How to read & write Braille, a brief overview
Braille is the alphabet used by the blind and the visually impaired, with each letter shown by a particular arrangement of dots in a 3×2 matrix. The Braille alphabet is named after its creator, French educator Louis Braille, who first published it in 1829. (Braille’s system was a development of a dot-based military writing system proposed by French army officer Charles Barbiere de la Serre, who aimed to use dot-based writing so soldiers could communicate at night without light.)
The Braille alphabet comes in three interrelated varieties: Grade 1, which contains only letters, numbers, and punctuation; Grade 2, which is Grade 1 plus certain standardized contractions for common words; and Grade 3, which is an even more abbreviated form of Braille. Grade 1 is generally used to learn to read and write; Grade 2 is used for most everyday usage; and Grade 3 is a non-standardized shorthand used for personal communications.
Braille was originally written with a slate and stylus, but is usually written with a specialized typewriter in modern times, or printed by special machines. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, public entities, and places of public accommodation are required to provide, among other things, Braille signage may be required for rooms in your establishment under the ADA’s Accessible Design Guidelines or your local laws.
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What Is Braille? — American Foundation for the Blind
Braille is a system of raised dots that can be read with the fingers by people who are blind or who have low vision. Teachers, parents, and others who are not visually impaired ordinarily read braille with their eyes. Braille is not a language. Rather, it is a code by which many languages—such as English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and dozens of others—may be written and read. Braille is used by thousands of people all over the world in their native languages, and provides a means of literacy for all.
The specific code used in the United States has been English Braille, American Edition but as of 2016 the main code for reading material is Unified English Braille, a code used in seven other English-speaking countries.
What Does Braille Look Like?
Braille symbols are formed within units of space known as braille cells. A full braille cell consists of six raised dots arranged in two parallel rows each having three dots. The dot positions are identified by numbers from one through six. Sixty-four combinations are possible using one or more of these six dots. A single cell can be used to represent an alphabet letter, number, punctuation mark, or even a whole word. This braille alphabet and numbers page illustrates what a cell looks like and how each dot is numbered.
How Was Braille Invented?
Louis Braille was born in Coupvray, France, on January 4, 1809. He attended the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, France, as a student. At that time, books were created using raised print which was laborious to produce, hard to read, and difficult for individuals to write. While attending the Institute, Braille yearned for more books to read. He experimented with ways to create an alphabet that was easy to read with the fingertips. The writing system he invented, at age fifteen, evolved from the tactile «Ecriture Nocturne» (night writing) code invented by Charles Barbier for sending military messages that could be read on the battlefield at night, without light. Learn more about the creation of the braille code by exploring AFB’s Louis Braille Online Museum.
How Is Braille Written?
When every letter of every word is expressed in braille, it is referred to as uncontracted braille. Some books for young children are written in uncontracted braille although it is less widely used for reading material meant for adults. However, many newly blinded adults find uncontracted braille useful for labeling personal or kitchen items when they are first learning braille.
The standard system used for reproducing most textbooks and publications is known as contracted braille. In this system cells are used individually or in combination with others to form a variety of contractions or whole words. For example, in uncontracted braille the phrase you like him requires twelve cell spaces. It would look like this:
you like him
If written in contracted braille, this same phrase would take only six cell spaces to write. This is because the letters y and l are also used for the whole words you and like respectively. Likewise, the word him is formed by combining the letters h and m. It would look like this:
you like him
There are 180 different letter contractions used in contracted braille (including 75 shortform words like «him» shown above, which are simple abbreviations). These «short cuts» are used to reduce the volume of paper needed for reproducing books in braille and to make the reading process easier. Most children learn contracted braille from kindergarten on, and contracted braille is considered the standard in the United States, used on signs in public places and in general reading material.
Just as printed matter can be produced with a paper and pencil, typewriter, or printer, braille can also be written in several ways. The braille equivalent of paper and pencil is the slate and stylus. This consists of a slate or template with evenly spaced depressions for the dots of braille cells, and a stylus for creating the individual braille dots. With paper placed in the slate, tactile dots are made by pushing the pointed end of the stylus into the paper over the depressions. The paper bulges on its reverse side forming dots. Because of they are inexpensive and portable, the slate and stylus are especially helpful for carrying to jot quick notes and for labeling such things as file folders.
