Volume 8, Issue 2

Fall 2006




The purpose of Wisconsin Braille Inc. is to advance communication and coordinate the efforts of all persons concerned with the availability, quality, and distribution of brailled materials in the state of Wisconsin thereby encouraging braille literacy.





By John Faherty

adapted from The Arizona Republic June 1, 2006


[Editor's note: On a fairly regular basis, probably whenever there is a crunch in school budgets, a rumor floats that because of all the technology now available to blind students learning braille is no longer necessary.]


Arielle Silverman has always loved to read. From Little Women in fourth grade to Jane Eyre in high school, books were a constant companion. She could slide her fingers across the page and feel the world. Those words, however, have done more than make her well‑read. They have secured her place in society.


Silverman, blind since birth, has now finished her junior year at Arizona State University with a double major, in biology and psychology, and a grade‑point average of 3.9 on a 4.0 scale. The Scottsdale native is ambitious, thoughtful and well‑spoken. And the 21‑year‑old is convinced she couldn't have achieved this without her fluency in braille.


A generation ago, 50 percent of blind schoolchildren used braille, according to William M. Raeder, president of the National Braille Press in Boston. Now, he said, it's less than 12 percent.


Young blind students today are still instructed in braille, but in the past few decades, due to inclusion in public schools, few receive daily instruction. That is significant because reading and writing braille is a skill that can be maintained only with constant use.


Ironically, blind persons have more access to information than ever, despite the reduction in braille literacy. The proliferation of books on tape has given them ready access to the latest bestseller. Talking computers have brought the blind to the world and the world to the blind. These advances have placed a generation of blind young adults and children in an information paradox: They have more knowledge at their disposal, while their ability to read and write declines. Yet reading and writing are as important to the blind as they are to the sighted.


"If the literacy rate for sighted people was 10 percent, that would be a huge issue," Arielle Silverman says. "I think kids aren't being taught braille, and they aren't being given enough time to practice."


Silverman is sightless because of Leber Congenital Amaurosis, an inherited retinal degenerative disease. But her parents insisted that she learn to read and write. The child readily agreed. "Arielle had such a love of the written word early on," says her mother. "So she just flew with it (braille)."


Because of her parents' commitment to literacy, Arielle was sent to the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix to learn braille. She could read by age 5. She then was mainstreamed into the Scottsdale schools and graduated from Chaparral High.


Silverman has pushed for better education for the blind, particularly an increased emphasis on braille instruction.


Arizona law starts with the presumption that blind students should learn braille, but that law is not always implemented. "There is no statutory mandate where every child who is blind must learn braille," says Joanne Phillips, deputy associate superintendent for exceptional student services with the state Department of Education. Phillips contends that "there is no correlation between braille literacy and educational achievement."


Karen Wolfe of the American Foundation for the Blind strongly disagrees. "You can't be literate just listening," she said. "Literacy helps us think and communicate our thoughts. You will never be truly literate without braille."


The American Foundation for the Blind says the employment rate for blind persons in this country is 32 percent. And that 93 percent of the employed blind read and write braille. Despite this obvious advantage, braille literacy is dropping across the country. The reasons for the national decline are many, but the primary reasons are:


­ Mainstreaming of blind students.

­ Increased technology, such as talking computers and electronic books.

­ More books on tape.

­ Increased number of blind children born with additional physical or mental handicaps, often the result of premature birth.


The beginning of the decline of braille literacy can be traced to a 1973 federal decision called the Rehabilitation Act‑Nondiscrimination Under Federal Grants and Programs. It mandated that public schools make accommodations for children with disabilities. For many blind students, it meant the ability to come home. Prior to 1973, students who wanted an education had to travel to a school for the blind. The education was first rate, but it was segregation for blind students.


The new law allowed children to return to their communities, to sit every day with their peers in schools that were mandated to accommodate them. But one significant flaw was with braille instruction. Braille teachers suddenly had to travel from school to school or district to district to introduce braille to blind students one or two at a time. It was far more practical for districts with a few blind students to save money by putting textbooks on tape and allowing test‑reading aids for blind students.


Eventually, computers with voice capabilities came on the market. Braille began to be seen as a luxury more than a necessity. Knowledge was available without braille. Literature was available without braille. The irony is that as braille literacy dropped, new printing technology made braille much more accessible.


