LETTERS FROM PEOPLE WHO APPRECIATE/LOVE USING BRAILLE
If you have letters from students who appreciate the benefits of using braille, and would like to share them on this website, please ask them send them to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. It's always nice for students to hear positive feedback about learning braille.
Privacy will be protected, names will not be included. Please include the age of your student.
What Braille Means To Me
Written by a 12-year-old girl who lost her vision suddenly, when she was 8-years-old:
Braille is very important to me, and brightens up my life. It helps me to be less dependent on others, which means a lot to me. I like to do things on my own, and braille helps me to do so with things.
Braille allows me to read recreational books, study books, and braille letters I receive. With braille I do not have to ask my family or friends to read everything I want to read. With braille I can write letters to blind friends, put printed materials into braille, and write notes to myself, or write down things I want to do or remember.
Because of braille I can mark the yarns I want to use to crochet. If it is marked I know what colors I am working with, without asking somebody.
Braille is delightful and precious. It is exciting to find something in braille outside of my home. It makes me smile.
Even though braille is bulky and easily damaged, it makes my blind life easier and helps me to be more contented. It gives me something to do and enjoy.
I will end by saying I sincerely thank the people who invented braille. My gratitude is without bounds.
Allison R. O'Day, Minneapolis, MN
I am a braille reader, and grew up in the public school system during the 70s. The majority of my books were provided to me in braille, with a few in audio form as I entered the upper grades. I am so glad that the majority of my books were in braille! I am a very proficient braille reader as an adult, and use braille in my life every day. And, in general, those blind people who are proficient braille readers have a higher employment rate than those who use audio. So, do what you can to advocate that your daughter gets the braille books she needs, both for her academic studies and for her reading enjoyment.
Caitlin Hernandez-California-Special Education Teacher who is a totally blind braillereader
Excerpts from California Transcribers and Educators of the Blind and Visually Impaired (CTEBVI) Speech-April 2019
... I don't really remember learning braille. I feel as though I was always reading, writing, thinking in, and loving braille.
... To those of us who read it, use it, rely on it, it's everything.
... Louis (Braille) and his friends continued using the new code in secret. The adults banned it, forbade it, confiscated the children's tools so they couldn't punch the dots. When none of that worked, the adults would strike the offending boys across the hands. This appalled me so much that I remember it years later. Even at seven, I was furious that these sighted teachers thought they knew better than blind people what was best for us. How in the world could they? I shuddered to think what my life—what all blind people's lives—would be like if Louis Braille and his friends had given up, had let those teachers tell them what was and wasn't best for them.
Reading and rereading that Louis Braille book, so many times that the braille dots changed from new and crisp to soft and well-worn, I remember being grateful, not just for the braille code, but for my own braille and mobility teachers. They listened to me, valued my autonomy and feelings, respected my opinions about tools and strategies which did and didn't benefit me. Many blind students, I knew, weren't half so lucky.
I think about this often, now, as I, a teacher who's been totally blind since birth, instruct sighted, elementary-aged, special-education students with various disabilities.
... if they never read braille, blind and visually impaired people won't know how to spell or punctuate. But, more than that, it's often just a preference.
... Throughout my childhood, my parents, braille teachers, and braillists scrambled to find and create enough braille books to keep my fingers and mind engaged. I liked audiobooks, but I craved braille. I loved reading aloud, loved the freedom of creating characters' voices in my head as their words glided beneath my fingers. I loved cuddling up with a big braille book and turning the pages.
... Most of us are aware that the vast majority of blind people who are employed use braille. Being employed, of course, isn't everyone's goal, nor is it the only indicator of success and happiness. But there's no question that many blind people default to braille for efficiency, for maximum productivity. I write my lesson plans, track students' levels and progress, keep records, and correspond with parents and colleagues in braille, on my BrailleNote. My calendar, phonebook, address book, passwords, endless to-do lists ... all in braille. People are constantly telling me there are apps for things, and I just scoff, "Whatever ... they're not in braille—I don't want them."
It goes without saying that I wrote this whole speech in braille.