Braille is also produced by a machine known as a braillewriter. Unlike a typewriter which has more than fifty keys, the braillewriter has only six keys, a space bar, a line spacer, and a backspace. The six main keys are numbered to correspond with the six dots of a braille cell. Because most braille symbols contain more than a single dot, combinations of the braillewriter keys can be pushed at the same time.
Technological developments in the computer industry have provided and continue to expand additional avenues of literacy for braille users. Software programs and portable electronic braille devices allow users to save and edit their writing, have it displayed back to them either verbally or tactually, and produce a hard copy via a desktop computer-driven braille embosser. Because the use of computers is so common in school, children learn both the braille contractions and also how to spell words out letter for letter so they can spell and write using a keyboard.
Since its development in France by Louis Braille in the latter part of the nineteenth century, braille has become not only an effective means of communication, but also an essential avenue for achieving and enhancing literacy for people who are blind or have significant vision loss. Braille is here to stay!
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Myths & Realities of Learning Braille – Blog on Blindness
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Jerry Whittle, a Louisiana native, is instructor emeritus at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston.
While teaching for 27 years at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, I personally timed over 80 readers who read braille at 300 to 500 words per minute…as fast or faster than the educated classes of America. All of them learned braille before elementary school started, used the two-handed reading method, and had multiple fingers on the line for scanning purposes. I also timed several who read between 120 and 300 wpm. Most of these used only one hand or had some variation on a lesser reading method.
One would think that these statistics alone would quash any myth that braille is slow, obsolete, or impractical, but it’s been my experience that more explanation is needed.
Myth #1: Braille is slow
Perhaps the most often cited myth about braille is that it is inherently slow. Many of the adults whom I taught for periods of six to nine months were born blind or with degenerative eye conditions. As a result, they should have learned braille as children while their sighted peers were learning to read print.
While not based on empirical research, it has been my observation over the years that the average adult who learns braille after the age of 21 will probably read 30 wpm. However, using the techniques that I will share later in this series, many students who entered our center not knowing one character of braille read 60 to 100 wpm upon graduation, while those students who entered reading 60 to 100 wpm doubled and tripled their reading speeds. Yes, some did not improve, but this happened because they did not complete the page goals assigned to them or refused to use the two-handed method.
Therefore, I say braille is not inherently slow. When blind people, or those with degenerative eye conditions, learn braille as children, they can read as fast or faster than their sighted peers.
Myth #2 Braille is obsolete and has been replaced by text-to-speech software.
The great tragedy is that many so-called professionals in the field of blindness have written off braille as obsolete. This surmise about the death of braille is simply hogwash. Research confirms what I already know from years of experience: knowing braille means employment and true literacy.
One of the major problems I encountered while teaching braille to adults was the poor word recognition ability of my students. Take, for example, the word “quiche.” When first seeing the word in braille, my students would read “quishy” (as in the word “squishy”). Quiche is not the most common word in the English language, but I include it here only for the sake of an example.
With poor word recognition, students’ language skills are so impaired from a lack of literacy skills that they could not advance as quickly either through the braille code or increase their speed after learning the code. One of the most critical components of learning to be a competent reader of braille is a good reading vocabulary.
It’s no surprise, then, that research from Louisiana Tech University’s Institute on Blindness that braille readers have far better language skills than users of large-print or audio-only materials, scoring as well as their sighted counterparts who use regular print. We can deduce from this that braille skills lead to true literacy and that braille readers can compete on terms of equality with their sighted peers.
Spelling is not obsolete, and it’s very difficult to learn spelling through incidental learning with any auditory-only learning system.
Myth #3 It’s hard to use braille at work or school.
It’s depressing that only 10 percent of the blind know braille, and currently only 10 percent of the blind children in my home state of Louisiana are learning braille in school. However, research conducted by Dr. Ruby Ryles, professor emeritus at Louisiana Tech University, concluded that the average braille reader reads at 120 wpm (two words per second and, incidentally, the same speed at which we usually speak aloud to one another). Furthermore, of the blind who are employed, 80 to 90 percent use braille on a daily basis.
