Boston – December 2022 – National Braille Press

There are few times in life that I have visited a place that impacted me the way that a tour of the National Braille Press did. There are over a million people in the country who are legally blind, with millions more who have impaired vision.

The National Braille Press is located in a predominately residential area of Boston near Northeastern University in a classic old building since 1927, with a mission to help those people have a better life.

Nearly 70% of the people who are blind are not working. Of those who are working, virtually all are able to read braille. Our personal tour was lead by Joe, who is the Vice President of Development and Major Gifts. Joe has not let his disability stop him from being an advocate for those with sight challenges.

Our personal tour started out in a conference room where Joe, and his associate Chris, explained the history of braille, their company and their efforts.

The National Braille Press is a leader in the printing of braille products. They are a non profit whose main goal is to help those who need it get as close to an equal opportunity for education and entertainment as those who are sighted.

They gave us an overview of how braille works, including a card showing the alphabet.

It is an expensive effort to print in braille, but at National Braille Press they make sure that people have the same chance as sighted people to get the books they need or want. It costs $80 to print a Harry Potter book in braille, but they still sell it for the same $20 a regular Harry Potter book would sell for. They recover some of this cost by making a profit on other items, such as fliers for corporate meetings and other commercial endeavors.

This cost includes the effort to transcribe the book into braille before being sent to the printer.

As Joe was explaining braille we could feel the entire building rumble at times. Once we headed to the basement we found out why – a collection of Heidelberg printers.

Khith is the person who has been operating these printers for decades. He examines the plates before setting them into the printer.

Once he starts up the printer you feel it as much as you hear it – the rumbling is fantastic.

Amazingly they can print 2 sided at what seems like a fast pace.

The next stop was stitching where we met George. All the machinery in the shop has been in use for years, but continue to operate to deliver the much needed books.

Our final stop was at a station known as the PED – Plate Embossing Device. Here they do smaller, more specialized productions like a United States map. These particular plates are essentially one of a kind, developed by two elderly ladies in New Jersey who have since passed away.

A big thanks to Brian, who showed us the thermoform printer for the above plates, Joe, and all the staff for their time and knowledge. I strongly encourage all to help support the National Braille Press, or others who do similar work for a portion of our population who deserve this valuable service in their lives.

And if you are ever in Boston reach out to the good people at National Braille Press, the tour is so enlightening.

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