Saturday, April 25, 2015

Braille Assessment

My first lesson in Braille was shall we say an "eye opener."

What did we do?

First my instructor went through the letters in Braille on a large model of a Braille cell. The dots were modelled by table tennis balls on a rectangular piece of wood.

Following that my instructor checked my fingers for sensitivity.  This was done by having me tell him how many lines of Braille dots I could feel. He actually suggested there were just two lines, I thought there were three lines and said so. He agreed, the suggestion was just that, a trick to see if I would just agree to pass the test.

Then finally he showed me what a real Braille text feels like.

Were there any surprises for me?

There was one really big surprise for me. I had come across braille on items such as hotel room numbers or the odd gift card like Starbucks which sometimes have Braille lettering on them. There the Braille is widely spaced and quite easy to feel. 

A real Braille book is very densely packed though. there seems so little space between letters it almost seems that there is just one stream of dots with no distinguishing features or breaks.

I can say right now my estimation of Braille readers has gone way up, I had imagined it pretty easy, just like reading with eyes, but I cannot imagine reading even printed matter that is so densely packed.

My instructor, Paul, said that pretty much every adult who has been sighted and whom he has taught has a similar experience. Often the experience is compounded with a fear of failing, I had felt this too, though I didn't mention this. The world of Stage one Braille is a large one, twenty six letters, symbols for capital letters and punctuation as well as numbers to learn.

Where from Here?

Now I have to wait for my Braille textbook to arrive and we will begin more formal lessons, learning the alphabet.

I did get to try out some of the initial lesson from the book yesterday. The letters a through e. I also got to read a very simple set of words in Braille. We did this in a sort of spelling bee style.

I would find the word, say it, spell it out and repeat the word again.  Bear in mind though we are talking of sentences like "The cat, sat on the mat." But in the end I was happy, I could read simple words like ; cab, ace and bee.

Now for my first assignment. Wait for the textbook.

Would anyone have any experiences of learning Braille that they would like to share?

Please feel free to tell me about them in the comments section.