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Saving braille files

  1. right click on the file link (foo.brf)
  2. a menu will open
  3. If using Internet Explorer, choose "save target as". If you are using Firefox and others, choose "save link as"
  4. You can designate the directory where you would like the file saved. One choice would be "My Documents"

Embossing Braille Files

  1. If you are using Duxbury to emboss a .brf file you must do the following:
    1. open Duxbury
    2. open the GLOBAL menu
    3. select "Formatted Braille Importer..."
    4. check the box at the top called "Read formatted braille without interpretation"
    5. then inport the brf file.
    6. Sometimes Duxbury will display a warning box "page depth exceeded" or "page width exceeded" these come with an "ok" button. Just select "OK". Duxbury is telling you that the page length or line length of the brf file is larger than your current settings in Duxbury. Usually it has little if any effect on the embossed product.
  2. If you have a Braille2000 (.abt), Duxbury (.dxb), or MegaDots (.meg) file, you can open their respective file formats. All will open .brf files. Use the program to emboss.
  3. Embossing .brf files from an MS-DOS command prompt. 
    1. Determine the computer port to which the embosser attaches. It might be LPT1: which is the standard parallel port, or it might be COM1: or COM2: which is one of the serial ports. Note that the name of a port includes an ending colon.
    2. Open the "MS-DOS Prompt" window (for Windows 95/98/ME) or the "Command Prompt" window (for Windows 2000/XP). There is an entry for this in the Programs menu reached from the Start button (Start > Run, when the dialog box appears type in the word "command" - leave off the quotation marks).
    3. Switch into the directory where the .brf file is located and enter a command similar to the following:  copy filename.brf portname where "filename.brf" is the actual name of the file to be embossed, and where "portname" is the correct name of the port to which the embosser is connected. Press the Enter key to cause the command line to be performed. You must emboss an entire file at one time.
  4. Embossing .abt files from an MS-DOS command prompt. 
    1. Determine the computer port to which the embosser attaches. It might be LPT1: which is the standard parallel port, or it might be COM1: or COM2: which is one of the serial ports. Note that the name of a port includes an ending colon.
    2. Open the "MS-DOS Prompt" window (for Windows 95/98/ME) or the "Command Prompt" window (for Windows 2000/XP). There is an entry for this in the Programs menu reached from the Start button (Start > Run, when the dialog box appears type in the word "command" - leave off the quotation marks).
    3. Switch into the directory where the .brf file is located and enter a command similar to the following:  copy filename.abt portname where "filename.abt" is the actual name of the file to be embossed, and where "portname" is the correct name of the port to which the embosser is connected. Press the Enter key to cause the command line to be performed. You must emboss an entire file at one time.
    4. If the ABT file to be embossed is on a diskette, insert the diskette into drive A.
    5. Open the "MS-DOS Prompt" window (for Windows 95/98/ME) or the "Command Prompt" window (for Windows 2000/XP). There is an entry for this in the Programs menu reached from the Start button (Start > Run, when the dialog box appears, type in the word "command" - leave off the quotation marks).
    6. At the prompt symbol, type in the following command:
      COPY /A A:\filename.abt portname
      where "filename.abt" is the actual name of the file to be embossed, and where "portname" is the correct name of the port to which the embosser is connected. Press the Enter key to cause the command line to be performed. The embosser should immediately start producing braille. If the port is a serial port (e.g., COMn: type), you may need to configure the serial data parameters to match those of your embosser before the data can flow properly. Serial port configuration is covered in the Windows user’s guide. (NOTE: it is critical to include the /A for this to work properly)

by Paula Penrod, Kentucky School for the Blind

A Braille Carnival in the middle of January does more than chase away the doldrums of winter from the hearts and minds of youngsters who are blind and visually impaired. It's an invigorating way to incorporate the use of Braille skills and to celebrate Braille Literacy Month. Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) introduced the Braille Carnival in 1994 as an end-of-the-year activity. In 1998, it was moved to January in observance of Braille Literacy Month. This year, 17 elementary school-aged children from across Kentucky joined nine KSB students for a two-hour whirl of carnival-type games designed to provide practice of Braille skills for children at readiness levels through accomplished Braille readers.

