Press contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639, durschel@loc.gov
Public contact: Judith Dixon (202) 707-0722, jdix@loc.gov

December 26, 2006

National Library Service for the Blind Announces New Administrator of Braille Certification

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, will turn over administrative tasks of the braille certification program to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), beginning in early 2007.

NLS recently awarded a competitive contract to NFB to conduct tasks such as grading the many lessons and the final test manuscript required for braille certification. Authority and oversight of the program will remain with NLS; NFB’s role is strictly administrative.

"For 63 years, NLS has been solely responsible for all braille certification in this country, but times change," said NLS Director Frank Kurt Cylke. "The methods of braille production have changed dramatically, and to best serve our patrons we must keep pace. For that reason, we are outsourcing the provision of training courses and validation that are currently handled by our Braille Development Section. NFB, a long-time advocate for braille in the United States, has demonstrated expertise in braille technology and is highly qualified to administer this program."

Transition of these tasks from NLS to NFB is under way and will be completed after the first of the year.

Since 1943, NLS has offered courses in literary braille transcription for Library of Congress certification. Courses in mathematics and music transcribing, as well as literary and mathematics proofreading, were later added. Transcribers determine how to accurately represent print information in braille and then transcribe the information, providing blind readers with the same materials sighted readers receive. Approximately 200 transcribers and proofreaders receive certification each year.

"NLS will remain the certifying authority for braille transcribers, guaranteeing the high standards associated with the work of its transcribers and proofreaders," said Cylke.

Founded in 1940, NFB is the largest organization of the blind in America and includes more than 50,000 members, with affiliates in all 50 states and more than 700 local chapters. NFB’s International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC) is a comprehensive evaluation, demonstration and training center, with more than $2.5 million worth of nearly all the tactile and speech-output technology now available to the blind community.

"NFB’s mission is to provide support and advocacy for blind persons and their families. One of the ways we achieve this is through the development and evaluation of technology," said Betsy Zaborowski, executive director of NFB’s Jernigan Institute. "With the resources available through IBTC and the braille literacy programs we already have in place, NFB is equipped and eager to take on the administration of the braille transcriber education and certification program."

NLS will continue to produce braille materials through its contractors for more than 42,000 patrons who read braille. NLS produces about 600 braille books each year that are distributed through the NLS national network of braille-lending local libraries. It also provides 33 braille magazines to nearly 700 subscribers.

Contact information for current and prospective braille transcribers will be provided shortly after the transition has taken place. For further information, contact NLS Consumer Relations Officer Judith Dixon, (202) 707-0722, jdix@loc.gov

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PR 06-236
12/26/06
ISSN 0731-3527

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