Fred Schroeder wanted you to have the below e-newsletter from our
Braille Literacy Team. If you have not signed up to receive these
exclusive campaign updates directly, please fill out the online form
Please encourage as many people as possible to join this campaign list.
This will be an excellent vehicle for us to build our list of
individuals who want to learn more about Braille, help us with Braille
literacy, or simply are interested in buyig coins.
Braille coin and Braille Readers are Leaders banner
NATIONAL ADVISORY GROUP
The Honorable Pat Schroeder
View this message as HTML in your browser
Welcome to the new Braille Literacy Campaign!
You are among the first people to receive our new Braille Literacy
E-Newsletter! This is designed to let people know about all the
happenings at the Braille.org Web site, the new Braille coin, and
programs at the National Federation of the Blind dealing with Braille
literacy issues. Our hope is to provide you with a good starting point
for these initiatives. Join us in the coming months as we add to our
national ambassadors, plan events for the commemorative coin release,
and celebrate Louis Braille's 200th birthday. We are happy you have
chosen to join us in our new venture.
--The Braille Literacy Team
MYTHBUSTERS ABOUT BRAILLE
The Urgent Need for Change
"The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you
learn, the more places you'll go!"
Learning to read is for every child an exciting time. The excitement is
no less for those who are blind. Teaching Braille to children and newly
blinded adults will open the door to literacy and unlimited
opportunities. Although there is a very positive correlation between
employment of the blind and Braille literacy (approximately 85 percent
of blind people who know Braille are gainfully employed), only 10
percent of blind children in the nation are learning to read and write
Braille. Society would never accept a 10 percent literacy rate among
sighted children; it should likewise not be acceptable for the blind.
But why then do we not teach Braille to our blind children?
Let's look at some of the myths and misconceptions about Braille that
stand in our way.
MYTH #1: Braille is hard to learn. For a child, learning to read is
learning to read, whether it is done in print or in Braille.
proper instruction in Braille, blind children master reading and writing
in Braille in the same time that sighted children master print. As for
adults, learning to read and write Braille can be done in six months or
less with proper instruction.
MYTH #2: Braille is slow and inefficient. When effective Braille
instruction is provided, Braille is read at hundreds of words a minute
and is used as fluently as print in all aspects of daily life.
MYTH #3: All blind people have the opportunity to learn Braille.
individuals with some degree of usable vision (the majority of people
experiencing significant vision loss are not totally blind) are more
often encouraged to read print (because it is "normal") and are thus
discouraged from learning Braille. The misconception that print is
"normal" and Braille is "inferior" means that thousands of blind
individuals are taught to believe that it is better to read print at all
costs and that Braille is a last resort. The truth is that Braille is a
tool for independence, and it offers equality and flexibility.
Furthermore, many blind people who have some vision master both print
and Braille and use them interchangeably depending on what is more
functional (e.g., giving a speech using Braille notes). The more tools
in the toolbox the better!
MYTH #4: Braille is on the way out with the coming of the digital age
and the greater availability of audio material. Let's face it,
"listening" does not equal literacy. Literacy is the ability to read
and to write and to do the two interactively. Children who learn
exclusively by listening do not learn about proper spelling,
punctuation, and syntax. As for technology, the irony is that
technological advances have made Braille easier to produce and
consequently more widely available than at any other time in the history
of the code. Not to mention, the act of quietly holding a book in your
hands and reading for the pleasure of reading is a gift.
Independent reading is true independence of the mind. Braille is the
only thing equivalent to print for the blind.
When it comes to Braille, it is best to get the facts from the people
who know. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation's
largest membership organization of blind people, has long been the
leading champion of Braille literacy for the blind, as well as the
advocate for innovative programs to empower the blind. The President of
the United States and the U.S. Congress have recognized the critical
role the NFB plays in creating new opportunities for the blind by
passing Public Law 109-247: The Louis Braille Bicentennial--Braille
Literacy Commemorative Coin Act. The NFB Braille Commemorative Coin and
the literacy campaign help fund an unparalleled opportunity to make
literacy a reality for every blind person. Join us as a champion for
Braille literacy and shatter the myths that limit the dreams of the
What is the Louis Braille Bicentennial--Braille Literacy Commemorative
For decades the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the country's
oldest and largest organization of blind persons, has been the leading
champion for Braille literacy. With the passing of Public Law 109-247:
The Louis Braille Bicentennial--Braille Literacy Commemorative Coin Act,
the President of the United States and the U.S. Congress have
recognized the critical role Braille plays in the independence, freedom,
and success of the blind and the central role the NFB plays in improving
literacy among the blind.
