Guest Post: Braille Literacy Canada Newsletter June 2018, a Publication of Braille Literacy Canada

Newsletter ● June 2018

Message from the President

Dear members of Braille Literacy Canada,


I love braille.


I love to read it. Left to right. Right side up. Even upside down or backwards (which is completely possible – trust me!).


I love to read it alone, or when I’m out. Or when I just accidentally happen to stumble upon it in an elevator or on a sign. Or when the electricity fails and I’m the only one able to read to my nieces and nephews. Lights out? No problem. I love the feel of the dots as they run beneath my fingers.


I love the scent of every braille book I’ve ever received. Just like those dusty old print books I remember, these scents tell a story of their own, transporting me back in time to the first place – that library, that corner on the kitchen floor, that classroom – when I first opened its pages and the world was brought to me. Even to this day, decades after I was first introduced to the wonders of Louis Braille, I am in awe that six mere dots could hold the key to every letter, symbol, word, thought, story.


I love electronic braille books, too. The feel of the crisp dots, the sound as each line refreshes to reveal a new secret. I love that, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can hold thousands of pages – endless possibilities – on one small device.


I love to write braille. I love the loud, clunky, ever reliable, ever present Perkins brailler, with its iconic “ding!” as I reach the end of a line. And the satisfying “punch” as I press the stylus into the paper. I love that – even with all the fabulous technology around me – I can carry this one small tool everywhere, just like a pen and paper, and it will never, ever fail me.


I love braille because it truly is literacy. And that, as I have experienced firsthand, is nothing short of freedom, emancipation, and equality. I love braille, not because it is a replacement for any other format (like audio), but because it is part of the rich tapestry of choices available to me. Braille, however, has transformed me into a reader, a writer, and not one who must rely on others. With these tools in hand, it has made everything possible.


It was at the age of six when I first began learning braille. In those very first days before braille and I knew each other, I saw it as something that set me apart. My Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments, with her infinite wisdom and creativity, encouraged me to invite a sighted classmate to those first few lessons. That first year, we made braille Valentine’s Day cards for everyone in my class along with special decoder cards. It became a yearly tradition. I very quickly came to see that – yes, braille did set me apart. But in an immensely positive  way. I wasn’t the odd one out who “needed” braille. I was the luckiest one of all, because I was the only student in the class learning it. Fast forward many years later, I began working as a rehabilitation specialist, teaching braille to children, adults and seniors, and now also as a Ph.D Candidate, where I experience the joy of engaging in meaningful braille related research every day.


I write to you wearing my new cap as President of Braille Literacy Canada, to thank all of you who participated in our recent Annual General Meeting, either in person or virtually, and for putting your trust in your new 2018 BLC board. Our organization is successful not merely due to one person, but because of the many busy working hands – both on and off the board – who collaborate to make BLC what it continues to be today. And with this in mind, I am eager to introduce you to our new 2018 board, which includes:


  • Natalie Martiniello, President
  • Daphne Hitchcock, Vice-President
  • Anthony Tibbs, Treasurer
  • Kim Kilpatrick (Canadian Council of the Blind), Secretary
  • Jen Goulden (Crawford Technologies), Past President
  • Cathy Ausman, Director
  • Rebecca Blaevoet (Tactile Vision Graphics), Director
  • Jessica Blouin (T-Base Communications), Director
  • Jen Jesso, Director
  • Jenn Monks, Director
  • Laurie Moore (W. Ross MacDonald), Director
  • Dwila Nixon, Director
  • Cheryl Roberts-Dupasquier, Director
  • Melanie Romer-Noel (CNIB), Director


I am excited to work with such a talented team of braille readers, transcribers, producers, teachers and researchers for the 2018-2019 BLC year. On a personal note, I want to thank our Past President, Jen Goulden, for her countless years of dedication and commitment to the organization.  We are fortunate that we can continue to benefit from her immense knowledge and experience as she remains on the board as our Past President, and I know she will continue to be an invaluable member of our board. On behalf of all of us, thank you Jen!


