The Learning and Labor of the blind A one-Day Symposium on Tactile Printing

Tuesday, April 23rd, 10:00AM – 3:00PM
Smathers Library

Raised type in french on the pages of Sebastian Guillie's "Notice historique sur l'Institution Nationale des Jeunes Aveugles" (1817)

We invite you to a curator talk, gallery tour, and workshop around our current exhibition, “The Learning and Labor of the Blind,” now on display in the Smathers Library Second Floor Gallery.

Before the widespread adoption of Braille in the late 1800s, a variety of different types of raised printing were used to make books for blind readers. Educators and institutions created curricula, and often their own systems of tactile writing, based on very different assumptions about the role their students could, or should play in broader society.  Unfortunately, many of their methods downplayed or ignored the needs of blind people in a society centered around sight. This exhibit explores the variety of tactile books and their users, drawing out the stories about the lived experiences of blind people in the 19th century. While these alphabets and educational methods shaped the development of public education, our modern approaches to accessibility stem from the insistence of blind individuals that they be seen and heard on their own terms.

Schedule of Events

10:00 – 11:00AM: Curator Talk & Q&A, (Smathers Library, Judaica Suite)
Neil Weijer and Laken Brooks discuss different sections of the exhibition and the relations between technology and society.

11:15-12:00 Exhibit Walk and Audio Tour (Smathers Library, Second Floor Gallery)
Participants have the opportunity to explore the exhibit with the curators and test out a self-paced audio tour with additional description and information.
Please note: the audio tour will be accessible from a smartphone. Please plan to bring your own headphones so as not to disturb others.

12:00-1:00 Lunch Break (Smathers Library Room 100)
Please RSVP to Neil Weijer (n.weijer@ufl.eduby noon on Friday, April 19th if you are interested in attending the lunchand be sure to note any dietary restrictions.

1:30- 2:45: Workshop: Teaching and Working with Tactile Books (Smathers Library, Judaica Suite)
Neil Weijer, Laken Brooks, and Jaime van der Veken
Workshop participants will have the chance to get up close with some of the tactile books in our collections, as well as additional 3D-Printed models of Boston Line Type, to talk about how they can benefit educators and students in the classroom, as well as researchers in the history of the book.    

Please RSVP to Neil Weijer ( if you are interested in attending the lunch, or if you will require accommodations for any of the events.

About the Exhibit

The Learning and Labor of the Blind will be on display in the second floor gallery of Smathers Library until April 26, 2024. It is free and open to the public between the hours of 9AM-6PM, Monday-Thursday, and 9-5PM on Friday.