With the upcoming 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille,
creator of the primary system of reading and writing used by people who
are blind, there is no more fitting time to recognize the history,
achievements, and mission of the National Federation of the Blind.
The launch of the NFB Braille Commemorative Coin by the U.S.
2009 will present a great opportunity to tell the story of innovation
and service for our blind citizens. It will enable the NFB to present
this story powerfully and effectively through its Braille Literacy
Campaign. The campaign will promote how vital Braille is to our blind
citizens, young and old alike.
Literacy is the key to opening the minds of our young people.
Independent reading is true independence of the mind. The act of
quietly holding a book in your hands and reading for the pleasure of
reading is a gift of immeasurable importance. However, we have a body
of individuals in this country for whom the possibility of independence
is simply a fingertip away; but due to misunderstandings about Braille
and the opportunities it unlocks, that independence is denied, and the
result is illiteracy and unemployment.
You might be shocked to learn that today, in America, only 10 percent of
blind children are learning Braille! Yet, studies show that of the blind
people who are employed, better than 80 percent of them read and write
Braille = literacy = employment = full participation in society and
enjoying the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
Please join us as we bring exposure to the literacy crisis for the blind
in this country and create new opportunities for all of our citizens to
take full advantage of the American dream. Let's not leave these people
Literacy, Learning, and Enlightenment
by Fredric K. Schroeder
On July 4, 2008, Dr. Fred Schroeder, National Federation of the
first vice president, former commissioner of the U.S.
Services Administration, and National Chairperson for the Braille
Literacy Campaign, delivered the following address at the NFB
I recently learned that a friend of mine, Reggie Howard, had
away. Reggie grew up in Alabama during the time when many
states maintained separate schools for the blind, a white school
black school. I remember Reggie's telling me that blind students
the black school were always excited to hear that the white
would be getting new Braille books because that meant that the
school would also be getting new Braille books, the old books
white school passed on to the black school for the blind. When
white school got new desks, the black school got new desks, the
ones from the white school.
Segregation was wrong. It harmed children, but how much and in
ways? It is true that it was a few years later that blind
the black school learned that Constantinople is now Istanbul.
is true that the books were a little worn, the desks a little the
worse for wear. But they had books. They had desks. They had a
and teachers who cared and did their best. And, yes, they did
They learned math and English. They learned science and social
studies, and they learned something else--they learned that
believed them to be inferior, inferior because of their race and
inferior because of blindness. They were harmed by a substandard
education. They were harmed by poor facilities. But most of all
were harmed by prejudice--prejudice rooted in low expectations.
society was wrong. Reggie was not inferior, not inferior because
race and not inferior because of blindness. And neither was any
other students at the Alabama School for Negro Deaf and Blind.
Today most blind children, black and white, are educated in
public school classrooms. But, as with the desegregation of
schools, including schools for the blind, physical desegregation
not in and of itself confer equality. Blind children, black and
continue to be society's forgotten, some educated in schools for
blind and some in local public schools, but still forgotten,
as children with no future, no promise, no meaning--for the most
desegregated, but not yet integrated.
