Volume 10, Issue 2

Spring/Summer 2009




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.



Have you heard about the "Next Generation"?

The new Perkins brailler


by Kevin Jones


For all of us who use braille, this year started out celebrating the 200th birthday of Louis Braille, who besides inventing several braille codes also invented the slate and stylus. Even today with high-tech gadgets the slate is still the best option for specific situations, but one of them is not for speedy writing. That's why, back in 1951, the head of the Perkins School for the Blind put people to work to design a braille writer that was somewhat like a manual typewriter.


The classic Perkins brailler, which we've all grown to love (or hate) was the result.  There probably isn't any reader of this article who hasn't in some way come into contact with the brailler. Over 300,000 of the units have been sold to people in over 170 countries; the brailler has become as ubiquitous as a cane or guide dog. It had its problems  however; it weighed ten pounds, it wasn't the most portable device around, and at times it seemed loud enough to wake the dead.


Replacing the old brailler wasn't easy. It took many years of research by workers at The Perkins School for the Blind and The American Printing House for the Blind. Finally, last October, the new "next generation" brailler was unveiled.


The new brailler, like its predecessor, is still manual. The developers of the new unit felt that keeping it manual was important so that it could be used in schools easily, as well as in the developing world.  But beyond the seemingly low-tech theme are several significant enhancements. It weighs only seven pounds (due to the outside casing, which is made of polycarbonate), comes in three colors (APH blue, raspberry, and midnight blue), is considerably smaller, and is no longer loud enough to alert the police.


In addition, the margin-setting levers have been moved to the front, so users don't have to reach around behind and under the paper. The roller knobs for inserting the paper are now more paddle shaped, which developers felt would be easier for children and those with dexterity problems. The carrying handle is more integrated into the device and is placed so that when in transit the unit will not stick out as far from the carrier's body as in the past. Proofreaders will like the tray in the back which holds up the paper making it easier to read while still in the machine.


In an attempt to make the next generation brailler more ergonomic, the keys rest closer to the table top making brailling quieter as well as requiring less force to braille. The resetting of the carriage is more easily done with one hand.


Something many will find useful is the erasure button. No more will we have to poke holes in the paper as we try to eradicate an offending error with our finger nails. Now, one need simply to backspace twice and then push the erasure button a few times, which will completely remove the character.


One potentially large issue some may have with the new machine is that it will only accept 8-1/2 inch wide paper, instead of the wider paper used in the past. This change was made to make the brailler lighter and smaller.


On the outside, both units seem quite simple, but the fact that both old and new braillers contain over 500 parts may somewhat justify the $650 price tag, as well as bring more appreciation to the few people who repair broken units.


Even though we have braille displays and braille embossers, the clicking, dinging, and sliding sounds of the Perkins brailler will not be forgotten — especially now that we have a song! Yes, Raul Midón, a blind musician, has written a song* to not only commemorate the Next Generation Brailler, but also to show how braille

has improved the world for so many.

            *To hear the song go to Google and enter         "Perkins + the song."


* * *

Lyrics for "The Next Generation"


Walking down the street telling everyone I meet

About this feeling that is growing...

Me and all my friends,

And they are telling their friends too

About these changes that they are knowing

In fact, it takes no time at all these days

So much more than just a passing phase


And, have you heard about the next generation?

You've got all the information so there is nothing in your way.

Have you heard about the next generation?

You are the leaders of tomorrow,

And tomorrow's here today.


See the world by touch and what you see can mean so much

That all your words still hold a meaning

It's better day by day,

Life can give and take away as long as love is where you're leaning

In fact, it takes no time at all these days

So much more than a passing phase


And, have you heard about the next generation?

You've got all the information so there is nothing in your way.

Have you heard about the next generation?

We are the leaders of tomorrow,

And tomorrow's here today.


Certified transcribers within the school setting


It has been increasingly clear to many in our field that there is a very real need for the employment of certified transcribers within the school setting. Many teachers of visually impaired  students must produce all of the daily braille that is needed for their student(s). Other school districts rely on the use of a translation program without including someone who can format and proofread the finished work. These people believe that “easy in, easy out,” is a viable way to produce braille.