Many VI teachers and program directors have expressed interest in having a Braille Carnival in their schools. The KSB activities and procedures listed below will aid schools in "pulling off " a Braille Carnival of their own. Game activities, held in the school's recreation center, include:

  1. Fish Pond [children use a "fishing rod" with a magnet on the end to "catch" a fish (a paper cutout with tactual shape, braille sign, etc.)].
  2. Balloon Pop [children pop a balloon and read the Braille under the balloon]
  3. Sand Box [children reach into buckets of sand to locate and identify items tactually, reading Braille signs or riddles in Braille]
  4. "Cooking" [children follow a Braille recipe to make no-cook play dough]
  5. Cake Walk [children walk around a table covered with Braille signs and tactual symbols while the music is playing and when the music stops they read the Braille directly in front of them on the table]
  6. Bean Bag Toss [children toss bean bags into 6-cup muffin tins to make Braille signs or identify the shapes in the muffin tins]
  7. Reading area [children sit near an adult braille reader who reads stories in Braille thus providing a model for correct Braille reading and fluency]
  8. Seek and Find [children are given a braille list of items to find or do in the carnival area--for example they find a ball and bounce it two times, or say hello to someone they do not know]
  9. The children can also have their faces or hands painted and have their palms read. As a child completes each activity, he or she receives a ticket that may be used to purchase cotton candy, popcorn, soft pretzels and drinks at the concession stand. They may also use tickets to play Chicken Limbo.
Children wear nametags that are color-coded to allow game operators to know individual skill levels. The nametags are also numbered and correspond to the various games. As a child completes a game, the game operator punches the corresponding number on the child's nametag, allowing him or her to keep track of the games they still have to play. After the carnival games, the children move to a classroom to play Braille Jeopardy. Again, the children are separated, according to their Braille skill level. There are three levels of Jeopardy and for children at the readiness level, games such as Dominoes and Cootie are played. The children are served a lunch and receive prize bags which include a Braille book, Braille pocket calendar, Braille alphabet card, and novelty toys.

The success of the Braille Carnival depends on KSB's outreach team, teachers, staff members, and students. The outreach team takes the lead by inviting students from local educational areas (LEAs) to participate; setting up the games; and buying prizes. The KSB elementary teachers and staff members operate the game activities and run a concession stand. Both middle and high school students accompany the elementary students to each game activity. Other classes offer special support by blowing up balloons for the carnival.

Expenses for the Braille Carnival are generally under $250. This is due largely to the fact, that game materials have been accumulated over the years and can be reused year after year. Bags, Braille calendars and alphabet cards are donated. The KSB rents a cotton candy machine and buys soft pretzels to foster with the carnival theme atmosphere. The major expenses are in the prizes and Braille books given to the students.

The Braille Carnival gives young students who are blind and visually impaired the opportunity to become confident with their Braille skills in a relaxed and recreational learning environment, and to discover that BRAILLE IS FUN! If you or your school would like more information on the Braille Carnival, contact:

Karen Corbett
Kentucky School for the Blind
(502)897-1583, ext. 215 (Telephone)
? (Email)

TEA, November 2001

Download Flowchart in Word

  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?
    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
    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
    • 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).
  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

The following is a list of people who repair Perkins Braille Writers. This list is provided as a public service. No endorsement is suggested or implied as regard to quality of service received.

Alan Ackley

Ackley Appliance Service
4301 Park Avenue #540
Des Moines, IA 50321

All Star Repair

3464 Minnehaha Avenue South,
Minneapolis, MN 55406. Call
(612) 724-4302

They have been repairing braillers from the same location for 5 years, working for state agencies, private foundations and schools as well as individuals. They have a large parts inventory and complete service literature. Mr. Alan Stombaugh, owner of All Star Repair, claims that their turnaround time is three working days at a cost of $38 plus parts when shipping is Free Matter.

Atlanta Brailler Repair and Service
Frank Levine
3830 South Cobb Drive
Suite 125
Smyrna, Georgia 30080

Phone 770-432-7280
Fax 770-432-5457

The Braillery

5 Cumberland Circle
El Paso, TX 79903
(915) 565-0179

Provide complete brailler repair service as well as selling reconditioned braillewriters.

Braillewriter Cleaning and Repair Service

2714 Ruberg Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio 45211
Phone: (513)481-7662

Clark Brailler Repair Service

"I am a certified Perkins Braille Writer repair technician. I was employed by Howe Press as a Perkins Braille Writer assembler and repair technician and as an international Braille Writer repair trainer. I have been a teacher of the visually impaired for over 25 years and understand the importance of having a machine that works."

Clark Brailler Repair Service
Mary Jane Clark
P.O. Box 1271
Rangeley, Maine 04970
Phone: 617-699-5045

Dot's Right Brailler Repair

Francis Daniels
(323) 254-9213

For a basic cleaning, lubricating, making sure the dot height is acceptable, deglazing the rubber roller, I charge $20.00. All work is guaranteed for one year. If I need to replace parts, I charge for the part. No repair costs go over $35.00. I have been working with braillers since 1980, and can repair regular, uni-braillers, and jumbo braillers (large cell). I can work on the mechanical parts of electric braillers, but I cannot work on the electronics. I have worked also on Atkinson braillers, Lavender braillers and most versions of the Hall.

