July 12, 2012

Treasure Coasts’ Only Braille Printer Closes Its Doors

Braille is a way of life for David John Fee. He learned to read it when he was 5 years old. He became a certified Braille proofreader when he was 25. For most of the past 13 years, he has worked full time proofreading pages that roll off the presses at Braille International south of Stuart. But at the end of this month, Fee and his fellow employees will be out of work.

After 25 years of printing Braille books, magazines and other materials, the nonprofit is shutting down its plant on Slater Street. Its final day of business will be July 31. The news came as a shock to Fee and some of the other 32 employees of Braille International. ”You grieve your job, and you want to save it,” said Fee, a 47-year-old Stuart resident who has been blind since birth.

Braille International is one of a handful of large Braille printing facilities in the country, and it has been struggling financially for years. Part of the problem was the recession, which eroded the budgets of its clients — many of them government agencies or nonprofits. The other part was that Braille’s popularity has waned as audio books and other digital options for the visually impaired have proliferated. Only about 10 percent of today’s blind children learn to read Braille, according to the National Federation for the Blind.

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