Future Reflections         Summer 2009

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Enriching Your Child's Life with Foreign Language Braille  Practical Suggestions for Families and Educators, with a Special Focus on Spanish

by Dr. Eric Vasiliauskas

From the Editor: Dr. Eric Vasiliauskas and his wife Rasa are the parents of two blind sons, Vejas and Petras. Through their efforts to help their children connect with their Lithuanian heritage they have become deeply interested in foreign-language Braille. This article is my abridgement of a more extensive treatment of this topic that can be found online at <http://knol.google.com/k/eric-vasiliauskas-md-drv/enriching-your-blind-childs-life-via/2fo8us37li3cv/1>. Dr. Vasiliauskas will continue to update the online article, so check it for the most current information.

Petras Vasiliauskas reads Braille in his Lithuanian class as the teacher looks on.Families that immigrate to the United States or other countries struggle to integrate into the fabric of their new society while maintaining cultural ties with their countries of origin. Many second-generation Americans also feel a strong ethnic bond which they want to pass on to their children. The preservation of language of origin through successive generations is a many-faceted challenge.

According to data from the 2000 US Census Bureau, a language other than English is spoken in approximately fourteen million US households <http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/censusandstatistics/a/lingiso.htm>. In fact, based again on recent US Census data, nationally, nearly one in five children enters school speaking a language other than English. In some regions of the country, such as California, more than one language is spoken in 40 to 50 percent of all households. In light of these staggering statistics, it is amazing that virtually no information is available on how blindness issues factor into the equation of raising a child in a multilingual home. Little information exists to help parents of blind children find resources that will make their cultural heritage tangible in nonvisual ways. Parents may first turn to their child's teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) for advice on accessing foreign-language Braille. Unfortunately the topic of foreign-language Braille receives little emphasis in most TVI training programs. Some TVIs and transcribers provide Braille class materials in Spanish, French, or other foreign languages for students in English-speaking school settings. However, they have limited experience advising parents who want to expose their blind children to the language of their ethnic roots.

My wife and I are both second-generation Lithuanian Americans. Both of us grew up in bilingual households and were active in our Lithuanian-American communities. We wished to share this rich culture with our children as well. In order for our blind children to have access to the written word in Lithuanian, we had to provide them with Lithuanian Braille. In our search for resources we literally started from scratch. Our children now have access to their Lithuanian Saturday-school curriculum to the same degree as their sighted peers.

In 2004 I was invited to give a presentation at a symposium on Braille co-sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind of California and the Braille Institute of America in Los Angeles. Part of the symposium's focus was on Braille literacy in early childhood. Since our children use Lithuanian Braille I was asked to comment on foreign-language Braille from a parent's perspective. To make the presentation more meaningful, I decided to elaborate on how families might expose their children to foreign-language Braille in the early years. Spanish is by far the most widely-spoken foreign language in California, so I chose to use Spanish as my primary example. To prepare for my presentation I conducted an extensive search for resources -- making phone calls, surfing the Web, and sending emails to parents and professionals in a variety of organizations. In the end I was able to offer many practical suggestions, and to steer parents and teachers toward a variety of resources. The interest generated by this presentation inspired me to expand and consolidate the information I managed to gather. This article may serve as a starting point. I encourage you to explore beyond the resources I present here, and to have fun in the process!

For the most part, learning foreign-language Braille is not especially hard. The code common to most languages based on the Roman alphabet uses the same letters as English Braille. Thus the letter "a" in Spanish or German Braille is the same as an English Braille "a," and a Spanish or German Braille "t" is the same as an English Braille "t." It is not necessary for beginners interested in foreign-language Braille to learn contractions, as many foreign languages use only uncontracted Braille.

A contraction is a Braille symbol for a grouping of letters frequently used in a given language. Thus contractions vary from one language to another. Furthermore, there may be variations from one country to another where the same language is spoken. For example, the contractions used in France differ from those found in French Canada. Spanish-speaking countries that employ contracted Braille also differ in their use of contractions.

It is important for families and educators to acknowledge and take into consideration a variety of foreign-language factors. Language issues may vary depending on whether the given language is the user's native language or is being studied as a second language in school. Foreign-language books Brailled for English-speaking students are generally somewhat different from the books a native speaker of the language reads. Spanish Braille and Spanish terminologies vary among the Spanish-speaking countries. It is my personal feeling that, though there may be differences, the benefits of exposure to any Spanish Braille will often outweigh the other issues. Experience with differences in contractions will likely lead to language discussions that would happen anyway, given time. You will have to determine how much of a concern this is in your particular situation.

