The Importance of providing Accessible Materials
Any time you are holding meetings or conferences it often involves handing out various printed materials to the attendees. This may involve anything from a simple agenda or copies of something for the group to have as reference materials. It might even be something the group will be studying together in depth.
It is important to include Blind people who will be attending by providing an Accessible copy of these materials as well.
Here is an example of a case where as a part of a Cluster Feast held in Colorado, friends were invited to submit a video of themselves sharing a reading. Yolanda chose the Prayer for the Western States which she is reading from Braille.
If you think carefully for a moment, Yolanda could not have shared this reading if all she had was an Audio version of the Prayer. Braille is "Literacy" for Blind People! It is the way Blind people are able to read and write.
Because she has this Prayer Book in Braille, she was able to participate!
How to ask about preferred accessible format
It is Important to ask your Blind friends what Accessible format they prefer. However, the time , place and way you ask is also important! If your goal is "... a just relationships among individuals, communities, and institutions of society that will uplift all and will not designate anyone as “other”. " ... Then please don't create a situation of "Otherness" by choosing the time to ask in the context of a public meeting. This is a conversation that should be handled in confidence between you and your Blind Friend so that arrangements can be made with respect. If you know that you will have Blind Friends attending your meeting, you should approach them and ask what accessible format they prefer regarding all of the materials that will be used ahead of time.
Depending on the type of materials and what they will be used for, some Blind people may prefer to have an Accessible copy in Braille. Others may prefer an electronic copy such as a Word Doc or PDF. Others may prefer a Large Print Format. Still others may want an audio version. The important thing is to be sure to ask what Accessible format they prefer.
It is important to note that the choice of Accessible format always belongs to your Blind friend who will be the one who needs to use it. Not the person who is having the materials transcribed.
Keep in mind their choice may change for the next event or a different type of materials depending on the circumstances. They may even want the materials in more than one format. Work together with your Blind friends. They will help you figure out what will work best for them in each situation. This might be new for you, but they have been doing this their whole life.
You can easily provide the materials in the Accessible format of choice each and every time.
The process is fairly simple. If you have an electronic copy of these materials such as a Word Document or an accessible PDF Document, you can work out with your Blind friend how to get them a direct copy. That is, if they want their Accessible copy in electronic format.
How will you know if the files are accessible? You can take time to learn about accessible documents by visiting web sites like this one! You can also ask your Blind friend. But please be sure to do this ahead of time so that you don't get to a meeting only to find out that it is not going to work out!
However, if your Blind friends prefer to have their Accessible copy in Braille, Audio or Large Print Format; Then no problem.
You can do this pretty simply. It is possible to send (either by email or USPS mail) a copy of the materials to a Professional Certified Transcriber. They will arrange a turn-around time and a price for the job. Then, they will ship the Accessible copy back to the address you specify. This can be done using Free Matter for the Blind so that there is no charge for shipping. The transcriber will usually ask about which Braille format should be used and other questions about binding. These choices will affect the cost. They also matter, depending whether or not the materials will be a one-time-only use or something that will be used for reference over a long period of time. You will need to get this information from the Blind person who will be using these materials.
Braille formats might include:
- Uncontracted braille, Grade 1, or Alphabetic Braille is the most basic form of braille. It uses all 26 letters of the alphabet and is often used by children or individuals who are first learning to read and write in braille. With uncontracted braille words are spelled out letter by letter. This form of braille takes up a lot of space and documents written in uncontracted braille will be very lengthy.
- Contracted braille, Grade 2, or Literary Braille is a more complex form that is typically learned after learning uncontracted braille. It is the most commonly used form of braille. Contracted braille is a system of “short cuts” where one letter might represent an entire word. There are letter combinations, or contractions, that represent whole words without spelling out each letter in the word. This method reduces the overall number of cells needed and the volume of pages required to print books and other written content. Contracted braille takes up less space and improves an individual’s speed in both reading and writing. This is the form of braille you would see in public places.
The transcriber will also be able to produce Large Print Format and/or Audio as well.
Options, including turn-around time vary from one transcriber to the next.
Be sure to Plan Ahead for the time it will take to have materials transcribed to keep your costs down.
That's pretty much all there is to making materials Accessible.
The important thing is to do it! Not having accessible materials certainly is a barrier! The goal is to remove the barriers to building Diverse, Vibrant, Inclusive, Accessible Communities!
Large maintained list of Professional Transcribers
it is extremely important that you use a professional who is qualified to do the transcriptions and who will follow all of the Accessibility Standards to produce quality materials.
This is why we are providing a large Professional list of Qualified Transcribers who can handle any size job, large or small. Just pick someone you want to work with from the list below:
We should also mention that the Baha'i Service for the Blind does offer some limited services and maintains a collection of some Baha'i titles. According to their Web Site they state:
The work for the Service is all done by volunteers many of whom work at full time jobs. There is no paid staff.
We have a need for Bahá'ís to proofread books in Braille. You do not need to be a certified proofreader, but you need to have a good knowledge of the Braille code and be a proficient Braille reader.
Copies of books are produced on a per order basis. A lack of storage space and funds prevents us from maintaining an inventory of books from which to fill orders. We try to fill orders as quickly as possible but you should allow for 4 - 6 weeks time to receive your order.
The cost of these special materials can often be quite high, especially in Braille, when compared to the print editions. The prices charged by the Service are kept as low as possible with no attempt to produce a profit. Also for the benefit of those needing our service we maintain a lending library of materials in Braille and of our audio recordings.