Braille Technology in Everyday Life (Extra 42)

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In this session, Matthew Horspool explains how braille is still relevant in the 21st century and demonstrates how free and low-cost braille technology is significantly improving the independence and productivity of blind and partially sighted people of all ages. We paid particular attention to Braille Screen Input and the Orbit Reader, both of which are relatively recent additions to the braille technology landscape and are being used by thousands of people all over the world.

This session was presented by the Braillists Foundation on behalf of Visionary: Linking Local Sight Loss Charities on Tuesday 8 February 2022.

Care and Usage of your Perkins Brailler (Extra 41)

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The Perkins Brailler has been a staple in the lives of braille users ever since the first one was manufactured in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1951. To this day, the Perkins is widely considered to be the most durable braille device on the market, with machines over 50 years old still going strong.

They are so popular, in fact, that it is easy to forget that we need to teach new braillists how to use them! Furthermore, even established braillists do not always know how to diagnose faults when they arise, or how to take the best care of their machines so as to minimise the risks of faults arising in the first place.

On 15 March, we were joined by Alan Thorpe of Eyecan, a certified Perkins Brailler Repair Centre. Alan took us on a tour of the Perkins Brailler, introducing us to the proper names of all of the parts! He explained how to insert paper and write braille, and described some common faults and how to overcome them. He also explained when a professional service or repair may be required and briefly explained the differences between the different models of Perkins Brailler available.

For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

Choosing and Setting UP Your Embosser (Extra 37)

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In our first Masterclass of 2022, Matthew Horspool tackled the hows, whys and wherefores of braille embossers: choosing them, setting them up and making the most of them. The session covered:

  • The purpose and function of an embosser and why you might want one
  • Different types of embosser
  • Different types of paper
  • Connectivity options
  • The user interface
  • The relationship between embosser and computer
  • The role of translation software

This session was recorded on Tuesday 18 January 2022. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

Leisure Reading with Refreshable Braille, Part 2 (Extra 34)

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We were delighted to have been joined by Sean Randall for the second in a two-part series. Sean is something of a computing and IT mastermind and now works at New College Worcester, training many of their students in the use of assistive technology including screen readers and braille displays.

This session covered sources of reading material that are more mainstream in nature, including apps or specialist software used to read. These included:

  • Amazon Kindle
  • Local libraries
  • Smaller publishers (e.g. Smashwords

This session was recorded on Tuesday 23 November 2021. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

An Introduction to Grade 3 (Extra 30)







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Most of us know about grade 2, of course, with its 180 contractions designed to make braille quicker to read and write and occupy less space.

Grade 3 extends this concept still further with over 300 additional contractions, rules to allow vowells to be omitted, and provisions for reducing spaces and new lines. Whilst it’s not an officially recognised code, it has a loyal following amongst long-time braillists, who have used it very successfully to take shorthand notes or transcribe passages of text for reading aloud. It’s especially useful in conjunction with a hand frame or slate and stylus.

James Bowden led a session exploring this code in more detail on Tuesday 20 July. Whilst he wasn’t able to cover all of the 300+ contractions in an hour, he did explain the concepts used to form them, introduce some of the most useful ones and the rules which govern their use, and signposted to resources with more information.

For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

Everything you Ever Wanted to Know about Teaching Braille but were Too Scared to Ask (Episode 29)







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“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

Getting the Braille you Need in Work or Education (Extra 17)

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This session covered how to obtain braille through the Access To Work and Disabled Students Allowance schemes. We talked about how to advocate for the braille you need and what options you have. We also looked at advocating for braille textbooks and braille signage in work or education.

This session was recorded on Tuesday 9 March 2021. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.