“There is no substitute for the ability to read.
For blind people, braille is an essential tool in the process of becoming literate.”


March 2016 • Issue #3


This newsletter is designed to keep you up to date about what is happening in your BLC, to share with you upcoming events and useful resources. Please send feedback or items to include in the next newsletter to info@blc-lbc.ca. Please share this with anyone who may be interested in reading it. If you are not a member please join BLC.

BLC Annual General Meeting

It’s that time of year again … spring is fast approaching, and planning is well underway for our Annual General Meeting. We are holding the meeting in conjunction with the upcoming Seeing Beyond the Horizons conference taking place in Vancouver. We recognize that not all members will be able to attend in person, but you can still have a say in decisions being made for the coming year. Members will have the option to vote by proxy or in advance with electronic ballots. All are welcome!

Date and time: may 7th, 2016 at 3:00 pm

7551 Westminster Highway
Richmond, British Columbia V6X 1A3 Canada
Phone: (1)(604) 273-7878
Fax: (1)(604) 278-0188

An official notice to members will be sent out at the beginning of April. We hope to see you there!

Introducing the BB Braille Club!

For children 12 years or younger who want a fun environment to practice braille.

Once a month, Blind Beginnings children will come together to celebrate braille! Playing games, reading jokes, creating scavenger hunts, writing stories, making cards are just some of the fun activities participants can look forward to.

Activities will be led by braille reading Youth Leaders with lots of braille experience. If you want your child to develop a love for braille, this is the place to come.

For more details call 604-434-7243 or Email shawn@blindbeginnings.ca

Shawn Marsolais MEd
Executive Director
Blind Beginnings
Phone 604-434-7243

World Braille Day Rocket Competition Winner

The winner of the World Braille Day Rocket Competition has been announced! Visit the announcement on our website for descriptions and pictures of the winner and honourable mentions. Congratulations to everyone who participated!

Announcing "Feel'n'See Screenshots for iOS"

We know you will discover this to be an innovative tool to help many vision-impaired students increase their touch-screen proficiency. This process occurs through integration of three basic skills:
  • mental mapping
  • visualization and
  • “ear-hand coordination".
Students report that their user experience has literally “taken shape” for them thanks to these screenshot images. They are now able to explore and then visualize what is on their screens, whether they have “physical vision” or not. When everyone uses the same visual frame of reference, the playing field is leveled for teachers and learners alike.

The inclusively designed dual-mode version contains 31 screenshots, incorporating tactile diagrams, large print (minimum 20 point), and superimposed braille. Users can simultaneously Feel'n'See the same items in their relative locations.

Differences between iPhone and iPad layouts are shown, along with differences in presentation order whether flicking or dragging.

There is a two-page screenshot key, provided as an insert, for easy user access when looking up abbreviations used on the screenshots.

Braille-only and large print-only versions are also available at a lower price.

Check the website (ihabilitation.ca) for companion videos, with great audio, that demonstrate how to work with the screenshots.

We're now building inventory and the online shopping cart is working at www.feelnsee.com.

Teleconferences About Braille

We would like you to share your ideas about teleconference topics about braille that you would like Braille Literacy Canada to cover. Our first teleconference on January 9 was so successful that we would like to do more. If you want to learn what I am talking about, you can listen to the recording of that teleconference. The link is on the Braille Literacy Canada website. www.brailleliteracycanada.ca.

Please send your ideas to info@brailleliteracycanada.ca.

Braille Blast Off: Celebrating World Braille Day

By Natalie Martiniello, Secretary, Braille Literacy Canada

On January 4th, 2016, Braille Literacy Canada (BLC) recognized World Braille Day by promoting celebrations across the country. A committee of braille users, transcribers and educators from various organizations steered these events, based on the theme “Braille Blast Off!” Not only did initiatives provide braille enthusiasts everywhere with an opportunity to celebrate the continued relevance of this communication system, but also to celebrate the significant step forward symbolized by the implementation of the Unified English Braille Code.

Press releases and promotional materials were distributed across Canadian schoolboards and media outlets. The “Braille Blast Off Rocket Contest” provided students with an opportunity to create their own “braille rockets”. Winners will be announced soon on the BLC website, http://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/home.

Tactile Vision Graphics generously produced special “Braille Blast Off!” braille bookmarks that were distributed during classroom presentations. Users, meantime, were invited to download the Braille Blast Off logo from the BLC website to create their own t-shirts and merchandize to “wear their love for braille”!

Activity worksheets were developed to teach sighted and blind students alike about braille. In fact, several teachers have since invited braille students to talk to current and future classes about braille. In British Columbia, sighted students have contacted three nearby restaurants to have menus brailled.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, promotional material was forwarded to “Voice of the Common Man”, a radio station that serves the entire province. Elizabeth Mayo, a braille user, was invited for an interview with the radio station’s nightline host, and it was replayed several times throughout the month of January. In Regina, Saskatchewan, Ashley Nemeth was interviewed about the importance of braille, and in British Columbia eight-year-old Maggie Werle was interviewed by two television stations about how she uses braille in her daily life. These are but a few examples of the interviews featuring braille users that took place across Canada.

On January 9, BLC hosted a teleconference that generated enormous interest from over 60 adult braille users, including those learning or considering braille for the future. Based on the theme, “Braille in the 21st Century”, it featured a panel of braille users discussing braille from a number of perspectives. Jennifer Jesso, a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), spoke about the use of braille as an individual with low vision; Marilyn Rushton, also a TVI, spoke about the continued relevance of braille in a technological age; Diana Brent, a braille technology expert, provided a fascinating history of braille technology; and I, a vision rehabilitation specialist, discussed the exciting future of braille technology--from affordable multi-line braille displays to smart braille watches.

