The National Braille Association will be hosting its 2024 Professional Development Conference at the historic Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Located near Pikes Peak, the hotel is within walking distance of downtown, and only a few blocks from the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum and the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind. Save the date of October 23-25, 2024 for conference with the possibility of a preconference tour on October 22. Details will be published as they are fianlized.
Autumn has arrived, ushering in the captivating spectacle of changing tree foliage in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. This season also marks the conclusion of my tenure as President of the National Braille Association, as well as the culmination of the 2023 National Braille Association Professional Development Conference. I’ve had the privilege and honor of to serve as president for this esteemed organization from 2021 to 2023. I am deeply moved by the affection and sentiments expressed for the collaborative efforts that have brought positive impacts to transcribers, braille media producers, educators, paraprofessionals, and administrators through the educational opportunities provided by the National Braille Association. Numerous friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, even those who couldn't attend, have expressed their interest in hearing my farewell remarks during my address to the membership and Board of Directors. I am more than delighted to oblige their request.
The past two years have swiftly flown by, and I am amazed at the whirlwind of experiences we have shared. Time has a way of slipping through our fingers when we are fully dedicated to meaningful endeavors. I am overcome with a deep sense of gratitude and contemplation. Leading this exceptional organization has been a truly fulfilling and impactful journey.
Each one of us has our own unique story that has led us to embark on a unique journey through braille. Mine began about 35 years ago in a preschool classroom and little did I know it would lead me to where I am today.
We all share a common passion for braille and the individuals whose lives we touch. Our pathways to braille are diverse, yet here we are, walking side by side. Remember the profound significance of your work. The impact you have on the lives of others is immeasurable, for in the lives we touch, we sow the seeds of inspiration and possibility.
First, I want to express my heartfelt appreciation and admiration for the unwavering dedication and hard work exhibited by each and every one of you. Your commitment to our mission of providing continuing education for those involved in braille and braille materials preparation, and your passion for promoting Braille literacy, have been the driving forces behind the Association's success and positive influence on our membership.
Next, as the saying goes, "It takes a village," and together, we have championed the cause of Braille literacy, ensuring that individuals with visual impairments have equal access to information, education, and opportunities. Through our collective efforts, we have created a world where Braille is not merely a skill, but a gateway to independence and empowerment. Countless lives have been touched and transformed by our endeavors, and the stories of triumph and personal growth fuel our determination to do even more in the future.
The achievements of this great organization would not have been possible without the unwavering support of our volunteers, educators, members, and partners. Each one of you has contributed to the rich tapestry of the National Braille Association, weaving hope and possibility for so many deserving individuals.
As we move forward, let us extend a warm welcome to Patrick Janson, our incoming president and newest leader. While passing the torch, we acknowledge that there are still challenges ahead and many lives waiting to be positively impacted by our work. Together, let us continue standing united by compassion and a shared vision, breaking new ground, and forging paths towards a more inclusive and empathetic society. We have planned the work, and now it is time to work the plan.
It has been an incredible privilege to be part of this extraordinary team and an honor to serve as the President of the National Braille Association. As I transition into the role of Immediate Past President, I carry with me a profound sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from being associated with such an exceptional organization and its members.
In closing, I extend my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you for your passion, dedication, and unwavering commitment. The impact of the National Braille Association will undoubtedly continue to grow and thrive, driven by the love and care you pour into your work every single day.
What The Conference Meant to You
The Mountain View Prison Braille Conference had an overwhelming effect on all participants and guests. The following thoughts and feelings are shared from the women offenders who reside within the walls of the Mountain View Unit. The content was approved by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and approved for publication. Quotes have not been edited for spelling or grammar. All offender names have been limited to and approved as first names only by TDCJ.
