As a reader advisor who works closely with individuals who have visual impairments, I have recently begun to learn braille through the Hadley correspondence course. Prior to beginning this course, I had heard of the importance of learning braille for those who have visual impairments. The two commonly cited benefits of braille literacy are increased employability and an increased capacity for independence. Knowing this, I wanted to increase my own ability to communicate with our patrons and to open another way for them to communicate with me. I decided to learn braille, but I was scared.
I thought I wouldn’t be able to acquire braille literacy. I didn’t know how I could learn when I wouldn’t be in a classroom. Now, I already know the braille alphabet, and can read some braille signs in uncontracted braille when out in public after only a few weeks. I am looking forward to continuing to learn braille, and I have become a huge advocate for braille literacy.
Taking the class has emphasized to me the importance of being able to read, as literacy is an essential part of education. Without braille, many visually impaired individuals lack the ability to read. I couldn’t understand why patrons on phone calls would correct themselves if they said they had “read” a book to they “listened” to a book. I would say something to the effect of it is the same thing. However, upon reflection it isn’t. I was missing the distinction.
Audio books are wonderful. They allow millions of visually impaired individuals to access content otherwise unavailable to them. However, it is like being read a story by a parent when you are a child. It is enjoyable, but sometimes you want to read the story by yourself. You want to imagine the character’s voice a certain way; you want to put the inflection on a certain syllable; you want the book to become your own. The patrons are right. They are not reading, they are listening. Braille literacy is important…not just because it improves the chances for employment, but also because it is a way to become literate. Literacy is taken for granted by the sighted sometimes, but it is invaluable.
There are resources available to learn braille, and I strongly suggest you take advantage of them. Speak to your social worker for the blind in your county, visit the National Federation for the Blind website detailing the resources available to you, and the National Library Service’s website (websites are listed below this article) for general information about braille, braille publications, and brailling products available. I can personally attest to the effectiveness of the Hadley program, there website is listed on the following page. This year’s summer reading theme is “Imagine your Story” I encourage you to truly imagine your own story a life with braille literacy, and make it a reality.
Article written by Sarah Brackett, Reader Advisor
Braille Learning Resources:
National Federation for the Blind: nfb.org/resources/braille-resources
National Library Service: loc.gov/nls/resources/blindness-and-vision-impairment/brailleinformation
Hadley Program hadley.edu/FindaCourse.asp