A Celebration of World Braille Day (Episode 22)

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On 4 January, people across the world celebrated World Braille Day. This day, which marks the birthday of Louis Braille, is an important one for blind people and those connected to the blind community, so the Braillists Foundation couldn’t let it pass without recognising it and the significance of braille.

The Foundation hosted a panel discussion, inviting three braille users to speak about their lives with braille. More importantly, perhaps, they also shared their thoughts on how braille may adapt to the changing needs of the blind community in future.

The session also included a short audio presentation sharing the voices and perspectives of braille users from around the world, from the UK all the way to New Zealand.

We would like to extend our thanks to the Braillists Foundation for allowing us to publish this recording, and to the three excellent panelists for giving up their time to be part of the session:

Stephen Anderson on the Louis Braille Museum, and Should Partially Sighted People Learn Braille? (Episode 21)

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Happy new year, and happy World Braille Day! Today (4 January 2021) is the 212th birthday of Louis Braille, inventor of the code that revolutionised literacy for blind people all over the world. In spite of intense opposition in Louis Braille’s lifetime, the code has been adapted for use in dozens of languages and disciplines and is widely recognised throughout the world as the most effective means by which blind people can read and write. There’s even a braille chess code!

But what about people who are partially sighted, who can just about read print if it’s large enough? Stephen Anderson is one such person: a self-certified “Braille Muggle”, he’s the proud owner of an honours degree in Politics from the University of Leicester, a fluent French-speaker, and Director of Music at the Parish Church of St Thomas, Kensal Town, where he also plays the organ. He has also played in the presence of two Bishops, at two Church of England Cathedrals, one Royal Peculiar and several other high profile churches and Cathedrals in the UK and overseas.

He was kind enough to agree to join me on the podcast to talk candidly about his experiences growing up and his thoughts about braille. He also talked about the Louis Braille Museum, which he recently visited.

Other Links of Interest

Index Braille (Episode 20)

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Index Braille is synonymous the world over with braille embossers. Founded by Bjorn Lofstedt and Torvald Lundqvist as Polar Print Production in Sweden in 1979, its first incarnation was as a university project to develop a braille typewriter with copy function. The company took shape in 1982 and, by 1984, a small batch of Index Computer Braille Printers (known as “Index 3.7” embossers after the firmware version) were manufactured in Bjorn’s garage. The current premises were obtained in 1985, financed by distributing assistive technology around Sweden. This distribution arm continued as Polar Print Production, and Index Braille became its own brand in the late 80s with the introduction of the Index Blue Bar, which took tractor fed paper. The Everest, for cut sheet paper, followed in 1992, then came the version 2 platform (Basic and Everest) in 1995, the 4X4 Pro for booklet printing in 1998, the version 3 platform with USB and network connectivity in 2002-4, the 4Waves Pro high speed production embosser in 2005, the version 4 platform with embedded translation and high speed cut sheet production in 2011, and the version 5 platform with wifi printing and printing directly from USB memory stick in 2016.

We caught up with Bjorn to find out more about Index Braille, its embosser line and its new annual Donation Programme, drawn on World Braille Day each year.

An Introduction to the Abacus (Extra 9)

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What is an Abacus and why would you use one? In this session, led by James Bowden, participants learnt about the various features of the Abacus and why it is ideal for use as a blind person.

The session covered:

  • Physical description and orientation
  • The beads and their meaning
  • Setting numbers
  • Basic addition
  • Overflows and carries

If you have an Abacus, you might find it helpful to have it with you so that you can follow along.

This session was recorded on Tuesday 8 December 2020. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

An Introduction to Braille Labelling (Extra 8)

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This event introduced participants to the various types of braille labels available and how to create their own labels using a range of materials.

The session covered using a slate and stylus, a Perkins brailler and a braille labeller to produce labels, as well as tips for labelling various products around the home. It also took a look at writing greetings cards in braille.

This session was recorded on Tuesday 1 December 2020. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

An Introduction to Braille Music (Extra 7)

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This session was a practical introduction to braille music. We covered basic music notation and where to access braille music. This session was led by James Bowden, Braille Technical Officer at RNIB.

This session was recorded on Tuesday 24 November 2020. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

Using Braille for Language Learning (Extra 6)

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This session introduced participants to the many ways of using braille when learning a language. Knowledge of English braille would be helpful when listening, but is not essential.

We took a look at using braille in conjunction with various language learning apps, where to learn other language codes and accessing books in other languages. We also heard from blind people who have used braille when traveling and how this has helped them. The session was led by Holly Scott-Gardner.

This session was recorded on Tuesday 17 November 2020. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

An Introduction to the Slate and Stylus (Extra 5)

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This session was a practical introduction to the Hand Frame (also known as a Slate and Stylus). We covered inserting the paper, holding the stylus and writing some characters, as well as some basic types of frame and where to get them, and we answered many questions from participants. The session was led by James Bowden, Braille Technical Officer at RNIB.

This session was recorded on Tuesday 10 November 2020. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

Letter From Santa and the Braille Challenge Skill (Episode 19)

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Christmas is coming; the goose is getting fat; and some of Santa’s most trusted helpers have been sent, on secondment, to the Royal National Institute of Blind People, where they’re busy writing letters to visually impaired children in accessible formats. Co-ordinating this effort on behalf of RNIB is Racheal Jarvis, News Agent Team Leader, and she joined us to tell us more about this exciting project.

To request a letter from Santa, please fill out the form on this page, email [email protected] or write to Santa Clause, RNIB, Midgate House, Midgate, Peterborough, PE1 1TN. Deadline for receipt of postal requests is Tuesday 1 December 2020, or Monday 21 December for emails.

Also on this episode, we hear about the Braille Challenge Alexa skill from Accessibility.net, inc.

Getting Around the Orbit Reader 20 (Extra 4)

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Dave Williams, Brailleists Foundation Chair and Customer Experience Manager at RNIB talks us through the Orbit Reader. What is it, how does it compare to other displays on the market and how can you get one?

This session was recorded on Tuesday 3 November 2020. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.