“Most of us who know braille were taught it.” It sounds like such an obvious statement – so obvious, in fact, that it seems appropriate to conclude that the world has an abundance of braille teachers, and the methods and techniques that they use are mature, uniform and understood by everyone working in the field. Presumably, approaches that work well have been iterated over time, those that haven’t worked so well have been abandoned, and the entire process has been well-documented so that future teachers can learn from the mistakes of the past.
The reality is less clearly defined, although certain concepts which have withstood the test of time especially well have become accepted as common knowledge. Pre-braille skills, for instance, feature regularly in discussions about teaching braille, as do the differences between learning braille by touch and by sight and teaching braille to children and adults.
On Tuesday 29 June 2021, we explored this topic in more detail in a live panel discussion with three braille teachers:
- Kirsten Roberts is a life-long braille user, a Qualified Teacher of the Visually Impaired (QTVI), and Deputy Braille Tutor for the Mandatory Qualification for Teachers of Children and Young People with Vision Impairments offered at the University of Birmingham. In addition to her university work, she regularly teaches braille to both primary and secondary-aged children.
- Christine Williams recently retired from Exhall Grange Specialist School and Science College in Coventry, where she held the post of Lead Teacher of the Visually Impaired. In that capacity, she taught braille not only to the pupils at Exhall Grange, but also peripatetically to pupils of all ages in mainstream schools throughout Warwickshire (via the Vision Support Service). Prior to this, she taught French at Exhall Grange for a number of years, where braille also played a significant role. In her retirement, she teaches braille voluntarily at Coventry Resource Centre for the Blind, predominantly to adults who are losing or in danger of losing their sight.
- Melanie Pritchard has an extensive background in teaching braille to adults, either with visual impairments themselves or who are sighted friends or relatives of people with a visual impairment. Most recently, she taught the Braille For Beginners course remotely for the Braillists Foundation.
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- I-M-ABLE: Individualized Meaning-Centered Approach to Braille Literacy Education, by Diane P. Wormsley, Ph.D published by the American Printing House for the Blind
- The Abi Books: Adventures of a Young Blind Girl, available from the Royal National Institue of Blind People (ABI-BOOKS): full set (formerly TC21432, £115.00), books 1-20 (formerly TC21429, £40.00), books 21-30 (formerly TC21430, £40.00) and books 31-40 (formerly TC21431, £50.00) + Teacher’s Handbook (ABI-TEACHER) available for £15.00 in print (formerly TC21433) and braille (formerly TC21434).
- Fingerprint: distance learning course for touch readers, available from RNIB: course books (TC21439, £39.00) + instructions (TC21439-INST) available for £15.00 on audio CD (formerly TC21439CD), multi-media CD (formerly TC21439M) and in print (formerly TC21439P) and grade 2 braille (formerly TC21439B) + Reference Book (volume 10), available in braille (TC21440, £5.00).
- BrailleNote Touch Plus (18-cell and 32-cell), available from HumanWare
- The Duxbury Braille Translator from Duxbury Systems
- The Braille Primer: a comprehensive guide to contracted braille for people wishing to learn to write braille or who want to become transcribers, available from RNIB for £9.90 (TC21423) in print (formerly TC21423P), large print 18pt (formerly TC21423LP) and grade 2 braille (formerly TC21423B).
- A Braille Reader in the Family (booklet and sheet formats) and Crack the Code (booklet and sheet formats) from the ClearVision Project
- UEB Online from the Renwick Centre of The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children
- The Orbit Reader family from Orbit Research
- The professional association for the vision impairment education workforce (VIEW)
- Catch These Words, website of Holly Scott-Gardner
- Using a Range of Braille Technologies to Access Adult Life, a paper presented at the seventh General Assembly of the International Council on English Braille by Kirsten Roberts: Video presentation on Youtube, Word version or BRF version