Atlantis Safely Returns Braille Coin to Earth, NASA Spreads the Word about Braille Literacy Crisis

Philadelphia, PA (PressExposure) May 25, 2009 -- When the space shuttle Atlantis returned Sunday to Edwards Air Force Base in California, Commander Scott Altman and his crew had completed a mission not only to repair the Hubble telescope but to draw attention to America's Braille literacy crisis. They were carrying two of the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollars. Local blind leaders were instrumental in convincing Congress to authorize the coin which supports the "Braille Readers are Leaders" campaign of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), which seeks to double the number of blind children learning Braille by 2015.

“NASA believes strongly in the importance of educational opportunities for everyone," said Joyce Winterton, assistant administrator for education at NASA headquarters in Washington. "That is why we have partnered with the National Federation of the Blind to help create programs that enhance scientific study for blind youth. Launching the first coin to contain tactile, readable Braille into space symbolizes NASA’s commitment to the spread of knowledge by every means and to every individual.”

"We are so thankful that NASA has chosen to help us get the word out," says Jim Antonacci (61), President of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania (NFB of PA, 42 S. 15th St., Phila.), "Right now only ten percent of America's blind kids are being taught to read and write Braille. This is not only denying many fine people the opportunity to pursue their goals and interests. It also places an unnecessary burden on the taxpayer. We have a seventy percent unemployment rate for blind Americans of working age, but of those who do work, over eighty percent are Braille readers."

Antonacci, a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania retiree with thirty-three years experience as a math teacher and rehabilitation counselor, who lost his sight in an accident while he was in high school, is dedicated to increasing educational and employment opportunities for blind people. He is responsible for bringing the NFB's "Braille Readers are Leaders" program to Pennsylvania; last year five Pennsylvania students were in the top eighteen in the nation. Jim volunteers at St. Lucy's Day School for Blind Children (L & Hunting Park) where he helps with everything from spelling to showing children how to load paper into a Braille writer.

Congress acknowledged the Braille literacy crisis by authorizing the minting of the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar, released March 26, 2009. Antonacci (Willow Grove) and other leaders from the NFB of PA, including Vice President Lynn Heitz (Levittown), convinced all nineteen of Pennsylvania's representatives and both senators to co-sponsor the bill. NFB's "Braille Readers are Leaders" campaign will receive matching funds of $10 from each coin sold up to $4 million.

Learn More About the "Braille Readers are Leaders" campaign:

Visit the US Mint: *** About the National Federation of the Blind: With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind people’s lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation's blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind.

About National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania

The National Federation of the Blind of PA is a non-profit 501 (C) (3). It is an advocacy and training organization in which blind people work for equal rights and to help one another.
Jim Antonacci, President
Lynn Heitz, Vice President
National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania
42 S. 15th St., Philadelphia, 19102
(215) 988-0888

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Press Release Submitted On: May 25, 2009 at 12:05 pm
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