Reply To: Nemeth Certification

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Lindy Walton

I would like to respond to this conversation regarding the Nemeth certification exam and the professional expectations of a transcriber seeking certification. First, I will summarize braille training and certification options available to us.

The Literary Braille course published by the Library of Congress prepares one to take the Literary Braille certification exam which is the baseline certification for a transcriber. The literary braille certificate attests to the transcriber's ability to braille a library book, observing all the fundamental rules of the EBAE code. Library book formatting is taught as part of the literary course.

Many transcribers continue their training in order to produce braille textbooks and to produce work that falls beyond the scope of the literary code--math, foreign language, music, computer, chemistry, tactile graphics. The Library of Congress offers certification for music and math; textbook formatting certification is available through NBA. These are advanced exams for advanced certificates.

After passing the Braille Formats certification exam, a person has the tools to transcribe any kind of textbook at any level in any subject other than those covered by their own specific codes or guidelines (math, foreign language, music, computer, chemistry, tactile graphics). The rules of Braille Formats affect the transcription of textbooks brailled in any code, so long as there is not a specific contradictory rule in that other code . For example, Nemeth code has no specific rules for front matter, for headings, for literary lists, for boxed materials, or for tables. In these areas, as in certain others, the Braille Formats rules must be followed. When the Nemeth Code has a specific rule that contradicts Braille Formats, the Nemeth code rule must be followed. Examples of this include the formatting of itemized material, for displayed expressions, or for keying items in a table.

"An Introduction to Braille Mathematics" is an advanced course, appropriate only for an experienced transcriber. Perhaps there should be a prerequisite of a Braille Formats certification before a student is allowed into the Nemeth course, but that is as highly impractical as it is unlikely. At one point in history, a Nemeth student had to prove two years of textbook experience before being allowed to begin the course. Time and situations changed that, but still there is an expectation that a student taking the Nemeth course knows Braille Formats. Only the formats specific to the Nemeth code are covered in the Nemeth course. If a student passes all sixteen lessons but does not know Braille Formats, he is unlikely to pass the exam--nor should he, since all math material is textbook in nature.

Another point to understand is that a certification exam is not designed to be a teaching tool. The exam is testing the transcriber's ability to interpret and apply the braille codes and to understand the nature of the text in order to make logical formatting decisions. Errors are not specifically noted in the final report. When the code citations listed in the report are studied, the transcriber's problem-solving skills should lead her to understand and locate the infraction.

Nemeth certification attests that the transcriber can transcribe any math and science textbook at any level. Because Nemeth certification is a green light for a transcriber to take on advanced textbook work in math, physics, chemistry and science, failure to understand the basics of textbook formatting is a good reason not to be certified. I am sure you will agree that it is most important that people who don't know how are not given a certificate that says that they do.
edited by Lindy on 1/17/2012