2012 National Prison Braille Forum Conference Report
Welcome to the National Prison Braille Forum!
The National Prison Braille Network (NPBN) housed at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) hosted the 2012 National Prison Braille Forum on October 10. The 2013 Forum is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, October 16, in Louisville, Kentucky.
Thank you to all of the very busy vision and corrections officials from across the country who attended the 2012 National Prison Braille Forum in October. We were honored to welcome you to Louisville and learn from your experience working with a prison braille program (or programs). Your advice on how to build and maintain strong programs and prepare offenders for successful reentry has motivated us to explore new ways in which the National Prison Braille Network can further support your work.
Vision and corrections professionals are eager to learn from their collective experience of operating braille programs in prisons.
Please mark your calendars to join us again in 2013, when the Forum is scheduled to be held on Wednesday, October 16. Feedback from participants this year has encouraged us to consider extending the Forum for more than one day. We’ll be in touch with you as plans evolve.
APH Director of Government and Community Affairs
APH Public Affairs Coordinator
Snapshot of 2012 Forum participants
- 67 people (representing 22 states, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia):
- 51 vision professionals
- 16 corrections professionals (including one warden)
- 17 first-time attendees
- 8 APH Ex Officio Trustees
- Of the 37 known prison braille programs in the U.S., 17 (46%) were represented at the Forum
Nearly half of the known prison braille programs in the U.S. were represented at the 2012 Forum.
Table of Contents
- A. Around the country: status reports from prison braille programs
- B. Second Chance Act project report—PROFITT: Providing Real Opportunities for Income through Technology
- C. Second Chance Act project report—MAMP: Miami Accessible Media Project
- D. National Braille Association (NBA) update
- E. APH Accessible Textbook Department
- F. Braille Authority of North America (BANA) update
- G. DIAGRAM Center (Digital Image And Graphic Resources for Accessible Materials) – POET software
- Packet of materials distributed at the Forum
- Participant feedback report
- Stipend recipients’ introduction
- KCI Braille Services tour roster
A. Around the country
One of the highlights of the National Prison Braille Forum each year is hearing from participants about what is going on in their state and/or prison braille program(s). Brief notes from individual reports follow.
Cindy Wilkinson, Director of the Instructional Resource Center (IRC) at the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ASBVI), reported that there are six certified braille transcribers at the Wrightsville Braille Project (WBP), including one who is Nemeth certified. Additionally, two inmates work exclusively on production of large print.
The Project does not currently provide or market materials to organizations other than ASBVI’s Instructional Resource Center. It has produced sixty books in braille format for the 2012-2013 school year, fifty-six of which were new transcriptions. Additionally, WBP has produced sixty-five titles in large print format. To assure the continuation of top quality production, over the past year the Wrightsville Braille Project has been provided with updated computers and software, flat screen monitors, and a new laminator.
Mike Bastine, with the Alternative Text Production Center (ATPC), reported that California community college students are the consumers of materials produced at both the Avenal and Ironwood prison braille programs. Challenges during the past year include lockdowns that affected production timelines, statewide prison staffing “realignment,” and difficulty recruiting suitable candidates to learn braille transcription. Mike and colleague Sandy Greenberg find that transcribers need guidance and support developing portfolios as they prepare for release, and parole officers need a better understanding of braille transcription to support parolees.
Peggy Schuetz, with Transcribing Mariners, indicated that things are going well at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville. The braille program there transcribes braille, repairs Perkins braillers, records audio books, and makes eyeglasses. Peggy finds it discouraging that there is no possibility of expanding the program due to space restrictions. A transcriber who was not allowed to use computers because of his crime sued the prison recently, causing lots of problems for all involved. Peggy worked with the warden to remove a policy limiting the program director to a maximum of two years of service. Also, Joanna Venneri is already using the new NBA textbook formatting rules when training transcribers.
Patty Biasca, President of California Transcribers and Educators for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CTEBVI) was a first-time attendee. She came to learn all she could from the group and announced that the 54th Annual CTEBVI Conference will be held March 14-17, 2013, near San Francisco. All Forum participants were invited and encouraged to attend this gathering of professionals from around the country.
