Braille Photo Contest Recap: Spotlight on Hadley Institute

One of NBP’s goals in 2017 was to create more engagement with braille readers around the world. One way we’ve been doing this is through braille-themed contests. Back in March, we held our first ever photo contest: “Braille Around the World”. We wanted to see where our readers like to enjoy their braille books. During the process, we got a call from Susan Fisher at Hadley School for the Blind, who described how some of her adult braille students were very excited about the contest.

“I was excited to learn about the braille photo contest as it offered my students the opportunity to share their exciting and unique stories. Braille means independence and literacy. The braille photo contest allowed the students to promote braille from their own perspective. I’m so pleased that two of my students entered the contest and did such a fine job.

As a braille instructor at the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired, I run a one-hour phone ‘chat’ group that meets once each week. During our discussions, students offer tips and tricks, as well as share their joy and frustration, while learning to read and write braille. I shared the information about the braille photo contest with the group so that they could tell others of their braille accomplishments in a fun and creative way.

Sue Brasel

Sue Brasel’s submission

Sue Brasel entered the contest for ‘the fun of it.’ Sue likes to challenge herself and wanted to see if she could write a poem showing off the town where she lives. Sue points out that the photo of her reading braille next to the creek in her town shows her using her sense of touch while reading braille as well as her senses of smell and hearing.

Elizabeth Motter Salinas

Clarice Cocco’s submission

Clarice Cocco was motivated to enter the contest to show others how she marks her crochet hooks. Clarice knows that braille has given her the ability to organize and be independent. With braille, Clarice is now able to enjoy life using her sense of touch. Clarice feels it is important to find things she can do without asking for assistance. With braille marks on her crocheting hooks, she can now do just that!”

This story and many others inspired NBP to continue doing contests through our social media outlets. NBP has announced that we will be hosting our first Poetry Contest for all ages! The contest runs through October 31, 2017. Learn more at the following link: http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/newsmedia/index.html?id=oYRhw4kW

Braille and Brew Review: How You Can Volunteer Doing What Makes You Happy

On September 21, 2017, NBP hosted the Braille and Brew fundraiser at Aeronaut Brewing Company in Somerville. The successful event raised $2,490 to help fund braille literacy programs like ReadBooks! and Great Expectations.

The evening included a blindfolded tasting of four distinct beers, each paired with a different food item. The blindfolded participants were asked to describe what flavors they were tasting in the beers, which launched a lively conversation around blindness, braille literacy, and volunteer opportunities at NBP.

braille and brew participants

Fundraisers like the Braille and Brew allow NBP to reach new people and expose them to our programs and services. Participant Melanie Biancucci had been meaning to check out the Aeronaut Brewing Company, so the fundraiser seemed like a great way to give back and try new beers! “It was a fun experience to have with friends and family that combines food and learning all in one. I was able to learn a lot about braille and other ways to get involved with NBP!”

Chris Astephen learned about the Braille and Brew through a friend who had shared the event on Facebook. “Great beer, great community atmosphere, great cause. It was a different spin on fundraising that gets people engaged to the cause. I would 100% do it again!”

Interested in getting involved? NBP has many fundraisers and volunteer opportunities that allow you to get involved doing what you like most.  Here are some options:

  1. Attend or volunteer for our Annual Gala on October 20th in Boston! Learn more on our website.
  2. Set up a group volunteer event with your friends, family, or company putting together our print/braille book of the month.
  3. Run on Team NBP for the Boston Marathon, or join the Blindfold Challenge and run a 5K!
  4. Join us for our second annual Bike Bus Fundraiser in January 2018. More details to come.
  5. Become a front desk volunteer. Greet people as they come to visit NBP, answer the phones, and direct people to the right departments!
  6. Help us get the word out about our Giving Tuesday Campaign.

To learn more about these opportunities, contact Joe Quintanilla at 617-425-2415 or jquintanilla@nbp.org.

Braille: The Ticket to Freedom and Independence

Sighted people look at braille, and all they can see are dots on a page. All they can feel are bumps, and they do not mean a thing. However, to every blind person, braille means everything.

My name is Precious Perez, and I am from Chelsea, Massachusetts. I have a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity, otherwise known as ROP. I was born two and a half months early, so my eyes were not developed, and the oxygen I needed to survive took my sight. I have never been able to see, but I have always been able to feel, and one of the first things I became accustomed to was the feeling of letters beneath my fingertips.

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Precious performing at NBP’s A Million Laughs for Literacy Gala in 2015

I began learning to read and write Braille in pre-school, at the age of three. I can remember practicing on the Perkins brailler, and reading words on a page. I can remember my mom putting braille labels on household items as I got older; feeling for the button on my television and finding TV in braille right next to it. I remember falling in love with books, and manually brailling out my math problems every night for homework in first grade. I remember the first time I was given a notetaker with a refreshable braille display. When I think of my journey as a blind person, I think of braille and how it has made me independent and free.

