Future Reflections Summer 1990, Vol. 9 No. 2

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Editor's Note: This information appeared in the October-December News, a quarterly publication of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. It was later reprinted in the February, 1990 Braille Monitor.

"The people who teach our children to read Braille should know Braille themselves." This attitude, expressed in various ways by parents, organizations of blind people, and other groups in the field of blindness, is the guiding force that led to a meeting held at NLS on October 13 to discuss the feasibility of Braille certification for teachers.

The meeting was a direct result of a priority identified by the Ad Hoc Committee on Joint Organizational Effort, which brought together in March, 1989, seven major North American groups concerned with blindness. The resolution called for "proven proficiency in knowing and teaching all Braille codes," and certification by the Library of Congress.

"That resolution, along with many requests we have received from individuals and organizations, gives us a mandate to study the matter," says Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director.

Topics being explored, according to Claudell Stocker, head of the NLS Braille Development Section, include:

-What constitutes a basic level of proficiency,

-Methods for establishing that that level has been attained, including the possibility of a special certification,

- Whether the availability of such certification would have the desired impact on educational standards, and

- Whether NLS is the proper entity for development of such certifiction.

Participants in the October 13 meeting included experts in education, rehabilitation, and blindness. Two other meetings are scheduled for spring, 1990. No action will be decided on until recommendations from all three meetings have been evaluated.

"Handling this issue is not simple," Mrs. Stocker says, and explains that there are different proctices and requirements for special education teachers throughout the country and variations even in schools for the blind. There are no national standards, and very few state standards.

She continues, "And the problem is not limited to teaching children. There is a great shortage of qualified Braille teachers in the rehabilitation area. "If this study indicates that certification is the way to go," she says, "the certification will deal with Braille proficiency only -- knowledge of the material being taught. Teaching methods are not in our province, and shouldn't be.

The only national certifications in Braille proficiency are now provided by NLS, as are materials for courses leading to certification. Currently individuals can be certified as Braille transcribers in the literary, music, and mathematics codes and as Braille proofreaders.

Most certified Braille transcribers are volunteers who work alone or through organized groups to produce materials on request for individuals, school systems, and network libraries. In a few places, people who teach Braille have been required to be certified in literary Braille transcription, and some teachers have taken the course on their own to improve their skills.

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