Recent advances in technology—such as refreshable braille, bluetooth, and the availability of braille embossers—have actually made braille more practical than ever before. No longer must blind people wait for another person to scan, proofread, translate, and emboss documents, for now they can use portable devices to read electronic documents and books immediately. Because blind people have proven that they can read just as fast and just as easily with braille, the code is not slow, obsolete, or difficult.
Reality: Reading braille efficiently means using the right technique.
Over the next two weeks, I will share how anybody can learn braille in six months. The key elements are good sensitivity in the hands (though we’ll also explore how some people have used their lips to read braille!), use of the two-handed technique, placing multiple fingers on each line, good word recognition skills, and a willingness to work consistently. If one removes one of these keys, then the acquisition of good reading skills will be impaired. However, if students possess all of the attributes, then they can achieve true literacy, particularly when taught from the onset of formal education.
The good news is that even if a blind person reaches only 60 wpm, he or she can certainly enjoy reading, using braille for personal enrichment, or be far more job-ready. Braille is not dead; braille is one of the keys to complete fulfillment and competence for blind people, for it allows for total independence and true literacy. After all, intelligence is measured by one’s ability to comprehend and to recognize words and their meanings.
Series: How to Learn Braille in 6 Months
- Myths & Realities of Learning Braille (August 1, 2013)
- 4 Habits of Highly Effective Students of Braille (August 17, 2013)
- How to Increase Your Braille Reading Speed (August 23, 2013)
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Jerry Whittle, a Louisiana native, is instructor emeritus at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston.
Braille Reading Speed and Fluency
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About Reading Speed and Fluency
Students’ braille reading speed and efficiency often comes up as a point of discussion for teachers of the vision impaired. Teachers may note that their brailling student reads more slowly than his/her sighted peers.
Perhaps it is perceived that slow reading rates are the result of the mechanics of braille as a reading medium. However many believe that reading speed and efficiency can be developed to match the speed of sighted peers.
Oral reading rate in words per minute (O) and silent reading rate in words per minute (S) for students without vision impairments are well-documented, an example appearing below:
- Grade 1: 60 (O) and less than 81 (S)
- Grade 3: 90 (O) and 109-130 (S)
- Grade 6: 150 (O) and 175-185 (S)
- Grade 10: 150 (O) and 210-224 (S)
- Grade 12: 150 (O) and 241-255+ (S)
Many braille literacy experts, including Dr Denise Robinson, Washington Teacher of the Vision Impaired, believe that braille-reading students can read as fast and efficiently as their sighted peers, and makes the following argument:
I use (the standards for sighted students) for my blind and low vision students. If you set high standards then children will meet those standards. I have taken on beginner students and told them how fast they would be reading braille in a couple months, even in middle and high school. At the end of the 2 months, as their fingers would fly across the page reading braille, as I timed them, at the end I would ask, “So did you really think you would be able to read that fast?” They would reply, “Of course, you told me I would be able to.” So tell them, they can, and they will.
So, as an educator or parent of a young blind child:
- believe that the blind child can read as fast in braille as their sighted peers can read in print
- instill this belief in your blind child – and others in their educational sphere
- encourage positive book experiences, through reading with joy to your child, and supporting their literacy through concept development and tactile experiences
- surround your child with braille e.g. braille labels, braille books, braille shopping lists, braille recipes and so on; with the aim of providing the same braille experience for your blind child as the sighted child has with print
- ensure that your blind child is surrounded with people who love the braille code and can confidently read and write in braille; or at least spends time with blind peers and mentors who can demonstrate excellent braille reading and writing
Improving Speed and Fluency
It is important for students to be able to read text quickly and fluently with accuracy, expression and comprehension. Fluency requires automaticity – accurate and quick word recognition, along with efficient processing of the text at the sentence, conceptual and topic level. Fluency promotes reading comprehension and reading expression.
The key to learning to read with speed, fluency and comprehension … is READING!
Beginning with a light touch and a fluid movement is important for early braille readers. Begin with simple sentences and topics of interest. Include techniques such as:
- building a bank of “sight” words
- reading strategies commonly used for sighted students including:
- re-reading (where the student reads the same passage a number of times)
- paired reading (with a classmate at a similar reading level)
- choral reading (with a group)
- echo reading (teacher and group read together)
- turn-taking (teacher reads a sentence while the student follows along, then student reads a sentence – allows the teacher to model speed, verbal expression etc)
- and even reading with a funny voice – always a winner!
