American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections Convention Issue 2015 ANNUAL MEETINGS
by David Pillischer
From the Editor: Because blindness is a low-incidence disability, blind children tend to be widely scattered. It can be challenging for a student in a rural area to get the Braille instruction he or she needs. At the annual NOPBC meeting, David Pillischer described a revolutionary new device that promises to bring quality Braille instruction within the reach of many more blind students, no matter where they live.
I want to read to you a summary from a group in Canada called Abisee. They supplied to me their internal report about a product we have called BERT, which stands for Braille Education Remote Tool. BERT is a completely interactive, cloud-based application that allows a blind or sighted teacher who teaches Braille the ability to communicate with a student of any age anywhere in the world. We developed this product to alleviate the shortage of teachers of the visually impaired who are qualified in Braille instruction. It gives students who need Braille the ability to access a qualified Braille instructor. I've heard every rumor, from that we are trying to put teachers out of business and others that are just as unbelievable. You can't teach Braille without a Braille teacher.
Here's the summary of the report from Canada. "The Cosmo eBrailler with BERT software will provide support to Braille students who live in remote areas throughout the Atlantic provinces. The Cosmo will make it possible for the Braille teacher to provide the student with daily instruction in Braille as well as immediate feedback through a distance education setup."
Our application and hardware works with both blind and deaf-blind students. Students can communicate with their teacher through Braille and voice, and if they are deaf-blind they can communicate entirely with Braille. Our Braille hardware puts Braille on paper. It's nearly silent. It is five decibels less than a laser printer on startup and three decibels less than a laser printer while embossing. A student who is mainstreamed with sighted students in a school near his home can emboss Braille on paper without disrupting the classroom. A student doing mathematics, a student learning sentence structure, a student doing science needs to be able to follow the flow on paper, especially with math.
Using BERT, a teacher in Oregon can tutor a student in New York State. A student in a mainstream classroom can produce Braille on paper as quietly as a student using a pencil can produce print. A classroom handout can be produced in real time from a Word document or PDF, and the blind student can have it in contracted or uncontracted Braille at the same time as the sighted students. As the teacher is handing out the assignment, she can be embossing it.
I take the approach that it's good for a parent to try to teach a student Braille, but there is no substitute for a qualified teacher. A teacher has been trained. She or he has the patience to deal with children, which is something that I don't have! [Laughter] Working with children is what they do. People like me, we make machines and software; that's what we do. It's that simple. We made something to give your children Braille education, no matter where they live, no matter how far away the school is.
You can learn more about BERT and the Cosmo Brailler at <www.ebrailler.com>.