In addition to the elections, two proposed bylaw amendments were considered at the AGM. The first proposal (which would have resulted in lifetime members who were “inactive” being excluded from quorum calculations) was tabled and not voted upon. The second proposal (which relaxes term limits on the board so that an individual may remain on the board more than 3 terms but only if they are elected to a different position) was accepted by the members. For more details on each of these proposals, please see the documentation included in the 2018 AGM call or write to us for more information.


Two workshops were also held at the AGM. The first (presented by Kim Kilpatrick and myself) focused on the use of braille displays with iDevices. In the second workshop, Jen Goulden and Anthony Tibbs introduced participants to a freely available braille transcription program developed by the American Printing House for the Blind called “BrailleBlaster” (


We look forward to continuing our tradition of offering braille related teleconferences throughout the year – So let us know what topics you’d like us to feature, and stay tuned!


We are always happy to hear from you! If you have ideas, stories to share, comments, or questions, please feel free to write to me at


Here is to a year full of possibilities, hard work, lots of fun – and most of all – many, many dots!


Yours truly,


Natalie Martiniello

President, Braille Literacy Canada


Membership in BLC


BLC membership coincides with the calendar year. If you are not yet a member or haven’t renewed for 2018, we invite you to visit


If you are a member you can:


  • Have your say: attend the Annual General Meeting
  • Get involved in the work of BLC: join one of our committees
  • Help to promote the use of braille in Canada
  • Participate in teleconferences on braille-related issues (free for members)
  • Receive our bi-monthly newsletter, as well as other communications, directly from BLC
  • Get answers to all your UEB questions: join our UEB listserv by sending an email to


Braille Copies of the BLC Newsletter Now Available Through CELA!

The Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) now offers braille versions of the BLC newsletter upon request. Readers can subscribe by emailing or by calling 1-855-655-2273 and asking to subscribe to the braille copy of the Braille Literacy Canada newsletter. The newsletter will also continue to be published electronically. Thank you to CELA for this partnership!


Calling all braille stories!

By Kim Kilpatrick


In our recent survey of BLC members, you asked for more personal stories about how we use braille in our news letter.  We want to deliver!  In honour of International Literacy Month in September, we will be publishing a special issue of the newsletter devoted to “braille in action” – filled with your personal stories about braille. Help us celebrate braille as literacy and the brilliance of braille! Send us your stories about how you use braille or what braille means to you. Be as creative as you like – stories, letters, poems – we’d love to read it all! We invite submissions from braille readers of all ages (children, adults, seniors!), parents, teachers and anyone else who has a braille story to share! Send your entries  (in English or French) to by August 31st and help us spread the word about the beauty of braille!


Naming the Newsletter

We haven’t received many submissions, so we will keep the contest open and announce a winner for the September issue. Please email your suggestions to Thanks to those of you who have already sent in your ideas!


The Brailler Bounce Initiative


We are continuing to run this program but we do not have braillers available at this time. We will send out an update to BLC members once we have more braillers on hand and are able to take new requests.


Immortalizing the Edie Mourre Scholarship Program: Calling on all members to help us secure the future of this important initiative!

By Anthony Tibbs, BLC Treasurer


Braille Literacy Canada established the Edie Mourre Scholarship Program in 2008 to provide financial support for those seeking certification as a transcriber or proofreader of braille.  The scholarship has been offered annually since that time, as funds have become available.


We have an exciting opportunity this year to make this a permanent and self-sustaining program, but we need your help to make it happen! Between now and November 30th, 2018, every dollar donated to BLC in support of the Edie Mourre Scholarship Program will be matched by a third-party donor (up to $6,500).  That means that if BLC raises $6,500 by November 30th, we will actually have raised $13,000.


The exciting part is that with $13,000 in hand, we will have enough to establish a permanent endowment fund to guarantee that the Edie Mourre Scholarship will be awarded to at least one deserving applicant each and every year.


Consider this – If every single member of BLC raises $100 between now and November 30th, we will have surpassed our goal! Just $100 each! Or $20 a month between July and November. Here are some creative ideas on how to help us get there – If you have other fundraising ideas, we’d love to hear from you!


