BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy & Learning) Academy

NFB BELL Academy logo

The National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey (NFBNJ) sponsored its fourth BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy & Learning) Academy held weekdays, July 17 through July 28, 2017 between the hours of 9:00 am and 3:00 pm. The program was held at the Puerto Rican Association for Human Development (PRAHD), Inc. located at:
101 First Street
Perth Amboy, New Jersey 08861

The BELL Academy provided instruction in Braille and daily living skills to children ages 4 through 12 who have lacked the opportunity and sufficient exposure to these important areas. In addition, the children formed new friendships with other visually impaired/blind children and adults, and interacted with sighted children who attended the PRAHD’s own summer program. Highlights from this year’s BELL Academy included working with model trains, building a toolbox, enjoying hands on activities at Turtle Back Zoo, building motorized cars and helicopters with Lego’s, played goalball, and participating in science experiments pertaining to chemistry and magnetism.

The children were taught by a certified Braille transcriber with 13 years of experience. They had access to blind adults that served as mentors and facilitators of our program.

Our goal is to enable the children to live the lives they want through upbeat and positive attitudes, skills, and experiences provided by the BELL Academy.

You can read the affiliate-specific Frequently Asked Questions brochure for New Jersey at For more information, please contact Mary Jo Partyka, our state BELL coordinator, at or by phone at 609-888-5459.

Pictures and Videos


Quoc Anh Tran and Andrew Chin introduce BELL Academy student Ryan Abbott to golf.
Grad student volunteer Quoc Anh Tran (on left) and high-school senior volunteer Andrew Chin (on right) introduce BELL Academy student, Ryan Abbott (in the middle) to golf. Picture shows third-grader Ryan grasping a golf club, leaning over and preparing to swing. Anh is on Ryan’s left and Andrew on his right. Submitted by Holly Miller.

Ryan Abbott and Ethan Rieger with adhesive dots all over their faces.
Ryan Abbott and Ethan Rieger, students at the 2016 N.J. BELL Academy have playfully placed adhesive dots all over their faces. The dots came from foam rubber rectangles of six dots each. The children removed selected dots from each rectangle to make each rectangle a different letter of the Braille alphabet. The rectangles were strung together in a banner. Submitted by Holly Miller.

Nate Stephens introduces a guest from a neighboring summer program to Braille.
Nate Stephens, a student at New Jersey’s 2016 BELL Academy, introduces a guest from a neighboring summer program to Braille. Picture shows Nate with his hand on the embossing head of a brailler, checking what he has brailled, to one of our summer guests, right, looking on. Submitted by Barbara Shalit.

Ethan Rieger built this paper crinkler during our visit from Bricks4Kidz. In this video clip, he sends a flat, narrow strip of paper through two plastic gears moving in opposite directions. The flat paper goes through them and comes out crinkled. Submitted by Holly Miller.

 BELL Academy Sponsorship Request for 2018

You Can Help Sponsor Next Summer’s BELL Academy
From Ice Cream to T-Shirts, Braille Paper to Pizza

Please consider the opportunity to help sponsor some part of the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy next summer, to be conducted in Perth Amboy, N.J. The BELL Academy dates for 2018 are to be determined. When finalized, we will announce to all.

The BELL Academy is a two-week program for visually impaired and blind children ages 4 through 12, many of whom have had minimal exposure to braille. The program presents opportunities to enhance braille and blindness skills. Instruction in activities of daily living furthers the children’s independence and self-sufficiency. Blind mentors and volunteers provide excellent role models, keeping expectations high and proving that blindness is not the characteristic that defines one’s future. All BELL Academy children receive a free white cane and a free slate and stylus from the NFB.

Please review and consider the following list of sponsorships. Thank you.

  • $200 Tee shirts for all participants
  • $200 Supplies for arts and crafts
  • $150 Christmas in July party with Santa
  • $100 Louis Braille birthday party
  • $100 Various games: Twister, Bingo, etc.
  • $50 Ice cream at the beach
  • $30 Mid-week pizza party
  • $30 Braille paper
  • $20 Dark lined paper
  • $15 20/20 pens
  • $10 Snacks per day
  • $5 Water for each day

Sponsorship for Tactile Graphic Products

Competence in understanding and using tactile/raised-line illustrations is critical for blind children both for academic and expressive needs. The following five items promote this important but often less-recognized subject area.

  1. 4 or more Sensational Graphics Blackboards at $49.95. Here’s a short video:
  2. 3D Doodler Pens, $100 each with “ink” strands. More packs of “ink strands” cost $12.00 for a 25-pack.
  3. InTact Sketch Pad $125.
  4. InTact Sketch Pad electric eraser $150
  5. Extra InTact Sketch Pad paper: 100 sheets for $24.00

Note: We have received several sponsorships prior to this posting, and we thank those that have made the donation.

Once again, thanks for your interest and support to drive the BELL Academy vehicle along the road to literacy and learning for blind children. Together, with love, hope and determination, we transform dreams into reality.

Please make checks payable to NFBNJ and mail to:

Joe Ruffalo, President
254 Spruce Street
Bloomfield, NJ 07003

In the memo, please write “BELL.” Any sponsorship in any amount will be appreciated.

Left Hand Sidebar

Contact Information

Joseph Ruffalo, President
254 Spruce Street
Bloomfield, NJ 07003
Phone: 973-743-0075

Coming Soon

NFBNJ 41st State Convention

November 9-12, 2017
Holiday Inn Hotel
151 Route 72 East
Manahawkin, NJ 08050
Access Link accessible

2018 NFB Washington Seminar

January 29 to February 1, 2018
Holiday Inn Capitol
550 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024

PayPal Donations

Please make a donation to the National Federation of the Blind general account, our general scholarship account, the Joe/Rose Ruffalo Memorial Scholarship account, or the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy. Please indicate which account you wish the donation to go into when making your contribution. You do not need to have a PayPal account to donate, simply use the information from your debit/credit card if you don't have PayPal. All donations are tax deductible. To make a donation to NFBNJ via PayPal, please visit our PayPal Donations page.

White Cane Awareness Day: teach the world about what the white cane means to blind people

White canes help blind people live the lives we want. The white cane does more than tell the sighted that we’re blind; it is a tool for freedom and self-determination because it allows blind people to come and go on our own. Since we can travel safely and independently, we can contribute in the workplace, in our communities, and in society. Celebrate White Cane Awareness Day on October 15 by giving the gift of independence. To learn more, please visit If you wish to make a donation during White Cane Day, please visit

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