Today I mailed off my final project in hopes of earning my national braille transcriber certification from the Library of Congress! It’s a 35 page manuscript and I must pass with an 80+.
In November 2018 we went through a formal complaint and mediation process with our school district because Kai was not receiving timely, accurate braille materials for his math and science classes. We “won” at mediation and things got much better, but while fighting for braille I felt so helpless. My son was completely at their mercy. It was then, that I decided I wanted to learn to create braille materials, and I set the goal to get certified by the time he graduates high school.
Y’all, when I registered for training to become a braille transcriber in Feb 2019, I didn’t even know the braille alphabet! I honestly cannot believe I’ve made it to this point.
Parents of kids who are blind or low vision often ask if they “should” learn Braille. Here are my thoughts on that, and my answer may surprise you!
Continue reading ““Should” Parents of Blind Kids Learn Braille?”
To wrap up our month of braille literacy guest blogs, I’ve asked Kai to share his thoughts about braille literacy. Kai has helped several families, with children who are losing their sight, to understand how braille is helpful & relevant in 2020. Kai is now a college-bound senior in a mainstream, public high school and he is at the top of his class. Here’s what he wants you to know about braille.
Feel the Facts by Kai Owens
30% of all blind people are employed, which means 70% are not. 90% of the employed are braille readers. This means that if you do not read braille then there is only a 3% chance that you will be employed in your lifetime. THREE PERCENT!
So, for every 100 blind people who do not read braille there will be only 3 who are employed.
Continue reading “Feel the Facts by Kai Owens (17)”
July is braille literacy month on Navigating Blindness and we are honored to feature a blog post by Elizabeth Symington, CBT. She is a fearless leader in the Braille Community and a dear friend.
My Story of Becoming a Certified Braille Transcriber
By Elizabeth Symington
I was introduced to braille while attending art school in San Francisco, CA. One day while at the library, I discovered a picture book for children who are blind. At this point, I’d never met a blind person, nor did I even know there were picture books for the blind. I was instantly captivated.
The braille picture book is one of my childhood favorites, “A Color of His Own,” by Leo Lionni. The pictures looked like a wall fresco; they rose off the page. Instead of using color, different textures were utilized to describe the pictures. It was also a fun decoding game since the story was in braille and in print. Continue reading “Becoming a Certified Braille Transcriber by Elizabeth Symington, Founder UEB Study Group”
July is braille literacy month on Navigating Blindness and we are excited to feature high school student Kaleigh Brendle who successfully advocated for Braille accommodations on the 2020 College Board exams — globally!
Guest post written by Kaleigh Brendle, high school student.
My name is Kaleigh Brendle. I am 17 years old, and since birth, I’ve possessed a condition called Lebers Congenital Amaurosis, which left me visually impaired.
