To celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille on 4th January 1809 the date has been declared World Braille Day.
This amazing, uncomplicated code of raised dots has enabled countless sight impaired and Deafblind people access to the written word. With the creation of braille technology, we can now convert typed messages into braille using tiny tactile points to raise paper - allowing instant transcription for those with sight loss.
Braille is made up of a 'cell' containing raised dots which when full would look like a 'six' domino with two dots at the top, two in the middle and two at the bottom. This then forms different combinations to simulate the alphabet. It is easy to learn by sight, but is very dependent on the person's touch sensitivity when learned by touch with no visual reference.
I learnt Braille at the age of 23 and passed my grade 2 braille exam with a story about the 'Sex Life of the Highland Haggis' which my tutor found very amusing but still took the time to find the only two mistakes I had made. I am now a great deal older and only use braille for labelling and reminders, finding the task of reading anything longer than a paragraph extremely tedious – resulting in making my fingers fizz. I guess this is because my mind works quicker than my fingers and I tend to be a bit of a sponge when it comes to information, soaking it up quickly and retaining the most beneficial when the excess has drained away. I have the luxury of hearing, therefore guilty of wanting information quickly and with the least hassle which is why in this technological world only about 2% of the blind population read braille.
For those of you wanting to see the basics of learning braille there is a very good YouTube video which gives those of you with sight a one-off lesson which you could build on if desired.
I finish now by saying that I still enjoy tactile travelling techniques, otherwise known as 'grope and hope', never quite knowing what I will find and which way up it is! Life is never dull and frequently verbally colourful in the life of this totally blind Sensory Training Facilitator - just mention the word 'admin' whether in braille, print or audibly and this sensitive, severely sight impaired senior Citizen will run screaming from the building.
If you want to learn more about sight and/or hearing loss please visit our Sensory Service website.
By Terri Sawkins, Sensory Training Facilitator at the ECL Sensory Service.