At ABLE (Audio & Braille Literacy Enhancement), our vision is that everyone has access to the printed word because reading—in whatever form it takes—is the key to learning, growth, productivity, self-sufficiency, and full participation in one’s community.
To that end, our mission is to provide alternative ways for people with print disabilities to read.
Audio & Braille Literacy Enhancement (ABLE) started out because of one woman’s passion for helping blind children in school. In the late 1950s, Sr. Melmarie Stoll took six-year-old blind student, Lois Davis, into her classroom. At that time, there were no materials available in braille for her to teach with.
Recognizing this need, a small group of trained braillists and braille students united to transcribe textbooks for the students in two Milwaukee area schools. When it became evident that Wisconsin had no central transcription agency to serve the entire state, this group decided to expand services statewide and include taped and large print materials.
With no funds to seed such an operation, nine enthusiastic volunteers sought donations from friends, organizations, and corporations to purchase materials and equipment. By 1965, and under the name of Volunteer Services for the Visually Handicapped, this hard working group of 180 volunteers was serving all of Wisconsin and beyond.
How could we NOT just plunge right in!
Jean Atkinson | Founding Member of ABLE
After initial fundraising efforts proved successful, the Milwaukee City Librarian assured this group of volunteers that they would have permanent quarters in the Downtown Central Library building, next to the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library. Although still located within the Central Library, the organization became a separate 501(c) (3) nonprofit in 1988.
In 2008, our name was changed to Audio & Braille Literacy Enhancement, Inc. (ABLE) to better reflect the agency’s mission and services.
Though our name changed, our mission has not—we are still making the printed word accessible to individuals with print disabilities.
How we produce those materials, however, has changed dramatically. We now have the ABLE Sound Center with two sound booths and a staff/volunteer team to record and edit books with a professional sound quality. For production of braille and tactile materials, we use state-of-the-art software, computers, and embossers. But the end result has not changed. Children and adults have audio, braille, and tactile materials when they need them—whether it be for school, for work, or for recreational purposes.