Arielle Silverman lives in an apartment on the Arizona State campus. When she gets to class, she sits with a BrailleNote laptop that allows her to take notes in braille and review them later. Silverman points to this machine and others like it as an example of braille working hand in hand with technology. "They are not mutually exclusive," Silverman says. "If I didn't know braille, I couldn't use my computers to the level I need them." She reads, writes and takes rapid-fire notes in braille. She notes that math and science notations are possible only for people fluent in braille. They could not be replicated by books on tape or by talking computers.  



Want a "pen" pal?


Make that a "braille" pal.


Slate Pals, an organization sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) matches children who want braille pen pals.

Teachers find that students making the move from print to braille benefit from writing to braille pals in a different state, or even in a different country.


Blind students, often the only ones in their school or classroom, find comfort in corresponding with others who sometimes have difficulty fitting in.


Sighted students wanting to learn the braille code have fun and learn while corresponding with someone in braille.


If you have a child or student who would like to correspond with someone of their own age in braille, contact:


            Slate Pals

            Debbie Kent Stein

            5817 North Nina Ave.

            Chicago, IL 60631

phone: 773-631-1093

E-mail: dkent5817@att.net




Music, Music, Music 

            Easy Access to Music Catalog


The National Braille Association has a large catalog of brailled music that can now be researched online. Look for it at www.nationalbraille.org. The catalog is divided by music type, making the search for titles quick and convenient.


            Music Transcribing


The second edition of Introduction to Braille Music Transcribing is now available in two hard-bound volumes. Students enrolling in the course will automatically receive a copy. Certified music transcribers and others who need the book may request a copy by contacting John Hanson at the Music Section of NLS. Phone: 800-424-8567 (option #2 in voice mail) or e-mail nlsm@loc.gov or jhan@loc.gov.




Quick Contraction Dictionary


            Eric erased the map of Lake Erie. Can the "er" be contracted in Eric, erased and Erie? Need to know in a hurry? Just click on http://www.brl.org/refdesk/conlookup.html or enter "BRL: Contraction Lookup Dictionary" in the search box. You will be presented with a simple program that will give you the answers you seek in seconds. To use the program simply enter your word into the text box, click on the "Get contraction" button, and wait until the word appears, fully contracted in simulated braille.

            This dictionary of 45,000 words (the Braille Enthusiasts Dictionary has only 29,000 words) is the standard dictionary found on most UNIX computers, and the translation work was done by the Duxbury Braille system.




—mark your calendar—


The next meeting of the board of directors of Wisconsin Braille Inc. will be held on November 11 at 10 a.m. in Milwaukee. Meetings are open to all. For further information, contact Vonna Johnson-Porter at 608-838-8959 or vjohnsonport@madison.k12.wi.us.






In the last WisBrl newsletter we offered the opportunity to recycle/exchange books from the SPECIAL BOOK PROJECT. If your child, or your students, have outgrown or otherwise "out-read" your past collection of titles from the WisBrl Special Book Project, and you are running out of shelf space, let me know. I will gladly store them and publish a list of those available for exchange in future newsletters.


If teachers or students are new to this collection and want to read some of the previously published titles, we can save the Oshkosh Correctional Facility (where the books are produced) and WisBrl time, money and materials by passing them on.


Contact me at the numbers listed below to let me know that you are sending books. Send them "Free Matter" and I will send them out in the same manner.


Please remember to only send those books from the WisBrl Special Book Project. Sadly, I do not have room to store reading materials from other sources. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me. I am often at home during the day.


I can be reached at: (608) 455-1522 or email: psfoltz@chorus.net.
Mailing address: Pat Foltz

                                4005 Old Stone Road

                                Oregon, WI 53575


Happy Reading!!!



The Braille Corner

Dear Readers,

In previous issues, Ms. Perkins has been discussing the differences between English Braille American Edition (the official "literary" code) and Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription (rules to be used when transcribing textbooks — or any book that is to be used in a classroom setting).

            This issue will discuss the last five differences.


Slash (Oblique Stroke)

·        EBAE: VII. 28.e  The sign (34) represents the oblique stroke, bar, or slash, and is used whenever the symbol it represents appears in print. Except when it is used in the writing of dates.

·        FORMATS: R6. 1.e.(1)  Except when slashes and back slashes that are shown enclosing pronunciations or respellings, the print slash symbol (456, 34) must be used to represent the print slash.

