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Guidelines for Starting and Operating Prison Braille Programs

Table of Contents


Part 1: Setting the Stage

Part 2: Blindness and Braille

Part 3: Starting and Operating

Part 4: Reentry as a Braille Transcriber


The American Printing House for the Blind

Founded in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1858, the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) promotes the independence of people who are blind and visually impaired by providing specialized materials, products, and services needed for education and life. APH is the oldest company in the U.S. dedicated to creating products for people who are blind or visually impaired, and the largest organization of its kind in the world. APH is a 501(c)(3) private, non-profit corporation.

Since 1879, APH has received an annual federal appropriation through the U.S. Department of Education to produce and distribute educational materials in accessible formats for blind and visually impaired students working below college level. A census of these students is taken each year on the first Monday in January, and then appropriation funds are allotted to each U.S. state and outlying area on a per capita basis. APH is the only agency in the country funded by the federal government to provide braille, large print, and audio recordings for students working below college level.

In recent decades, the demand for braille textbooks has grown enormously. With about 300 employees, APH has an in-house team of highly qualified braille transcribers. However, to meet the growing need for braille, APH currently subcontracts each year with about 350 individual transcribers and groups across the country to produce braille textbooks. Several of the groups with which APH now contracts are prison braille programs, and an estimated 25-30 individual transcribers with whom APH contracts are “graduates” of these programs. These individuals and prison braille programs are building a reputation for producing some of the best braille in the country.

National Prison Braille Network

Professionals in the fields of vision and corrections who are interested in sharing information or learning more about prison braille programs are encouraged to join the national network. NPBN goals are to:

  • Support and promote braille production facilities in prisons across the U.S. as major sources of experienced braille transcribers and high quality braille.
  • Encourage excellence among prison braille programs in the transcription of textbooks for blind and visually impaired students in grades K-12.
  • Assist qualified and motivated transcribers who were trained in prison braille programs to establish braille transcription careers upon release.

Participants receive notification of the National Prison Braille Forum, held each October in Louisville, Kentucky, in conjunction with the APH Annual Meeting. Future plans call for a network newsletter and listserv to strengthen communication among program staff.

To join the network, contact Rebecca Snider at, (502) 899-2356 or (800) 223-1839 ext. 356.

Building Bridges with Braille

The Building Bridges with Braille initiative was launched by the National Prison Braille Network in 2009 to further the goals of prison braille programs across the country. While the end result of this initiative is to provide more high quality braille to students who are blind in grades K-12, its immediate focus is on rehabilitating inmate transcribers and preparing them for successful reentry as braille transcribers. Offenders working to produce braille while in prison are finding that while they have access to the equipment, materials, and support they need to transcribe braille “on the inside,” once they are released it is difficult to secure the financial and professional support they need to build full-time careers as braille transcribers.

The Building Bridges with Braille initiative identifies highly qualified inmate transcribers in prison braille programs across the country who are most likely to succeed as full-time braille transcribers on the outside, and provides them with:

  • Mentoring by an experienced braille transcriber on the outside — from six months prior to anticipated release, to six months following release.
  • One year membership in the National Braille Association (NBA), and funding to attend an NBA conference during the first six months following release, as well as a National Prison Braille Forum within one year of release (if permitted by release restrictions). NBA is a national membership organization that provides transcribers with networking opportunities, educational workshops, and access to transcription jobs and collaborative projects.
  • Loaned braille transcription equipment, as well as production supplies and materials for 6 months following release.
  • A braille transcription job immediately upon release so they can begin working as quickly as possible.

Financial support for this initiative is currently being sought from government entities and private foundations and corporations. As soon as adequate funding is secured, Building Bridges with Braille will launch a pilot program with a limited number of qualified inmate transcribers. As the program is refined, its scope will broaden to include as many qualified offenders as possible.

For more information on the Building Bridges with Braille initiative or to suggest potential sources of support, contact Nancy Lacewell at, (502) 899-2339, or (800) 223-1839, ext. 339.

This directory was published by the American Printing House for the Blind (APH)

1839 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206
Phone (502) 895-2405
Toll Free (800) 223-1839

© Copyright 2009 American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
ISBN 978-1-61648-000-4

Written by:

Nancy Lacewell
Director, Government and Community Affairs
Coordinator, National Prison Braille Network
American Printing House for the Blind

Marie Amerson
Georgia Braille Transcribers
Central State Prison
Macon, Georgia

Rebecca Snider
Public Affairs Coordinator
Administrator, National Prison Braille Network
American Printing House for the Blind

Design & Layout by:

Kacey Roby
Graphic Designer (print edition)

Malcolm Turner
APH Webmaster (web adaptation)

Publication of these guidelines would not have been possible without the expertise and professional contributions of many members of the National Prison Braille Network. We offer our sincere thanks to:

  • Katherine Baldwin, SC
  • Mike Bastine, CA
  • Robert Beaton, MI
  • Delores Billman, TX
  • Dan Boyd, SD
  • Angela Brewer, GA
  • James Caton, AR
  • Tyler Colton, MI
  • Robert Eutz, IN
  • Holly Faris, KY
  • Saul Garza, MI
  • Sandra Greenberg, CA
  • Bill Hinton, GA
  • Jessica Hunter, PA
  • Ann Kelt, CA
  • Catherine Leslie, KY
  • Colleen Lines, WA
  • Paula Mauro, OH
  • Andrea McChristian, NY
  • Esther McIllwain, CA
  • Elizabeth McKown, SC
  • Leigh Miller, PA
  • Kurt Pamperin, WI
  • Glenda Powell, KY
  • Bob Rae, SD
  • Neill Rayford, TX
  • Milton Reese, OH
  • Eunice Rowell, SC
  • Betsy Scott, IN
  • Donna See, WV
  • Connie Sullivan, SD
  • Sharon VonSee, WA
  • Francelia Wonders, MI

APH Prison Braille Advisors:

  • Nancy Lacewell
  • Rebecca Snider
  • J. Gary Mudd
  • Jayma Hawkins
  • Bob Brasher
  • Jane Thompson
  • Jan Carroll
  • Rose Zinious

© Copyright American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.