- reading a play together – the opportunity to model good reading
- do-braille – read braille to a simple tune
- avoiding “scrubbing” – use a light touch, fluid movement and many fingers
- and reading every day
Building a bank of “sight” words
One of the ways to improve reading speed and fluency is to build up the bank of words that the student can efficiently recognise. For brailling students, being able to recognise words quickly by touch will reduce the need to decode words, allowing the student to more efficiently process the text at the sentence, conceptual and topic levels.
Have fun learning “the first hundred words” (or similar lists) by playing Memory, Snap, Bingo etc.
It may seem mysterious, but oral re-reading generally improves the speed and fluency of braille reading – in a similar manner to oral re-reading print for sighted readers. After one or two readings of the same passage, the student will often be relying on their memory to “read” the passage – this is ok because their fingers are moving smoothly and quickly across the braille – which is at least part of the aim of the exercise! Time each reading and demonstrate to the student their increased reading rate and fluency!
You will need: stop watch, short passage of braille (with the words pre-counted), graphing equipment (eg a tactile drawing kit or braille paper and Perkins)
What to do: Using a short passage of brailled text which is within the student’s independent reading level, time the student and calculate the reading rate (e.g. words per minute). After each reading of the same text, the student graphs their results. Reviewing the graph together will provide the student with immediate feedback on their improving speed – many students find this very motivating.
Re-reading can also be used for a page of braille letters or contractions as a way of encouraging students to decode more quickly and to trust their ability to recognise and identify the letters/contractions.
Example of re-reading success: Year 4 student Jane was a reluctant reader who made frequent braille errors and reversals. Jane’s Visiting Teacher established a work practise, at the beginning of each session together, of re-reading pages of braille letters and later contractions – and timing her reading speed. Initially, Jane was struggling to read 16 words per minute, but after one term of re-reading practise, Jane’s reading speed had improved to 59 words per minute. A term later, she was reading 105 words per minute and had become an avid reader.
Reading a play together
Reading a play in a small group – e.g. 1-2 children and/or an adult – can assist a poor or unmotivated reader to read more quickly, to read with more expression, and to read with more enjoyment. The best thing about reading plays is that each reader must follow along to ensure that they are ready to read their section – this a great way to have the children reading much more than they would usually be able to manage! It also allows the adult to model excellent oral reading skills.
You will need: an interesting or funny play for 2 to 3 characters. If you cannot find one in the school, it can be relatively easy to adapt a story book to include a narrator and a small number of characters.
What to do: Select parts for yourself and the student(s) to enable success. Begin reading with expression and interest and congratulate the student when they do the same. As the student becomes more confident (and as for normal conversation), begin to read your section slightly before the student completes theirs – and hope that they begin to do the same. Have as much fun as possible with this activity!
Watch an example of play reading with a teacher and two students of different reading abilities. Even though the slower reader is reading less aloud, she is following along as the others read.
Listen to an example of do-braille
Watch an example of do-braille which focussed on the contractions for do, I, leaf, like, not, this. (Flash video, may not play on iOS devices and some other tablets/phones or browsers).
Developed as part of the Dot Power program at the Statewide Vision Resource Centre, a simple tune is played on the guitar while the students practise reading each of the new contractions featured on the day. There is a bar of do-do-do-do between each line to allow students time to locate their new line. The tune can be sung more quickly as students become more confident with the new contractions.
You will need: a sheet of braille letters or contractions and a guitar, other musical instrument or audio file of the do-braille chant.
What to do: Sing the contractions in time with the music – encouragement, laughter and enjoyment is also required!
“Scrubbing” – that is moving the finger up and down or around and around on the dots – interrupts the fluid flow of braille reading and will slow the reading process down considerably. Further, it will squash the braille dots. It is important to create enough speed when reading braille in order to comprehend what is being read; a light touch is a more efficient reading technique.
Reading every day
Daily reading is the key to being a good reader. Encourage the student to read whenever they have a spare moment – on the bus, in the car, in bed, wherever…
Literacy specialists suggest that all children from Prep to Year 12 should sit and read silently every day. Reading for longer periods of time will extend both the volume of material that is read by the child AND their reading stamina or sustained attention – which is required for deep engagement with text.
