It might seem that the need for a Braille proofreader is becoming obsolete, especially with today’s digital technology. But there’s still a enormous stack of printed materials being added to libraries for blind and visually impaired readers.
In the past few years, National Braille Press proofreader Amber Pearcy has checked Braille translations for iPhone instruction guides, an airline safety card for Southwest, a children’s picture book, college admission tests, cookbooks, and best-selling novels. She examines page after page looking for errors, often comparing a transcribed document to an audio version of the original print document. And because Braille has its own rules and formats, she and the other six proofreaders at the nonprofit Boston-based publisher spend a lot of time discussing the correct way to format a document.
They sit in the proofreading room above the noisy presses and embossing machines in the basement, with Perkins Braillers — a kind of typewriter — on their desks. Pearcy, 29, has been blind since she was born, 3½ months premature, and learned Braille at the age of 3. Pearcy spoke with Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene.
“I kind of fell into Braille proofreading by coincidence. I had finished college and was between jobs and turned to volunteering at the Perkins School for the Blind.
“They needed someone to help with in their Braille production department and showed me the ropes. I discovered I was good at proofreading and looked into getting certified. This requires a series of lessons through the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; it’s a correspondence course through snail mail. I needed to show I was proficient at each of the tasks they ask us to do. At the end of the course, to demonstrate proficiency, I needed to proofread a 35-page book of short stories.
“Then this job opened up three years ago, and since then I’ve had a series of interesting assignments, including a 45-volume Bible that took all hands on deck. We also check the accompanying tactile graphics to make sure that the graphs and data points are precise. I write up all of my error reports . . . on a device called a Braille Sense, which is a notetaker that includes a Braille typewriter.
“I don’t subscribe to the ‘Braille is dead’ theory at all. I think Braille is evolving in the way we access it and [the way it] is produced. If you walked into my office, you would see shelves of Braille in the room, mostly old publications that we refer to from time to time, and a 72-volume Webster’s Dictionary. And of course, there is Faith, my seeing eye dog, curled up on a rug at my feet. She’s a black lab and is quite content to sleep at my feet while I work.”
Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji .com.