Braille Institute of America
|Key people||Lester M. Sussman, Chair|
|Area served||Southern California|
|Motto||Empowering visually impaired people to live fulfilling lives|
Braille Institute of America (BIA) is a non-profit organization with headquarters in Los Angeles providing programs, seminars and one-on-one instruction for the visually impaired community in Southern California. Funded almost entirely by private donations, all of the Institute's services are provided completely free of charge. The organization has five regional centers as well as outreach programs at more than 200 locations throughout Southern California. It is a member of BANA.
Braille Institute serves children, youth and adults, with the goal of helping its clients adapt to life with low vision and achieving fulfilling, independent lives. The organization offers instruction in adaptive cooking, home skills, mobility training and staying connected through technology. BIA's publishing arm produces "The Braille Special Collection," several series of free children's books in Braille, designed to foster an early love of reading and promote Braille Literacy.
After losing his sight in 1912, J. Robert Atkinson, a cowboy from Montana, learned to read Braille and transcribed 250 books dictated to him by his family. Impressed by his efforts, philanthropists Mary and John Longyear donated $25,000 to help Atkinson found the Universal Braille Press in 1919 in Los Angeles. By 1924, Atkinson finished printing the 21 volumes of the Braille King James Version of the Bible. The Braille Mirror, a Braille magazine, was first published in 1926 by the Universal Braille Press.
Atkinson lobbied lawmakers and influenced the passage of the Pratt-Smoot Act in 1931. The legislation provided $100,000 for the printing and distribution of raised-print media through the Library of Congress Services for the Blind. The Universal Braille Press incorporated as the Braille Institute of America.
In 1934, Braille Institute joined the National Library System. BIA printed the first Braille Webster's dictionary in 1938. In 1971, Braille Institute opened its first regional center in Anaheim, California. In 2000, the first Braille Challenge was held, an annual competition for visually impaired youth that celebrates Braille literacy.
Braille Institute's Library Services is the Southern California branch of the National Library Service of the Library of Congress. The Library freely provides over 1.2 million Braille texts, periodicals, and audio recordings for the public. In 2009, Library Services received the National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The Braille Challenge
- Will H. Kindig, helped establish the Institute
- Perl, Erica S. A Report Three: Federal and State Legislation Regarding Accessible Instructional Materials. Center for Applied Special Technology.
- Best Practices: Braille Institute and the Braille Challenge. American Association on Health and Disability.