Garcia Brailler Repair

2309 Ginger Lane
Charlotte, NC 28213

Rates: $35 for any problem plus parts
2 years experience

Wayne Harris

Harris Enterprises
1112 Harrison Ln
Hurst, Tx 76053
Ph 817-268-6803

25 years experience repairing braillewriters.

Karen Kleinschmidt 

6800 Ruhland Dr.
Frederick, Maryland 21701

Kansas Braille Transcription Institute, Inc.

1200 E. Waterman
Wichita, KS 67211
Phone: (316) 265-9692
Fax: (316) 265-0184

Leonard Kokel - Certified Brailler Repair

340 Radar Road
Coos Bay, OR  97420
Phone: 541-888-0846
cell: 541-297-1787

Tim Lehmann - Braille Writer Repair

901 South National
Missouri State University
Hill Hall 401
Springfield, Missouri 65897

Cost starts at $40.00 per Braille writer (excluding parts, which are at cost). Braille writers, along with a brief explanation of the problem should be mailed to address above.

Maxi Aids & Appliances for Independent Living

42 Executive Blvd.
P.O. Box 3209
Farmingdale, NY 11735
Phone: 800-522-6294, FAX 516-752-0689

Prose-Cons Braille

P.O. Box 2500
14th and Pioneer Boulevards
Lincoln, Nebraska 68542-2500
Phone: (402) 471-3161

The cost to clean and oil a brailler is $17.50. Braillers can be mailed Free Matter; please contact for further repair information and requirements.

The Selective Doctor, Inc.

PO Box 571
Manchester, Maryland 21102
Phone: 410-668-1143

"Bring your Brailler back to Life". The Selective Doctor, Inc. was established in 1992, two months after I retired from IBM Corporation. Since then we have repaired over 5000 Perkins Braillers in 42 states and am presently repairing braillers for 7 state blind schools. We have also repaired braillers from Guam, Puerto Rico and England.

Our normal turn around time is less than 4 days. We charge a flat rate for labor, plus parts and shipping insurance. (Please call our office for any additional information.)

Jerry Sparks

Specialized Electronics
1004 Drexel Drive
Homewood, Al. 35209
Phone: 1-205-862-1866
Fax: 1-205-942-1552

I am the Telesensory Repair Center for Alabama and Mississippi. I repair Perkins manual and electric brailler's. I repair other brands of brailler's, Lavender etc., to the extent of parts availability. I repair VersaBraille systems to the extent of parts availability.

State of California Department of Corrections Brailler Repair

Volunteers of Vacaville
PO Box 670
Vacaville, CA 95696

Call Officer Grossjan at (707) 449-6500 ext. 2044 or (707) 448-6841 ext. 2044. Enclose correspondence with the Perkins Brailler that includes the following information: mailing address/telephone billing address (include name and number of accounting contact person and/or person who can be contacted to authorize the costs associated with the repairs), requisition number/purchase order number, type of service requested, name and contact information for individual that will be using the equipment or is familiar with the equipment. There is a $25.00 fee associated with the initial inspection and general maintenance of the equipment. Then, the customer is responsible for the actual cost plus 10% for any parts.

Treps Brailler Service

Cleaning, Adjusting, Repair

Bill Treptow
15440 Toll Road,
Reno NV 89521
Phone 775-224-0680

Chuck Whitehead

12388 Marmont Place
Moreno Valley, CA 92557
(909) 242-3750

Repair the Perkins Standard and Jumbo braille machines, full year warranty, parts are furnished at cost, week turn-around-earlier if an emergency.

Mr. John Wilen

805 North Polk
Papillion, NE 68046-4338
(hm) 402/597-3110
(wk) 402/291-2362


Many times students need school or leisure reading materials in large print or in braille. Student's who need reading materials in other than standard print media may order the book in audio tape format from the Texas State Library-Division for Blind and Physically Impaired (the WWW link is listed below), or check their local school or community library. Some materials are not available in large print or braille. One solution is to look on the Internet. Many materials, books, magazines, poetry, plays, etc., are available in electronic format for downloading. Once a file has been downloaded, a student is able to use the computer to produce the reading selection in large print (on-screen or on paper), speech output, or braille (on a braille display or on paper). Below are listed several libraries and other sources located on the Internet for downloading electronic books.

Internet Libraries

On-Line Interactive Books

Fifth Biennial Getting in Touch With Literacy Conference
November 9, 2001
Philadelphia, PA

Sheila Steiner Amato, Ed.D.