We are especially excited about the initiatives that have been established due to the enthusiasm generated by World Braille Day this year. Blind Beginnings, a Canadian organization for blind children and youth, for instance, has just established a Braille Club, where children will have the opportunity to participate in braille-related activities.

Merci, Louis Braille!

Why I Love My Smart Beetle

by Betty Nobel

When I was at the Braille Conference in October, I was introduced to a tiny braille display called the Smart Beetle manufactured by HIMS Inc. It has 14 cells and looks very much like a mini Braille Sense notetaker with the usual 8 braille keys cursor routing buttons and scroll buttons. I was so taken by this new technology that I bought it.

I can carry it in my purse. I have the Smart Beetle connected to my phone and I can use it any time. Once, on my way to work, I was distressed to learn that I had forgotten my trusty Apple headphones. However, after I thought about this for a moment, I realized that all I had to do was use the neck strap and then I could use my Smart Beetle to read my Kindle book, send texts, and do my email. The cool thing was that I could also hear the bus announcement system announce all of the bus stops so I didn’t lose track of where I was on my route.

I cannot give you an accurate price for this display, but in October, I bought it for $1720 Canadian dollars. The one feature of the Smart Beetle I haven’t yet tried is the one where you can connect it to several devices and switch between them. Stay tuned, and I will let you know how that feature works and how useful it turns out to be.

Seeing Beyond the Horizon Conference

Once every couple of years, Canadian vision teachers host a conference to connect with colleagues to share knowledge, network with professionals, and generate new ideas. This year’s conference, Seeing Beyond the Horizon, will be held in Vancouver, BC from May 5-7, 2016, with a preconference held on May 4. The conference is aimed at vision teachers and other professionals who work with children, youth, and young adults with visual impairments and their families.

The conference starts with a two-part preconference workshop scheduled for Wednesday, May 4. Join this preconference to learn about creating math materials in UEB using Duxbury in the morning and how students using digital devices can back-translate from braille into print during the afternoon.

The conference will host several keynote speakers and general sessions. These include Dr. Pat Mirenda’s keynote speech on “Special Education and Inclusion: A False Dichotomy?” as well as general sessions by David Lepofsky, John Rafferty, Dr. Kitty Greeley, and Diane Wormsley. There will also be a banquet on May 6 where colleagues can connect and several awards will be presented.

This conference is full of presentations and poster presentations on a wide variety of topics of relevance to teachers and other professionals working with students and young people with visual impairments, including those with additional disabilities. Topics of these presentations and poster sessions cover the following topics:
  • Sports, physical literacy, recreation, self-defense
  • Technology - JAWS, LaTeX, Classroom Innovations, navigating the internet, iOS and more!
  • Mathematics accessibility and strategies
  • Out-of-school and residential opportunities- camps, ECC programs and more!
  • Early Intervention
  • Supporting students with deafblindness
  • Employment, success, and identity
  • Supporting parents
  • Self-determination
  • Literacy
  • Visual conditions and implications
  • Teaching considerations and strategies
  • Accessible materials
  • Teaching the Expanded Core Curriculum
Although the early-bird registration date has passed, there is still plenty of time to register for this exciting conference. Join us in beautiful Vancouver for the 2016 Seeing Beyond the Horizon conference. More details and registration forms can be found at www.seeingbeyondthehorizon2016.weebly.com.

Braille in Fashion - Research Study

BLC recently received information about a “braille in fashion” research study. Read the invitation by the lead researcher below, and feel free to circulate or contact her should you be interested in participating:

My name is Alexa Jovanovic and I am a fourth year Fashion Communication student at Ryerson University, as well as the Graphic Designer for Ryerson's School of Fashion.

For my final capstone project I am researching the integration of Braille and fashion apparel. Currently, I am in search for blind and sighted individuals to participate in a series of interviews. Prior exposure to Braille is not required, but ability to read Braille is highly valued. Although the study will focus on womenswear, both men and women are encouraged to participate. The results from this study will be applied towards the creation of fashion garments that communicate clothing characteristics in Braille through beadwork and Braille buttons. This end product will be designed for both blind and sighted consumers to use. For further information or to express interest in participating please contact Alexa Jovanovic at alexa.jovanovic@ryerson.ca.

You can also download the consent form now posted on the BLC website: http://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/en/what's-new/announcements.

Links and Multimedia

Darleen Bogart Receives Braille Excellence Award. Congratulations, Darleen! http://www.brailleauthority.org/pressreleases/pr-2015-11.html

Are you currently learning, or thinking about learning braille? Are you an avid braille reader, or perhaps you use braille for specific tasks such as labeling household items? In January, BLC invited a panel of braille users who discussed a number of themes related to “Braille in the 21st Century”. Follow the link below to access the recording if you missed it, and stay tuned for future teleconferences! http://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/en/what's-new/events

8-Year Old Girl Wins National Braille Writing Contest:

A video highlighting this year’s annual BC Braille Challenge, hosted by UBC

The As I See It podcast focuses on vision related research. BLC secretary Natalie Martiniello was recently interviewed about teaching braille, the impact of technology on the future of braille, and the perception of blindness in society. Listen to it here:

During this year’s Grammy’s, Stevie Wonder managed to get everyone cheering for braille. While reading the results in braille, Wonder stated that “We need to make every single thing accessible for every single person with a disability”. Watch the video that has taken social media by storm:

Did you know that Stevie Wonder has actually been an advocate for braille and accessible information for years?

Bringing Braille Back with Better Display Technology:

3D printed books help blind children to read:

Interactive Cloud-Based Braille Education:

BLC on Social Media

Braille Literacy Canada is now on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn! Find us there to receive news about BLC and braille, to stay informed, and to join a network of others devoted to braille just like you.


 Braille Literacy Canada