APH Ex Officio Trustee Dorothe Mumford (l) and Annie Lattanzi (r).
Annie Lattanzi hopes that the “Men with a Message” program at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center will expand to digital production in the near future. The program gained work space a few years ago. However, Annie is meeting resistance from the prison to expand their scope to include digital production. For instance, their request to install a color copier was denied. They are considering the possibility of starting a new program at the state women’s facility – to focus solely on digital production.
Although transcription is a sought after job, the biggest challenges facing the program are finding inmates with computer skills needed to transcribe braille and losing qualified transcribers to the prison’s “one strike, you’re out” policy when they break rules.
Annie’s advice: Run prison braille programs as professional offices and take pride in them.
[Malcolm – If possible… in this item, create a hyperlink for Marie Amerson to the Roster/alpha, and a hyperlink for Jim Downs to the APH EOT Directory.]
APH Ex Officio Trustee Jim Downs (l) and Marie Amerson (r).
Jim Downs and Marie Amerson said that the Georgia Braille Transcribers (GBT) program in Central State Prison in Macon is very fortunate to have support from Georgia’s Instructional Materials Resource Center. Jim emphasized the importance of having a clear, complete memo of understanding (or other form of agreement) when establishing a prison braille program. GBT has gone through several major changes since it was established in 2006 (including being housed in three different prisons), and having all details of the partnership in writing has been invaluable. Earlier this year, both Marie and Central State Warden Bill Terry retired, and providing new staff with the program foundation outlined in a memo of understanding is once again proving critical.
Chris Smith, Manager of Production and Technical Support for Georgia Tech’s Alternative Media Access Center (AMAC) works closely with the Mountain View Braille Facility in Gatesville, Texas, to serve AMAC customers — primarily located in Georgia, but also across the U.S. About 85% are post-secondary students, and 15% are K-12 students.
AMAC finds that the demand for braille is up from recent years, and efforts to keep costs down are always a primary focus. One of AMAC’s biggest challenges is meeting student need for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) textbook titles – which can include complex graphics – in the limited timeframe requested. Generally speaking, AMAC contracts with prison braille programs about 50% of the time and transcribers that have been released about 50%.
Chris’ advice: When possible, use a speakerphone to consult with inmate transcribers during production to clarify details and speed the process.
PROFITT Coordinator Patrick Fraser (l) and Chris Smith (r) with AMAC.
Warden Mark Sevier with Indiana’s Miami Correctional Facility said that the Miami Accessible Media Project (MAMP) has been successful because Robert Eutz, Jim Durst, and Leslie Durst sold the program to him well – which Mark said is key to getting warden support for prison braille programs. Everyone must realize the first concern of the warden is security. Mark emphasized the importance of showing the warden (and/or other corrections officials) the end product, rather than just talking about it – “Make yourself a professional nuisance” to get needed support, and “make it human.” For instance, he toured the Indiana School for the Blind, which helped him connect to the students – babies and teenagers – who are the end user of the program products. Now he spreads the word to visitors and through emails to outsiders.
The Indiana Governor’s Award was given in recognition of service to the state (l-r): Mark Sevier, Warden, Miami Correctional Facility; APH Ex Officio Trustee Leslie Durst; Governor Mitch Daniels; Betsy Scott, Braille Project Manager, Indiana Materials Resource Center; Mike Herron, Director Pen Products/IDOC; and Robert Eutz, Director, MAMP (Miami Accessible Media Project).
The prison braille program has saved Indiana approximately $400,000 since the Indiana Educational Resource Center (IERC) did not have to purchase accessible materials on the open market. Through the reuse of the IERC repository collection of braille, large print and specialized equipment, the IERC saves over $600,000 each year if not more for a total savings of approximately $1 million, Mark reported, earning it a Governor’s Award for service to the state. The MAMP program has grown to include 52 inmates within the 3,200 bed facility.