Complete text of presentation below:

Literacy is:

  • An issue of national concern
  • Involves reading, writing, math, computer skills, culture (Rex, 1989)
  • Technology skills (Koenig, 1992)
  • Necessary to function on the job and in society (National Institute for Literacy, 1993)
  • Demonstrated at various levels throughout one's lifetime (Koenig, 1992)
  • The means to a limitless array of activities and encounters (Schroeder, 1989)
  • The means to a better quality of life (National Institute for Literacy, 1993)

Braille literacy can:

  • Make it possible for a person who is blind to participate equally in society (Nemeth, 1988) and in the cultural and political life of the community (Stephens, 1989)
  • Open the way to information by tearing down barriers of myth and ignorance (Schroeder, 1989)
  • Determine the degree of independent functioning on the job (Johnson, 1989)
  • Enable individuals who are blind to read and write for themselves

By the numbers...

In 1989

  • 70% of working age people who are blind were unemployed or underemployed (Schroeder, 1989)
  • Of the 30% who are employed, 85% read braille (Spungin, 1989)

In 2000

  • 74% of working age people who are blind are unemployed or underemployed (Maurer, 2000)
  • Of the 26% who are employed, 85% read braille (Maurer, 2000)

  However& there is evidence of a nationwide decline in braille literacy

In 1968

  • 40% of children who were blind or visually impaired could read braille
  • 45% read large print
  •   9% could read neither   

In 1999

  • less than 10% of children who were blind or visually impaired could read braille
  • more than 40% could read neither
  • (APH, 1999)

Consumer services have placed partial blame for the decline in braille literacy on:

  • Teacher incompetence in using and teaching braille (Allman & Lewis, 1997)
  • Teachers' lack of proficiency in braille (Mullen, 1990)
  • Teachers' poor attitudes (Mullen, 1990)
  • Inadequate preparation of teachers by the university teacher preparation programs (Spungin, 1989)

The catalyst &WHY????

  • The National Literary Braille Competency Test (NLBCT) was developed by the National Library Service for the Blind/The Library of Congress
  • Purpose: to allow teachers of children and adults who are blind to demonstrate their competency in writing braille with the braillewriter and the slate and stylus, their ability to proofread braille, and their knowledge of braille code rules
  • Administered to 396 candidates between May, 1994 and June 1999 (Stark, 2000)
  • The discovery that there is a 25% passing rate for teachers who take the National Literary Braille Competency Test

Issue of concern for:

  • Students of university teacher training programs ~ and staff who teach them
  • Their future students or clients
  • Braille consumers
  • National organizations using these statistics to support their contention that teacher training programs were graduating less-than-competent teachers (NFB, 1995)

Questionnaire Standards and Criteria for Competence in Braille Literacy was designed by the investigator 

  • Descriptional survey design
  • Purpose: to examine the issue of teacher competence in braille literacy and the specific role played in the achievement of braille literacy by university teacher preparation programs in blindness and visual impairment
  • Some of the questions designed for a previously completed Teachers College doctoral dissertation  that investigated Braille Training and Teacher Attitudes: Implications for Personnel Preparation, 1993  were either used in their entirety or modified with the written permission of the author, Dr. Stuart Wittenstein.

Pilot instrument

Pilot version of initial questionnaire draft was distributed to 13 individuals in fields of:

  • blindness & visual impairment
  • regular education
  • special education
  • literacy & reading
  • statistics & measurement
  • teacher training
  • and a consumer who uses braille
  • revisions made were based on their feedback

Final document Standards and Criteria for Competence in Braille Literacy

  • Section 1 - course format
  • Section 2 - course content
  • Section 3  course expected outcomes
  • Section 4 - grading and determining the level of competence
  • Section 5 - opinion poll
  • Section 6 - demographic information for the respondents

Programs Surveyed

  • The list of programs was gleaned from Colleges and Universities in the United States and Canada Offering Programs for Teachers of Children with Visual Impairments Recognized by AER (
  • Cross reference done with the National Plan for Training Personnel (NPTP) (Council for Exceptional Children, 1999)

By the numbers:

  • Surveyed 39 institutions that offer programs in Blindness & Visual Impairment
  • Represent 21 states from within the United States
  • Represent 3 Canadian Provinces
  • Include undergraduate, graduate (Master's & Doctoral) and post-graduate programs

Rate of Response

  • Responses were received from 34 programs (87.2%). Thus, it is possible to say that these results are truly representative of teacher education programs in blindness & visual impairment throughout the United States and Canada
  • Caveat~ These data should not be interpreted as a means to judge the quality of the programs, nor to claim superiority or inferiority of practice or the instructor.

Major Findings of the Demographics of Respondents

  • 55.5% institutions offer only graduate programs in BVI
  • 46.6% of university level braille courses are taught by adjunct instructors or graduate faculty
  • 39.9% have tenure or are in tenure-track positions
  • 43 instructors have:
    • known braille for a mean of 26.4 years
    • taught a total of 5,356 students during the past 25 years
  • 69.0% received their braille training as part of a university graduate program
  • 65.1% hold no certification unique to braille (as distinguished from certification as a teacher of students who are blind/visually impaired

Results in a nutshell

Widespread diversity and lack of consistency within university level braille courses in terms of:

  • format of instruction
  • content and instructional materials
  • expected student outcomes
  • standards and criteria for competence in braille literacy

Research Question 1: What is the format of instruction offered in braille as a method of written communication in university level teacher preparation programs in BVI?