The braille conference has been a dream come true: a dream never imagined would come to pass. This brought me expanded knowledge in many braille-related topics as well as a sense of hope I didn’t realize I was losing. It has been amazing to see how well my friends are doing after life in prison and I feel very proud of everything they have and to continue to achieve in life. The conference has been a breath of fresh air and a north star to those of us who aim to do the best for our students. ~Ada
The conference to me meant the exchange of information to become a better transcriber/proofreader when I get to go home and prepare to make a living doing something helpful for the students. Plus, it was nice to receive the goodie bag and to eat food we don’t normally get on the unit. Thank you and looking forward to next year’s. ~Betty
The conference showed me that:
1) What we do does matter! 2) There is new and amazing software out there. 3) We (as individuals) are appreciated. 4) Even though we are in here, we are part of the “Braille Community”. Thank you. ~Stacey
The conveyance of braille knowledge as well as the exchanged pleasantries amongst our conference attendees fed life into our program by granting us the ability to interact both professionally and personally with others within our field of study. In truth, our gathering was an affirming phenomenon that reminded us all what it feels like to be part of a genuine community. Thank you all. ~Leticia
As a new member of The Mountain View Braille facility, being able to attend the 2023 Braille Prison Conference was so inspiring. The incredibly gracious speakers expressed such a passion for what they do that it lit a fire in me to become as skilled a braille typist and tactilist as I can be. Everyone was so kind and the amount of knowledge I gained was greatly appreciated. I thank each and every individual that was able to make this conference happen. ~Amber
What the conference meant to me was that I actually have a future beyond these gates. A group of awesome supervisors that acknowledge that knowledge is the key to an opportunity for us woman to get out and succeed one day! Obtaining all the tools we need today on a day to day basis in order for us to thrive on our own one day! Thank you, ~Sonya
First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude for the time and effort you all put into making our Braille Conference 2023 an unforgettable memory when moments happen and they make you forget your circumstance you cherish those moments. I will forever be thankful to you all for giving me those moments.
Secondly, I would like to thank you for sharing the vast amount of knowledge you obtained on your journey with braille. I’m eager to hear more and also share what I know with others.
Lastly, I would like to say thank you for being so kind to us and treating us with respect. Ya’ll are amazing people and those who know ya’ll are truly blessed. Thank you, ~Joanna
The Conference made what we do at Mt. View Braille real. It brought braille as a profession into perspective while bringing to light the impact our work has on the braille reader. To see the community come together to make this event happen instilled a sense of pride and teamwork that is essential, not only for braille, but for every aspect of life. Thank you, ~Danna
The Braille Conference meant so much to me, it let me know that people out there care and really appreciated our hard work. Also, to see other women come back and let us know that the braille community out there is very welcoming is exciting. Gives me hope for when I get out. ~Veronica
Our conference meant so many different things on several levels. The impression was ever lasting, there was altering positivity from the staff to the alumni, and inmates! It was reassuring support from within the prison and outside braille community leaders. The energy was of excitement on a professional, personal, and emotional level. I was humbled and honored, I am grateful for our bosses and our guest. ~Ana
This conference meant so much to me in a way that it motivated me to believe more in myself, and know that success is possible to obtain in prison. Thank You! ~Andrisela
“The Braille Conference gave me a vision of what I can expect when I am able to attend these in the professional world after my release.” ~Christina
The conference was so inspirational seeing all the girls gave me hope for my future outside of here! ~Jody
Overall, it was amazing to have something done for us-- the teaching, new clothes, free-world food, guests from other states, and interaction with former (free) coworkers. It made me feel very appreciated. ~Susan
The conference was full of inspiration from community leaders and the braille community. It was a great experience. ~Crystal
The Mountain View Prison Braille Conference was a keen reminder that we are connected to a larger braille community beyond these prison walls. ~Brandy
It expresses, New Beginnings for braille conferences behind bars and bringing together both new and old inside and outside braille families. Also for a great learning experience. ~Desiree
It was very exciting, and inspiring, as those on the inside and out came together for the first-ever Prison Braille Conference to attend panels, work-shops, and develop a strong braille community. ~Andria
