Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Braille Printer Still in Demand

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Braille Printer Still in Demand

Article excerpt

The pages rolling off the conveyor belt to the sound of the clattering of presses bear familiar magazine titles: Kiplinger's, Popular Mechanics, PC World, Seventeen.

But inside, the magazines do not look like typical editions of these popular periodicals. These issues have no pictures and no glossy pages. Page after page, the publications consist of thick white paper bearing hundreds of tiny raised dots. They are entirely in braille.

At Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired's nonprofit braille book factory, even Playboy, the men's magazine known for its risque images, is printed in photo-free form. As the magazine passed through the assembly line, Associated's braille division director, Dolores Ferrara-Godzieba, seemed surprised anyone would question why Playboy was being printed for the blind.

"Blind people deserve everything everyone has," she said. "We don't even think about it."

The braille edition of Playboy is a popular item for Associated, proving, as company spokesman Brian Rusk said, "Some people really do read it for the articles."

Since 1929, Associated in Philadelphia has been printing all sorts of materials in braille, from novels and textbooks to utility statements, standardized tests, and menus for clients including the Library of Congress. As one of only five major braille production houses in the U.S., its services are in high demand.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the nonprofit printed 13 million pages of braille, up from 7 million five years ago. The most popular item is the Braille Book Review, a bimonthly catalog published by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Associated prints about 7,200 copies per issue.

The process has been tremendously simplified thanks to technology invented since the organization began printing braille documents, but it is still painstaking for the 20 employees and 25 volunteers who run the Philadelphia operation. …

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