It is assumed that sighted children will learn to read and write,
today only 10 percent of blind children learn to read and write
Braille. It is assumed that sighted children will have books and
libraries and other resources to support their learning; but
blind children continue to wait for Braille books, only a handful
ever seen a Braille library, and basic tools like Braille
are rarely available; and when they are, often it is only after
intense struggle with school officials. It is assumed that
children will graduate from high school, and we count it a crisis
American education when the dropout rate reaches double digits.
where is the public outcry about the dropout rate among the
Today only 45 percent--fewer than half--of all blind children
earn a high school diploma. We will not stand by and allow this
In 2009 the United States Mint will issue a coin commemorating
hundredth anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille. It will be
first U.S. coin to include tactilely readable Braille. How did
How did the Congress of the United States learn about the crisis
Braille literacy among blind Americans? It was because of the
Federation of the Blind. We brought the problem to the attention
the Congress. We made the Congress aware that blind children and
adults have the ability to live normal, productive lives and that
major barrier to full participation, true integration, is not
blindness itself but public attitudes, public misconceptions
blindness, low expectations for blind people rooted in myth and
tradition. It was the National Federation of the Blind that said
the Congress that the isolation--the social and economic
segregation--of blind people must end, that blind people deserve
chance to learn and work and live as others, and, to do so, they
have the opportunity to become literate.
The NFB commemorative Braille coin will attract public attention
raise awareness about the importance of Braille in the lives of
people--and it will do more. The Congress has directed that $10
added to the cost of each coin sold with the hope of generating
million, to be matched with donated funds, potentially making $8
million available to the National Federation of the Blind to
programs increasing Braille literacy among blind children and
Entrusting the nation's Braille literacy initiative to the
Federation of the Blind demonstrates that the Congress recognizes
the Federation has been and continues to be the leader in
equal opportunities for blind people throughout the nation. What
we do to insure that blind children and adults, including
will have the opportunity to learn to read and write Braille?
Last Wednesday Dr. Maurer announced the launch of the Braille
are Leaders campaign and the Braille.org Web site. Our goal is
double the number of blind people who know how to read and write
Braille by the time of the Federation's diamond anniversary in
This is an ambitious goal but an achievable one. To ensure
number of things must be done.
We must find blind people and help them learn to believe in
themselves, believe that, given training and opportunity, they
live full and productive lives; and that means we must bring them
the National Federation of the Blind. It means we must help
learn to think differently about Braille and, by extension, think
differently about blindness and blind people. It means we must
parents recognize the importance of Braille in their children's
It means we must convince teachers of blind children that Braille
the cornerstone of literacy and therefore the cornerstone of
opportunity. And it means we must make sure that the resources
available so that blind children have access to competent
in Braille reading and writing. And these are not just words,
promises. We will work to enact legislation in all fifty states
requiring teachers of blind children to obtain and maintain the
National Certification in Literary Braille.
These are the goals of the Braille Readers are Leaders
campaign--promoting Braille and increasing access to Braille for
children and adults--but at its heart the Braille Readers are
campaign is an expression of the National Federation of the
philosophy, our commitment to achieving full participation of
people in society, our belief that good enough is not good
that desegregation is not the same as integration, that progress
substitute for equality, and our unshakable belief that, no
society's low expectations, Reggie was not inferior, not inferior
because of race and not inferior because of blindness.
The NFB Braille coin is a testament to the determination of blind
people to break free from society's low expectations and to live
normal, active, productive lives. What will we do to increase
literacy? What will we do to transform our goals into reality?
possibilities are as limitless as our imagination, as vast as our
collective will and determination, and as far-reaching as the
Federation of the Blind itself, our fifty-two affiliates, our
hundred local chapters, our fifty thousand members.
The Braille Readers are Leaders campaign will be a collection of
programs and activities, and more: it is the National Federation
the Blind in action. It is the natural extension of our
sixty-eight-year effort to forge new opportunities for the blind,
move ever closer to true equality. No matter society's low
expectations, Reggie was not inferior, not inferior because of
and not inferior because of blindness, and neither was any of the
other students at the Alabama School for Negro Deaf and Blind.
matter how limited their opportunities, opportunities constricted
low expectations, they were not inferior, nor is any other blind
person, black or white. Reggie was not inferior, nor am I, nor
you, nor is any other blind person. This is the Braille Readers
Leaders campaign. This is the National Federation of the Blind.
Photo: Blind girl reading Braille
Jim Portill assists Tim Kelly on a Braillewriter
Photo: Blind girl reading
A child reading a Braille book
NFB Braille Readers are Leaders logo
Visit the U.S. Mint
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
410-659-9314 * Fax 410-659-5129
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