A “New Perkins” Expands Its Mission and Commitment to Braille Literacy and Employment

Because I have long admired the work of Perkins School for the Blind, I was pleased to read the following press release from Perkins President Steven M. Rothstein:

The new Perkins logo. It contains the word Perkins with corresponding braille letters

On October 15, 2012, Perkins School for the Blind announced that it is streamlining its name to simply “Perkins.” The name change comes after a year-long exploration within the Perkins community. The name “Perkins” supports the organization’s growing commitment to people who are blind in close to 70 countries around the world where Perkins advocates, educates and trains.

“We are no longer just a small school for the blind in Watertown, Massachusetts; we are a global NGO [i.e., non-governmental organization] with considerable reach. We constantly work to ensure that the 4.5 million children in the world today who do not go to school simply because they are blind or deafblind get the opportunity to get an education,” said Steven Rothstein, president of Perkins.

Closer to home, a growing concern is the unemployment rate of greater than 70 percent for people who are blind in the U.S. This is a significant statistic Perkins believes can be tackled through education. “It is imperative that children who are blind be taught braille if they are to succeed in the workforce,” continued Rothstein. A new logo [pictured above left] incorporates braille and reflects Perkins’ advocacy of literacy through braille.

“High-tech tools are wonderful, but I cannot imagine children who are sighted being asked to rely solely on technology in lieu of reading a book and writing with a pen and pencil. Why then would it be okay to say a child who is blind no longer needs to learn braille?”

A Further Commitment to Braille Literacy

Perkins is also announcing the official launch of the Perkins SMART Brailler®, a braille writer that incorporates computer technology to offer audio and visual feedback coupled with hard-copy braille output. This combination allows sighted parents and teachers to know what is being brailled in real time, making it possible for someone who does not know braille to participate in teaching someone who is blind how to read and write.

I first blogged about the pending launch of the new Perkins SMART Brailler® in The New Technologically Advanced Perkins/APH SMART Brailler. Here’s an excerpt:

photograph of the new Perkins SMART Brailler

Perkins Products introduces the new Perkins SMART Brailler® – the evolution of the Perkins Brailler® from a low-technology, beloved classic to a high-technology learning and teaching tool. Its built-in video screen, combined with audio feedback, shows and speaks letters and words in real time as they are being brailled.

The SMART Brailler®, developed by Perkins Products in conjunction with American Printing House for the Blind, opens the door to a new, more intuitive way for individuals, both sighted and blind, to communicate, teach, and learn braille together. Teachers in a mainstream classroom can see what their students are brailling. Sighted parents can help their visually impaired children with homework. And students can discover the fun in their own braille education.

The SMART Brailler® includes the following features:

  • A video screen for instantaneous audio and visual feedback, which displays SimBraille [i.e., printed simulated braille] and print
  • Text-to-speech from Acapela Group so that letters, words and sentences can be read back while brailling
  • Ability to edit, save, and transfer electronic documents via USB
  • A headphone jack and volume control
  • Can operate as a mechanical brailler for extended use
  • A rechargeable and removable battery

You can view an introductory video about the SMART Brailler® on the Perkins website.

A Final Word from Perkins

“We have big goals and know we have to start with small steps,” said Perkins’ President Steven Rothstein. “Even so, we have no doubt we will change the world in a positive and measurable way.”

I commend Perkins for their forward thinking, their commitment to braille literacy, and their dedication to full employment for blind and visually impaired persons in the United States and throughout the world. Your goals are lofty and wide-ranging, and I have no doubt you will achieve all of them. We thank you, Perkins.