Dressed in traditional costume, Vejas Vasiliauskas reads from a Braille notetaker during Lithuanian Mass.An Internet search can help you find the Braille system for the language in which you are interested. Wikipedia, the worldwide Web-based free multilingual encyclopedia, has an increasing number of foreign-language Braille alphabets. At <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braille> you can select from a long list of languages. Click on any language in the list to see a Webpage in that language that discusses and depicts the basic Braille code specific to that language. Thus, in many cases, parents now have the chance to read information about Braille in their native language.

A few specific Websites that discuss Spanish Braille basics include: <www.fbu.edu.uy/informacion/alfabeto/alfabeto2.htm>, <www.fbu.edu.uy/informacion/alfabeto/alfabeto3.htm>, <www.fbu.edu.uy/informacion/alfabeto/alfabeto6.htm>,
<www.puc.cl/toquemagico/html/braille.pdf>, and

In addition, Spain's blindness organization, ONCE, offers a Web-based, self-paced course in Spanish for sighted Spanish-speakers who want to learn Braille. The course is called "Curso Básico de Autoaprendizaje del Braille." To begin the program go to <www.once.es/otros/cursobraille>, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the "COMENZAR CURSO" link.

You may also want to connect with regional or country-specific contacts via Websites for the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) <www.icevi.org> or the World Blind Union (WBU) <www.worldblindunion.org>.

Tiresias <www.tiresias.org/archive/agencies>, the Website of the Digital Accessibility Team of the United Kingdom's Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) maintains a list of agencies serving blind and partially sighted people. The list is sorted by country. Mobility International USA maintains an international resource database (MIUSA) <www.miusa.org/orgsearch>. To locate resources for the blind in a specific country on this search Webpage, select the desired country and click on "blind" under the "disability tab." Another option is to contact the Braille library in the desired country, or to have a local friend or relative there make an inquiry on your behalf.

Some schools and VI programs offer workshops to teach parents Braille. Classes are sometimes conducted in Spanish. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend participating in an NFB Braille Is Beautiful: Beginning Braille for Parents Workshop. I attended one of these workshops in October of 2003 <www.nfbcal.org/nfbc/journalss2003/brailleisbeautiful.html>. Amazing as it may seem, I watched a room full of parents learn the basics of Braille in under four hours. By the end of the workshop each parent was able to Braille a secret message to his or her child using a slate and stylus. Participating in that workshop was one of the more moving and empowering experiences of my life.

Additional Resources

Bilingual Toys

Toys can be invaluable tools for teaching foreign-language Braille to children. My wife Rasa, an occupational therapist, has been a genius at modifying toys to make them accessible. To give your toddler or preschooler a playful head start on the Braille alphabet, QWERTY keyboard layout, and time/clock concepts, you can buy popular electronic toys and add your own Braille letter labels to them. Such toys are available not only in English, but in a variety of foreign language versions as well.

As of this writing the following alphabet, number, clock, and/or QWERTY keyboard layout toys are available at <www.spanishtoy.com>: Spanish Baby Smartronic Speak & Teach Phone; VTech Alfabeto Manzanitas (Spanish Alphabet Toy); and Aprendo el Alfabeto (Spanish Alphabet Learning Toy). More bilingual Spanish toys are available at <www.sb-kids.com> including Telly the Bilingual Teaching Time Clock. Don't stop with these Websites. Explore toy stores, perform an Internet search for bilingual toys, or go to eBay and search the term "Braille" for ready-to-purchase modified toy options.

It is incredibly easy to make toys accessible simply by adding Braille labels to the flat buttons. Make sure to put the Braille label on the button itself, not above, below or next to it. Many kids are not interested in what is above or below the button--they want the direct auditory feedback. Use transparent Braille labels so that sighted siblings, friends, and classmates can fully enjoy the toys as well.

A variety of Spanish-language electronic toys are available from <www.toyslandia.com>. They can easily be made accessible by placing the appropriate Braille-label letter on each button.

