Representatives from the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired visited Fairfield on April 24 to meet with volunteers from the American Red Cross Jane Bente Braille Center to discuss the importance of Braille transcription.
Commission Executive Director Daniel B. Frye began losing his vision as a child.
Growing up on his grandparents’ tobacco farm in South Carolina, Frye attended the local school for the blind where he was first introduced to Braille. At age 12, Frye read his first book. He pulled his teacher aside and said, “Thank you for giving me access to the library of the world.”
Frye recalls sitting on the steps of his grandparents’ home and exploring the world through Braille transcribed books.
“I went to Italy via Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, and then A Fairwell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea,” said Frye. “And then I got tired of the short, choppy sentences, but that’s how I traveled.”
Last year Frye traveled to Italy and credits the literacy he gained through Braille with providing him with confidence and tools necessary to travel.
“You may not have transcribed that book, but someone like you did,” Frye told volunteers. “Someone like you gave me access to a world that was largely unavailable to me without Braille. You open doors, you create opportunities.”
While Braille transcription has made literature available to the blind and visually impaired, a high demand exists for math and science books.
Suzanne Landolfi of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, who learned Braille from an instructor at the Red Cross in Tucson, demonstrated how a software program called Scientific Notebook could be utilized to transcribe math equations.
The software allows transcribers who haven’t been trained in the Braille code for math, called Nemeth Code, to transcribe math equations.
The Red Cross North Jersey Region’s Jane Bente Braille Center is the largest remaining volunteer Braille production center in the world. The Center, in partnership with The New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, provides New Jersey Braille readers (K-12) with all their Braille textbooks. These transcribed books encompass every subject required in the classroom, including math, science, foreign languages and others.
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