Wisconsin Braille Inc. stands ready to help solve this problem. We are therefore asking all teachers, school braillists, and other transcribers to please fill out the enclosed forms. There is one for teachers and another for transcribers.


Please copy and share these surveys with other teachers, school braillists, and transcribers. As a member of the State Superintendent’s Blind and Visual Impairment Education Council, I want to take as much information as I can possibly gather to the Council and ultimately to the State Superintendent.


Please send your surveys as soon as possible, to:

            Mary Ann Damm

            1142 Waban Hill

            Madison WI 53711-3709


Thank you for your cooperation.

            Mary Ann


Survey for

Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs)


Name: ____________________________________________

School District(s) ___________________________________


How many braille-reading students do you presently have on your caseload?

_________   Grades level(s) of the student(s)____________

How many braille readers do you anticipate having in the next three years?

_________   Grade levels _______________________________________


Who produces the braille for your student(s)? Yourself _____%; NLS Certified Transcriber _______%; Transcriber taking NLS Course ______%;

Paraprofessional _____%; Other (please identify-                       )  ______%


If a certified transcriber were available (either on site or by email), would your school district consider hiring him/her? Why, or why not?





Would your school district consider sharing a transcriber with another district?

Yes ______ No ______ Not sure ________


What types of assignments do you need the most assistance with? (Check all that apply)  Social Studies _______; Language Arts _______; Math ______;

Tactile Graphics _________ Other __________________________


Survey for

Transcribers / School Braillists


Name ________________________________________________________________

Certifications/Year: NLS Literary _______; Nemeth ________; Music _________

NBA Textbook _________ Student Enrolled in NLS _______ None _______


Experience with Software Programs/No. of years: WORD ________; Braille 2000 ________; Duxbury __________; MegaDots ________ Source Files ________

Other _________  Braillewriter? _________  6-key entry? _______


Do you produce tactile graphics? ______


Are you presently producing braille? For a school ______ Name of school _________;

as an independent contractor _____; as a volunteer ______ For whom? ____________


Approximately how many pages of braille do you produce in a year? ________


If an opportunity would be available, would you consider working for a school district?

Yes ______; No _____; Not sure _____ On site? _______ By email? _________


What financial compensation would be necessary for you to consider this opportunity? ________

What other concerns would you have? _______________



Wisconsin Vision Professionals Conference 2009


By Dawn Soto, Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired, CESA 7


The Wisconsin Vision Professionals Conference of 2009 was held in beautiful Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin on February 19th and 20th.  As part of the program, Wisconsin Braille Inc. presented a session to attendees from around the state.  As a board member of Wisconsin Braille Inc., I was pleased to have the opportunity to serve on this panel discussion along with several of my fellow board members.  Our speakers included Mary Ann Damm, Vonna Johnson-Porter and Marilyn Harmon.  Marilyn Harmon was responsible for ordering a fabulous birthday cake on behalf of Wisconsin Braille Inc. in honor of Louis Braille’s 200th birthday.


As cake was eaten, all participants were able to learn more about resources available to Teachers of the Blind and Visually Impaired, including resources created by members of Wisconsin Braille Inc.  Thanks to the hard work of Mary Ann Damm and Sandy Adams, the Wisconsin National Agenda Goal 7 Resource List was updated and those changes were put into the hands of vision professionals across the state.


The session participants learned about the process many districts have taken to recognize braille transcribers. After a survey was taken, many indicated a desire to learn more about those school districts within the state that employ or have employed certified braille transcribers for their students who read and write braille.        Session participants also took along a resource packet that demonstrated how “bad” braille (braille produced using a translation program, but without being proofread by someone who knows braille) really looks to a braille reader.


Participants went home with an enormous amount of information, as well as memories of conversations and contacts made that will have a very positive impact on their teaching. At the conclusion of the conference, several vision professionals stated that they had learned so much from the Wisconsin Braille Inc. session and that they felt empowered.  Thanks again to everyone who assisted in the success of this conference and this specific session. 



Have you forgotten to pay your 2009 dues?