There are countless reasons why braille is significant. This code is used by myself and many others every single day. Bathrooms, ATMs, elevators: all of these signs have braille and print on them. If I need to make a bank transaction, I do not need someone to tell me where to insert my card or my headphones for audio feedback. I do not need someone to push my floor for me in the elevator, because there’s braille next to each button. I can find a women’s bathroom in any public building, because there is braille on the sign. I am not only capable of locating and identifying things, but I am able to do it without help from anyone else, which would not be possible without braille.

Precious, Zhenya, and Daisy at NFB MA 2014

Precious checking out braille materials with friends

Navigation and daily personal management tasks are not the only things for which braille is necessary. I am a sophomore at Berklee College of Music, and I take theory classes in which I use braille books. I can read key signatures, scales, notes, and rhythms along with my peers in Ear Training class with my textbook instead of listening back to a recording and needing to always memorize. I can analyze chord progressions and take notes in class using my notetaker. I can write articles like this one, and read over my writing to check my spelling, grammar, and punctuation without having to go character by character with my screenreader and hoping for the best. I can read anything I need or want to read, whenever and wherever I want to read it, just the way anyone with sight could. The same way sighted people use pen and paper, I can use a slate and stylus or a Perkins brailler. If the power goes out, I can always write things down if my laptop dies. Braille gives me the ticket to freedom that audio can supplement, but never give.

Braille is something I could not live without, and without a form of reading and writing, I would not be where I am today.

I am currently a summer counselor atBLIND Inc, an NFB training center in Minnesota, and I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to share my love and passion for braille and its significance with blind middle school students who are eager to learn. Every blind person deserves independence and freedom. Living these truths would not be as feasible without the ability to take notes, read books for school, label household appliances and medicine, and a number of other things. Without braille, I would not be educated and free to educate others. “If reading mediums change and braille gets discredited out loud, I’ll counter the doubt.” Not only do I need braille, but every blind person needs braille. Braille is happiness. Braille is freedom. Braille is independence.

Braille in Hotels: Accessibility Away from Home!

NBP recently worked with the Residence Inn Boston Watertown to produce braille versions of their restaurant guide, shuttle service information, and points of interest in the area!

Director of Sales and Marketing, Korinne Robertson says, “The BRAND NEW Residence Inn by Marriott in Watertown, MA neighbors both Perkins School for the Blind as well as The Carroll Center for the Blind. Associates of the hotel feel it’s important that guests walk through the doors and settle into an environment where they will feel at ease, at home, and acquainted. Being able to provide them with tools and information about the surrounding area and hotel is a great amenity! We strive to provide as much as we can for all of our guests, and having guides and information about the hotel are essential to ensuring a seamless stay while away from the comforts of home.”

When visiting a hotel for the first time, blind and visually impaired guests need to get the lay of the land, figure out where they are going, and of course navigate to new places. Proofreader and frequent traveler, Chris Devin, always loves going to a hotel that accommodates him with braille materials. “If a chain has braille materials and we as blind people know they do, we are more likely to frequent that hotel.” It’s important for materials that are available in print to also be available in braille. “There’s a thought that all blind people can get their information from their iPhone. This is not always the case and that’s why braille is so important,” Chris advocates.

By having braille materials for your guests, you are showing them that their needs are important to you. You are giving them a chance to check out the best places to visit or eat, and information on how they can get around the new area.

braille for hotels

26.2 Miles for Braille Literacy

When Ilana Meyer and Marissa Sullivan cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon this Patriots Day, they won’t just have completed the world’s greatest race. For the last four months, they have run hundreds of miles in snow, ice, and rain, because they care about blind children and adults having access to the printed word. They’ve raised thousands of dollars in support of braille literacy, and National Braille Press is honored to have their support and to be a part of the 2017 John Hancock Non-Profit Program.

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#BeBoston, 2017 Boston Marathon, John Hancock 

Twenty years ago, when I competed as a runner in the Boston Marathon, all I wondered about was myself. How many people were in front of me? Behind me? How did I do compared to other blind runners? What was my time up Heartbreak Hill? I loved, and still love, that aspect of running, which allows me to compete with others, the clock, and myself.

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Joe Q running during training

Runners like Ilana and Marissa have shown me that running is so much more. Through John Hancock’s charity program, the Boston Marathon makes an individual act—completing the race—into an effort for others. That collective power has truly impressive results—over the last 6 Boston Marathons, NBP’s runners have raised over $100,000!

This year, Ilana and Marissa have already raised more than $20,000 so that others can share their love of reading. Their journey over the 26.2 miles is a reminder of the power of selflessness and of pushing oneself to the limit. Their race is not only a physical challenge, but also an act of altruism which will put books into the hands of blind children and adults—making a difference in their education, literacy, and day-to-day lives.

Marathon Monday has a different meaning for me now than it did twenty years ago. I no longer watch for just the top finishers—I now go out on the course to cheer on our champions, who truly exemplify what it means to run for others.

By Joe Quintanilla, Vice President of Development and Major Gifts