and, most importantly, consumers, helping to catalyze the adoption of electronic books


Textbooks available on the web 

  • Louis - APH Database of accessible materials
  • Texas Text Exchange  - the first web-based digital library of electronic books for exclusive use by students with disabilities! 

A Glossary of Commonly Used Terms

  • Quark - layout program used for k-12 textbooks
  • Digital Audio-Based Information System Consortium (DAISY Consortium)
  • Open Electronic Book Forum (OEBF)
  • Digital Talking Book (DTB)
  • Document Type Definition (DTD)
  • Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL)
  • Extensible Markup Language (XML)