Syllabified words

Termination sign, use of

to, into, by

Volume ending


NOTE: Because of space limitations, I have quoted only parts of each rule in EBAE and FORMATS. Please read the entire rule in order to understand fully the differences that exist between the two formats.

    Ms. Perkins


Ask Mr. #s

Dear Mr. #'s,
       I'm having trouble understanding the rules for the proper usage of the English Letter Indicator (ELI for short) in Nemeth Code, which seem to be especially difficult.
        E. N. Igma
Dear E.N. Igma:
       The rules pertaining to the ELI are somewhat confusing as given in the official Nemeth Code, and are rather difficult to explain.
       First, the ELI is the same as the  literary "letter sign," but it is called the English Letter Indicator in the Nemeth Code.
        How to determine when and when not to use the ELI?  The ELI must be used with any single letter or with a short-form word combination if the letter or the short-form word combination is preceded by a space or by one or more punctuation marks (if the space is not shown in braille, the letter is no longer "single") and if it is 
followed by a space or a mark of punctuation. (Note: grouping symbols for this purpose are not punctuation marks.)
        If a single letter or short-form word combination is part of a mathematical expression and it is not an abbreviation, the ELI is not used. Here is an example:           
      In x = 5, x is the unknown.   
The ELI is not used in the mathematical expression "x = 5" but it 
is used in the statement "x is the unknown." 
          If a single letter is an abbreviation and part of a mathematical expression, then the ELI is  used, as in 
     "60 s = l min" 
(Yes, use the ELI with the s, an abbreviation for "second.")
       If a single letter or short-form word combination is an abbreviation (e.g., m for meter, C for centigrade, F for Fahrenheit, etc.), the ELI is used, no matter if it is standing alone or if it is part of a mathematical expression. Here the problem is to determine whether or not the letter is an abbreviation or a variable. Single letters are often used in mathematical formulae to designate a particular quantity (e.g., F for force, or m for mass). These are not abbreviations. They are variables substituting for words, and therefore the ELI is not used with them. 
        However, if the abbreviation is followed by a period which pertains to it, the ELI is not used. For example: 
     "1 min = 60 s is an equality" or 
     "1 min. = 60 s. is an equality"  
In the first case, the ELI is used, but not in the second where the "s" is followed by a period, like its companion "min.".
       To more fully understand this issue look at Rule IV, Sections 25-28 of The Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, 1972 Revision.
        Mr. #'s


Annual offering of Free books from WisBrl


Once again, Wisconsin Braille Inc. is pleased to offer a selection of braille books for your school  or home library, due to the generosity of our contributors. As in the past, at the request of our Board, the committee has chosen books that are not already brailled. We searched the on-line catalog in our local library to locate recognized books of excellence. We also considered the books suggested by you, our clients. Most of these were either available for loan through the Regional Library in Milwaukee or through the American Printing House (APH), or could be purchased through an agency. The committee hopes that this year's books meet your readers’ needs and welcomes your suggestions of titles not already brailled for future selections.


You may continue to order early readers in either contracted or uncontracted braille. Please indicate your preference on the order form.


The OSCI Braille Program in Oshkosh will produce the following selection of books under the direction of David Hines. Please submit your request to him by November 30, 2006. Every effort will be made to deliver your orders before the end of the current school year.


* * *


Current selections are:


Away West, by Pat McKissack

            In 1879, thirteen-year-old Everett Turner leaves a life of struggle on his family’s farm and runs away to St. Louis, where he works in a livery stable before heading to the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas. For middle readers, grades 3-5.


California Blue, by David Klass

            When seventeen-year-old John Rodgers discovers a new sub-species of butterfly which may necessitate closing the mill where his dying father works, they find themselves on opposite sides of the environmental conflict. For advanced readers, grades 7-12.


Hurricane Katrina: deadly disasters, by Mara Miller

            Katrina gains strength—What is a hurricane?—Katrina strikes—New Orleans floods—After Katrina—the next hurricane. For intermediate readers, grades 6-9.


Lugalbanda: the boy who got caught up in a war, by Kathy Henderson

            An ancient Sumerian tale about the youngest and weakest of eight brothers who, caught up in an ill-advised war, uses his wits and courage and eventually becomes king. For middle-intermediate readers, grades 4-8.


Profiles in Sports Courage, by Ken Rappoport

            A collection of 12 profiles of athletes who have faced significant challenges in their personal and professional lives and have overcome through their own courage. For middle-intermediate readers, grades 4-8.

