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Touch to See: A Nineteenth-Century Book for Blind Readers

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Touch to See: A Nineteenth-Century Book for Blind Readers – In-Person & via Zoom

Date: June 3, 10am to 2pm Eastern (lunch will be provided) – REGISTRATION CLOSES MAY 10th

Location: The Swem Library at William & Mary (Williamsburg, VA)

Led by Dr. Amanda Stuckey, Assistant Professor of English at Central Penn College in Harrisburg, PA. Attendance is open to all at no charge.

We often think of sight-impairment as a barrier to literacy, but as early as the 1800s, US educators experimented with raised-print (or embossed) text books that blind and low-vision students could read by touch. Today, these tactile books stand as reminders that text is a material and multi-sensory experience. In the workshop “Touch to See: A Nineteenth-Century Book for Blind Readers,” we will consider the production, use, and physical state of one of these books, an 1836 New Testament embossed at what is now the Perkins School for the Blind and held at The College of William & Mary’s Swem Library Special Collections Resource Center. This workshop centers the experience of encountering this unusual tactile book (whether by sight, touch, or both) in order to discuss what it means to read by touch. Examining the range of textual and material decisions surrounding this New Testament, we will consider tactile books as, on the one hand, representative of the uneven (and often ableist) power structures that put them into print. On the other hand, however, tactile books also represent early efforts toward Universal Design, and workshop participants will also consider nineteenth-century understandings of access and inclusive learning. Overall, this workshop aims to broaden our expectations for books and how we read them.

Registration is open to in-person participation at Swem Library in Williamsburg, VA, and online participation through Zoom. Zoom participants will receive workshop materials in advance of June 3 at the email address provided at registration. The BSA will share a Zoom link on June 3, granting online participants live access to the workshop from 9:45am-2:15pm EST. Please direct any questions to Amanda Stuckey at amandastuckey@centralpenn.edu.

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