John Romeo, has successfully operated his own business – Full Cell Braille, Inc. in Burlington, for over two years. John is a highly qualified braille transcriber, but has found it difficult to get his business up and running because he was not prepared to manage the logistics of new technology and paperwork when he began. Business startup encompasses a steep learning curve, according to John. He believes that prison braille programs need to do more to help transcribers get up and running upon their release if they are motivated to continue transcribing braille.
Standing room only was the order of the day at the 2012 National Prison Braille Forum.
KCI (Kentucky Correctional Industries) Braille Services is in a transition phase, reported Jason Criswell, Operations Manager. The departure of other industries from the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women has allowed the braille program to expand into enormous warehouse space. There are 14 women in the program right now, 8 of whom are in training. Once these trainees are certified, Jason said that another group of women will be hired. The major limitation on growth right now is braille expertise. However, they would like to get into the college market and possibly produce digital books. Jan Carroll, APH Coordinator of Braille Transcription Services, works at the prison part-time teaching trainees and overseeing production. Adding more to Jan’s workload would not be feasible.
Jason’s advice: Communication is key. Keep everyone informed so there are no surprises.
Also in Kentucky, Catherine Leslie, Braille Program Coordinator for Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Lexington, said that students who completed the literacy program and submitted a manuscript in the last three years, 90% of them received NLS (National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped) literary certification on their first manuscript submission.
FMC is interested in learning how to take the program to the “next level.” Specifically, they want to explore learning how to produce tactile graphics. There are also people in the FMC program who would like to gain experience proofreading braille. Two individuals are certified in literary braille and currently working on the Nemeth course.
FMC’s executive staff continues to show support for the braille program and partners with VIPS (Visually Impaired Preschool Services) through FMC’s Community Relations Board to provide print/braille books for young children. Since 2001, there have been seven different wardens, four different associate wardens, and four different supervisors of education who each have shown interest and support for this program.
Catherine reported that one of the major challenges FMC faces is keeping students interested in the program. It takes time to get students acclimated to the time involved in completing the literary course. Students arrive in the program eager to complete as many lessons as they can as fast as they can, not understanding it takes time to develop good proofreading skills. Thus, some students get frustrated and lose interest because there is not an immediate turnaround time for their lessons. Whether lessons are graded inside or outside the prison, it typically takes about four or five months to get the students on track with developing good proofreading skills. Once students get on track with the time involved and the need to pay attention to detail when transcribing, the more likely they are to complete and achieve their National Library Service Literary Braille Transcription Certification.
Jayma Hawkins, Accessible Textbooks at APH, and Tyler Colton, President/CEO of the Michigan Braille Transcribing Fund (MBTF).
Tyler Colton, President/CEO of Michigan Braille Transcribing Fund (MBTF) at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson, announced that this is the braille program’s 50th year of continuous operations. Developing broad experience and strong resumes for transcribers leaving the program are a priority. MBTF was established with a culture that ensures men graduating and being released have the education and experience they will need to succeed independently on the outside. For instance, MBTF is working with test generator software, a gift from Western Michigan University, to develop in-house quizzes for learning the new textbook formats. Also, the inmates are encouraged to diversify and develop skills on their own. MBTF built a reputation of providing strong support for program grads. In fact, three program grads who are now producing braille on the outside attended the Forum this year.
Tyler’s advice: Define the culture of the program at the beginning. MBTF was established as an education program and it works to promote independence.
Representatives of the Scotland Braille Facility included Rebecca Viggiano, Braille Instructor (l) and Cindy Belue, Plant Manager of Braille Transcription Services (r).
Cindy Belue, Plant Manager of Braille Transcription Services reported the Scotland Braille Plant opened in February 2011 and the first transcriber trainee was hired in April 2011. Since then, 15 men have become Literary Certified Transcribers and 2 are enrolled in Nemeth. Now that they have hired a supervisor, they plan to hire 6 more inmates, bringing the total to 24 transcribers. They presently produce the Test Booklets for the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), as well as a few other job assignments.
Cindy, who successfully transitioned from the Leath Correctional Facility in South Carolina where she learned braille, offered to act as a mentor for others who hope to build a career in braille after reentry.
