Dear parents, teachers, braille users, and friends,
Over the past few weeks, we have all, like you, been impacted by the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation. Staying at home and practising self-isolation will continue to be critical for overcoming this global pandemic. Many children are home as schools suspend their operations. Many people are working from home, while others may be feeling anxious if they are among those whose work has been impacted.
For some people with disabilities, this global pandemic may be presenting even more challenges. Some may have lost the social activities they once relied on, or may be experiencing the effect of temporarily suspended supports and services. For those who can’t drive, accessing essential services may be posing even more challenges.
We at BLC recognize that these are unusual and stressful times for many. On behalf of the entire board, I want you to know that we have been thinking about what we can do to help.
First, if you have a friend, colleague or family member with a disability (or without!), reach out (by phone or text). Ask if they need any help ordering groceries online. Check in with the people around you with a friendly social phone call.
Here is what BLC will be doing to help:
1. Braille Zoomers Group: You may have seen our announcement in January that we will be launching a virtual group for adults who are learning braille. In light of the current situation, we have decided to start these meetings sooner than planned. They will take place on the first Saturday of each month at 1 PM Eastern, beginning on April 4th. If you are an adult braille learner, please email [email protected] (or call 1-877-861-4576) to join our group. We will be sending the Zoom link and call in details for the first meeting in the coming days. We invite any adult braille learner regardless of where you are in your braille journey. Come join us for this social get-together through Zoom, and meet other adult braille learners just like you!
2. Resources: We are compiling a list of resources that may be especially helpful to the Canadian braille community – online shopping apps and resources, distance learning and online homework assistance, methods for accessing alternative reading materials to maintain student skills, social get-togethers through telephone or online platforms, resources for learning how to use Zoom, and much more. If you have specific resources that you think would be helpful, please write to us at [email protected] and we will add it to the list. We will circulate this list in the coming days both by email and on our Facebook page, and will update it as more resources become available.
3. Parent support: For parents with blind and low vision students, we want to do our part to support you while your students are not at school. Though we are not all teachers, we still can play a role in supporting you in a variety of ways. We will be circulating an announcement directed specifically to parents, inviting them to write to us with any questions they may have about the braille code, how their child’s assistive technology works, and ideas for maintaining braille and braille technology-related skills during this time. If you are a parent of a braille using child with a specific question or if you are looking for a resource, write to us at [email protected] (or call 1-877-861-4576).
4. Special teleconference: We are organizing a special teleconference to take place in early April (date TBD) specifically directed to parents (though all are welcome). We will use this opportunity to share resources that support home learning and ideas for home-based braille activities. We will also answer any questions you may have about braille and braille-related technology. If you are a parent (or student) with questions, please join us. Registration will be free of charge for members and non-members alike for this special online workshop.
5. Facebook page: Keep an eye on our Facebook page. Whenever we come across a resource that we feel might be helpful, we will share it there, with the hashtag #SixDotsStrong
We hope that these measures provide some added support during this time. Please let us know if you have any questions, and stay tuned for all of the above in the coming days and weeks!
With friendship and solidarity,
Natalie Martiniello and your entire Braille Literacy Canada board