The tough thing about braille—the reason I think many people, of all ages and with varying levels of vision, struggle with it—is that, at first, it takes time. I'm lucky to have learned braille young, to have only the vaguest recollection of tired, achy fingers and the irritated impatience common among beginners. I loved books, and I wanted to read—that was enough incentive for me to persevere with braille.
Aine Kelly-Costello, New Zealand
I had the privilege of learning Braille from when I was 4. This year, I'd like to offer a message to parents, teachers and aids who work closely with blind and low vision children throughout their education:
For every student who has very little useable vision, or is likely to lose what they have, or whose eyes get tired when they read - if you have the means but choose not to put the effort into ensuring they learn Braille at school, you do them a huge disservice.
Please don't delay just because their useable vision is decent right now or because they can still read large print. It doesn't matter that they don't use Braille all the time for everything. And, no, it also doesn't matter that most things Braille helps with are technically manageable with a screen reader.
Braille is *not* a language—it's a code—but learning Braille is a bit like learning a foreign language. It's a hell of a lot easier when you're 5 or 10, than when you're 18 or 25 or 50. Of course it can still be done later, but, like learning a language, it requires that much more regular effort and dedication, especially when that involves fitting it around the rest of a busy life, or possibly trying to learn it when vision has just taken a nose-dive.
Can we stop this unnecessary deprivation?
Here are three of many reasons Braille is still a useful tool in many situations. Braille-reading friends, feel free to add your favourites in the comments:
1. You can give your memory a break. Whether it's glancing at powerpoint notes, facilitating a meeting or taking notes in class, Braille is exceedingly helpful. Listening to a screen-reader while trying to either listen to someone else or to speak yourself can be difficult and draining. Also, some subjects, like Maths, really are easier when you don't have to keep screeds of details in your head.
2. Labels have many uses. Whether it's reading the lift buttons, medication labels (where available) or remembering what some print pages you need to keep track of are about, Braille is a convenient and quick way to get that crucial info. Also, by the way, receiving Braille Christmas cards never gets old.
3. Pleasure reading and language learning. Screen-readers are great for many things, but shall we say they were not designed to 'make poetry sound beautiful. Also, if you're learning a foreign language, trust me—the ability to learn how to spell and be able to read without relying on a screen-reader is a life-saver if you don't have bottomless patience.
So let's do better. Let's remember that Braille is one very useful tool in the toolbox and that if you withhold it from students who might benefit from it now or later, you, however unintentionally, do them a disservice.
Braille displays are slowly but surely becoming more affordable so the technological barriers are coming down. Let's not put any other roadblocks in the way. Every student who might benefit from knowing Braille now or later has the right to learn the code as early as possible. That way, it gives them choices about how they read and write, not just now but for the rest of their lives.
Rational: Why a student would benefit from learning braille:
This student needs a great deal of magnification in order to read. If his/her eye must be so close to the page that (s)he cannot read and write at the same time, it will difficult to complete homework assignments.
People with visual impairments often experience “visual fatigue”. Student would probably not be able to read for extended periods of time, because of the severity of her visual impairment. Work, in general, may seem to deteriorate, as working period becomes longer. Reduced interest in the task may become apparent. (This seemed to be the case when Student was being tested.)
A fourth or fifth grader should be able to attend to task for about 40 minutes-but it should not result in what appears to be extreme fatigue. Students must be able to work efficiently and comfortably for the entire academic day, during after-school study periods, and still have enough energy to enjoy social activities.
To some extent Student is capable of reading back his/her own handwriting, but this is not without difficulty, and not without errors. Some of the errors that were observed were that student misread the following words: _____________________ (Ex. Fill in dog/bug)
Student needs to be able to achieve his/her academic goals independently. This will prepare him/her for successful employment later on in life. In order to do this, (s)he will need to be able to take notes and access them immediately and independently.
Unless (s)he uses the most appropriate primary learning medium, (s)he will not show measurable growth in reading rates, reading vocabulary, and reading comprehension.
A reading rate of 60 words per minute might be considered acceptable for a student working at first grade level, but not for a fourth or fifth grade student.
Note: the average speed of adult Braille readers is about 115 words per minute.