Donald Morrow of the Grafton Braille Service Center.
In Ohio, Donald Morrow, Braille Coordinator of Ohio Prison Industries, said that the biggest challenge facing Grafton Braille Service Center (GBSC) at Grafton Correctional Institution is fighting the transfer of qualified braille transcribers to two separate programs in another building. Unfortunately, this is out of the control of braille program managers.
The biggest change they have experienced is a newly instituted three- tiered program to “remove the chains” by reducing the risks of hiring ex offenders. Braille is a leading program in preparing inmates for release, since employers will meet former offenders halfway as they move back into society.
Donald’s advice to program alumni: “Believe in yourself” and seek out the support you need through networking to succeed. “Knowledge is power.”
Gene Mezeske, a graduate of the Michigan Braille Transcribing Fund, was recently hired as Braille Coordinator for Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Center will soon begin transcribing textbooks for the first time, and Gene is looking for Nemeth transcribers. Gene is thrilled with his new position and is anxious to address the challenges ahead. Gene also teaches a college course in which teachers of the visually impaired learn Nemeth code, so they can help students with research.
Jill Ischinger (l) and APH Ex Officio Trustee Lee Speer (r).
Jill Ischinger, Program Manager for the South Carolina Instructional Resource Center of the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind, and Shawn Anderson, Manager of the Braille Production Center at Leath Correctional Facility in Greenwood, reported that the program has excellent support from the warden and the administration. So far this school year (2012-2013), the program is producing 52 textbooks.
Shawn has made many positive changes since joining the program over a year ago. One of the transcribers in this women’s prison braille program is now a designated trainer. She has three major braille certifications: Literary, Nemeth, and Textbook Formatting. Shawn also changed the pay structure from hourly to a production-based system, established a proofreading department, and hopes to produce graphics with Corel Draw.
From South Dakota, Connie Sullivan, Program Assistant with the SD Braille & Talking Book Program in Pierre, said that one of the keys to success for Pheasantland Braille and Graphics at the SD State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls is a focus on bringing outside experts into the prison for training the 30-35 men in the unit. They have had tactile graphics, software, and technology trainers provide workshops for the men. Duxbury uses Pheasantland as a beta testing site for software upgrades. Connie said with obvious pride, “our men get textbooks to kids on time.”
Kandi Lukowski said that a major challenge facing the Washington Corrections Center for Women Braille Team is a recent shift from an education program to a prison industry. They are also in the process of shifting from using Megadots to Braille 2000 braille transcription software. Program administrators recognize the need to start making digital graphics but the change is difficult, since tactile graphics have historically been produced by hand using the collage method. Kandi said that another big challenge facing this 15-women program is a state-wide prison rule that inmates cannot stay in a specific program for more than seven years. This policy results in highly qualified, experienced transcribers leaving the program, which negatively impacts both the braille program and the women.
Kandi reported that the program has been successful increasing the use of teleconferencing, thereby lessening the impact of the long commute between the corrections center in Gig Harbor and the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver.
Donna See, an APH Ex Officio Trustee with the WV State Department of Education, reported that the West Virginia Braille Project at Huttonsville Correctional Center has been in operation since 1982. Transcribers provide literary braille only and are not allowed to produce electronic formats or large print, so the paradigm shift from manual to computerized braille is challenging. Another challenge the program continually faces is finding qualified inmates with long-term sentences for the program.
Kurt Pamperin, Braille Coordinator with the OSCI (Oshkosh State Correctional Institution) Braille Program at Oshkosh Correctional Institution, said that business is booming and the warden loves the program. Unfortunately, the braille program can only pay transcribers in this education program up to $.45 and the industry jobs in the laundry service pay up to $1.00, so he loses good men who want to earn more money. Transcribers in the Oshkosh program are now eligible to earn 12 credit hours at the local technical college, which is a motivating benefit of the program. They produce books for the U.S., Canada, and Armed Forces schools.