Rainy-day Music, by Judith Hyde (Rookie Reader)

            Dad enlivens a boring, rainy day by playing “ghost fiddle,” a musical activity involving water-filled glasses. For early readers; order in either contracted or uncontracted braille. 


The Sisters Grimm, by Michael Buckley

             Orphans Sabrina and Daphne Grimm are sent to live with an eccentric grandmother that they have always believed to be dead. For intermediate readers, grades 6-9.



Two Hot Dogs with Everything, by Paul Haven

            Although everyone credits him and his superstitions for the Slugger’s first winning streak in 108 baseball seasons, eleven-year-old Danny Gurkin believes that his discovery of a secret from the team’s past may be the real reason behind the ball club’s success. For middle readers, grades 4-6.


Vidia and the Fairy Crown, by Laura Driscoll (Stepping Stone book)

            When Vidia, a disagreeable fairy, finds herself accused of stealing the Queen’s tiara, she enlists the aid of a fellow sprite to help investigate, and the two race against time to clear Vidia’s name. For middle readers, grades 3-6.



Who needs friends?, by Christine Taylor-Butler (Rookie Reader)

            A boy is pleasantly surprised that his friends remember his birthday. For early readers; order in either contracted or uncontracted braille. 



* * *

Remember to submit your order by November 30, 2006. Teachers, please feel free to distribute this information to the parents of your students so they can order as well. Thanks!


Alison McKee and Sandy Adams,

Coordinators of the Special Book Project

Wisconsin Braille Inc.

Special Book Project Order Form

Fall, 2006

Name _____________________________________________________

Phone ________________


No. of                                                                         


_____ Away West
                        by Pat McKissack


_____ California Blue

                        by David Klass


_____ Hurricane Katrina: deadly disasters
                        by Mara Miller


_____ Lugalbanda: the boy who got  caught up in a war

                        by Kathy Henderson


_____ Profiles in Sports Courage

                        by Ken Rappoport


 _____ Rainy-day Music

                        by Judith Hyde

                        ____ in contracted braille

                        ____ in uncontracted braille


_____ The Sisters Grimm

                        by Michael Buckley


_____ Two Hot Dogs with Everything

                                by Paul Haven


_____ Vidia and the Crown Fairy

                                by Laura Driscoll


_____ Who needs friends?

                                by Christine Taylor-Butler

                        ____ in contracted braille

                        ____ in uncontracted braille


Additional books from previous years: (see compiled list on web site: www.wisbrl.org)



Suggestions for next year:

(Please request specific books that are not already available in braille.  Thanks!)



Send order to:

            David Hines, Coordinator

            OSCI Braille Program

            1730 Snell Road

            Oshkosh, WI 54903-3530


Be sure to mail your order by November 30, 2006.




Every book put into the hands of the sightless

is as a rainbow crystal that reveals

the wonders of earth and the spiritual resources

within our reach.


                                                Helen Keller

                                                January 11, 1930







The Wisconsin Braille newsletter is published three times a year. Deadlines are: Spring/Summer – May 1, Fall – September 1, Winter – December 15



The purpose of this newsletter is to disperse information. Wisconsin Braille Inc. does not endorse or vouch for the reliability of any of the persons, organizations, or products appearing in this publication.



Wisconsin Braille Inc. welcomes letters from readers on all subjects concerning braille and blindness. Publication of letters will be at the editor’s discretion. Letters must be signed, but names will be withheld upon request.




            Use the following form to join or renew your membership to Wisconsin Braille Inc. Please make checks and money orders payable to: WISCONSIN BRAILLE INC.


Regular membership, annual dues: $10

Sustaining membership, annual dues: $30

Lifetime membership: $200


Please include: your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. Also advise if you wish printed material to be sent to you in regular type, e-mail or braille.


Please answer the following: What is your affiliation with the braille-reading community? (List all that apply.) Teacher, educational assistant, transcriber, proofreader, administrator, producer, parent, user, other (specify).


Return application and payment to: Wisconsin Braille Inc., P.O. Box 45076, Madison, WI 53744-5076.



This version of the Wisconsin Braille newsletter was prepared by the members of the OSCI Braille Program. It has not been proofread. Readers are encouraged to report noted errors to: Wisconsin Braille Newsletter, Editor,  P.O. Box 45076, Madison, WI 53744-5076.

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