AZDOC is working with the Phoenix Blind Children Foundation to render books in Braille

The Arizona Department of Corrections is working with the local foundation to translate books into Braille

The Phoenix Blind Children’s Foundation is one of the few places of its kind in the nation with a resource center that was not closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, they are busier than ever.

The Arizona Instructional Resource Center of the Phoenix Foundation for Blind Children has been translating books in Braille for 20 years.

Production has tripled since 2016. Even amid a global pandemic, the pace is increasing rapidly here.

“Right now we’re seeing over 300 books being worked on this year and we have about 150 different imputations,” said Jared Leslie, director of media services at the Foundation for Blind Children. “So we’ve seen growth with our program to meet the needs of the state and ensure that no student starts their school year without their textbooks,” said Leslie.

“Braille is a sequence of six different dots. So you have dots 1, 2 and 3 and then 4, 5 and 6, and depending on the combination of dots this will either convey a letter or, in the case of contractions, the letter would be a contractually bound word”, explained Leslie.

Leslie heads the department and also oversees a very successful partnership with the Arizona Department of Corrections.

“It used to be around 100 transcriptions we did during the year and now there are over 300 transcriptions during the year. In our partnership with the Arizona DOC Rehabilitation and Re-Entry Program, we saw what we saw with it They have tripled their support here too, “he said.

Leslie says the partnership is the largest in the nation.

Carefully selected inmates spend six months to a year learning Braille and how to transcribe it.

“There is training in the prison, but nothing like that,” said Tom, an inmate.

Tom wanted to remain anonymous. He spent time in Eyman [Florence], Yuma and Kingman, where he studied Braille. He spoke to us on the phone from his home office, where he is working on a computer that the foundation made available.

“I was hoping I could work for Braille when I got out but you didn’t know, you just don’t know and doing it in jail was such a blessing to have a good job in jail and getting paid well and then to give something back, you know what I mean, but then the blessing was to come out and actually have work that I could get paid for, “he said.
374900 I was hoping I could work for braille when I got out but you didn’t know you just didn’t know and doing it in jail was such a blessing to have a good job in jail and paid well too to be and then to be when you give back you know what i mean but then it was the great blessing to get out and actually have work that i could be paid for

In the past five years, six different transcriptors have become paid contractors for the Foundation.

“We currently produce these books in four units. As I said, we have approximately 70 inmates doing this,” said Karen Hellman, associate director of inmate programs and rehabilitation for the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Hellman takes pride in the inmates and the program as a whole.

“We were very fortunate to have been able to keep the program running during this pandemic and that has helped again in the community as some other programs have shut down and we are able to pick up and produce some of that slack. ” More.”

As demand grows, and even if the pandemic ends, there is a good chance that this program will expand further.

“Any state that calls us, we say yes, we will. And then we call the corrections department and they do it. So yes, it will grow. The average braillist in this country is around 70 years old . Our braillists are going to retire and they are going to retire very quickly when the rest of the country’s bubble retires. They are all going to retire. So if we don’t have new braillists, we won’t. I’ll be able to keep up, but the corrections department and these inmates … they do, “said Marc Ashton, FBC CEO.

Ashton says inmates keep up with demand and translate everything from Latin to Spanish into calculus and even physics.

“We are not only meeting the demand locally, but also nationwide because we are one of the few programs in the country that are still open during the COVID. This is the only way we can overcome this COVID crisis.” The whole country to operate is now because of the corrections department. We have hundreds of inmates out there producing Braille faster than anyone else in this country. “

FBC has 100 students on its own campus and hundreds more in public, charter, and private schools in Arizona – and now in several other states due to the pandemic.

“Now, more than ever, our partnership within Arizona makes it a completely remote location for us. We have facilities everywhere,” said Leslie.

The facilities, the partnership, the inmates – all reasons why blind or visually impaired students receive the promise to continue learning in these uncertain times.

The foundation also has an extensive collection of library books that can be viewed by anyone interested.

Arizona Instructional Resource Center (AIRC) at the Foundation for Blind Children

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