Take-home readers play an important role in the improvement of reading skills and comprehension. Take-home readers should be read TO the child, WITH the child, and BY the child. There is a correlation between amount of time the child spends reading each day, their reading success and their overall achievement at school.
Calculating Reading Speed
Reading speed can be calculated for oral reading or for silent reading. If calculating a silent reading rate, encourage the student to read at their normal reading speed and not skim over the words. It is also a good idea to follow up the reading by asking a couple of comprehension questions to ensure that the student has actually read the text.
If you are interested in how many words a student can read in one minute, time the student for a minute: wpm = number of words read in a minute
If you are interested in a reading rate over an extended period of time to understand the student’s sustained reading rate, use the following strategy:
- Select a piece of text that is within the student’s independent reading/comprehension level
- Count the number of words in a passage (A)
- Record the number of seconds spent reading the passage (B)
- Calculate overall reading rate: wpm = (A ÷ B) x 60
- Time your student every week, so they see their progress
- Have your student re-read the same material to get flow and fluency
- Have your student braille the material first, using contracted braille, then read what they brailled
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What is the braille alphabet, how do you read it and what year did Louis Braille create the writing system?
BRAILLE is a writing system designed to allow the blind and visually impaired to read.
It uses tiny pimples on the page that can be felt by the finger tips an interpreted as letters and numbers.
Getty — Contributor
What is the braille alphabet?
Brialle can be produced by hand with a stylus or using a braille typewriter, braille printer of a refreshable braille display.
If an error is made the mistake is overwritten with all six dots.
Most braille embossers support between 34 and 40 cells per line, and 25 lines per page.
The braille alphabet is spelled out in the table above.
Getty — Contributor
When did Louis Braille create the writing system?
Louis Braille worked with Charles Barbier to create the system for French leader Napoleon’s army in 1821.
He wanted a way for soldiers to communicate with each other in secret without using lights or sounds.
The expanded English system, called Grade-2 Braille, was complete by 1905.
Blind man who is scared of dogs given new lease of life thanks to UK’s first guide horse
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Braille Reading Speed
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Susan Ford]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ramona Walhof]
Braille Reading Speed
Are You Willing To Do What It Takes?
by Susan Ford and Ramona Walhof
From the Editor: Susan Ford and Ramona Walhof are sisters. As you will read, between
them they have a broad range of reading and Braille-teaching experience. Susan now lives
in Missouri and is an active and contributing Federation leader wherever she goes. Ramona,
of course, is Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB
of Idaho. This is what they say:
Many Braille readers have never been encouraged to work to achieve good speed. Slow
reading is a disadvantage throughout life and causes the reader to under-use and
undervalue the reading skill. But there is no need to continue forever as a slow reader.
Some Braille readers develop a speed of 200 to 400 words per minute as small children.
They will retain that speed with little or no effort. Braille readers who could not attain
good speed as young children, however, can do so with some work, and it is certainly worth
the effort. It is also desirable for teachers of blind children to encourage good
Susan Ford developed good Braille reading speed as a small child and retains it; Ramona
Walhof had fair speed as a child and has had to work to improve. Our experiences in
reading Braille and teaching for years have given us some ideas which may help others in
achieving increased speed. Try these suggestions and talk with other good Braille readers.
You should experience significant improvement.
Susan has been a rehabilitation teacher and counselor and worked with hundreds of adult
Braille students. Most were learning Braille from scratch. Some were working to improve
their skill. Some never completed standard Braille, but many have, and they continued to
improve in speed and confidence. Susan has written drills and exercises for her students
to use when they have experienced problems with certain Braille concepts.
Ramona’s teaching has been largely in training centers. She has also taught both new
Braille readers and those who were working to improve speed and accuracy. Ramona
co-authored Beginning Braille for Adults in order to assist students to complete
Grade II (standard) Braille more quickly. We both agree that this book is good for some
Braille students but not all.
