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Copyright 1999 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved.
Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, October 1999, pp. 670-675

This report, the first in a series discussing each of the five AFB Solutions Forum Work Groups, describes the activities of the Electronic Files and Research and Development (EF/RD) Work Group. Two purposes define activities of this Work Group:

  1. Exploring and defining issues related to the creation, production, and distribution of electronic files provided by textbook publishers for the production of textbooks in braille and other special media.
  2. Identifying new trends, technologies and research that may affect production, accessibility and delivery of textbooks.

The EF/RD Work Group has divided its work into 3 main tasks:

  1. Sharing of resources

  2. Tracking existing technologies

  3. Research and Development


The group is interested in providing additional information and materials for professionals in the field. The Electronic Files and Research Development Work Group has assembled or developed a number of resources related to the production of textbooks in specialized media. These resources are available for public use and comment on two web sites: and Resources on the sites include:

  • A list of textbook publishers who create electronic files for braille textbook production.
  • A collection of fact sheets about the development and production of quality tactile graphics.
  • A link to the American Association of Publishers web site that has their conference schedule and topics posted.


The AFB Solutions Forum is one of many national initiatives which focuses on some aspect of textbooks and educational materials productions. The EF/RD group is tracking other initiatives and sharing information. Some of the initiatives are listed below:

  • Recording for the Blind and Dyslexics development of an Electronic Data Management System for the production of electronic books.
  • American Printing House for the Blinds development of an electronic files management system.
  • The development of the Digital Talking Book standard by the Daisy Consortium and the National Library Service division of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Research and Development:

The final task of the EF/RD Work Group is conducting research and developing resources related to textbook production, delivery and accessibility. The group will complete the tasks listed below:

  • Conduct a survey of multimedia textbooks used by students with visual impairments. Information gathered from this survey will be used to promote the use of an accessible version of multimedia (sometimes called CD-ROM) textbooks by all students. If you receive this survey, please take the time to complete it. The information collected is very important. Results of the survey will be discussed at the Josephine L. Leadership Institute, which will be held March 3-5, 2000, in Dallas, Texas.
  • Develop a flow chart and related information on how publishers create electronic files for braille textbook production.
  • Develop a flow chart and related information on how braille textbook producers create braille textbooks from the electronic files.
  • With textbooks publishers, develop a business case for the use of accessible practices and tools for the creation and distribution of print, CD-ROM, and internet based textbooks.
  • Developing a position paper about why ASCII text files should not be used for the storage and distribution of electronic files and describing the alternatives.

The EF/RD Workgroup would like to hear from professionals in the blindness field who have information to share. Contact: Jim Allan, technology specialist and Webmaster, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 1100 West45th Street, Austin, TX 78756; E-mail: . For information about the AFB Solutions Forum, contact project coordinators Mary Ann Siller or Susan Jay Spungin at   or .