MANSFIELD — The BEST (Braille Excellence for Students and Teachers) Grant is a statewide project of professional development and technical assistance dedicated to braille literacy, braille instruction, braille materials and braille technology in Ohio schools.
In addressing that goal, the BEST Grant will establish two Local Braille Production Centers (LBPCs) in school districts during the fifth year of the grant period. The establishment of these centers will expand braille production capabilities at the local school district level. Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center (MOESC) is the newest recipient of a LBPC.
The grant comes from the Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Materials Center (AT&AEM), a branch of OCALI, and is funded by the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
Kallie Poast is MOESC’s teacher for the blind and visually impaired and assisted in garnering the grant.
“The team learned about the grant through our supervisor at the time,Adrienne Randall (former director of student services at MOESC),” explained Poast, “With Superintendent KevinKimmel’s support, our team applied for the grantto increase our ability to serve blind and visually impaired students.”
With the rewarding of the grant, MOESC now owns a Juliet Embosser, valued at around $4,495, the translation software, as well as one box of braille paper.
Christine McElfresh, a certified orientation and mobility specialist for MOESC, said the equipment was only part of the grant.
“The team from OCALI came to set up all of the equipment awarded through the grant, and they also gave us a day-long training on the software, which is invaluable to the future success of our production. The team also provided multiple manuals and flash drives with materials for tech support on an as needed basis.”
The vision team is thrilled to be able to produce high quality Braille material in an efficient manner that allows more students to have access to their academic material, more of the time. McElfresh said the team is excited about the features of the program that allows the production of shapes, graphs, and simple images to provide students with visual impairment with tactile representation of what their peers with sight are learning.
“We at Mid-Ohio are excited that the embosser affords us with the ability to provide individuals with visual impairment access to print material in an accessible way. We are eager to continue to learn about the software and embosser that BEST grant provided and are incredibly thankful for the opportunity to provide braille to students in our community!”
Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center Superintendent Kevin D. Kimmel commended the team and said this brings a great new service for MOESC client districts.
“The cost of vision assistive technology can be extremely high, but it is a necessary expense for us to undertake for the students we serve. I am pleased with Christine McElfresh, Kallie Poast, and (Technology Manager) Candy Bores for their tireless efforts to bring this new Braille production center to Mid-Ohio.”
MOESC provides vision services to 5 districts (Ashland City Schools, Crestline Exempted Village Schools, Madison Local Schools, Northmor Local Schools, and Mansfield City School) with additional districts to be added.