Books and Teaching Tools

National Braille Press (NBP)

The National Braille Press <www.nbp.org> offers a Braille literacy program for children from birth through age seven called the "ReadBooks! Program" <www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/readbooks>. It is designed to encourage families with blind children to read print/Braille books together. Books are available in English or Spanish. Teachers and parents can order a Braille Book Bag with English- or Spanish-language materials for their student or child by filling out the contact form on the NBP Website <http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/readbooks/request.html> or by calling (888) 965-8965, extension 34. Each bag contains an age-appropriate print/Braille book, a Braille primer for sighted parents, a colorful print/Braille placemat, print/Braille bookmarks, a gift coupon redeemable for another print/Braille book, Braille/large-print playing cards, and print/Braille magnetic letters. The bag also comes with a booklet for parents entitled "Because Books Matter" by NOPBC president Carol Castellano. It shares basics about the Braille code, explains why Braille reading is important, and suggests ways parents can read with young blind children. A Spanish version of this guide, "Porque Los Libros Si Que Importan" comes with the Spanish bag and is also available separately for free. A Spanish Braille alphabet card is included in the Spanish bags.

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

The American Foundation for the Blind <www.afb.org> offers a free packet for parents to promote early Braille literacy called "Connecting the Dots." This packet is also available in Spanish and is called "Conectando los Puntos." The packet includes an English or Spanish Braille alphabet card and handouts that provide an overview of English or Spanish Braille codes, including basic punctuation. The packet also lists introductory Braille resources and includes sources of Braille children's books, as well as suggestions for making Braille books with young children. To order the free packet, phone (404) 525-2303 or email the request to <[email protected]>.

Seedlings Braille Books for Children

Seedlings <www.seedlings.org> is a nonprofit organization that offers a broad selection of Braille and print/Braille books for children. They currently offer eight bilingual (English and Spanish) preschool books. They are available at a cost similar to the list price at a typical bookstore.


Bookshare.org <www.bookshare.org> offers over 5,300 e-books for children. The number of books for young children and teens increases weekly. A recent search under the "Spanish language" option revealed over 1,100 Spanish titles. To search for Spanish children's books, go to the Advanced Search page, select the language Spanish, then check off Children. There are at least sixty titles. Bookshare will give all K-12, postsecondary, and graduate students in the United States with qualifying print disabilities access to this library without charge.

National Library Services (NLS)

The National Library Service (NLS) Website <www.loc.gov/nls> lists over eight hundred Braille books in Spanish and over 2,100 Spanish recorded books. The NLS now also supports a children's catalog search portal called NLS Kids Zone <www.loc.gov/nls/children/index.html>. To search the children's Website for Spanish children's books, click on the "Kids Catalog" link and type "Spanish language" in the Keyword search box. As of December 2008 I found over one hundred Spanish children's audio titles and thirty-three Braille book titles. While none of these are yet downloadable files, they are readily available by requesting them through one's regional Braille library to be delivered to your child's or student's home. The Foreign Language Librarian of the NLS has developed a Foreign Language Materials Webpage with links to foreign language resources <www.loc.gov/nls/foreignlanguage/index.html>.

Regional Braille Libraries

Contact your local or regional Braille library for a list of available Spanish children's materials. At last count, the Braille Institute, the library that serves the Los Angeles area, has access to six hundred twenty-seven Spanish-language Braille titles for children and youth via the Braille Institute Library Services and through other National Library Service (NLS) network libraries and cooperating agencies via interlibrary loan.

State Libraries

Your state library may have some age-appropriate books in Spanish. The California State Library has a growing searchable Braille and Talking Book Catalog <www.btbl.library.ca.gov/klasWeb>, which contains Spanish Talking Book recordings including several children's favorites. To identify selections for children and youth, go to the basic search page above; type "juvenile" in the search field and select Spanish from the Language Menu. A recent search using those parameters and the default All Media option yielded over sixty Spanish youth titles.

National Library Service in Puerto Rico

The Biblioteca Regional para Ciegos y Físicamente Impedidos de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped) is part of the NLS system and therefore it will lend books via interlibrary loan to anyone who is an NLS patron. To pursue this lead, surf over to their Website <www.bibliotecaregionalparaciegos.com> or send an inquiry to <[email protected]>.

