APH Press Release
Marie Amerson Wins Prison Braille Award by "Traveling the Extra Mile"
Louisville, KY. (October 15, 2012) – The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) presented an award to Marie Amerson at the 12th Annual National Prison Braille Forum on Wednesday, October 10. The Forum was held in conjunction with APH’s 144th Annual Meeting of Ex Officio Trustees at the Galt House Hotel & Suites. Marie received the award not only because of the time and energy she has spent working to establish and manage Georgia Braille Transcribers in Central State Prison, Macon, GA, but also for her contributions to the field of vision during her distinguished career.
“When our Prison Braille Advisory Committee began working to develop this Forum several months ago, we considered the theme of the Annual Meeting – traveling the extra mile – and decided to tie into that theme in a very special way this year by recognizing the amazing accomplishments of our friend and colleague Marie Amerson,” says Nancy Lacewell, Director of Government and Community Affairs at APH.
About Marie Amerson
Marie Amerson lives in Macon, GA, where she worked at the Georgia Academy for the Blind for 20 years. She taught students with multiple disabilities including visual impairment. She coordinated the LEA Resource Center, a precursor to the Georgia Instructional Materials Center (GIMC), and worked with the Center as special projects coordinator and outreach specialist for the Academy – coordinating grant applications and annual workshops for Teachers of the Visually Impaired, preparing materials for parent support, working with the parent-infant population, and much more.
After she retired from the Academy, Marie was recruited to help coordinate and expand the braille program in Georgia’s corrections system, which was ultimately housed in 3 different prisons. Marie is an accomplished writer and collaborated with APH staff on the National Prison Braille Network’s Guidelines for Starting and Operating Prison Braille Programs. She retired from Georgia corrections this past summer but continues to work as a consultant to Georgia Braille Transcribers and to many other organizations in the field of vision.
“In her role at Georgia Braille Transcribers, Marie has been a leader, teacher, mentor, nurturer, encourager, and head cheerleader,” said Lacewell when presenting the award. “Her work is driven by compassion. She never seeks credit or attention for herself – only for the hard-working transcribers she has trained. Marie continues to touch the lives of many children with vision loss and convicted offenders working to turn their lives around.”
Jim Downs, GIMC Program Manager for the Georgia Department of Education and an APH Ex Officio Trustee, said, “Georgia Braille Transcribers would not exist today without the commitment and enthusiasm that Marie Amerson brought to that program. She has done an amazing job of establishing a successful business within a prison.” Two former offenders who learned braille while incarcerated and are now gainfully employed as braille transcribers thanked Marie for making their new lives possible.
The American Printing House for the Blind, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is the world’s largest company devoted solely to researching, developing, and manufacturing products for people who are blind or visually impaired. Founded in 1858, it is the oldest organization of its kind in the United States. Under the 1879 federal Act to Promote the Education of the Blind, APH is the official supplier of educational materials for visually impaired students in the U.S. who are working at less than college level.
APH manufactures textbooks and magazines in braille, large print, recorded, and digital formats. APH also manufactures hundreds of educational, recreational, and daily living products. APH’s fully-accessible website (www.aph.org) features information about APH products and services, online ordering of products, and free information on a wide variety of blindness-related topics. One popular feature of the site is the Louis Database, a free tool to help locate accessible books available from organizations across the U.S. APH products can be ordered through Louis.
The American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. is located at 1839 Frankfort Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky. For more information, call (502) 895-2405 or log on to www.aph.org.
The National Prison Braille Network was founded in 2000 and is coordinated by the American Printing House for the Blind. There are currently 36 braille production facilities in state and federal prisons across the U.S. Offenders learn braille and then spend their time while incarcerated producing braille textbooks and other reading materials for blind students and adults on the outside.
Braille production is extremely time consuming and costly. Transcribers in prison braille programs help lower the cost of production and significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to get accessible textbooks to students. At the same time, they acquired job skills that can be used upon release. While the national recidivism rate of offenders (those who reoffend and return to prison) is said to be 50%-60%, the recidivism rate of qualified braille transcribers is 0%-3% nationally.
The NPBN hosts a National Prison Braille Forum each year in October in Louisville to discuss challenges and opportunities that prison braille programs present. This year, 73 vision and corrections professionals from 22 states met in Louisville to discuss such issues as helping offenders work as braille transcribers following release from prison, ensuring excellent quality braille production in the prison setting, and effective communication among vision and corrections professionals.
Located at Central State Prison in Macon, GA, Georgia Braille Transcribers currently employs 24 men who work daily to provide accessible instructional materials for blind students and adults throughout the state.