You have if it doesn't say ['09] or [L] before your name on the address label of this newsletter. Your support does make a difference. Please pay today! Use the application on page 8.




Fun with Braille


Whodun It?


   The police are looking for the person who committed a bank robbery. They have a group of suspects and some clues. The suspects’ names are listed below. Use the clues to eliminate suspects and determine which suspect actually committed the crime.


Maureen     Thelma        Alexander     Vincent Clarence      Jeffrey      Justin         Butch                  Martin        Steven       Christopher  Kirsten

Constance  Jennifer        Mark            Sandra  Barbara       Charlene   Thomas      Vera



The criminal’s name:

  1. Has at least one upper-cell contraction containing dot one or dot four.
  2. Has more than one contraction.
  3. Does not have the same contraction appear more than once.
  4. Has at least one contraction that has more than two dots.
  5. Ends with a contraction.
  6. Does not start with a  contraction.
  7. Does not take up more than six cells.
  8. Has a two-cell contraction.


Who did it?




The Braille Corner


introducing the new
Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing

5th Edition, 2009


A new edition of the basic instruction manual (the "big red book") that most transcribers and many teachers used to learn the rules of literary braille transcription is now available in a new edition.


This new edition was made necessary when the BANA Braille Code Updates were released last year. The many changes in the Code, including changes in the use of the slash, letter indicator, termination symbol, and introduction of new symbols required major changes in ten of the twenty lessons.


In addition to the Code changes, there are many clarified statements, additional examples and drills, and significant rearrangement of materials. Students will be happy to learn that dividing words between lines is no longer required after Lesson 12, and is not required on the certification manuscript.


All students active in the Literary Braille Transcribing correspondence course and instructors will receive a free copy. Others who would like a hard copy may purchase them from the American Printing House for the Blind. The manual is also available for download in PDF and BRF formats at http//www.nfb.org/transcribers (click on "Literary Braille Transcribing."



Ask Mr. #s


Dear Mr. #s,

     When looking at a science text, I noticed that the reference indicators for footnotes and marginal materials are not the same as those shown in Rule 12 of Braille Formats, can you explain this difference?



Dear ???,

     When dealing with a book that has been transcribed in accordance with the rules of The Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, 1972 Revision, the symbols provided by that code are used; not those of Braille Formats.

     As an overview, the following symbols are given in the Nemeth Code:

     General Reference Indicator @]

      Asterisk * @#


          Single _]    Double __]

      Paragraph Mark @,p

      Section Mark

          Single § @,s Double §§ @,s@,s

     Star « $s

     Whenever one of these symbols appears as a reference mark in print, use the symbol shown above. Some of these signs are also used as signs of operation, and in that case, the rules governing signs of operation apply. If there is a symbol that is used as a reference symbol in print that is not provided for in the Nemeth Code, the transcriber should devise an appropriate symbol and provide an explanatory transcriber’s note. Whether the symbol exists in the Nemeth Code or the transcriber devises one, the rules for signs and symbols of reference are to be followed.

     When a numeral is used for reference, the General Reference Indicator is used immediately following the indicator.

     Find the index1 of the radical.

   ,f9d ! 9dex @]#1 (! radical4

     When a reference sign, whether before or after, is attached to a word or mathematical expression, the reference symbol follows that word or expression separated by a space. If the symbol is unattached, the position of the symbol should be maintained, preceded and followed by a space.

     *Irrational numbers (or) Irrational* numbers

   ,irr,nal @# numb]s '''

     *  Irrational numbers ...

   @# ,irr,nal numb]s '''

     If there is punctuation that applies to the reference mark, do not leave a space between the reference symbol and the punctuation mark that applies to it.

     ... sets.*

   ''' sets4 @#

     ... sets*.

   ''' sets @#_4

     For more information on these symbols and the use of the paragraph and section marks, see Rule VII §46-48.



Mr. #'s



Do you have questions for Ms. Perkins or Mr. #s? Address them to:

            Wisconsin Braille Inc.

            P.O. Box 45076

            Madison, WI 53744-5076





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: the date, 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., Membership Chair,

5263 Anna Lane, Middleton, WI 53562



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.