State Schools for the Blind

Contact the library at the school for the blind in your state to see if it has foreign-language materials that your child or student can borrow. The California School for the Blind <www.csb-cde.ca.gov> library now has an online catalog <www.lib.csb-cde.ca.gov/opac/csftb/>. A keyword search of the term "Spanish" revealed many Braille and audio-books that sound like they would be interesting for a Spanish-speaking youngster.


An organization with vast resources is ONCE, the Spanish National Organization for the Blind (Organización Nacional de Ciegos de España; <www.once.es>. ONCE's mission is to improve the quality of life for the blind and visually impaired throughout Spain. While to join ONCE one must be a Spanish national, ONCE provides resources that can benefit many Spanish-speaking individuals, such as the information available through the Center for Research, Development and Application (Centro de Investigación, Desarrollo y Aplicación Tiflotécnica  or CIDAT); <http://cidat.once.es>. The Website has a broad range of useful blindness- and low-vision-related information, including household, sports, and technology products and information.

The Website of El Servicio Bibliográfico de la ONCE (SBO) <http://sbo.once.es> has a link that provides an opportunity to enter the Digital Library ONCE, a password-protected Website that houses electronic materials in Braille and Daisy format. Like our own NLS, the Bibliographic Services of ONCE offer several children's magazines that are available in embossed Braille and/or electronic format, including Trasto, which is reportedly known as "la revista más divertida de la ONCE," which roughly translates to "ONCE's funniest magazine." Go to <http://sbo.es/hoome.cfm?id=98&nivel=1>, then move down the list to Ocio y Cultura for the list of magazines, one of which is Trasto. Published monthly in Braille format and also downloadable in electronic format, Trasto is written for children from ages eight to twelve and contains stories, poems, and other entertaining content.

ONCE transcribes textbooks and other educational materials and provides these for free to students in Spain. I have been told that ONCE also sells any of the books that appear in its catalogues <http://sbo.once.es/home.cfm?id=2&nivel=1> to anyone interested in purchasing them, and that their Spanish Braille children's and youth books are reasonably priced. The department to contact is: Atención al Usuario either in Madrid or Barcelona. Their email is: <[email protected]> for Madrid and <[email protected]> for Barcelona, or you can also call: 902 11 22 92 to order desired books. Remember that from the US you need first to dial the international access code 011, then the Spanish country code 34, then the number.

The International Federation of Library Associations

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) <http://ifla.jsrpd.jp> provides information about libraries and institutions for the blind throughout the world. Their Advanced Search Form allows you to search for Braille and audio offerings. The IFLA Website suggests that the electronic text and sound recording listings in the directory can be borrowed via an exchange mechanism by submitting requests via the local libraries or institutions that are registered in the directory.

The Argentine Library for the Blind

The Argentine Library for the Blind (Biblioteca Argentina Para Ciegos) <www.bac.org.ar> has Braille books for children and youth. Braille books are not available for electronic download at this time. For more information, contact the librarian at <[email protected]>.


Tiflolibros <www.tiflolibros.com.ar> is a non-profit organization based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that maintains an expanding digital library for blind and visually impaired Spanish speakers. Tiflolibros offers an online catalog with more than sixty thousand digital audiobooks that registered members can download using their personal password. The audiobooks may be read on computers and other electronic reading devices. While Spanish is the official language of Tiflolibros, the library also offers books in foreign (non-Spanish) languages. Tiflolibros has more than three thousand subscribers in over forty countries, including the US. This digital library is open to any visually impaired person living anywhere in the world, as well as to institutions that make books available to the blind and visually impaired. While membership is free, a donation is encouraged to support the library's operation. To initiate the registration process, send an email to: <[email protected]>.

Project Gutenberg

Those with older children or teenagers may consider searching Project Gutenberg's foreign language e-text and audio options. These e-texts can be downloaded for free from the Website <www.gutenberg.org>.


You may also want to check out the Librivox Website <www.librivox.org> where audiobooks of texts in the public domain can be downloaded for free. In addition to English, books are available in a variety of languages including Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. Librivox has a mechanism to help locate volunteers to record special requests in the desired language.