  • 75.6% incorporate the term Braille as part of their course title
  • 31.1% offer only one semester of braille, the other programs offer either 2 or 3 semesters of braille.
  • 93.0% have freedom and latitude to create their own syllabus within a general framework
  • 48.9% programs (primarily graduate programs) follow a traditional university semester of meeting once a week for approximately 15 weeks
  • 75.6% meet for a time period between 1-3 hours per class session
  • 46.7% use distance learning as an integral part of their braille course
  • 68.9% report average class size range is 6-15 students

Research Question 2: What topics and instructional materials are included in the university level braille course syllabus?

  • 20.0% of programs do not include instruction in the Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation in their teacher preparation programs
  • 48.9% of class time spent in direct instruction
  • 37.8% of class time spent in combination with direct instruction, drill & practice, use of instructional videos, web-based research, braille games, quizzes, exams, and student presentation of lessons
  • Texts used:
    • 48.9% use Instructional Manual for Braille Transcribing, 3rd.edition
    • 42.2% use New Programmed Instruction in Braille
    • 42.2% use Learning the Nemeth Braille Code
    • 53.3% use Instructional Strategies for Braille Literacy (non-code)

Research Question 3: What are the expected student outcomes in terms of the acquisition and demonstration of braille-related skills and knowledge for these courses?

  • All  require demonstration of braille transcription by use of a braillewriter
  • All  require translation of braille into print
  • 93.3% read braille visually
  • 82.9% transcribe braille by using a slate & stylus
  • 77.8% transcribe mathematics by using the Nemeth Code
  • 73.4% instruction in braille reading methods
  • 15.6%-62.2% other skills and knowledge: teacher made materials, creation of lesson plans, presentation of sample lessons, evaluation of curricula, access technology, observation of braille user, observation of master braille teacher, identification of resources
  • 38.6% expect less than 5 hours/week out-of-class study
  • 45.5% expect between 6-15 hours/week out-of-class study

Research Question 4: What are the standards and criteria for competence in the braille code as employed by university level teacher preparation programs?

  • 59.1% count total number of errors per assignment (which may vary in length and/or complexity)
  • 40.9% provide the option for the student to redo/resubmit an assignment that is not passing
  • 38.6% require the student to redo/resubmit an assignment that is not passing
  • 56.8% allow students to use open books/open notes when taking exams
  • 38.6% permit use of a standard dictionary, but allow no braille code reference materials during exams
  • 40.0% minimum grade for competence is B range
  • 42.2% minimum grade for competence is C range
  • 72.7% will receive grade of incomplete if not competent at end of course
  • 56.8% will be required to repeat the course
  • 38.6% will receive grade of F
  • 75.0% of instructors indicated that their students were required to pass a teacher-made braille competency test in order to receive a passing grade for the course.
  • 52.3% indicated that their students were required to pass a comprehensive exam at the end of their educational program, in which braille was included

Research Question 5: What opinions do teachers of university braille courses hold about key issues in braille literacy?

Entry Level* Competence in Braille Skills

  • 57.8% transcribe, read, and proofread literary braille by braillewriter and slate & stylus
  • 40.0% transcribe math into Nemeth code, proficiency in music code, foreign language code, rules of formatting, braille access technology, curricula, instructional strategies and teaching practice

* Entry level into the field

Graduate Competence in the Literary Code, Nemeth Code, and in Teaching Braille

  • 48.9% rate students as definitely capable of handling almost any literary braille code transcription independently
  • 22.2% rate students as definitely capable of handling almost any Nemeth code transcription independently
  • 57.8% rate students as definitely capable of handling almost any braille related teaching situation independently

Requirement for Refresher or In-Service Braille Training

  • 97.9% indicated that refresher courses or in-service courses should be required, either at regular intervals, or when the teacher feels it is necessary to refresh one's skills
  • 40.5% believe it is the responsibility of teacher preparation programs to provide refresher courses or in-service braille training

Comments about Teacher Competence in Braille

  • 73.8% believe that competence at time of graduation is a function of continuing braille practice
  • 28.6% believe there is a need for further professional development, the opportunity to practice skills, and the availability of braille refresher courses and in-service training

Significant Factors in the Development of Braille Skills

  • 26.2% attitude and motivation
  • 37.7% multiple factors: attitude & motivation, number of hours spent in practice and drill, the instructor, previous experience with braille, natural talent

A Decline Or A Resurgence Of Braille Literacy For People Who Are Blind?

