Staff Spotlight: Michael Cantino

Michael Cantino Students and staff alike have a great deal of respect and affection for Michael Cantino. He’s widely admired for his dedication to students, his specialized expertise, and for his even-tempered demeanor and good humor. Michael joined Columbia Regional Program (CRP) in 2012 as a para-educator trainer, dividing his time between the autism and blind/visually impaired (BVI) departments.

He came to CRP with extensive experience in behavior classrooms, supporting students who struggle to manage their emotions and lose control. Michael’s calm, unflappable manner has served him well in his work with these kids – in addition to his understanding of what’s going on “beneath the surface” for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. 

Working with students in the BVI program, Michael learned to transcribe braille. After passing a rigorous assessment, he earned his certification from the Library of Congress in Literary braille transcription. Then in 2015, Michael  accepted a newly created Braille Transcriber position at CRP. Our teachers of the visually impaired who serve braille students submit classroom materials to Michael for transcription. He's proficient in Literary, Nemeth (math), and Unified English Braille (UEB) codes.

Perkins Brailler Michael manually transcribes shorter documents via six-key entry on a Perkin’s Brailler. He scans lengthier documents into a computer using specialized software, Kurzweil1000 which uses optical character recognition (OCR). Once it's in Microsoft Word, Michael carefully proofreads and corrects the text, making adjustments according to BANA formats. Finally, he translates the text with Duxbury Braille Translator (DBT) software, and prints it on our braille printer/embosser. A common misconception is that braille transcription is a simple push-of-a-button process. Michael explained that braille transcription is a highly technical, multi-step process that requires careful consideration of established standards – and of each student. 

In fact, Michael knows most of the braille readers served by our BVI program and where they are instructionally in process of learning braille. This knowledge allows him to customize transcribed documents based upon the unique needs of each learner. Textbooks, worksheets, and classroom documents usually include tables, illustrations, and breakout boxes that add complexity to the transcription process. Michael is detail-oriented in his approach, carefully transcribing materials into a format that will prepare students for the braille they going to encounter later in life. Michael avoids short cuts in transcription that he feels would short change students as they develop proficiency reading braille. 

Tactile Graphic of Cell Structure In addition to braille transcription, Michael is skilled in creating tactile graphics that provide students with a touch-based representation of visual materials including maps, diagrams, and drawings (see cell structure example to the left). These materials help ensure students who are blind or have low vision have access to the same materials as their sighted peers. Michael scans an image into Adobe Illustrator, makes any necessary adjustments, and “prints” the tactile graphic on an embosser. 

Michael led the effort to purchase and setup our 3-D printer (below), which is now being used to print objects as teaching aids for the visually impaired. For example, for a unit on human anatomy, 3-D representations of the skeletal, circulatory, and digestive systems may be printed to provide alternative access to 2-D illustrations. 

Assistive technology (AT) for BVI students is another area of expertise for Michael. He has taught students to operate a computer using JAWS and Apple voiceover screen reader software, and how to read and take notes with a refreshable braille display. He has setup video magnifiers so students can access print up close on their desks or across the room as teachers white on the white board. He’s familiar with the wide array of adapted materials available via the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) and the Oregon Textbook & Media Center

The Braille Blazers In addition to everything else he does, Michael coaches our regional goalball team “The Braille Blazers”. The team competes in a statewide Goal-Ball tournament each year co-sponsored by the Northwest Blind Athletes Association. For a few weeks each summer, Michael helps run a residential summer camp funded by Oregon's Blind and Visually Impaired Student (BVIS) fund. Camp is held at Hull Park for the Blind in Sandy, Oregon and address skills across the expanded core curriculum (ECC), from social skills to self-advocacy.

If that weren’t enough, Michael is also a talented guitarist and multi-instrumentalist. He learned to transcribe music braille, and has worked with a handful of student musicians to teach them how to read music in braille. Michael has a great rapport with students and has strong instructional instincts, knowing when to press kids to take risks and when to back off.
For all these reasons and more, we gratefully acknowledge and recognize Michael for his service and dedication to students and staff across our region, and beyond.
  "It's working!" Michael with the 3D printer 
 Michael with 3D Printer