American Printing House for the Blind (APH)

 APH's Louis Database is a searchable database of accessible materials. It contains location information for over 170,000 titles in Braille, large print, sound recording, and downloadable electronic files from over one hundred seventy agencies throughout the United States and Canada. To search Louis for foreign-language reading materials select the Search for Textbooks, Recreational Reading, and Downloadable Files link, then once on the Book and File Repository Search Page, enter the words "Spanish language" or "Japanese language," etc., in the Search for field. Then click on the Search tab and scroll through the options. If a book does not exist already, one can use APH's Accessible Media Producers Database <www.aph.org/ampdb.htm> to search for people or companies that can produce accessible books in a variety of languages.

Mobility International USA

MIUSA <www.miusa.org> is a nonprofit organization founded with the goal of "Empowering people with disabilities around the world to achieve their human rights through international exchange and international development." The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE) <www.miusa.org/ncde>, which is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State and administered by MIUSA, encourages individuals who are blind or visually impaired to learn a foreign language and facilitates international travel opportunities. MIUSA/NCDE has published a great foreign-language resource guide entitled: "Accessing Foreign Language Materials as a Blind or Low Vision Student: An Informational Guide on Arranging for Assistive Technology, Accessible Formats and Services in the Foreign Language Course" with specific emphasis on Arabic, Chinese, Hindi/Urdu, Japanese, Korean, Persian/Farsi, Russian, and Turkish. The book, by Michele Scheib, can be downloaded in several formats for free or accessed at <www.miusa.org/ncde/tipsheets/foreignlanguageandblind/languageguide>. In addition, the MIUSA/NCDE Website has a variety of useful links for teachers and older students to explore <www.miusa.org/ncde/spotlight/foreignlanguage>.

Foreign Language Braille in the Digital Age:
Welcome to the Twenty-first Century!

Fun Print-to-Braille Translation Websites

Kids may enjoy the Fundacion Braille del Uruguay's fun Spanish print to Spanish Braille translation Website called "Alfabeto Braille en Linea" <www.fbu.edu.uy/alfabeto/alfabeto-online.htm>. There is also an English-language Arthur series character-based English print to English Braille translation Website: <http://pbskids.org/arthur/print/braille> and an AFB Braille Bug secret message site: <www.afb.org/braillebug/emailmessage.asp>.

Foreign Language on a Braille Notetaker or Computer

The foreign language speech synthesizing programs that run on the BrailleNote and the PAC Mate, as well as the computer screen-reading programs JAWS, Connect Outloud, Dolphin Pen, Hal, and Window-Eyes have multi-language capabilities. In some cases the multilingual features come with the base software, in other cases language packages need to be purchased separately, so it is best to make sure prior to purchasing.

Please note that electronic Braille notetakers will display appropriately-generated foreign-language Braille so that the text can be tactilely read from the unit's refreshable Braille display. However, they may not read aloud the foreign-language text coherently or with proper pronunciation unless a software program designed for the desired language is installed. Since there is as yet no Lithuanian language package for the BrailleNote, when reading Lithuanian documents my kids just turn off the speech to avoid what otherwise sounds like complete gibberish. The BrailleNote will display Spanish letters in standard Word documents appropriately on its refreshable Braille display.

Interactive Electronic Text Games

Text games can be a fun way to encourage and motivate youngsters to work on their Braille reading and writing skill proficiency. A variety of electronic interactive text adventure games can be played on electronic Braille notetakers. Players read directions and the game text on the refreshable Braille display and type their actions/responses on the notetaker's keyboard. There is an additional motivational factor of time in some games. Many such accessible text games can be downloaded from Websites such as the "Interactive Fiction Archive" <http://ifarchive.org>, "Baf's Guide to the IF Archive" <http://wurb.com/if/game>, and others. While many of these games are older, some dating back to the 70's and 80's, they can be entertaining and quite challenging; children, tweens, teens, and even adults enjoy them, just as their sighted peers enjoy video games. Exploration of the Websites reveals quite a few Spanish-language gaming options and, though one may need to search, there are listings for text games in other languages as well. The format that I know works on the BrailleNote is termed "Z-code" and these files end with the extension ".z5".

Caution: Here is some good old-fashioned fatherly advice: such Web archives contain good and bad games, and not all work well due to coding flaws/bugs. Adult-oriented material can be scattered through the archives, and foul language is sometimes included in some of the more innocent-sounding games. It is advisable to read the game reviews. If possible try games that have been screened by individuals you trust.

