Literary Braille Transcribing

Course Information

About the course
Eligibility requirements
Equipment required
How the course works
Certification test
How to enroll
Instructional manuals
Contact Information

About the course

Under a contract with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (NLS), the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute offers a course in literary braille transcribing to teach students to transcribe print materials into braille. It is not appropriate for learning braille as a personal reading and writing skill. Students receive a Library of Congress certificate in literary braille transcribing upon successful completion of the course. This certificate qualifies the recipient to transcribe general literary materials and is a prerequisite for other transcribing and proofreading courses. New transcribers are encouraged to gain experience with braille formats for textbooks and technical materials by working with local transcribing groups. After six months' experience, a literary braille transcriber may enroll in a course in mathematics braille transcribing, music braille transcribing, or proofreading. A background in math is helpful in transcribing mathematics. In-depth knowledge of print music is a prerequisite for the course in music braille transcribing.

There is no tuition charge. Necessary instructional materials are provided free by the NFB Jernigan Institute. They include the Instruction Manual, a copy of English Braille, American Edition, 2002 Revison, and Drills Reproduced in Braille. These manuals are also available for download.  Students who withdraw from the course are required to return these materials.

Eligibility requirements

  • United States citizenship or residency
  • High school diploma or equivalent

Equipment required

A 40-cell slate, a braillewriter, or a computer with a six-key direct input software program (translation software may NOT be used). See enclosed materials for information about computer programs.  Some sources of slates and braillewriters include:

National Federation of the Blind, Independence Market 
200 East Wells Street
      at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, MD 21230

American Printing House for the Blind
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206

Howe Press
Watertown, MA 02472

Braille paper (11 x 11'  inches). Some sources are:

National Federation of the Blind, Independence Market
200 East Wells Street
      at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, MD 21230

American Printing House for the Blind
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206

Howe Press
Watertown, MA 02472

Star Continuous Cards
32 Bacton Hill Road
Frazer, PA 19355-1026

How the course works

Instructional materials are provided by the NFB Jernigan Institute. Students can take the course through a locally sponsored braille class or through correspondence from the Jernigan Institute. Local classes are conducted by experienced transcribers who hold Library of Congress certification in literary braille. Often local sponsors of braille classes provide writing equipment and paper. For information about local groups that sponsor braille classes, consult the Library of Congress directory Sources of Custom-Produced Books or call NLS at 800-424-8567.

The course includes lessons covering the braille alphabet, braille contractions, and rules for writing braille. Lessons describe the elements of the braille system, give examples, and provide practice drills. At the end of each lesson is an exercise with sentences or short passages testing comprehension and reviewing concepts and rules from earlier lessons. These exercises will be evaluated by local class instructors, or, if studying by correspondence, by the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute.

Exercises may be submitted in either hard-copy braille or electronic format. The trial manuscript must be submitted in hard-copy braille. Thermoform copies are not acceptable. Computer programs using six-key direct entry may be used in preparing the manuscript.

Instructors will prepare written reports pointing out any errors and citing sections of the instruction manual that should be studied again. If, in the judgment of the instructor, there are too many errors, students will be asked to resubmit the exercise.  Students are given three chances to submit an acceptable exercise.

Certification test

The final exercise of the course is a transcription of thirty-five braille pages of material, chosen by the students, usually a portion of a book.  Students who prepare manuscripts using a computer must separate and collate the pages.  Whether studying with a local class or taking the course by correspondence, students will submit the final manuscript along with the print text to the NFB Jernigan Institute for scoring the manuscript.  Candidates scoring 80 points or above will receive the Library of Congress certificate in literary braille transcribing.  Students have three opportunities to submit an acceptable trial manuscript.

Students are encouraged to submit exercises on a regular basis (at least monthly) and to submit only one lesson at a time. Students' names will be removed from the program's active file if they are not heard from for twelve months. The course takes approximately twelve to eighteen months to complete, including the trial manuscript.

How to enroll

Applicants can enroll in the course in two ways.

  •  Mail a complete print application (Word doc) to:
            The National Federation of the Blind
            Braille Certification Training Program
            200 East Wells Street
                  at Jernigan Place
            Baltimore, MD 21230

Whether intending to take the course with a local teacher or through correspondence, prospective students must submit this application form before the course begins.

Instructional Manuals

Necessary instructional materials include the Instruction Manual, a copy of English Braille, American Edition, 2002, and Drills Reproduced in Braille. These manuals are also available for download below, and hard copy formats are available to students upon request. Students who withdraw from the course are required to return the hard copy materials.

During the transition from the 5th edition to the 6th edition of the instruction manual, both editions will remain available on this Web page. Students just beginning the course should use the 6th edition.

6th Edition - Instructional Manual for Braille Transcribing

6th Edition Complete Manual (PDF) - Divided into Chapters (Zip File)
6th Edition Complete Manual (Microsoft Word) - Divided into Chapters (Zip File)
6th Edition Braille-ready manual
, transcribed by American Printing House for the Blind (zip file)

Drills Reproduced in Braille - 6th Edition

6th Edition Drills (PDF version)
6th Edition Drills (Braille-ready version)

5th Edition - Instructional Manual for Braille Transcribing

These files contain the entire text of the 5th edition of the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing.  The PDF version includes navigation and cross-reference links for the convenience of the reader. Our thanks are extended to Dennis Helwig of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for creating this enriched version of the file.

5th Edition Complete Manual (PDF)
5th Edition Braille-ready manual, transcribed by American Printing House for the Blind (zip file) 
Errata to 5th Edition Instruction Manual (PDF)

Drills Reproduced in Braille - 5th Edition

5th Edition Drills (PDF version)
5th Edition Drills (Braille-ready version)
Errata to 5th Edition Drills (PDF)

English Braille, American Edition, 2002 Revision and Updates

EBAE (PDF version, zip file)
EBAE (Braille-ready version) 
BANA Braille Codes Update 2007

For more information

Contact Jennifer Dunnam, Manager of Braille Programs
National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute
Phone: (612) 767-5658
E-mail: transcribers@nfb.org

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