Braille Literacy in California

By Nathanael Wales, President, River City Chapter

Editorís Note: A major concern of this organization is literacy for blind students. A cause for this concern is the de-emphasis of Braille instruction throughout the past several decades. Much has been written about this issue and the NFBC has spent an incredible amount of time and energy working with the California Legislature addressing these concerns. (See NFBC-Sponsored Legislation.)

As a result of this ongoing effort, an additional attempt was made to keep the focus on Braille instruction. This was done by creating a Braille Symposium, which was held in Burbank in the Fall of 2004. The purpose of this symposium was to discuss Braille from many aspects. Braille was discussed from the perspectives of parents, educators, consumers, transcribers, and other professionals in the field.

The event was well received and requests for additional symposia were made. Kevin Duggan, executive director of the Society for the Blind in Sacramento, was approached to explore the possibility of a joint symposium to be held in Northern California. Mr. Duggan assisted in locating a venue for the event, and the date of April 8 was scheduled. Federationists and others braved Central Valley fog and a cold, early spring storm and gathered in Rancho Cordova to discuss the critical importance and versatility of Braille. Dr. Fred Schroeder and Dr. Ruby Ryles were again featured. Several Federationists, including a number of blind students, discussed their experiences with Braille instruction and their usage of Braille reading and writing.

A third symposium has now been scheduled for November 4 and 5, 2005, in Southern California. It was obvious to the planners of these projects that a two-day seminar would be appropriate. This event will be co-hosted by the NFBC and the Braille Institute.