Handy Foreign Language Computer Keyboard & Toolbar

To facilitate access to your desired language, use the foreign-language keyboard and toolbar capabilities that are built into Windows XP and Vista. Add an easily accessible language bar to the taskbar to your computer's desktop. To do this in Windows XP, go to the Start menu and scroll down to Settings to open up the control panel; then open up the Regional and Language Options icon. Click on the Languages tab, then to view language options click on the Details button. You should now be looking at the Settings tab, and the Default input language displayed should read "English (United States) - US." At the bottom under preferences, click on the Language Bar button. Check the boxes "Show the language bar on the desktop" and "show additional Language bar icons in the taskbar," then click OK. Now click on the Add button. Scroll down until you find the desired second or third language. Note that for some languages--such as Spanish, German, and French--you need to specify which country or region you want. Select and click on the OK button. Click on Apply and then OK to exit the various boxes. You will likely need to reboot to make sure all the settings are fully applied.

There are two quick and easy ways to switch between the language keyboards you have now installed. Sighted parents and teachers can look on the right side of the desktop taskbar. You will see "EN" (this stands for English). When you click on this the language option(s) you chose to install will appear in the drop-down menu. Click on the one you want and your keyboard is reset to type in that language. Blind users can easily cycle through the installed language keyboard layouts by holding down the left Alt key and pressing the Shift key. (I actually find this keyboard command option faster than the point and click method.)

For Lithuanian, all standard letters are the same as those labeled on the letter portion of the keyboard. The special letter characters are typed by hitting the appropriate number on the top row (to type numbers, you have to switch back to English mode). To make it easier for me, I have attached a transparent Braille label with the special Lithuanian letter to each applicable number key. While all this sounds somewhat complicated, it is actually quite simple and convenient once you start working with it. By taking similar steps through the control panel in Windows Vista, one can similarly set up foreign-language keyboarding features.

The National Braille Press author, Anna Dresner, recently published a great foreign-language computer resource entitled It's Not On the Keyboard: Typing Special Characters and Foreign Languages in Word, which covers many of the "how to" aspects of nonvisual access to computer-related foreign-language issues. It includes information on how to type in a language that uses many symbols that aren't on the standard keyboard or are in a completely different alphabet, how to install or change the keyboard layout to meet individualized foreign-language needs, how to get screen readers to speak the language being typed, how to read a foreign language on a Braille display, and how to spell-check and grammar-check in foreign languages.

Foreign Language Braille Translation Programs

The most versatile Braille conversion program is the Duxbury Braille Translator, which supports over one hundred twenty languages <www.duxburysystems.com/nations.asp>. For basic translation Duxbury is very user-friendly and fairly intuitive. I suspect most parents can be "up and running" with Duxbury with minimal instruction. MegaDots, Braille 2000, and WinBraille support a smaller number of non-English languages.

The text from many foreign-language Websites can be copied and pasted or imported into a translation program for quick and easy conversion into Braille. However, it is not always so straightforward. Sometimes what looks like a unique foreign-language print letter on a Webpage is actually a symbol font character that to the sighted reader looks like the foreign language letter. These symbols are readily obvious once imported into Duxbury, but depending on the number of such "symbol insertions," the process of editing the symbols ranges from simple to painstaking.

Sometimes when text is simply copied from an Internet page and pasted into a Word document, the information is not accessible on a BrailleNote. There are several ways to get around this problem. A simple step is to select all the text in the document (Ctrl+A) and select Clear Formatting from the Formatting Toolbar. I have found that by far the most effective way to strip away interfering formatting is to paste the text first into a Duxbury print document. It works almost every time! Then the text can either be converted to a ".brf" file or copied and pasted back into a Word document.

Scanning of Foreign-Language Text

Scanning of foreign-language text to e-text is now possible through a variety of optical character recognition (OCR) software programs. Scanned text can then be converted to Braille via one of the Braille translation programs. Kurzweil 1000 and OmniPage Professional both recognize over one hundred languages, and OmniPage Professional even includes basic spell-checking functions for some languages. OpenBook is released in ten languages. While the English version of OpenBook ships with speech synthesis in English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, and Finnish, additional languages are available. OpenBook's OCR recognizes thirty-three languages, and other languages can be recognized by performing custom installations.

As you can see, a great variety of resources for foreign-language Braille are available, and we are discovering more all the time. Blind children today can enjoy the richness of growing up with two languages, and can become fully literate in both.

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