Future Reflections Summer 1992, Vol. 11 No. 3

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BRAILLE COMPETENCY TEST NEARS COMPLETION

Reprinted from the April-June, 1992, issue of the NEWS, a publication of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

     The first of the National Literary Braille Competency Test's examinations has been submitted to the editorial committee for comment and review, according to Claudell Stocker, head of the NLS Braille Development Section (BDS).

The National Literary Braille Test is designed to evaluate Braille reading and writing skills. It will test the educator's performance in slate and Braille writer skills, Braille reading skills, and knowledge of Braille code rules not included in the writing and reading sections.

     "We are developing the test at the request of many professionals in the field of blindness and from organizations of and for the blind who wanted a test that would evaluate Braille skills of teachers of blind children and adults," explains Stocker. "The Library of Congress was asked to develop and administer the test because of the integrity we have demonstrated in the transcription certification program and because they felt we had the most expertise in the area of Braille." She also noted that the petitioners were impressed with the Library's "apolitical" status: it is impartial to "teachers, universities, or other organizations."

     The test will take four to six hours to complete and will be given locally with the applicant responsible for selecting a site, identifying a monitor, and arranging a testing date. The monitor, however, will receive instructions on administering the test from BDS. A score of 85 will be required to pass. A candidate has three chances to pass at six-month intervals. A person failing the third time will not be eligible for retesting for one year, during which time he or she will be advised to receive more Braille instruction through a Library of Congress program or a university.

     NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke says that the effort is part of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped's long commitment to Braille literacy. "From the beginning," he says, "we have been concerned about literacy needs, and this is another step in our efforts to make Braille more usable and available throughout the country."

     "Braille is a vital literacy tool," says Judy Dixon, NLS consumer relations officer, explaining that it is the major reading and writing system for blind people. However, there is concern that "teachers receive only a minimal amount of Braille instruction during their training." She further says that by ensuring that teachers of blind people know the Braille code, school systems will be more comfortable recognizing the need for such instruction.

     In addition, the focus on literacy across the nation has shifted some attention to Braille literacy and some states are beginning to pass legislation requiring that Braille be taught to blind and partially sighted children. According to James Gashel, director of governmental affairs, National Federation of the Blind, "Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Minnesota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas are some of the states that we know have adopted Braille literacy legislation, and there may be more." The importance of this legislation is that it "changes the presumption" that partially sighted children will read print and maybe Braille. "This legislation," states Gashel, "says that a blind child with some vision will read Braille, and may read print."

     Tom Martin, assistant chief of the Network Division, says that such activity is "likely to increase the extent to which network library Braille collections are used, perhaps initially for the younger readers of Braille, but over time, certainly for Braille on all reading levels."

     Other endeavors in promoting Braille literacy by NLS include:
* The development of two new certificates in math and music proofreading;

* Modifications of the math Braille course to accommodate blind people;

* Development of new brochures to encourage volunteers in Braille literacy efforts;

* Development of a unified Braille code in cooperation with the Braille Authority of North America and the International Council on English Braille; and

* Continuing education of more than 200 Braille training groups through conducting workshops for transcribers, distributing information, and recruitment assistance.

     Test One of the National Literary Braille Competency Test is due back from the twelve-member committee by May 1, 1992. After BDS revisions, the test will face a fifty-member peer professional review. It is scheduled for release early in 1993.

     Teacher competency tests in music, math, and computer Braille are also under consideration for development in the near future.

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