  • 54.8% believe there is a resurgence due to state and federal legislation, required learning media assessments, states putting more money in to train teachers, computer production, refreshable braille displays, refresher courses and conferences, new textbooks, the quest for higher standards and accountability, and more positive attitudes towards braille
  • 11.9% believe there is a decline due to large student caseloads, age of onset of visual impairment, inability to find quality higher level braille textbooks - especially in math and science, the amount of auditory material presently available, and lack of national standards

Comments About University Level Braille Training Standards

  • 31.0% standards are not high enough to produce competent teachers
  • 23.8% students are amazingly competent for their short exposure to braille
  • 11.9% we need to teach students how to teach braille; knowing the code is not enough
  • 9.5% we need to establish national standards for braille training

Limitations of the Study   

  • Inclusion of all established programs in blindness & visual impairment
  • Personal bias of participants
  • Self-reported data
  • Anonymity
  • Exit skills of new teachers trained under different models of personnel preparation

Implications for Personnel Preparation

  • Recommendation that programs provide 2 semesters of braille
  • Inclusion of Nemeth code to enable teachers to transcribe higher level math and science
  • Program model which provides time for assimilation and practice of newly learned skills
  • Need for further research regarding effectiveness of distance learning for braille instruction
  • Commitment to provide ongoing inservice and refresher courses in braille
  • Use of a psychometrically stable instrument in terms of content and construct validity with established reliability as a valid assessment of entry level braille skills prior to awarding a degree or teaching license
  • Establishment of a high minimum national standard for competence in braille literacy

Implications for Future Research

  • Need for documentation of skills of those who will teach children
  • Need for reevaluation, standardization and field testing of university curricula in terms of content and criteria
  • Exploration of use of distance learning as an effective means of service presentation for braille courses

For further information...

Sheila Amato, Ed.D.
72 Aster St.
Massapequa Park, NY 11762
(516) 541-2296 (home)

by Carol Evans []  

This article is based on materials presented at the national conference of the Council for Exceptional Children, Division on Visual Impairments, Salt Lake City, April 1997.

Carol Evans (former itinerant teacher of the visually impaired) Doctoral Student in School Psychology, University of Utah School Psychologist, Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind 

Recorded books have been used for many years by individuals with visual impairment as an efficient way to read quantities of material when braille was not available, or when reading skills were not well developed for a variety of reasons. It was often considered a poor substitute for "real reading. "In recent years, the use of recorded books has expanded to additional populations: those with reading disabilities, as well as those with traumatic brain injury, (loosely defined to include survivors of strokes). Clear evidence of this expansion is found in the recent change of the organizational name of "Recording for the Blind" to "Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. "

Over the years my colleagues and I have had a number of students with varying degrees of visual impairment who have concomitant learning disabilities. Their reading deficits could not be explained by vision loss alone. Some of them have been survivors of traumatic brain injury: auto-bicycle accident, pickup truck rollover, falls from trees or flagpoles.

One of my students with Traumatic Brain Injury recovered all of his academic abilities. He reads braille so well that he can read through a band-aid! But because of severely reduced processing speed, his braille reading speed is very slow, despite many kinds of interventions intended to increase it.

Teachers of students with reading disabilities, and those with behavior disorders with underlying learning disabilities have inquired about the usefulness of recorded books for their students. I have worked in consultation with these teachers, and with Deborah Burt, an adult professional with severe multiple learning disabilities involving both visual perception and auditory processing deficits who devised her own method which she calls the "Book-Cassette Book" method.

AudioAssisted Reading is a method of using recorded books along with the corresponding book in regular print, large print, video-magnified print, or braille. This method allows the reader to use all available avenues of sensory input simultaneously to acquire and process information. It has some distinct advantages over using either print or braille alone, or using recorded books alone:

  1. Simultaneous use helps those with attention problems screen out competing stimuli. Some people who use recordings alone are distracted by visual stimuli in the environment. Some who use print or braille alone are distracted by extraneous sound. Use of headphones can boost attention.
  2. If print or braille decoding is slow and labored, it consumes all the energy needed for comprehension. By the time one gets to the end of the sentence, one may have forgotten what the beginning was about. Paragraph comprehension may require repeated re-reading. The pace and inflection of recorded narration provides efficient decoding and comprehension.
  3. When reading textbooks, references to visual materials (illustrations, charts, graphs, maps, etc. ) are made by the narrator. If the reader is following along in the print book, he or she is able to get much valuable information from examination of the illustrations. When the verbal description ends, the reader is cued by the narrator to "return to text. "

