Braille Monitor                                                 October 2010

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Featured Book from the Jacobus tenBroek Library

In this woodcut two blind students of the Royal Institute for Blind Youth, the Parisian school with which Louis Braille was associated, are depicted operating a printing press. Printing was one of the professions blind people in France were often trained in during the early nineteenth century.Braille into the Next Millennium, edited by Judith M Dixon.Washington, DC: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, 2000.

From the Editor: With some regularity we spotlight books in the tenBroek Library. Here is librarian Ed Morman's description of a recent acquisition:

Now that we are ten years into the new millennium—and with the organized blind having recently celebrated the bicentennial of Louis Braille’s birth—this seems a good time to look back at the state of Braille in Y2K (remember Y2K?).

Back in the year 2000, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped was the most appropriate agency to put together a wide-ranging look at the past, present, and future of Braille. As Kenneth Jernigan noted in his preface to this book, “It was the NLS and its director, Frank Kurt Cylke, who nurtured Braille and helped keep it alive during the bleak days of its lean years. During those bleak days a surge in the population of blind children (brought on by excessive oxygen administered to premature babies) had overwhelmed this country’s schools for the blind. A much higher proportion of blind children were attending public schools; their teachers tended to be unfamiliar with Braille and often failed to recognize its importance.”

At the time Dr. Jernigan wrote this, he felt somewhat reassured that growing numbers of professionals in the agencies and schools were coming to understand that Braille literacy is a necessity for blind people. Yet ten years later, only a few months ago, a New York Times Magazine article featured a successful blind woman who not only could not read Braille, but even disparaged the dot code as obsolete in the computer age.

Braille into the Next Millennium makes clear that, if anything, the age of the fully wired world makes Braille that much more important to the blind. Part I of the book looks back at the origin of the Braille code, the life of its inventor, and the alternatives to Braille that were used in the United States at one time or another. Part II discusses the current state of the various special codes (math, music, computer notation), and other topics, including Braille production, Braille libraries, and the advent of refreshable displays. Part III looks to the future of Braille: its relationship with technology, and its continuing utility to the blind.

With this book the staff of NLS demonstrated not only its commitment to Braille, but also its recognition of the importance of cooperation with the organized blind. Besides Kenneth Jernigan, among the contributors of chapters are Federationists Ruby Riles, Curtis Chong, Fred Schroeder, Marc Maurer, and Abraham Nemeth.

Anyone interested in Braille ought to become familiar with this book. In print it’s a slim paperback; the Braille edition occupies four volumes; the analog audio version is on three ninety-minute four-track tapes; and the digitized sound version is available for download from NLS (approximately seventeen hours, with one navigation point for each chapter).

Librarian’s note: We hope that readers of the Monitor have read the report of the chair of the Resolutions Committee in the last issue. To commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Federation, she included the text of some of the earliest resolutions adopted by the NFB. We’re pleased that the new editor of the Monitor has expressed interest in reprinting other early documents of the Federation, so, starting with this issue, the tenBroek Library contribution to the Monitor will alternate between historic Federation documents and interesting books from the library collection. 

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