Allison Marshall, braille supervisor with the Wyoming Department of Corrections, and Chris Lansford, Marketing and Sales Director for Wyoming Brand Industries, spoke about the WMCI Braille Program at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution, which was started in 2011.
They feel as if they are “best friends” with the warden, who is supportive of the program now that he understands braille. During the year, Allison and Chris spoke to the Outreach Committee – the Prison Partnership Committee and the Correctional Industries Advisory Board – to make them aware of the Braille Program and the significance of the services it provides. Additionally, they made a similar presentation to the local Lions Club.
As an industry program that is expected to be self sufficient, WMCI has diversified by bringing in complimentary services – such as engraving ADA signs – to add revenue streams. Allison said that it is difficult to find inmates qualified for textbook formatting with braille format rules changing in 2011. She and program transcribers look forward to the release of the new braille textbook formatting course.
Chris said finding work is a challenge because “there are more antelope in Wyoming than people.” Chris’ 20-year old daughter is totally blind, and Chris emphasized the need for “every day” materials in braille – signs, menus, newsletters… She is encouraged that the WMCI Braille Program can provide these things for her daughter and other people who are visually impaired.
Allison’s suggestion: Allison suggested posting positive feedback, like photos with permission, and thank you notes/emails from customers concerning the services the inmates have done. This gives the inmates a drive to do more and makes them feel like they have done something good.
B. PROFITT: Providing Real Opportunities for Income Through Technology
Tamara Rorie, Compliance Manager, gave a report on the completion of the two-year Second Chance Act grant project that the Alternative Media Access Center (AMAC) received funding to develop in FY2010. PROFITT: Providing Real Opportunities for Income through Technology, is a training program to be used in prison braille programs. It consists of five, stand-alone learning tracks: (1) basic computer skills, (2) literary braille, (3) tactile and advanced computer graphics, (4) soft skills, and (5) small business management. The entire program is available on DVD to all prisons interested in administering this multi-faceted course to prepare offenders for work as braille transcribers upon release. As of October 10, 2012, thirteen corrections facilities have requested the curriculum.
Forum attendees (l-r) Jan Carroll, Annie Lattanzi, and Dorothe Mumford examined the new PROFITT curriculum.
Tamara reported that after working with project coordinators at AMAC, the wardens of both Mountain View and Central State Prison in Georgia speak positively about their programs in a video posted on their websites. During FY2011, PROFITT was pilot tested in cooperation with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice at the Mountain View Braille Facility, following the NLS-based training. Of the 38 women involved, 15 were new to braille. Ten have been released and have received post-release support. Two are contracting with partners who are also prison braille program alumni.
C. MAMP: Miami Accessible Media Project
Robert Eutz, Director of MAMP (Miami Accessible Media Project), reported on behalf of Lin Paul, from the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC), on funding in FY2010 through the Second Chance Act. Initially encompassing only braille transcription, MAMP is housed at the Miami Correctional Facility in Bunker Hill, Indiana, and now includes production of large print, tactile graphics, and electronic files, in addition to braille. MAMP was able to continue to expand its production as a direct result of the grant.
Representatives of the Miami Accessible Media Project (MAMP) (l-r): Warden Mark Sevier, Robert Eutz, and APH Ex Officio Trustee Leslie Durst.
About 40% of the grant was used to expand the existing infrastructure, including the purchase of high-tech and low-tech equipment for braille transcription and production of accessible formats. This includes tools such as iPads and braille notetakers to test accessibility of files, and to facilitate training workshops from independent professional consultants. The other 50-60% is being used by the IDOC for post-release re-entry of MAMP program participants. Financial assistance is being given to the first 20 offenders released from MAMP for short-term housing and expenses incurred for court mandated treatment programs, medical and other required miscellaneous re-entry costs, as well as for the purchase of computers, software, reference books, and tactile graphics tools.
