Putting braille on the menu

Meet the Perkins Library team making theater programs and restaurant menus accessible to people who are blind

A hand reading braille

The Perkins Library has converted restaurant menus, theater programs and trail guides into braille for its clients.

Whether it’s a hymnal for a local church or karaoke lyrics for a girls’ night out, Tanja Milojevic can braille it.

The braille production specialist at the Perkins Library has converted restaurant menus, theater programs and trail guides into braille for clients like Not Your Average Joe’s, the Boston Opera House and Mass Audubon.

“We never know what we’re going to get,” she said. “One year during Christmas we got a letter from a woman. She was writing to her partner and wanted to have it brailled so it would be accessible for him.”

The Perkins Library began offering fee-for-service braille production in 2007, and has quietly served a steady stream of clients ever since. Most projects are small – three menus for a local restaurant, 10 braille programs for an upcoming musical.

“We don’t do mass production,” said Perkins Library Director Kim Charlson. “If a state agency is having a meeting and needs an agenda in braille for one attendee, we do that work.”

Milojevic’s two-person department handles requests from start to finish. Clients send text-only documents, which are converted to electronic braille using translation software. Milojevic formats the document using special code, and then proofreads it before sending it to one of Perkins’ four braille embossing machines.

Projects can take anywhere from a day to a week to complete, depending on the complexity of the formatting and the condition of the original file. When the embossers have finished, Milojevic uses a burster to separate the heavy pages, and then a binder or stapler to join them back together.

The finished product is then boxed and sent back to clients, who now have an accessible version of their print materials.

“It’s definitely rewarding,” said Milojevic, who has low vision. “I know in some small way that people are being accommodated, they’re getting what they need.”

When she’s not working with outside customers, Milojevic produces much of the braille found on the Perkins campus. Plant labels in the Horticulture Center, diplomas distributed at graduation and braille copies of the Perkins yearbook are all produced in-house. Recently, Milojevic worked with the Perkins Research Library to produce a braille copy of a letter sent to Perkins by Charles Dickens. Coincidentally, the letter was sent requesting a braille copy of Dickens’ novel, “The Old Curiosity Shop.”

In projects on and off campus, Charlson sees the Library carrying out its mission of making information accessible to people who can’t read traditional print.

“The Library is all about literacy, so producing braille is a natural fit,” she said. “The work we do allows people who are blind – whether they’re going out to dinner or to the theater – to be more informed. It enhances people’s inclusion in whatever they’re doing.”

To request braille production services email Tanja.Milojevic@Perkins.org or call 617-972-7643.