The braille conference meant so many things to me hope, promise, love, support, acceptance, encouragement, community, and much more. It brought back the determination to do and be better for all braille readers, and to never stop learning. ~Kim
Inspiring because honor was given to where honor was due in word and deed according to the words of our Creator. The importation of knowledge and skill for a greater braille community for the now and future, so that we can continue to bring sight to the blind. ~Anataja
It gave me motivation to continue to work towards more certifications and gave me hope to make a good living when I go home. ~Amber
The conference showed me I am not toiling away a hidden place. Prison braille is being presented to the nation as a worthwhile and necessary occupation. ~Suzanne
After twenty-one years of incarceration the 2023 Conference at Mt. View made me truly see how big the purpose is in a future in braille, and that it makes a better person. It was amazing.~Tyshee
The conference meant so much to me because I was able to learn many quick ways to do tactile making the job easier to do. It also meant seeing people “real people” doing it outside and making a real difference. Thankyou. ~Patricia
Being part of the conference allowed me to see and feel that I am part of an amazing community of individuals who work hard to improve the quality of life for others. I am not just a number. ~Lark
The conference was a great experience for me. I learned a lot of knowledge. It was motivating me to strive my best to be a great transcriber in the future so I can help the disable to have a better future in life. ~Stacey
The conference brought to me:
1) encouragement for starting a business in braille; 2) more computer techniques for better and faster tactile (i.e. Macros); 3) better strategies and techniques for braille formatting as well (i.e. SSP update, chemistry knowledge, etc.); 4) better knowledge on what agents want from us.) definitely networking! ~Jodi
The Braille Conference was a great experience! It gave me hope! It let me know there is possibility for a chance to make it! And pay it forward to people who can’t! ~Tammy
The Prison Braille Conference to me meant reality, change, acceptance, and equality. ~Shelby
The conference made a world of difference to me in the fact that it brought to light the reality of what we do in here every day. We change lives for so many people. ~Cody
The conference filled me with knowledge and inspiration. I am looking forward to taking my knowledge home with me and into my future. ~Kimberly
The conference was needed inspiration from successful braillists that were prisoners and now thriving in the world my soul reason for life now is to thrive in the braille here so I may thrive in braille in the Free, thank you! ~Simona
The Braille Conference made me feel as if I were in the “Business World” for two days. I felt as if I were not incarcerated and I learned a lot of useful information to apply to my every day work. Thank you! ~Michel
The conference was a fabulous way for us to come together with Braille Professionals outside these fences and learn new ways of doing things. ~Trichele
The conference meant Freedom to me, it made me believe again in my future outside this place. ~Rebecca
The Conference 2023 meant a lot to me because there is so much to know and the importance of all this information isn’t just about braille, the job, or the knowledge. It’s about doing something that really matters in another person’s life. I enjoyed very much, the volunteers were all really nice and easy to speak with, and knew a lot about industry. I look forward to the next one. Thank you so much for allowing me to attend and for everything you did on your part. ~Esther
The classes and information as well as amazing success stories were incredibly encouraging. Thank you.
The conference made the possibilities real. People we know are making a good living with the skills they learned at Mt View Braille Facility.
People say “You don’t have friends in prison”. Well, the girls that left and come back to share their knowledge care something about us. To have someone that cares, hugs you, really talks to you – it makes you feel free world human. I learned from them some short cuts to make my job easier. Not always does things go your way – out in the free or in here, so just remember if you can’t change or fix it – it’s not worth you worrying about. I’m sorry I couldn’t name (1) thing but it was awesome. ~Sherry
It meant a lot. From the ladies that use to be here explaining the transition of working in braille inside TDC and out there. From the ladies and gentlemen who’ve never been incarcerated yet took the time to explain what braille meant to them and they accept us into their work. Acknowledging Mountain View Braille and Mrs. Billman for its excellence. It meant we could ask questions about here and now and our future in braille from the staff and higher ups. It meant that this industry job is being recognized for its importance; the change its making in the lives of the ladies who are learning braille. Women who are working in the same work they plan to do once released and also the change in the lives of all the released and also the change in the lives of all the students who benefit from the work produced here.
Overcoming Barriers: Meeting Transcribers Wherever They Are