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The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and Verizon launched the National Campaign for Literacy, Textbooks, Transcribers, and Technology was launched in October 2002 with the help of partners from 44 organizations throughout the United States. The advocacy campaign seeks to raise general awareness of the needs of schoolchildren who are blind or who have low vision to have timely access to textbooks and learning materials, of the extreme shortage of braille transcribers, and of the importance of promoting the new career of braille textbook transcriber at the federal and state levels.

The National Campaign for Literacy, Textbooks, Transcribers, and Technology was developed to alleviate the critical shortage of braille transcribers throughout the United States. In part because of this shortage, schoolchildren who are blind or visually impaired frequently receive their textbooks later than their sighted peers. In response to this crisis, AFB and the 44 organizational partners, have developed a Call to Action packet to support the campaign's advocacy initiative. The materials can be used to engage business leaders, policymakers, school boards, librarians, and the general public in the efforts to ensure the timely delivery of textbooks and instructional materials to schoolchildren who are blind or who have low vision. The packet includes an explanatory cover letter, background materials, sample letters to Congress, an advocacy video, poster, and bookmarks.

The Verizon Literacy Champion and spokesperson for the campaign is Erik Weihenmayer, a world-class athlete who was the first blind man to attain the summit of Mt. Everest and the only blind athlete to conquer the "seven summits", the world’s highest peaks. "Literacy has helped me touch the top of the world," Weihenmayer says. "I want every blind or visually impaired child to have the same opportunity." Hence the campaign's slogan, "Literacy helps you reach the summit of your dreams."

The campaign supports the efforts of the AFB Textbooks and Instructional Materials Forum to raise broad-based awareness of the needs of schoolchildren who are blind or have low vision for access to textbooks and instructional materials. Members of the field are invited to become a part of the team by promoting the new career of braille textbook transcriber and encouraging the U.S. Department of Labor to formally recognize this profession. To receive complimentary copies of the packet, visit the Free Materials section of AFB’s online bookstore at: <www.afb.org/store> or call 800-232-5463. For more information, contact

Mary Ann Siller, director, National Education Program, AFB, 260 Treadway Plaza, Dallas, TX 75236; phone: 214-352-7222, extension 15; e-mail: <>.