Additionally, through the grant, IDOC was able to establish an extension component of the MAMP program at the Indiana Re-entry Educational Facility (IREF) for offenders from the program placed there prior to being released. The IREF is located in Indianapolis and focuses on education, and vocational and life skills. Cognitive behavior programs and transportation to court-ordered treatment are also provided. This ensures that men who participate in the MAMP program have the opportunity to continue their training and use established skills while under MAMP mentorship. The corrections background of “go between” IDOC Grant Project Liaison Paul Randolph has been instrumental in recognizing the mindset of those determined to succeed upon release. Recognizing the success of the Michigan prison program, Robert followed the pattern long used by Michigan Braille Transcribing Fund to partner transcribers with mentors coming out of the MAMP program.
Indiana Department of Corrections Grant Project Liaison Paul Randolph (r) with his guest and co-worker (l).
Currently, 50 men are employed by the operation, and plans call for hiring another 10 in the near future. Because the men were hired out of the college programs at the Miami Correctional Facility, they brought a valuable skill set with them in terms of computer experience. Men in the program learn life skills in addition to practical working skills that can be put to use upon their release.
IDOC is able to provide assistance in the form of equipment, supplies, and work assignments for up to 20 offenders who have successfully completed the program upon their release from prison, and relies on MAMP’s assistance to help provide additional support to these released offenders from the program. Alumni are currently partnering with each other, demonstrating the true success of the program in changing the lives of offenders. Of the seven men who have graduated from the program, two have returned to prison for technical violations (for example, one was found to be “living above his means”). MAMP program administrators have learned that more training is needed in soft skills prior to release and they plan to incorporate that track of the PROFITT curriculum into their training program.
A requested one-year extension of the MAMP program, without additional funding, was granted. During this time period a major effort will be made to focus on released offenders. Robert plans to provide the IDOC with data during this extension period for the MAMP infrastructure and training component of the grant to assist the IDOC in determining the overall success rate of the project and their final reporting process.
D. NBA (National Braille Association)
Jan Carroll, APH coordinator of Braille Transcription Services, and Dorothy Worthington, president of the National Braille Association, provided an update report from NBA. A training bureau has been formed, to extend the reach of braille-related training beyond the scope of that offered at conferences. Prison programs interested in bringing trainers onsite can find more information on the NBA website.
NBA President Dorothy Worthington (r) and Tyler Colton of the Michigan Braille Transcribing Fund (MBTF).
NBA is in the process of creating a new test and writing a course book to comply with the 2011 changes BANA made to the textbook formats. It is estimated that the new course book will be released by the end of 2012. A recertification test will be offered at the NBA conferences in the spring and fall of 2013.
To proctor a recertification exam, Formats certified program administrators must first be re-certified. However, any administrator who was not previously certified in Braille Formats 1997 is eligible to proctor an exam. The fee to be recertified is only $25 if the exam is taken before the conclusion of NBA’s October 2013 conference. Otherwise, transcribers have to take the full exam and pay $175. Dorothy reiterated that the objective is not to cause anyone to fail the test, but to be sure that transcribers “know the code.” Also, it was announced that Introducing the NLS Manual (5th ed.) – a resource that explains changes with respect to the 2007 Update and how they have been integrated into the literary braille lessons – can now be downloaded from the NBA website.
For more information, visit the NBA website at www.nationalbraille.org.
E. APH Accessible Textbooks Update
Jane Thompson, director of the APH Accessible Textbook Department, reported that of the 126 new titles produced in the past year, about 75 of them were high level math, chemistry and biology books, requiring expertise in Nemeth code and tactile graphics. APH outsources transcription work to an approved pool of about 470 NLS (National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped) certified transcribers, proofreaders, and tactile graphic designers, including 82 individuals working at home and 28 groups.
To ensure consistent quality, APH will send a series of textbooks to one program or shop. Jane commented that the department has come to rely on the timely delivery of final products by prison braille programs. However, Jane also noted that it is obvious that such teams will split a book among its members to meet the deadline and there is a tendency for individuals to specialize in one area, such as contents pages, end matter, or tactile graphics. She encouraged cross-training, so each individual is competent in all areas of textbook production.
Finally, Jane mentioned that 652 new large print titles were completed, mostly for California. By the end of the year, etextbooks will be going into the APH File Repository for download into accessible equipment. EOTs must sign a new User Agreement in order to download these new files.
