Learning to read by touch

Learning to read by touch as an adult is not easy. When a new client asks about learning Braille for reading, I take a deep breath and share all the amazing things about braille: its a code, it can open the door to personal literacy, its a tool, and…. learning braille takes time, commitment and a lot of hard work.

Tactile readiness is the first step. In my work I help my clients access Hadley, an on-line learning community, whose founder believed in providing learning opportunities to those who had lost their vision. Hadley has amazing braille learning tools and activities and allows each client to access materials for free and go at their own pace. As an instructor, I facilitate learning to access Hadley classes, support the learning process and then help implement each person’s new braille skills into their daily and work life activities. Tactile readiness involves learning how to explore a page of braille, distinguish shapes and spaces and begin to understand how they are the same or different. In the picture below, a new braille learner has been using a braille writer to make braille symbols on a page that he can use to practice his
tracking and tactile readiness skills. He uses the pads of his fingers to feel the symbols he has just brailled and to explore various lines of braille. Once finished with these exercises, the real fun begins – learning the code!

Developed by Louis Braille, the code creates letters, numbers, marks of punctuation and several contractions by combining dots in a six-dot cell. Dot combinations and cell combinations make up each symbol or letter. Learning the code by memorizing the combinations is only half the work; being able to identify them by touch is the hard part. But, with dedication, motivation and lots of practice most people can learn this wonderful code and achieve some useful level of literacy. Not unlike learning a new language, learning braille opens the door to new opportunities and cultural experiences. Braille – check it out sometime!

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