  • Host a special brunch, lunch, dinner or braille game/braille bingo party at your house. Invite all your friends and ask them to donate $20 (or an amount of your choosing) to attend. Make it a braille themed party if you like!
  • Follow the link below: One of the options is to donate $20 each month between now and November 30th to total $100!
  • Share the link on social media. Spread the word to family, friends and teachers!
  • Give a Coffee – Ask your friends and colleagues to skip one morning coffee and bagel by giving the amount they would typically spend on that meal – and donate it to a good cause instead! Better yet, donate and eat that delicious meal anyway!
  • Kids! Help your child run a lemonade stand – maybe include some braille chocolates for sale too! Check out the Braille Superstore for chocolate braille molds.
  • Braille Read-A-Thon! Students or any supporters obtain pledges from their friends and family members for the number of pages of books that they can read in a month – Raise money while keeping up those braille skills over the summer!
  • Get a local coffeehouse or club to host a poetry slam. Charge admission at the door, and advertise a Poetry Slam night with prizes. To raise awareness, challenge each participating poet to write a poem about your cause and invite braille readers to participate too!
  • Stay tuned for special announcements about other exciting ways you can help, while celebrating braille too!


Donate now:


Email or visit for more information on other methods of donating to BLC and to the Edie Mourre campaign.



BLC Goes to Seeing Beyond the Horizon!

By Daphne Hitchcock


The 15th Biennial Canadian Vision Teachers’ Conference: Seeing Beyond the Horizon was held in Nisku, Alberta last month, May 3-5. Most every province and territory was represented by at least one of the 200 delegates.


A comprehensive line up of keynote speakers and presenters covered a wide range of topics, including cortical vision impairment, technology options, creating accessible materials, Canadian National Standards, budget AT solutions, teaching strategies, youth transitions and much more. It was difficult to decide which session to attend, as there were so many excellent presentations available. Fortunately, the presenter handouts are available for download through accessing this link


Braille Literacy Canada PosterBLC presented at the conference poster session. Delegates could view information and ask questions about BLC activities, who we are, membership benefits and BLC contributions. There was an opportunity to enter a membership draw at the poster session. This attracted additional new members – welcome!


All conference delegates were given an BLC info flyer in their conference bag.  To heighten our BLC profile and support the CVTC conference, BLC donated 3 children’s books in print and braille (UEB) to the Silent Auction.


Towards a simpler contracted French Braille

Originally published in the May 2018 BLC newsletter, authored By Anne Jarry, M.Ed, CVRT/SRDV

Translated into English by Emmanuel Blaevoet


In this column, I will share with you my opinion on the reform of the contracted French Braille code that might be taking place soon.


Personally, I had the pleasure of learning contracted French Braille as an adult after losing my sight at the age of 25 due to juvenile diabetes.  Back in 1986, there was no such thing as computer speech software.  So, Braille was for me the only option to read, write and learn, whether at University, or later on, at work. I have loved the fact that through the discovery of French braille, a whole new world of information and knowledge reached me.


However, considering that the contracted French Braille code contains over 900 symbols, one had to be extremely motivated and focused to learn and master this beautiful but extensive code. Had there been any speech software or audio access to information available to me at the time, would I have chosen to follow this arduous path? Today, less and less people who lose their sight at a later age deliberately choose to learn the contracted French Braille code. Why? Is it really far too difficult to learn over 900 braille symbols? Failing to think carefully on the state of abbreviated French Braille today, we might not be able to keep it a viable option for future blind and visually impaired learners.


We seem to be on the verge of finding a solution today. A process, initiated in 2008 at the same time that the new Uniform French Braille code was adopted, and later implemented in 2010, is the last stage towards the reform of French Braille. For the committee in charge, the positive points are important. They suggest, among other things, a huge reduction of the number of contractions to 103, down from over 900. We could see a greater number of readers and users of contracted French Braille, but also a greater number of teachers would be able to learn it and teach it in return.


All the same, changing a code that has been in effect since 1955 is not welcomed by all long time French braille users. A survey that was held from January to March 2018 gave us insight into the point of view and opinions of French Braille users and readers throughout the whole of Quebec. Following this survey, the members of the Quebec committee will present their report to the international representatives of the whole Francophonie in June 2018.


We will then have to take into account the input and comments of experts from Quebec as well as from the rest of the French speaking world before we can see the adoption of the new code. This extensive task is a necessary step but might require, as often the case, a fair amount of diplomacy and resilience in order to reach a consensual agreement from all parties.


