Abstract: In this study, a detailed error analysis was performed to determine if patterns of errors existed in braille transcriptions. The most frequently occurring errors were the insertion of letters or words that were not contained in the original print material; the incorrect usage of the emphasis indicator; and the incorrect formatting of titles, exercises, and directions.
The use of braille transcribers appears to be increasing in the United States. In Allman and Lewis's (1996) study of teachers of students with visual impairments, only 7% of the respondents reported that braille transcribers were available to assist them in preparing materials. In contrast, in a study of slightly more than 50% of the teachers of students with visual impairments in Minnesota, all 51 teachers reported that they had access to a braille transcriber (Knowlton & Berger, 1999). These teachers felt that it was essential for teachers of students with visual impairments to be able to correctly transcribe daily assignments and have the skills to prepare materials to be transcribed by others (Knowlton & Berger, 1999). The essential role of transcribers in preparing materials was echoed in a pilot study on the support provided to 10 high school students who read braille and were enrolled in general education classes. The teachers reported that they used braille transcribers extensively to produce materials for 8 of their students (Leigh & Barclay, 2000). In a more recent study of 107 teachers from 41 states, 37 (35%) reported that a transcriber was available to assist them in preparing materials (Rosenblum & Amato, 2004). Although the increasing reliance on transcribers to produce braille materials has been documented in the literature, it appears that not all teachers of students with visual impairments have access to this critical resource.
The majority of U.S. states do not have a sufficient number of certified braille transcribers and hence use a variety of alternatively trained personnel for transcribing instructional materials in braille for students (Corn & Wall, 2002). Certified transcribers, noncertified transcribers, volunteers, paraeducators, and teachers of students with visual impairments are all regularly used to transcribe materials (Allman & Lewis, 1996; Corn & Wall, 2002; Herzberg & Stough, 2007, 2009; Rosenblum & Amato, 2004; Wall & Corn, 2002). A continued and perhaps even more critical shortage of braille transcribers is anticipated (American Foundation for the Blind, AFB, n.d.; Corn & Wall, 2002). This shortage may lead to students receiving late or improperly transcribed braille materials because not enough competent transcribers are available to produce the materials in a timely fashion.
Sometimes when school personnel, such as aides and paraeducators, are initially assigned to transcribe materials, teachers of students with visual impairments, who may or may not also be certified by the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), are assigned to train them (Allman & Lewis, 1996; Curry & Hatlen, 1989). In Texas, training by an itinerant teacher of students with visual impairments is the most commonly used method of training novice braille transcribers (Texas Education Agency, 2000). Although this method has not been evaluated in the literature, its effectiveness obviously may vary greatly in that it is highly dependent on the teacher-trainer's own skills in braille transcribing.
Although most teachers of students with visual impairments value braille as an important instructional medium, the braille-transcribing skills of individual teachers may fluctuate throughout their careers. For example, if a teacher does not use braille for an extended period, his or her braille skills may deteriorate. Amato's (2002) study of teacher preparation programs in the United States and Canada supported this assumption: More than 70% of the 45 teacher-trainers who responded to the survey thought that a teacher's competence in braille transcription was a function of ongoing braille practice. …