Braille Monitor                                                                 December 2006


A New Way To Demonstrate Braille Literacy

by Jerry Whittle

From the Editor: Jerry Whittle has taught Braille at the Louisiana Center for the Blind for more than twenty years. He has an idea that might lead to work for skilled Braille readers. This is what he says:

Jerry Whittle

As Braille instructor at the Louisiana Center for the Blind for the past twenty-one years, I have had the pleasure of working with some outstanding Braille readers. I have personally timed more than sixty Braille readers at a rate of three hundred words per minute or more and three who were able to read over five hundred words per minute. Many of these students could have read professionally, having excellent expression, accurate pronunciation, and proper pacing without annoying habits. In fact, I have often encouraged good readers to audition to become professional readers for voice-overs for commercials or to record books for both sighted and blind markets.

With this idea in mind, I contacted the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and inquired how a person would go about seeking employment as a reader in the Talking Book Service. I was told that the readers are hired by private contractors, who audition and hire readers and produce Talking Books for the National Library Service.

Since blind people have an employment rate of about 30 percent, why not hire qualified Braille readers to record books for the blind? With today's ready access to Braille-ready files and with the cooperation of publishers who could provide the latest books in BRF format for rapid Braille embossing, it would be relatively easy for a qualified and talented Braille reader to enter a recording studio and produce a quality book for the NLS. When I enquired about the feasibility of this employment possibility, various NLS employees said they had no problem with Braille readers being hired by private contractors but that no blind person had ever auditioned for this type of work with the NLS. Reading for these contractors would probably not mean full-time employment, but it would be an excellent way to promote Braille literacy and serve blind people in an innovative endeavor.

The following organizations contract with the National Library Service and hire readers on a contractual basis: American Foundation for the Blind, (212) 502-7600, New York City; American Multi-Media, (603) 589-2560, Nashua, New Hampshire; Talking Book Publishers, (303) 778-8606, Denver, Colorado; and Potomac Talking Book, (301) 907-3822, Bethesda, Maryland. The American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, a longtime contractor with the National Library Service, was recently out-bid and lost its contract for the coming year. Many of these contractors ask for a home demo before issuing an official audition. Anyone interested in auditioning for these contracts should contact one or all of these contractors for guidelines.

Another possibility might be doing voice-overs for radio and television commercials. Qualified Braille readers might contact local radio and television stations for contacts in auditioning for commercials and other ventures. We have the skills; we can compete with our sighted counterparts on terms of equality. All we need is the opportunity.