If you would like a copy of all working documents supporting the work of this committee, as well as the documents in their .brf version, please feel free to reach me via email at


It will be my pleasure to provide them on demand.


Looking forward to the opportunity to write the next column and announce the adoption of the new code very soon!


Study on the Experiences of Adults and Seniors who Learn Braille

By Natalie Martiniello


I am seeking participation for a research study that I am conducting through the University of Montreal to better understand the experiences of adults who have learned braille. The results from this study will help us to better understand the facilitators and barriers that adults experience during their braille training, and how to improve the training provided in future. We are seeking participation from people who are blind or who have low vision, are 40 years or older, and who have learned braille sometime within the past 10 years. Participation would involve a single, confidential, anonymous phone interview that will take between 60 and 90 minutes to complete.


If you are interested in participating, we will send you a consent form in advance that will tell you more about the study in either large print, braille or electronic (email) format. You also have the option of requesting a copy of the questionnaire in advance, to give you a better idea of the kind of questions we’ll ask.


The results from this study will help rehabilitation professionals design braille training programs that better meet the needs of adult and senior learners. Please feel free to tell others who may be interested in participating as well. Please feel free to write to me at to learn more. Thank you for your time.


Braille Club at the CNIB Community Hub (GTA) Update

By Karen Brophey


June 8 – with Literacy Staff from Deaf Blind Community Services we kicked off Deaf Blind Awareness month with a Braille Demo table in front of the Hub on Yonge Street! We handed out Braille Activity sheets, let folks try out a Perkins and put their hands on some books. Inside they had a chance to learn how people communicate via Intervenors, two-hand manual, etc. In the kitchen we handed out ice cream cones! (some kids even used fingerspelling to request their choice of flavours).


Coming Up:


  • June 23 – at the Hub’s next party for kids at the Hub (1525 Yonge St.) we’ll demo how to use the Perkins to draw tactile pictures.
  • June 24 – join CNIB walking in Toronto’s Pride Parade – all are welcome! We have 10,000 braille bracelets that we’ll be handing out as we walk!
  • July 7 and 8 – visit the Braille Club at the Maker Festival being held at the Toronto Reference Library (Yonge and Bloor!)
  • September 24 we’ll have a booth at Word on the Street at Toronto’s Harbourfront.


Lots more in the works including presentations and activities for the Braille Conference!


ALL braille enthusiasts are welcome to attend our meetings. Contact for more information!


Low-Cost Refreshable Braille

By Jen Goulden


You may have heard people wrongly claiming that braille is dying but the reality is that it is very much alive. The future of literacy for blind people is more secure now than at any time in the past, thanks in large part to the advent of refreshable braille technology. Whether you use a notetaker on its own or you connect a display to your computer or smartphone you are benefiting from technology that makes braille easier to access than ever before. The only drawback is that the cost to purchase one of these devices has traditionally been significantly more than most people can afford to spend. Thankfully that is beginning to change! In the last couple of years a number of braille devices have been developed. While most of them are still in the testing phase it looks like there will be some affordable options for braille readers in the very near future.


While attending the midterm executive meeting of ICEB in Ireland earlier this year I had a chance to check out a couple of these low-cost devices. The Canute e-reader is a multi-line braille display with a total of 360 cells. The braille is very easy to read and because it refreshes one line at a time you don’t have to wait for the whole page to refresh before you can continue reading. I found that this model is much quieter than previous versions. Although it can be used to read any kind of document it would really be beneficial for material such as music scores, math textbooks and even tactile graphics. For more information please visit


The Braille Me is another device that will soon be available. This 20-cell display has some notetaking capability and can be connected to a computer or paired with an iPhone. The braille is crisp and the display has cursor routing buttons. One thing that is different about the Braille Me is that the keyboard is closer to the front and the braille cells are at the back, which is the opposite of most devices on the market. It also does not contain dots 7 and 8. It does make some noise when the display refreshes, but I believe that the advantages of the Braille Me make it an excellent option for low-cost refreshable braille. For more information please visit


Tips for Transitioning to Post-Secondary Learning

By Betty Nobel


At this time of year, I often think of students transitioning to post secondary learning.  Many students will be excited but a little fearful about going to college or university.  While support varies in different provinces, what students can count on is that the braille and other supports they had access to previously will not be the same as in high school.


