Skip to Content

My Letter to Frank Curt Cylke Asking for the Prompt Restoration of the Web-Braille Service

May 12, 2006 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We hope all NLS subscribers will write a letter to Frank Curt Cylke asking for the immediate restoration of the Web-Braille service to Blind Americans. There may be a chance of getting this valuable resource back if we deem it important enough to speak out.

May 12, 2006

Dear Mr. Kurt Cylke:

I am a long time NLS patron, Braille reader and computer user. From time to time over the past seven years or so, I have utilized the Web-Braille service to obtain immediate access to Grade 2 Braille copies of books and magazines in electronic format, readable on the BookPort, BrailleNote, PAC Mate and other similar portable devices. It has not been necessary to wait several weeks to obtain this material in hardcopy form. I was thus incredibly dismayed to learn of the sudden removal of Web-Braille without warning. Prompt access to information of all kinds is absolutely critical for blind Americans. Once a resource is made available, the blind community will soon grow to rely on it in their daily lives. It represents a huge loss to have such a vital resource yanked out from under us without warning.

Please restore Web-Braille service to blind Americans immediately, while working to resolve its security and technical issues in a process of continuous improvement. We trust that NLS listens to its patrons. I believe there are hundreds of Web-Braille users. Many of us are speaking out on this issue. We look forward to your prompt, affirmative response on this matter. Thank you for your time and consideration of the needs and wants of your Braille reading subscribers.


Darrell Shandrow

Categories: Uncategorized

Visual Verification: E-Bay’s Inappropriate Response to the Concerns of its Blind Customers

May 12, 2006 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In recent months, E-Bay has been rolling out visual verification without accessible alternatives. Thus far, the scheme is used when communicating among buyers and sellers through the E-Bay web site. We have received reports from two blind E-Bay users stating that the company appears to be unwilling to provide an accessible alternative, instead making the inappropriate suggestion that it is acceptable to require the help of a sighted person (friend or relative) in order to gain access to the affected resources. If it is acceptable to require sighted assistance to work around visual verification schemes, then why not require the same assistance to use the Internet in general? There is no reason to believe this CAPTCHA would not be expanded to other portions of the site in the future, thus increasing the company’s lock out of its blind customers. We must do everything possible to expose this inappropriate response on the part of E-Bay’s employees and to cause the company to tear down its “no blind people allowed” sign by implementing accessible alternatives such as those provided by AOL, Google, Microsoft and others.

Categories: Uncategorized

Web Braille Shut Down – Please Write Immediately

May 11, 2006 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Please read the article by Jeff Bishop below, then write a short note to NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke at the e-mail address emphasizing the importance of Web-Braille and asking him to promptly restore this service to the blind community. An online petition effort is being considered. Please let us know your thoughts.

This is just offle news. Web-Braille has been shutdown by NLS until further notice. NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke is under the impression that only a few people will care about Web Braille’s shutdown, so if a lot of people contact him right away, maybe something will be done. His e-mail address is Everyone, I plead with you to email him and ask for Web-Braille’s return. Here is more information.

If you haven’t heard yet, you will all probably be hearing from your patrons very soon about the shutdown of Web-Braille. Any patron logging into the Web-Braille site as of 5-10-06 is receiving the following message: NLS: That All May Read Web-braille notice Because of technical and security difficulties, Web-Braille will be unavailable in the near future. NLS regrets the inconvenience and will provide further information as soon as possible. For more information contact: Judith Dixon Consumer Relations Officer On May 11, 2006, the following Operations Alert was issued from NLS: NLS Operations Alert DATE : May 11, 2006 TO : Network Libraries FROM : Network Division Subject : Web-Braille Because of technical and security difficulties, Web-Braille will be unavailable in the near future. NLS regrets the inconvenience and will provide further information as soon as possible. For more information contact: Judith Dixon Consumer Relations Officer Here is the current NLS reply coming from Judy Dixon in response to patron inquiries: “Web-Braille has been removed from public access temporarily. We apologize for the inconvenience that the removal of Web-Braille has caused. At this time, it is not known how long Web-Braille will be unavailable but we have every hope that the curtailment of the service will be short-lived. We are making every effort to resume this service as soon as possible. In the interim, all NLS-produced books and magazines are available in hardcopy braille from your braille-lending library. If the status of Web-Braille changes, information will be posted on the main Web-Braille page.”

In the 8-plus years that Web-Braille has been operational, to my knowledge, there has never been a major technical issue. It has been run with the highest degree of efficiency, and network libraries have been setting up eligible readers without a problem. Now, suddenly, there is a concern about the security of Web-Braille. Why now is NLS worried about the ability to back translate BRF files, it’s always been possible, but who would do it. Back translation is tedious and subject to many reverse translation errors. In all the years of Web-Braille operation, I have never heard of a violation of the lending terms. Braille readers love Web-Braille and want to preserve and grow it, not shut it down because of abuse. This precipitous action strikes me as too harsh a response too late. There is no problem with Web-Braille today, there wasn’t one yesterday, and instead of removing it completely, let NLS work to incorporate Web-Braille into the digital rights management scheme of the new digital talking books for the future. Don’t penalize all Web-Braille users — braille readers of all ages using braille aware devices such as BrailleNotes, Braille Senses, Braille ‘n Speaks, and Packmates; deafblind patrons who have such limited options for reading materials, and classroom teachers embossing materials for students, just to name a few. Don’t make just one more protection scheme for patrons to cope with, it’s getting harder and harder to manage whether or not all of the incription keys are on all of the devices that people use today. The burden of access shouldn’t be placed on the borrower, if they have computer access and a Braille aware device, that should be sufficient to allow them access to Web-Braille. Without Web-Braille, network libraries are going to see a significant increase in their costs for handling and processing braille materials, and those libraries paying for braille circulation services will pay more for hardcopy braille circulations that would have previously been Web-Braille transactions. I urge all of you to contact Frank Kurt Cylke at NLS ( and express your extreme disappointment at this action, and urge the immediate reinstatement of Web-Braille for all of our patrons who rely on it every day. This service is vital and must be restored to full functionality.

Categories: Uncategorized

NLS Takes Web-Braille Offline

May 11, 2006 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

During the past six years, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has been providing thousands of the books and magazines from its collection in the form of immediately downloadable Grade II Braille files by way of its Web-Braille service. We are extremely disturbed and saddened to report that this service has been suddenly taken offline indefinitely and without explanation. The materials remain available in hard copy form through the cooperating Talking Book library.

Categories: Uncategorized

Skating event not proper for the blind, lawsuit says

May 6, 2006 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Article from Virginian Pilot, VA on 5/6/2006
by JOHN HOPKINS, The Virginian-Pilot
Submitted by BlindNews Mailing List
[BlindNews: News About Blindness]

I am concerned about the specific mention of blindness as a critical factor in this lawsuit. If the proper safety gear was not used, fine, there may be a good case. But blindness, in and of itself, is no reason to award damages. Doing so would send the incorrect and improper message that it is unsafe to allow blind people to scate! It might encourage undue discrimination against the blind.

Categories: Uncategorized