Formatting Your Braille (Extra 43)

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It’s often said in the industry that garbage in = garbage out, but what does this mean in practice?

On 17 May 2022, our Chairman Dave Williams held a conversation with Kawal Gucukoglu, who worked for many years as a braille transcriber at RNIB. They discussed the principals of effective braille layout – headings, paragraphs, lists, tables and so on – and how to implement them in electronic file formats to achieve optimum quality.

What Happened at CSUN? (Episode 38)

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The annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference took place in March in California, and there were lots of exciting braille and tactile graphics announcements.

We assembled a line-up of braille-using panellists who attended the conference who talked us through what was announced and gave their first impressions of the new products they saw.

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.

Drawing Stars with your Perkins (Extra 36)

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Happy Christmas! In this special episode, James Bowden talks us through drawing some stars. The instructions are provided in written form below:

Star 1

  • Line 1: ow sign (Dots 246); comma (dot 2)

Star 2

  • Line 1: o (dots 135; k (dots 13)

Star 3

  • Line 1: capital sign (dot 6); ar sign (dots 345); gh sign (dots 126); apostrophe (dot 3)
  • Line 2: dot 4; wh sign (dots 156); s (dots 234); a (dot 1)

Star 4

  • Line 1: space three times; letter sign or grade 1 indicator (dots 56); semicolon (dots 23)
  • Line 2: space three times; ar sign (dots 345); gh sign (dots 126)
  • Line 3: space twice; ar sign (dots 345); space twice; gh sign (dots 126)
  • Line 4: x (dots 1346) twice; space four times; x (dots 1346) twice
  • Line 5: space twice; wh sign (dots 156); space twice; s (dots 234)
  • Line 6: space four times; wh sign (dots 156); s (dots 234)
  • Line 7: space four times; dots 45; b (dots 12)

A Box

  • Line 1: p (dots 1234); c (dots 14); l (dots 123)
  • Line 1.5: l (dots 123); space; l (dots 123)
  • Line 2: c (dots 14) twice; a (dot 1)

Star 5

  • Line 1: space twice; capital sign (dot 6); i (dots 24); en sign (dots 26)
  • Line 1.5: space twice; comma (dot 2); space twice; comma (dot 2)
  • Line 2: dot 4; ed sign (dots 1245); space three times; dots 46; f (dots 124)
  • Line 2.5: space twice; semicolon (dots 23); dot 5; space; semicolon (dots 23)
  • Line 3: space twice; r (dots 1235); a (dot 1); e (dots 15); l (dots 123)

Drawing Pictures With Your Perkins (Extra 35)

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We were delighted to be joined by Kim Charlson, Executive Director of the Perkins Library (part of Perkins School for the Blind). Kim is author of the book “Drawing with your Perkins Brailler”, which includes step-by-step directions for creating 36 different drawings including shapes, animals and subjects with holiday and transportation themes.

In this session, she used a drawing of a Christmas tree to explain the concepts behind using braille cells to create pictures. Bring a Perkins and some paper and follow along and, by the end of the session, you will have your very own frilly Christmas tree made entirely of braille dots!

This session was recorded on Tuesday 7 December 2021. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

Improving Reading Speed and Building Braille Mastery with Kit Aronoff (Episode 32)

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It’s a question we get asked all the time – how can I read braille more quickly? To answer it, we were delighted to be joined on Tuesday 19 October by Kit Aronoff of Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and founder of Main Line Accessibility Consulting. Kit has a background in elementary education and, using principals of teaching literacy to emerging readers and articles from the National Federation of the Blind, she has developed a series of strategies which are sure to benefit even the most competent of braillists.

Our Chairman Dave Williams led the discussion, and he started by asking Kit to describe her braille learning journey.

Resources

  • Braille Together Mingle is organised by the American Council of the Blind. For more information, email [email protected]

An Introduction to Computer Braille (Extra 32)







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What is computer braille? Are there different flavours? What are all the signs? Why would you want to use it? Is it still relevant now that we have UEB?

The latest occasional Masterclass from RNIB’s braille expert James Bowden answered all of these questions and more.

This session was recorded on Tuesday 21 September 2021. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

Using Braille on the Internet (Extra 31)







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Dave Williams, Chairman of the Braillists, explored how to use braille displays with various combinations of screen reader and web browser, unpicked some of the jargon that appears on the display, and explained how to navigate without a QWERTY keyboard or touch screen.

This session was recorded on Tuesday 7 September 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