What to do?  Here are some ideas.


Get some O&M training on campus.


Use the internet until you are comfortable being online.


Practice scanning printed materials and converting image files to text


Find out about how you can obtain adaptive equipment, including refreshable braille technology, if you need it.


Contact the disability services department and see if you can get a reading list for any of the courses you want to take.  This way, you can sometimes “get ahead of the game.”


Organize financial aid if needed.


Find out about sources for written materials such as Kindle, Ibooks, etc which can be accessed with speech-output and refreshable braille


Make sure you have a membership with Bookshare.


Listen to Ted talks or other podcasts and practice taking notes.


Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.


Remember to acknowledge and appreciate those who assist you and try to find ways to give back to them.


Make sure that you take breaks and find balance in your life.  School is important, but so is your mental health.


And most important…HAVE FUN!


Harry Potter and UEB

By Jen Goulden


What does Harry Potter have to do with UEB, you ask … well, aside from the obvious answer that braille makes it possible for blind people of all ages to read these fabulous books? It’s probably more precise to ask what UEB has to do with Professor Dumbledore.


Based on member feedback, we’ve decided to highlight a UEB-related question in each issue of the newsletter. What better place to start than the magical world of Harry Potter?


Our UEB list recently received a question regarding the use of the “ed” contraction in the word Dumbledore. As we had hoped when setting up this list, there was some discussion back and forth on why the word should or should not be contracted. UEB allows for contraction use that would not have been permitted before, but Duxbury – which is quite reliable about these things – does not contract Dumbledore. So, does the famous fictional professor have a contraction in his last name? Why or why not?


No. According to The Rules of Unified English Braille, groupsigns such as “ed”, “st” and “wh” should not be used when the contraction would bridge two words in a non-hyphenated compound. As a result, the word “boredom” can be contracted but “kettledrum” cannot. If you’re like me and thought that Dumbledore is just a name that J.K. Rowling made up you might be surprised to learn that it can also refer to an insect, some sort of dung beetle. It also happens to be considered a compound word, so the “ed” contraction cannot be used.


If you have code-related questions about UEB and would like to join our list, please sent an email to


If Braille Were Print


In the Winter 2016 issue of Future Reflections, Erin Jepsen wrote a passionate and powerful piece that so eloquently and clearly articulates the importance of braille – that braille is to the blind what print is to the sighted. In it, she addresses head on many of the misconceptions and stereotypes about braille that are voiced through the questions we too often hear from others: Isn’t braille hard to learn? Is braille really needed, now that we have access to so much audio? Jepsen beautifully illustrates that if we replaced the word “braille” with “print” many of these questions would not be asked. And that is the crux of it – braille is literacy!


To read this article and share it with others, go to:


Social Media Updates

Here is a taste of some of the gems posted on the BLC Facebook and Twitter pages over the past few weeks!


Braille Literacy Canada honours Darleen Bogart with the President’s Award:


If Braille Were Print? This article from Future Reflections is a must read:


You may have read recently about a new universal standard for #Braille displays adopted by the USB Implementers Forum. This is an industry body comprising  manufacturers and software developers who wish to move the USB specification forward. Participants include Microsoft, Apple and Google among many others.

Freedom Scientific has been a part of the process that has led to the adoption of this standard. Read more here:


International Council on English Braille Country and Committee reports from the 2018 ICEB mid-term Executive meeting in Dublin are now available:


Check out this great post on how to incorporate #braille and #literacy skills into your blind student’s yoga activities! A great example of how to combine different parts of the expanded core curriculum #braille #ECC #PhysicalLiteracy


Harry Potter fans will know that Dobby the houseelf would like this idea! Braille socks for the visually impaired:


The evolution of #tactile solutions for doing #math. Today, students can use a tactile graphics pad for complex equations:


Tips for promoting #braille in your community:


Graduate student creating digital #braille smartphone app for deafblind users:


Wondering which assistive technology options to use with beginning braille readers


From the International Council on English Braille – UEB UPDATE: New UEB symbol for the check mark/tick (dots 4,146) is approved for use:



Braille Literacy Canada