“Braille has provided me with independence and freedom”

Hello everyone! As a keen Braille student, I thought I would write a blog post dedicated to this tactile form of communication for the blind and visually impaired.

Kim and service user Wendy in a braille classBraille, created by Louis Braille in 1824, is made up of cells containing 6 dots – much like a domino. Different arrangements and combinations of the cells create distinguishable characters of the alphabet. Due to it being quite a thick medium, it can be shortened using contractions and short forms. For example, if you were to read all 7 Harry Potter books in the series – in uncontracted Braille – it would approximately fill around 15 to 20 books, so contractions and short forms help to condense it down considerably. Gently touching the arrangement of dots from left to right form words and sentences on the page, and I find that quite fascinating and intriguing.

I now help others to learn Braille

I’ve been learning Braille at Henshaws for 7 months now at the Manchester centre. I’ve recently finished book 8 of the Fingerprint course so I am fluent with the alphabet, punctuation, short forms, contractions, and even basic mathematics equations! I’m now able to understand primary fundamentals such as addresses, post codes, the time, weights and measurements, and have read through sample diary entries and recipes to incorporate everything I’ve learned in the books so far.

Image of Service user Janet reading brailleI have also started to volunteer for the Braille group, helping a new member of the class get to grips with the alphabet, their dot combinations, and basic words and will eventually build up to small sentences. It’s wonderful to be able to give back to the group, just as they helped me, and pass the skill onto someone else.

I appreciate the Braille group for its social aspect and friendly environment, as well as the educational facet. It’s lovely to meet with everyone each Friday morning and catch up, before delving into our work and continuing where we left off in the previous week. It has a very laid-back atmosphere and each member of the class is at a different stage in the course books, as we are encouraged to learn at our own pace and in our own time. It’s both educational and enjoyable.

I’ve recently bought my own bright turquoise Brailler

Turquoise brailer on bright pink bedsheetI’m also fond of using the Perkins Brailler and have recently purchased my own turquoise one from eBay, with the money going to the 4SIGHT charity in Sussex, supporting other blind and visually impaired people.

I love that the bright colour matches my bedroom perfectly!

I’m now using it every day for a variety of written articles such as shopping lists, revision notes, and my own short stories.

I use Braille menus when in certain coffee shops and restaurants

Braille has now become ingrained into my every day life and has provided me with a lot more independence and the freedom to read written works that I wouldn’t have been able to previously. I use Braille menus when in certain coffee shops and restaurants that stock them, instead of having a family member read out the options to me. This allows me to read the menu in its entirety, rather than someone reading out a cross-section of the choices they think I would like to have, in my own time and it helps me not to feel pressured into picking something quickly so as not to disrupt the other person too much!

I have started to receive some Braille letters allowing me to read my mail for the first time, as regular print – and even what is considered to be large print – can be impossible for me to read with a magnifier sometimes.

I enjoy Braille enormously and hope to continue to volunteer and inspire other people to learn and use this tactile method of reading and writing. I aspire to one day be able to compete a whole book of Braille and perhaps even write my own!

 

Visit the Braille pages on the Henshaws website for more information on Braille lessons and the Braille group, or contact your local centre for a chat about what Henshaws can offer you.

Kimberley Burrows
Kimberley Burrows
Kimberley is a Henshaws volunteer and service user of over two years. She is Co-Chair to the RNIB young person's campaigning network, Envision, a blogger, columnist, artist and an illustrator; previously the RNIB's Young Illustrator for 2014.
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