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Braille services and resources available to support blind or visually impaired Michiganders
January 10, 2022
January has been proclaimed as Braille Literacy Month by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to recognize the impact this reading system has on individuals who are blind or visually impaired and call attention to the invaluable services and resources in Michigan that enable residents to learn and enhance their braille skills.
The BSBP Training Center, located in Kalamazoo, offers courses on braille that are designed to prepare students with the fundamentals of this reading system, including identifying the braille alphabet, braille numbers, common punctuation and reading comprehension. The BSBP Training Center offers courses and training both in-person and via a virtual platform.
"The Bureau of Services for Blind Persons is here to assist blind or visually impaired individuals achieve employment and independence through a variety of customized solutions," said BSBP Director William Robinson. "If you, or someone you know, may benefit from our services - whether that is becoming a patron of the Braille and Talking Book Library or using our Training Center, we encourage you to reach out so we may assess your needs and help you set and achieve your goals."
Michigan's Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL) offers braille and audio books to individuals who are unable to use standard print materials. A part of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, the BTBL and its network of Advisory and Outreach Centers serves people with visual and physical disabilities by offering access to more than 23,000 braille and 100,000 audio book titles. Materials and equipment are provided free of charge and delivered through the U.S. Postal Service, or books can also be downloaded directly with the free BARD Mobile App. In Fiscal Year 2021, the library distributed more than 800,000 materials to its patrons.
Created by Louis Braille in 1824, braille enables individuals to read with their fingertips using a system of six raised dots, laid out in a six-pack formation. It also helps individuals who are blind or visually impaired in the workplace and classroom and assists with helping them learn about grammar, spelling and punctuation. The Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP), within the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity's Office of Employment and Training, facilitates various braille services and resources in the state.
Vocational Rehabilitation, Pre-Employment Transition and Independent Living Older Blind Services are funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education. For federal Fiscal Year 2021, the total grant funds used for these services was expected to approximate $19 million for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), including $2.8 million of the VR grant reserved for Pre-Employment Transition Services and $988,000 for Independent Living for Older Blind Services.