RE: Books Formatted for Braille from Bookshare.org

Year: 
2008
Resolution Number: 
2008-03

RESOLUTION 2008-03
RE: Books Formatted for Braille from Bookshare.org

WHEREAS, Bookshare.org is a project dedicated to the legal distribution of books and periodicals in accessible formats, including electronic Braille; and

WHEREAS, with creativity and ingenuity Bookshare.org offers unprecedented access to general books and periodicals to blind readers through a mechanism enabling the sharing of books scanned by thousands of individuals, which eliminates significant duplication of effort; and

WHEREAS, in the fall of 2007 the project received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education in the amount of $32 million over five years to expand significantly the availability of accessible electronic books and to make them available without charge to all students with qualifying disabilities in the United States; and

WHEREAS, according to its Website, Bookshare.org intends “to make extensive use of textbook files provided by publishers in the recently mandated National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS), to create high-quality, student-ready materials in digital audio, large print, or Braille”; and

WHEREAS, it is widely known that, despite the many advances in the capability of Braille-translation software, intervention by a Braille transcriber knowledgeable in the rules set forth by the Braille Authority of North America is still required to ensure that the often complicated layout and the increasingly graphics-intensive content of textbooks is rendered properly and can be readily understood and navigated by the Braille reader; and

WHEREAS, Bookshare.org’s process for converting books and periodicals from print to accessible formats involves some checking by volunteers and staff to ensure basic readability and navigability, but the process of converting to Braille is handled automatically by translation software and involves no final proofreading to ensure that the format of the Braille versions is correct, so in reality Bookshare.org Braille files are not student-ready; and

WHEREAS, Bookshare.org has an obligation to indicate clearly to all concerned that the Braille textbooks made available on its Website have not been proofread and are therefore not student-ready; and

WHEREAS, the economics of special education, combined with the unfortunately pervasive lack of knowledge about Braille production even in the special education field, leads some people who work with blind children simply to download the Bookshare.org files and provide them directly to the students rather than paying for professionally transcribed books; and

WHEREAS, such a trend will have far-reaching implications, not only undermining ongoing efforts to ensure that children who read Braille receive high-quality instructional materials, but also eroding the already fragile infrastructure now in place for the production of Braille textbooks; NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 2008, in the city of Dallas, Texas, that this organization urge Bookshare.org to have its Braille versions of K-12 textbooks professionally proofread and corrected; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge Bookshare.org to use its unique position to support efforts at improving the quality of Braille educational materials for K-12 students.

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