1. Avoid all Braille printed on plastic pages. Plastic is somewhat better than it was
when it first appeared, but it will still discourage good speed. As you develop more
speed, it will seem worse, because your hands will cling to the Braille as they move
faster across the lines. Since Braille continues to become easier to produce using Braille
embossers driven by computers, using plastic should not be necessary except in rare
2. Keep your touch light. You can feel the dots better if your fingers are moving
lightly over the lines. To test this statement, try this: feel the back of one hand with
the fingers of your other hand. Exert some pressure and rub your hand a little. You will
feel bones and veins. Now barely brush your fingers across the skin. You will feel the
texture of the skin and hairs. These details were hardly noticeable when you pressed down.
The same is true of Braille. You do not want to know what is underneath the page, but what
is on the surface. This requires a light touch. Many Braille readers are heavy-handed.
Experiment honestly to see whether you are.
3. Check the position of your hands to insure that you are using the most sensitive
part of your fingertips. Your hands should be curved so that the second joints of your
fingers are only a little higher than the first joints. Your wrists should move just above
the page. The most sensitive part of your fingers is just below the tip, but not as far
back as the fleshier part right above the first joint.
4. You will read best if you follow the lines of Braille using three fingers on each
hand. The middle and third fingers help to keep your place and increase speed, even though
the forefingers are the primary reading fingers. It is always important to use both hands,
even if one is less sensitive. Keep both forefingers on the line of Braille. Almost
everyone has one dominant hand in reading, and it is not necessarily the same one that is
dominant in other activities. It is convenient to be able to use one hand well enough to
read while writing using a slate and stylus with the other. You can then copy brief
passages from what you are reading without taking your hand off the page. Consider this
technique for copying an address or phone number. You probably don’t have much choice
about which hand works best, but you can increase the effectiveness of both hands if you
work at it.
5. When you read Braille, you want your left hand to read the beginning of the line and
your right hand to read the end. The best readers bring their forefingers together
somewhere in the middle of the line, letting the right hand finish while the left hand
returns to the left margin to locate and begin the new line. This process increases speed
because you no longer have to pause to locate the new line. Your dominant hand will read a
larger part of the line, but the two hands read independently, and your brain puts the
words in correct order. If you have been a one-handed reader, your first step is to make
your weaker hand follow the other one until it begins to help with the work. Make the hand
you are trying to strengthen read at least one word at the beginning or end of the line.
As you become more adept at this, what at first seemed to slow you down will help increase
your speed. When you experience success at making your slow hand read one word, begin to
require it to carry more of the load. If one hand is truly disabled, you can still read
Braille well enough to make it valuable. If one hand is merely less sensitive than the
other, make the weaker hand work, and it will get more efficient.
6. In some ways improving Braille-reading speed is much like improving speed reading
print. We recommend that you first learn to skim. Learn to gather the sense of a passage
by reading the first lines of short paragraphs and the first and last lines of slightly
longer ones. If the paragraph is quite long, read a few middle lines as well.
If you are reading conversation, skip or de-emphasize the «he said,»
«she asked,» «I explained» phrases. Don’t try to skip these in the
middle of a line, but when they appear at the beginning or end and you are not reading
aloud, they are unnecessary. You will know the content, and skipping unnecessary words is
another way to permit your reading speed to increase slightly. This is part of learning to
skim rather than actually increasing verbatim reading speed. If you expect to cover the
material faster, your hands and mind will learn to work together. All this helps your
speed. Several such techniques can add up to quite an improvement. You will learn not to
break the steady movement of your hands as you concentrate on what matters in what you
7. Develop a sight vocabulary in Braille. This idea is especially helpful if you have
just completed learning Grade II Braille and need to build confidence in your knowledge of
contracted words. You can carry a packet of three-by-five index cards with frequently used
words or phrases on each. The earliest ones you make should be no more than four symbols.
With practice you will begin to recognize the short words immediately. You can also
recognize these letter combinations as parts of longer ones. Example: the word
«and» also appears in the words «strand,» «band,» and
«land,» and so on. The word «honest» appears at the beginning of
«honestly» and at the end of «dishonest.» As you recognize sight
vocabulary words more quickly, the longer words which contain them will come more quickly
as well. When a group of twenty cards or so becomes familiar, exchange them for another
set. Carry them in your notebook or purse; study them on the way to work or school; and
make new ones when they wear out.