    Individuals who do not need to listen to the description of the visual materials may fast-forward through these sections, although a number of people with perceptual problems may benefit from them.
  4. Young children who are having difficulty learning the relationship between sounds and symbols, but who nevertheless enjoy listening to stories, can be encouraged to discover these relationships by using recorded storybooks (available in packages along with the corresponding print books at any public library). Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic is producing many early reading series materials for this purpose.
  5. Intermediate grade children who have reading deficits and are served by resource for attempted remediation may compensate and be included in regular classroom environments for literature reading by use of recorded novels available from the State Library for the Blind and Physically (Challenged, Handicapped, etc. , depending on the particular state). The State Libraries are divisions of the Library of Congress, and virtually all of classical and modern literature, including the latest best-sellers, is available free to qualifying individuals from this resource.
  6. Compensatory use of recorded books has sometimes resulted in remedial effects when all other efforts at remediation have failed.

One mother told me that her son was four years below grade level in reading when he started using tapes along with books. After two years of using this method, and no other attempts at remediation, he was retested and found to be only two years below grade level, a net gain of four years in two! By the time he graduated from high school he was able to read on grade level. I know of no empirical research that validates these effects. Nevertheless, Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic has received many letters attesting to similar personal experiences.

Why do we call this method "AudioAssisted Reading?" 

To communicate the idea that it IS reading.

A high school student was rapidly losing his vision to diabetes. He also had peripheral tactile neuropathy, and was having a difficult time learning braille. His English teacher assigned a novel, and he commented that he could get it on tape. Her response was that they were there to develop his reading skills, not his listening skills. She had the same problem about giving him credit for watching a movie. In both instances I asked if he evidenced comprehension: could he answer questions, could he retell the story, could he describe the essential elements of the plot and characters? Despite the fact that all the answers were yes, she never quite got it. Now, when I call the method "AudioAssisted Reading," no one questions its legitimacy.


For many individuals the first step is a visit to the public library. Check out their collections of commercially recorded books (playable on ordinary tape players). Select one that seems interesting to you (or your student), along with the corresponding print book. Try it at home, following along in print. Since ordinary tape players do not have variable speed, this may be difficult. If tracking along in print is not possible (either because of the speed, or because of severe visual tracking or decoding problems) there is still a way.

Obtain an application form from your State Library. Fill it out and obtain the signature of a qualified certifying authority, as defined on the application. This may be a teacher of the visually impaired, for those who are visually impaired, or an occupational or physical therapist for those with motor problems that prevent handling a book or turning pages. For those with reading disabilities who do not have medical proof of motor problems or brain injury, the certifying authority will be required to be a medical doctor.

Mail in the application. You will soon receive a tape player on free, permanent loan, and catalogues of books according to the information on your application. Your tape player has four tracks and variable speed control. The tape that comes with the machine contains instructions for its use. You may call the State Library toll free to order your tapes, which are sent to you (and returned to the Library) postage free.

You may also order books that are not listed in the catalogue (which is obsolete as soon as it is printed; they are constantly recording new books) by calling the State Library and requesting it. The librarian will search the computer data base to see if it has been added to their collection, or if it is available from one of the multi-state libraries.

The variable speed control will allow you to adjust the player speed to match your ability to track. You may need to listen at a slower-than-normal speed. Some visually impaired students have gradually trained themselves to listen at very high rates of speed. I have actual video footage of several of these students reading at their own natural rate, and then reading along with the tape at much higher speeds.

When you are ready to progress to textbooks, contact Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) on their toll free number: 1-800-221-4792. They will send an application form, which also needs the signature of a qualifying authority. Their requirements are a little more liberal, however, and if you are a patron of a State Library, they will accept a mailing label as proof of qualification.

RFB&D is constantly involved in recording new textbooks. Their narrators have been auditioned for voice quality and fluency of reading, and trained to use a consistent format. Reading is monitored for accuracy. Their studio recordings are of the highest quality. Request their booklets for students, parents and professionals, entitled "Learning Through Listening. "They contain valuable information on listening, study and note-taking.


When using recreational books on tape from the State Library system, one needs merely to start at the beginning and read through to the end. If the adapted tape player is used, students learn how to adjust speed, tone, etc. , and how to use the track selector switch before they get into the complexity of textbooks. Use the tape and book (regular, large or magnified print) together. Adjust the speed of the tape to the student's speed in tracking the print or braille.

Some students will track print more accurately with a card to screen out the print above or below the target line. Make cards from black or dark color construction paper or poster board to eliminate the glare from white cards.

To screen out all print other than the line being read, make a typoscope, a card with a rectangular opening just larger than a line of print.

Stop at logical intervals to check comprehension by having the student re-tell the content of the section in his or her own words, or by asking comprehension questions.

Eventually the student will learn to track accurately, and may wish to speed up the tape. If the student handles the controls he or she can learn how they respond. Students often read with one hand on the speed control, responding to easy material by speeding up, and to more difficult material by slowing down.

