Braille Roundup: Reading by the Dots

collage with braille slate and stylus top left, braille playing cards top right, woman using ATM bottom left, woman reading braille restroom sign bottom right

January is braille awareness month.  Louis Braille, the creator of the braille code, was born on January 4.

There are many misunderstandings about braille.¬†A few years ago, in¬†Four Misconceptions to Learning and Reading Braille,¬†I said,¬†‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been my experience, with the occasional exception, most individuals with an acquired vision loss who did not grow up using braille express little interest in learning even the alphabet. Learning the alphabet would be enough to do some simple labeling around the house, workshop, or office. I wonder to what degree braille, like the‚ÄĮlong white cane, may simply be‚ÄĮstereotypical symbols of vision loss‚ÄĮthat some are not ready to embrace regardless of their value?‚Ä̬†

The Value of Braille

I believe braille does have great value.¬†As Stephen Wilson, a¬†VisionAware¬†peer faced with hearing and vision loss as¬†an¬†adult, eloquently¬†expresses,¬†‚ÄúI found braille to be the¬†all-wonderful¬†answer to my problem of losing sight and communication. When I originally learned I had¬†retinitis pigmentosa,¬†I was most concerned with communication because I knew how difficult this can be with sight and my dependency on lip reading‚Ķ¬†By learning¬†braille and refreshable¬†Bluetooth¬†braille displays, I‚Äôve eliminated my fears of that worst-case scenario. I feel I have a grip on communication even without hearing and sight.‚Ä̬†

braille alphabet card

To Mary Hiland, another peer advisor, braille is more than “bumps on a page.” “Anyone can learn to read braille… It is simply a method of embossing letters and numbers so people who use the sense of touch can read. Braille is not raised letters but a combination of raised dots within a six-dot cell…I learned to read braille when I was 18, as my vision loss…became more severe. Learning that skill really changed my life.”

Okay, have I convinced you yet? If not, you should read our posts on Finding Braille in Everyday Places and The Relevancy of Braille. Can you guess where braille can be found routinely?  Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, braille is now on restroom and hotel doors, elevators, ATMs, and menus.  

How Braille Can Be Used

Still not convinced? Think about how to use braille‚ÄĒeven just learning the alphabet.¬†It can be used for marking appliances, medications,¬†pantry items;¬†you name it.¬† Being able to read¬†even a¬†little¬†opens doors!¬†In her recent post on the importance of braille for literacy, Lenore Dillon described¬†a poignant moment with an older¬†consumer she was serving. He wanted to learn braille immediately to play cards with his family¬†on vacation. She said, ‚ÄúI taught him that he could play cards by adding a few additional letters to the numbers. He learned ‚ÄúA‚ÄĚ for ace, ‚ÄúC‚ÄĚ for clubs, ‚ÄúK‚ÄĚ for King, ‚ÄúS‚ÄĚ for Spades, and ‚ÄúQ‚ÄĚ for queen. By trying this system, he could play cards with his family and even became somewhat of a card shark!‚Ä̬†

Ok, I have convinced you. How can you learn braille? Find out more through my podcast on braille and regaining independence.

Resources for Learning Braille

Readers may find a local service provider by consulting the‚ÄĮDirectory of Services‚ÄĮon VisionAware. Many state and private agencies providing vision rehabilitation services have professionals who can teach braille. 

Hadley Institute Resources: 

Braille Correspondence 

For readers interested in learning more about braille, another¬†great place to start is¬†the¬†Hadley¬†Institute¬†which¬†offers¬†braille correspondence courses through the mail using both audio and hard copy braille. Audio is sent on a DAISY Talking Book (DTB) cartridge or flash drive.‚ÄĮ Select ‚ÄúLearn‚ÄĚ from the Main Menu to locate these workshops from the website. And choose ‚ÄúBraille‚ÄĚ from the category options.‚ÄĮ The print and audio workshops are listed within the ‚ÄúBraille‚ÄĚ series. Or call 800-323-4238.¬†¬†Hadley also has some new offerings listed below:¬†

Braille by Sight Workshops 

Hadley offers a new series of workshops called ‚ÄúBraille by Sight,‚ÄĚ These highly interactive workshops are available at no cost, streaming from the website, after completing a simple, one-time registration login. Registration can be done online using the¬†website or by calling Hadley Support Services toll-free¬†at¬†800-323-4238.¬†These interactive workshops are good for older adults new to vision loss and their family members.¬†Each workshop invites learners to ‚ÄúAsk the Experts.‚Ä̬†¬†Here are the topics in the series:¬†

1.‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮBasic Braille by Sight: Reading Series; 

2.‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮBasic Braille by Sight: Writing Series; 

3.‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮContracted Braille by Sight: Reading Series; 

4.‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮContracted Braille by Sight: Writing Series;

5.‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮSpecial Braille Symbols: Reading Series; 

6.‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮSpecial Braille Symbols: Writing Series; 

7.‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮProducing Braille Series. 

Weekly Braille Discussion Group 

Hadley¬†hosts¬†a live discussion group, Embracing Braille, moderated by Learning Experts¬†Vileen¬†Shah and Elyse Heinrich, and¬†live every Thursday at 11:30 AM Central; all past episodes are archived.¬†Registered learners can access the Zoom information from ‚ÄúEmbracing Braille‚ÄĮor by calling Student Services, listed above.¬†

Other Cool Braille Stuff

  • NFB Independence Market: Braille games, braille slates, braille watches, braille measuring tools,¬†Dymo¬†tape, and more.¬†


This site is registered on wpml.org as a development site. Switch to a production site key to remove this banner.