F. BANA (Braille Authority of North America)
BANA representatives (l-r) Mary Nelle McLennan, Judy Dixon, and Frances Mary D’Andrea.
Judy Dixon, Consumer Relations Officer of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Mary Nelle McLennan, Advisor to the APH President and APH’s representative to BANA, and Frances Mary D’Andrea, Chairperson of BANA, reported on BANA activities during the past year, as well as upcoming decisions.
There are 18 BANA committees charged with standardizing the braille code and keeping it moving forward. The new formats are available for download on the BANA website. Judy reported that the idea of code change is not new; evaluations and adoptions have taken place throughout the years to make it easier to read and more consistent with print formats. The two-cell slash was given as an example.
They announced that at its fall meeting, the BANA Board will vote on adoption of the Unified English Braille Code. The proposed changes were initiated 20 years ago and were carefully developed to reduce ambiguity and duplication within the braille code. If the motion passes, the next step is to develop an implementation plan with realistic timetables for the numerous stakeholder groups who are involved in the various aspects of braille.
[***Subsequent to the National Prison Braille Forum: BANA adopted the Unified English Braille Code in early November. A timeline for implementation and educational materials to train transcribers will be prepared in the coming months. The transition to UEB will not be immediate and will follow a carefully crafted timeline. Implementation plans will be formulated with the input and participation of stakeholders from the consumer, education, rehabilitation, transcription, and production communities. Plans will take into consideration the various aspects of creating, teaching, learning, and using braille in a wide variety of settings. The plans will be designed to provide workable transitions for all involved in braille use and production and to minimize disruption for current braille readers.]
G. DIAGRAM (Digital Image And Graphic Resources for Accessible Materials) Center – POET software
APH Ex Officio Trustee Jim Downs of Georgia (l) introduces fellow DIAGRAM Center Advisory Board member Fred Slone.
Fred Slone, director of operations for BookShare, was introduced by Jim Downs, an APH EOT from Georgia who serves on the DIAGRAM Center Advisory Board. DIAGRAM is a research and development center, not a BookShare project. The Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, established the center with a five-year grant to “make it easier, faster, and more cost effective to create and use accessible images so students with print disabilities have timely access to the information they need.”
Among the issues being addressed by the Center are determining how to present tactile graphics with the increasing push for digital files, and distinguishing when a picture “is not equal to a thousand words.”
The POET software is an open-source web application for creating and editing crowdsourced image descriptions in books used by students with print disabilities. Poet supports image descriptions for electronic books created in the international DAISY standard for digital talking books and will also be compatible with descriptions for ebooks in the EPUB3 format.
POET allows users to upload a digital book, quickly review and navigate to images in the text, and add image descriptions that assist readers with print disabilities such as vision impairments. POET presents the images within the text, which allows the describer to fully understand the context. The DIAGRAM Center has also created an image data content model which will provide standards to define and enhance the efficacy and interoperability of accessible images as the project evolves.
The DIAGRAM Center is an open-use entity, and administrators hope that publishers will start creating accessibility at the front-end. The POET software quickly pulls in tactile graphic I.D.s and shows where they are located. It lets multiple people enter descriptions.
BookShare has created 34,000 image descriptions, completing 26 described textbooks in seven months using 100 volunteer image describers. The process is an art and a science to ensure learning objectives are met without giving away answers. Further, work is being done to create accessible homework. If textbook publishers can be convinced to embed this information at the front end, it will be less expensive than retrofitting.
What Center administrators have learned is that about 70% of images are easy to describe, 20% present problems to those without expertise (biology, for example), and 10% need the input of experts. Although volunteers are creating images, this is not exactly “free labor.” There is training involved, and the volunteers must be supported to become active, effective, and engaged.
There are issues of quality control. Descriptions are fed in by many people across the country and Center staff evaluate what constitutes a good description. The question must be asked, “Are we describing the images that are most important and not wasting time on those the student will never use?” Eventually they would like to load the described images into an open repository, but there are questions about what falls under copyright versus what is a derivative.
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