Some students are overwhelmed by the complex process for finding assigned passages in textbooks, which are often assigned out of order. The following task analysis breaks down the process into small steps.



  1. Open the package. Remove the content cards (one for each cassette).
  2. Find the card referring to the desired chapter (page number). 
  3. Select correct cassette. 
  4. Refer to card: say "cassette ____, track ____. 
  5. Press STOP-EJECT. If track 1 or 2, press TRACK 1-2. If track 1, insert cassette label side up. If track 2, insert cassette label side down. If track 3 or 4, press TRACK 3-4. If track 3, insert cassette label side up. If track 4, insert cassette label side down.
  6. Close cover. Push PLAY. 
  7. Note number of first page of track from card (also stated by narrator at beginning of track). 
  8. Subtract first page number from target page number. The result is the number of beeps to be counted to find the page. 
  9. Push FAST FORWARD. 
  10. Count the beeps. Push STOP. Push PLAY. 
  11. Alternate PLAY with REWIND briefly to find the voiced page number. 


  1. Listen. Track along in print or braille (skim). 
  2. Adjust variable speed to your tracking speed. 
  3. Stay with the narrator. 
  4. Mark place in text when visual materials are described and look at the picture, map, graph, chart, etc. 
  5. When narrator says "return to text," return to place marked. Continue listening and tracking. 
  6. When unfamiliar words are not clear from the context: Push STOP. Use FRANKLIN LANGUAGE MASTER, or ask for dictionary help. 
  7. Note taking: Push STOP. Take notes. Continue listening.


(for students with severe process learning difficulties, and for those who are resistant to instruction by the task analysis method)

Backward chaining is the process of reversing the direction of instruction in a complex series of tasks, so that the end-result activity (called the terminal behavior in psychological jargon) is taught first. In the case of using recorded textbooks, it would mean that the teacher does all the steps in the task analysis FOR the student, in his/her presence, verbalizing all the steps while modeling the behaviors.

The last step in the task analysis involves listening, so that becomes the first step in backward chaining. The teacher follows all of the preceding steps of the task analysis, thoroughly verbalizing while guiding the student to look at the content cards:

"We are looking for chapter 2, which begins on page 45. The content cards say that chapter 2 is on cassette 1, track 3. That is on the front side of the tape so we insert the tape with the label side up, and switch to track 3/4. Let's see, the card says the track starts on page 39, and the chapter begins on page 45; 45 take away 39 is 6, so we press FAST FORWARD and count 6 beeps and we should be there. "

After counting the beeps to 6, stop the machine, rewind for just a moment, and listen. This way, with virtually no effort or frustration on his part, the student gets an immediate payoff: information. The student listens, and under your guidance, stops to take notes and/or answer questions.

Next time, figure out the number of beeps from the beginning of the track, and let the student operate the machine while you help count. Always provide the reinforcement of the listening experience at the end of the page-finding process.

The following time, the teacher follows all the procedures up to the point where the cassette is inserted. Have the student insert the tape, operate the track selection switch, and find the page.

Gradually expose the student to independent experience with the content cards, guiding him to read the page ranges to find the card referring to the target chapter/page. The target ("terminal") behavior will eventually look like this: Given the specially adapted tape player, the recorded book, content cards, and the assigned chapter number and page number, the student will:

  • Find the correct content card. 
  • Identify the correct cassette and track numbers. 
  • Select the correct tape from the box. 
  • Determine the number of beeps to count to target page.
  • Correctly count the beeps and reach the target page.

Eventually, the student will comfortable with the entire procedure and gain independence in the use of recorded textbooks.


Sometimes it is useful to produce printed materials with Braille or Sign Language Fonts. This page serves as a resource of free fonts. A good source for ASL (Mac and Windows) fonts is University of Oregon Yamada Language Center Sign font page  or Luc Devroye Sign language font page . A good source for Braille (Mac and Windows) fonts is Luc Devroye braille font page .

Windows Fonts

Note: all font files are self-extracting zip files. After downloading, execute (double-click) the file, then copy the font file into your font directory. 

APHont - embodies characteristics that have been shown to enhance reading speed, comprehension, and comfort for large print users.

Braille Fonts

Moon Type Font

Sign Language Fonts

Macintosh Fonts

OS X (10.5+) has the following braille fonts permanently installed in /System/Library/Fonts

  • Apple Braille Outline 6 Dot.ttf
  • Apple Braille Outline 8 Dot.ttf
  • Apple Braille Pinpoint 6 Dot.ttf
  • Apple Braille Pinpoint 8 Dot.ttf

Unicode Braille Fonts

Braille Fonts only for Macs pre-OS X

Sign Language Fonts only for Macs pre-OS X