Why is Braille important and how we teach it at WESC Foundation
18 January 2021
Being able to read Braille can give someone with a vision impairment access to information that many of us take for granted. It’s also an important way of being able to communicate your needs and wishes.
For example, being able to access a Braille menu at a restaurant means you could quickly browse and choose your own food without having to ask someone to read the full document. Braille on the side of medication packets, or as part of a labelling system in your kitchen, can you help you find the things you need for daily living, just like a sighted person. Some shops have Braille on the side of a selection of products for the same reason – allowing someone with a vision impairment to shop more independently.
Why is Braille important to WESC Foundation students?
Many of our students are in the early stage of literacy, so we have a functional approach to teaching them Braille.
This means teaching them the skills that they might find most useful now and in later life.
Learning numbers, units of measurement and operators like add and subtract are really important for living skills like cooking or reading the side of a medication packet. You can also buy pill dispensers with Braille markings!
How we teach Braille skills at WESC Foundation
Our students love to play games to help learn the basics of Braille. Braille Bingo, Pairs and other matching games are really popular for remembering the different numbers, letters and contractions in the Braille code.
We also use eggs and an eggbox to reinforce the different single cell patterns (the six spaces in a standard eggbox represent the six dots available in a Braille cell)
Using Braille to easily find the correct medication could be an important step towards being able to take their own medication. Reading a recipe from a Braille cook book could also help develop independence and give a young person the confidence to prepare their own food. These could mean the difference between living in supported living and having to go back to full time care or living at home.
Introducing different Braille devices
Here at WESC Foundation we have a range of different devices that our students can use to read and write Braille.
The classic “Perkins” Brailler is a mechanical device that looks a bit like a typewriter, except it just has 9 large keys across the front. The classic model has been around for nearly 70 years, and has hardly changed in that time (although there are a few variants, including a one-handed version)! There is a key for each of the six Braille dots (the key imprints a dot onto the special Braille paper), space and backspace keys, and another to move onto the next line.
We also have several Mountbatten Braillers. These are great for younger students as the keys are lighter (a bit like the key on a modern laptop), and there’s even audio feedback so you know exactly what you’ve just pressed. Like the Perkins it imprints the dots and cells as you go along. It also has functions like connecting to other devices, and Braille to Text/Text to Braille translation.
Braille note takers and other products
Some of our students use a device Braille note takers like a BrailleNote Touch. These are modern tablet computer devices which have both a standard 6-key Braille input keyboard, together with a special Braille display that allows the user to quickly find out what’s on the screen.
In fact, you can use a device like this to do most things that a tablet could do, like read and write emails, create or scan documents, and browse the web. They can also “print” Braille using an embosser.
Other great braille products include portable Braille displays and keyboards which can be connected to a computer or phone via Bluetooth or USB. The displays show screen content in braille – useful when in a meeting or noisy environment. And you can input text using a braille keyboard just like a Bluetooth QWERTY keyboard. You can also input text directly into an iPhone/iPad using the on-screen braille keyboard feature.
How you can help
By offering access to the latest Braille devices and teaching materials we are able to support vulnerable children and young adults to live a more independent life. Government funding for special schools and colleges simply isn’t enough to empower these inspirational young people to live their best lives. Your support could help to give them the gift of independent living.Donate now