Four of the courses I was enrolled in this past school year are classified as Advanced Placement, or AP, courses. The course curriculums and final exams are created and administered by a corporation called the College Board. This corporation also presides over the PSAT and SAT exams, among others. Under normal circumstances, I receive all my College Board exams in Braille, and before the onset of the pandemic, the AP exams were going to be no different. If I performed well enough on these high-stakes tests, I may receive college credit for the completion of the course. Thus, these exams are extremely influential. Many blind and deaf-blind AP students had Braille specifically stated in their accommodation plans. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the College Board was forced to shorten and digitize their exams. In doing so, they communicated to us that Braille would not be provided this year. For exams that feature maps, coordinate planes, and other highly visual graphics, a “No-Braille” decision meant that these images would not be embossed. One of my courses, AP Biology, is extremely diagram-heavy, so I grew concerned about the prospect of not possessing the visuals in hard-copy format to tactilely navigate. According to the College Board’s website, 65% of my exam score would be dependent upon my ability to successfully interpret a single graphic. The solution that College Board provided was something called Alternative Text, a description coded into an image or graphic so that a student’s talking software will read the written text when their cursor encounters the image it describes. So when an image of, say, a phospholipid bilayer appears on my screen, my software will start speaking at me and reading the description. It became not so much how well I could interpret the image, but how much of that description I could memorize. If a graph appeared on the screen, it would read out every point on the graph, even spelling out the word “comma”. The given student would be inundated with details. We tried to explain to the College Board that providing us with a large block of text was not a substitute for the actual graph. We need that spatial information as anyone else would; the College Board executives were adding another cognitive burden to an already stressful situation. In addition, with the exams being administered through technological mediums, I sought to clarify what would transpire if a glitch were to occur with my accessible software. For instance, what if VoiceOver does not read the question? What if Jaws shorts out my computer during the exam? When posing this question, the response I received was troubling. I was informed that however long it took me to resolve a tech glitch in my exam, I would have that much less time to complete it. If it took me forty-five minutes to resolve an issue, and the exam was an hour in length, I would have fifteen minutes. The suggestion of both a representative and an executive that I spoke to about this was “use a device with less problems”. Unfortunately, in the world of accessible technology, it is impossible to anticipate what devices will pose complications on that given day. Continue reading “We Are Not Blind To Injustice. The 2020 College Board Experience.”
Hi friends, I’m super excited to share another Hindsight 20/20 article. This article was written by Mary Woodyard about raising her son, Tommy, who is currently a senior at the University of Georgia. Tommy also happens to be legally blind. I’m so grateful that Mary took the time to share her wisdom with us parents who are still in the thick of advocating for our children’s accessibility needs in school.
Each 20/20 interview will be unique because blindness is a spectrum and each child, parent, and family has different circumstances, goals, and expectations. As parents, we need to educate ourselves and consider advice from reliable sources — foundations, doctors, teachers, and so on (the list seems endless) — but ultimately, we are our children’s greatest advocates. I strongly believe that other parents who have “been there, done that” are our best resources. So, let’s navigate blindness together!
Alright parents, grab a cup of coffee or your beverage of choice, get comfy and enjoy.
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1. What was the first symptom you noticed and what was your child’s age?
He was born at 26 weeks during what I thought was a normal pregnancy. He had contracted an infection which made him very sick; but, it did not impact me at all. When he was born, there was confusion as to his gestational age. The doctors were not sure if he was 25 weeks or 26 weeks. There was no consensus until he was a month old. Doctors warned me his brain was underdeveloped and felt that he would have GI issues. In addition, he had: a hernia, a hole in his heart and a pound of fluid in his body that was not supposed to be there. They were worried that his brain was not developing. He was 1.9 pounds when he was born. They told me not to worry about his eyes – they would be fine. Continue reading “Hindsight 20/20 Featuring Mary Woodyard”
Hi friends, This is my final post in a 3-part series about my family’s Special Education Formal Complaint and Mediation proceeding. If you are a new visitor to this blog, I’d recommend starting with the previous posts: Special Education Mediation Experience and Formal Complaint & Mediation Processes Explained. Continue reading “Preparing for Battle: Support & Organization”
As discussed in my previous post we filed a Formal Complaint against our school system. This post will give an overview of what I learned about the complaint and mediation processes.
In early September, I downloaded the “formal complaint form” from our state’s education website. The document was four pages and asked a series of questions about the issues, and how we believed they could be resolved. The Formal Complaint only covered issues that occurred within a 1-year time period. Near the bottom of the form, there was a question asking if we would be willing to mediate? I selected “yes” thinking that I wanted to do everything possible to come to a resolution for my son. I submitted the complaint along with 20 pages of detailed records outlining the issues along with two recommendations for resolution. Then I waited. Continue reading “Formal Complaint & Mediation Processes Explained”
As our son’s vision diminished our world was expanding to include Retinal Specialists, Orientation & Mobility (O&M) instructors and Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI).
We were totally new to this world of visual impairments and had no idea how our son would be able to continue to thrive in school. Continue reading “The First Steps”