[Athen] [nabs] Research again

Berkowitz, Daniel J djbrky at bu.edu
Fri Apr 13 05:24:58 PDT 2007

Hi Liz,

I saw your post and marked it to reply but simply have not had the time.
However, this topic (and the fact that someone is doing research on it)
is not only important but also interests me. I am sharing this message
with the membership of the Access Technologist Higher Education Network
(ATHEN) and requesting they read both my comments, your posting (and
perhaps offer assistance).

Not long ago I made an off hand remark on the DSSHE eMail list about how
no one uses Braille anymore and was promptly lambasted by colleagues
across the country. Realizing I had made an error in judgment I sought
to better educate myself on this subject. First some background. It has
been my experience over the past few years that the use of Braille for
academic purposes is dwindling. This misnomer is based upon the fact
that students (at least my students) are not asking for their materials
in Braille. I have not had a specific Braille request for textbooks,
course materials, etc. in a couple of years. However, the requests I
have been getting are for digital (E-Text) files of these materials.

I personally contacted several of my students and asked them rather
point blank and innocently - are you using Braille? And if so - how?
Well, it turns out that they are indeed using Braille all of the time
and everyday. Just about all of them us Braille in a variety of manners
from having personal ownership of a Perkins Brailler for jotting down
grocery lists, to having a personal printer/embosser for class notes, to
having a PacMate as a portable device, to having a refreshable display
for their computer to having personal libraries of books and
subscriptions to magazines and such and, of course, to reading signage
throughout the campus.

To a person they all agree that having bulky and unmanageable Braille
hard copies of their textbooks is unnecessary (and a pain in the butt to
deal with). The digital textbook files my office provides them are
accessed using hardware and software that is more manageable and user
friendly. This is typically a combination of screenreader and
refreshable display. Braille is still alive and well and in use - but
hardcopy Braille for academic textbooks is easily replaced by digital
files and electronic display options.

If you do create an on-line survey (or need assistance with created an
accessible one) let us know. Members of ATHEN may be willing to assist
with the development of the survey and with advertising/recruiting
respondents. I think you might find there is more interest in your
thesis research than you imagine.

Cheers --- Dann

Daniel Berkowitz - Assistant Director
Boston University Office of Disability Services
19 Deerfield Street, 2nd floor
Boston, MA 02215

(617) 353-3658 (office)
(617) 353-9646 (fax)
djbrky at bu.edu (eMail)

>-----Original Message-----

>From: Liz Bottner [mailto:lizb at UDel.Edu]

>Sent: Wednesday, April 11, 2007 9:29 AM

>To: nabs at acb.org

>Subject: [nabs] Research again


>Hi all:


>Thank you to those of you who responded to my post on research the


>day. I know I haven't gotten back to all of you, which I will do


>I have actually changed my research thesis slightly from whether or not

>assistive technology should replace Braille to the benefits that using


>Braille and assistive technology have in terms of equal and readily

>available access to information just as our sighted counterparts take

>advantage of. Rather, that Braille and assistive tech shouldn't


>be used one over the other, but in conjunction with one another. I


>use one or the other or both depending on the circumstances. I wasn't


>if any of you wanted to perhaps share with me what kinds of methods you


>to get things done, Braille versus the computer or other assistive

>technology devices when it comes to reading for pleasure, school,


>assignments, using the Internet, etc. I was wondering if any of you


>be willing to share your techniques and experiences with using the two

>mediums of getting access to information. You could fill out a survey,

>(once I write it), or if you want, just give me your input back in a

>message, that would be fine as well. Perhaps you should reply to me


>list so as not to clutter it.


>Thanks, take care, and I hope all of your school years/Spring semesters


>going well!




>Email: lizb at udel.edu Visit my Live Journal:



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