Happy Friday Everyone! You’ve made it through another week and now it’s time to start thinking about the weekend. It’s also time for another informational edition of Fedora Outlier’s Follow Friday (#FF) interview series.

Have you ever thought about writing a book and then having it published? Do you have school aged children that need textbooks, tests and other materials available in some type of accessible format? Want to learn how to use that new gadget you purchased or Fungshway your living room and need to read up on it?

If so, then you won’t want to miss my interview with National Braille Press. NBP is a premier, nonprofit organization that believes in promoting Braille literacy for both children and adults. Braille is still essential even in today’s world of digital accessibility.

Fedora Outlier, LLC commends the efforts of National Braille Press in its mission to publish and promote Braille literacy and that is why we follow them on Twitter.

Grab an ice coffee or cappuccino and join me in learning more about National Braille Press.

Brie Rumery: For some of our readers who may not know about National Braille Press (NBP), could you tell us a little bit about the organization?

NBP: A non-profit braille publisher, National Braille Press promotes literacy for blind children through outreach programs and provides access to information by producing materials in braille for blind children and adults. National Braille Press is the premier braille publisher in the US that specializes in producing original braille works written by blind authors expressly for blind people. We specialize in books that help blind and visually impaired people live life independently like our iOS series that educates people on how to use the accessibility features on Apple products. NBP’s Center for Braille Innovation is providing access to information through more efficient braille production and the development of e-braille technologies www.nbp.org

BR: What type of services and programs does NBP offer?

NBP: The programs and services at NBP focus on the following three areas:
Literacy for Young Children: National Braille Press supports blind children and their parents in an effort to make braille literacy a part of their lives and a foundation for future education and success.  We provide resources that include board books for preschoolers adapted with braille labels, print storybooks for older children converted to a print/braille format, and guides for sighted parents that teach them about the importance of braille and the basics of the braille code to get them started reading with their child.
Literacy for Education: NBP produces braille textbooks and standardized tests so that blind students have the same educational materials as their sighted peers. We develop hundreds of original tactile graphics each year, which are raised images that represent charts, pictures, and graphs.  For the first time in FY12, we produced digital braille files for standardized tests so that blind students can take tests on a refreshable braille display while their sighted peers take the same test on PC’s. 
Literacy for Life in the Digital Age: NBP’s children’s books help develop a foundation of braille literacy, which prepares them to use other braille tools, including technology-based braille as they pursue higher education and careers. For students and adults, NBP produces braille software manuals, magazines, and books on topics specifically for blind people such as: traveling alone, using social-networking sites such as Facebook, Linked-In, and Twitter with screen reader software, and guides to popular, mainstream technology such as the iPhone.  At our Center for Braille Innovation (CBI), we explore new tools and technology to help blind people communicate, learn, and thrive in the digital world.

BR: How important is Braille Literacy in today’s world of accessible technology?

NBP: Braille is as important today as it was before the technology explosion. There is a strong correlation to blind people being more frequently employed and able to compete for jobs when they possess braille literacy skills. Today’s technology is a game-changer for many blind and visually impaired people and braille complements technology solutions. Affordable technology solutions that incorporate braille are essential so blind people can compete in school and the workplace, and NBP wants to be a catalyst to ensure that these solutions are available.

BR: What is the Center for Braille Innovation?

NBP: The Center for Braille Innovation (CBI) was created to leverage new technologies that will innovate the world of braille production and the development of affordable braille technologies. In braille production, NBP is seeking to develop more efficient methods to produce braille and tactile graphics, with tools such as 3D printers and laser cutters. We are also looking to collaborate and develop more affordable products that will support braille technology for education and the workplace.

BR: What type of innovative products is CBI developing?

NBP: CBI has been testing a 3D printer to be used for creating complex tactile graphics for tests and textbooks. Using this technology can reduce the labor time to make the graphic and also allow that design to be saved and cataloged electronically for future reprints. We have been also developing a portable, 20 cell refreshable braille computer that has many new technology features at a cost that will be approximately $3500 less than comparable products currently on the market.
In the Education market, NBP is exploring a method to create a multi-line braille display with a tactile graphic area. This “tablet for the blind”, would allow students to read a digital textbook or take a digital test at the same time as their sighted peers. Adults could also use it as a research tool in the workplace.

BR: Has the use of iOS devices decreased the number of children and/or adults learning and using Braille?

NBP: There currently isn’t any data to show a trend yet on the decline of people learning braille as a result of using iOS products. However, there is some concern that students may not be given the opportunity to learn braille in schools because audio via an iPad or other device would take precedence over braille. Audio is great in many situations but it does not replace the need to learn braille and develop proficient reading and writing skills.

BR: How will the recent signing of the Blind Treaty at WIPO enhance Braille Literacy?

NBP: This is a great step to eliminate the book famine that blind and visually impaired people have endured. We at National Braille Press urge nations to ratify the Marrakesh Agreement as soon as possible so access to books and information will increase dramatically, especially in developing countries.

BR: Why does NBP use Twitter and how important is this platform to your organization?

NBP: NBP uses Twitter to engage in conversations with our customers and with the blindness community. Social media is a valuable platform to learn from others. There are so many organizations that are doing great things and have wonderful ideas. We can all learn from each other to make a greater impact.
NBP is also a resource on all things braille and we want others to know that we are available to help. We often share stories about how technology or braille is positively impacting our community. Braille is cool and we want people to know it!

Check out NBP’s book store and boutique at nbp.org. Follow @BraillePress on Twitter and support their mission of Braille Literacy!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s Follow Friday (#FF) interview with National Braille Press. I know I learned a great deal about the organization and how important it is to continue to keep Braille a part of the blindness community.

Need to know the latest tip or trick when it comes to your iOS device? Then why not check out Fedora Outlier’s weekly “Tips and Tricks” post and you might just learn something you didn’t know how to do.

Happy Reading!