8. Set achievable goals for improvement. Determine how much you read every day. Be
truthful with yourself, even if you are only reading a paragraph a day. Set as your first
goal to double this amount or to increase it by 50 percent. Be absolutely faithful to your
daily commitment to read Braille. When you feel comfortable reading this new amount,
increase it again and make that your new goal.
Be sure to read every single day. Remember, it does not hurt to read more than the
minimum you have set. If one day you don’t meet your commitment to yourself, don’t worry
about it. Stress causes burn-out. Just begin where you left off and continue achieving the
same goal each day.
9. Begin with very short passages. It does not take long to be able to read a selection
of three or four pages in one sitting. It feels wonderful when you can say that you have
read a whole story. Such success encourages other attempts. You need not read material
written at your intellectual level. Many of us like to read children’s stories. You can
easily find short articles from magazines.
10. Make Braille convenient for yourself. Keep a Braille book beside your bed, and tell
people you have learned to read in the dark. Leave a book or magazine near your favorite
easy chair. Carry a small magazine with you. Immerse yourself in this exposure to Braille.
Keep a Braille calendar in your pocket or purse. Begin an address and phone file. Make
recipes in Braille. Ask your friends if they can show you what crossword puzzles look like
in Braille or how to do cryptograms, etc. Try to make Braille available to yourself in the
many ways that print is available to your sighted friends. The more you see it and find it
wherever you put your hands, the more you will read it. Reading Braille—as much and as
often as possible—is certainly the most important thing you can do to increase your
reading speed. Read, read, read!
11. One of the more effective ways to improve Braille skill is to read along with
someone else. A tape recorder will do. The aural reading should be just a little faster
than yours. Make yourself keep up. Reread the passage. The second time you will be
familiar with the material. Your speed should increase. Keep at it till you are
comfortable with the faster speed. Read something onto a tape yourself. Compete with
yourself, each time trying to beat the original speed of your recording.
12. Subscribe to at least one Braille magazine that you enjoy. Read short articles, and
then reread them more than twice, trying to read faster each time. Do not memorize. As the
text becomes familiar, you will read much more rapidly. Be sure to read aloud sometimes to
be sure that you are not skipping when you know the material well.
13. As you begin to see improvement in your speed, continue spending the same amount of
time reading or doing even more. Reading faster will permit you to cover more material in
the same amount of time. In school children read many hours a day while learning to read.
As adults we expect to spend just a few minutes and accomplish as much. In the beginning
at least it won’t happen. You must commit time in order to see significant improvement.
14. Avoid bad habits. Many Braille readers have developed the bad habit of
double-checking frequently in order to catch mistakes. It is important to keep your hands
moving steadily forward with very little checking back. Avoid rubbing the Braille as you
read it. Reading with someone who reads just a little faster keeps you from looking back.
If you do, you will get behind. It is true that reading Braille requires movement, but the
movement should be mostly forward, not up and down or backwards. If you move your hands up
and down, you may move from one line to another without realizing it.
You can read together with someone else who is working to improve his or her speed. You
can even do this on the telephone. If you respond to competition, challenge someone to
compete with you. Occasional timings are helpful, but only to determine if your reading
speed increases. Don’t overdo it. Instead of words per minute, it might be more helpful to
measure pages per hour or per week. When you have something to read in Braille, complete
it in that medium. Don’t cheat and finish it on tape.
15. Take some responsibility using Braille. For instance, make a report from Braille
notes. Give a speech using Braille cards. Make a report about something you have read in
Braille. NFB Kernel Books are filled with short and easy articles, which may also provide
motivation for improving this skill.
In this article we have not discussed writing. Whether you write with a Braille writer
or with the slate and stylus, your writing skill will reinforce your reading skill. Much
more could be said about writing—maybe another article some day.
We would love to tell you more about some of the wonderful students we have had. You
would find their progress interesting and challenging. When you see us, don’t hesitate to
ask us about them. There isn’t space or time to tell all their stories here.
Get excited about Braille. It is fun to be literate. It is normal to be able to read at
your own convenience and do it with facility. Don’t deny yourself that convenience and
pleasure any longer. Believe in yourself and believe in Braille. Remember that many adults
have learned Braille from scratch and attained good speed. It is worth the effort, and you
are not too old, too stupid, or too lazy. Try it; you’ll like it!