Modern day braille

Braille changes lives. It gives thousands of people independence, learning, literacy, and the enjoyment of reading. Braille opens doors, and gives hope and inspiration.

The power of braille

Listen to some braille users talking about the difference knowing braille has made to their lives:

Ten ways that braille makes a difference

  1. braille provides an "active" reading and writing method for people who cannot access print - listening to audio books is valuable, but passive
  2. braille offers a system for labelling all kinds of items (CDs, DVDs, cans and packets of food, medicines, documents, etc), which aids independence and raises self esteem in a person who has lost their sight
  3. being able to read just 15 braille letters enables a person to play games involving a pack of cards - anything from "Snap!" with the grandchildren to Tournament Bridge
  4. popular games (such as Bingo and Uno) are available in braille and others can be adapted by the addition of braille labels, enabling a blind or partially sighted individual to join in with family or friends in a wide range of leisure pursuits
  5. a diary and address book can be kept, shopping lists made and messages in greetings cards read independently
  6. many banks, utilities and other businesses can provide statements, bills and letters in braille, which can provide you with a degree of privacy and independence when dealing with your finances
  7. some restaurants and pub chains offer braille menus
  8. there is a wide choice of magazines, and fiction and non-fiction books available in both grade 1 and grade 2 braille
  9. braille can be produced manually on a portable hand-frame or notetaker, or on a desktop Perkins brailler. It can also be produced on a computer with translation software and a braille embosser
  10. a "soft braille" display can be linked to a computer to enable a braillist to read what is on the screen.

Disadavantages of braille

  • Braille books can be very bulky, and often in many volumes.
  • Braille requires an acute sense of touch. Some readers whose finger sensitivity may be reduced, such as those with diabetes, may benefit from learning Moon

Braille in everyday life

The uses of braille extend way beyond just reading books. From dialling a phone number to checking a bank statement, the ability to read braille helps blind people be independent in so many ways every day and reduces the need for support.

Listen to our audio clip of braille users talking about how braille gives them independence:

The need to read

If you are sighted, just think about how often you read during the day, when you encounter signs and maps, or labels on food and drink. Knowing how to write and read braille means that people can label tins of food in the cupboard, read medicine packaging or even just play cards.

Braille isn't just a replacement for writing. It is easy to forget how important colours, logos, symbols and other visual signposting are to working out what something is. Imagine a world where you couldn't rely on the pictures on labels or the symbols on machinery.

Labelling

Being able to label clothing, food stuffs and domestic appliances around the home helps blind or partially sighted people live independently. Items such as washing machines can be almost impossible for a blind person to use unless the controls have raised or clear print markings to indicate the different settings or uses of each knob or dial.

In an ideal world, all controls would be designed with tactile markings and large, clear contrasting letters and numbers so that customers could use them easily but this is not always the case.

Braille in the workplace

People who are blind or partially sighted face all sorts of barriers when it comes to getting a job. However, research shows that braille users are far more likely to be in employment.

Listen to our audio clip of braille users talking about how braille has helped them in the workplace:

Braille at work

Many blind and partially sighted people find braille to be useful at work. It is a fast and efficient way to make notes in meetings and can also be useful when reviewing long printed documents. Braille can also be written and read through a computer. A combination of paper and digital braille used alongside other new technologies such as screen readers and magnification software, mean people with sight problems can effectively work in a huge range of jobs.

Being able to use braille is an invaluable skill within the work environment. Research has shown that blind people who use braille are far more likely to be in employment.

Braille in education

RNIB campaigns for children's right to learn braille, whether they are in mainstream or special schools.

There is a clear need to teach braille to blind and partially sighted children from a young age so that they have it as a skill for life. Without braille it is very difficult for blind children to become literate. The joys of punctuation, grammar and spelling are readily accessible via the braille code.

Those children with low vision whose sight might possibly deteriorate are also encouraged to learn braille. The sooner you start reading braille (very much like print) the easier it will be.

Although someone with low vision might be able to read large print, it can be easier to start learning braille while you still have a degree of sight.

Braille stories: Onkyo Braille International Essay Contest

It's time to get your creative juices flowing and enter the Onkyo Essay Competition. You may teach braille, transcribe braille, use braille or want to use it. We would love to hear from you.

About the braille competition

We want you to send us a short piece of work on any number of new braille related themes. These are set by the European Organising Committee of the Onkyo Essay Competition, and this year themes include:

  • amusing stories about braille
  • the future of braille
  • factual descriptions of innovative products

There is something for everyone and once again $6,000 of prize money is on offer.

How to enter this year’s competition

Please download the Onkyo Entry Pack. This has all the information you need, including the competition rules and an entry form.

Completed forms and closing date

Return your completed essay and form by either post or email to:

Stacey Temperley
RNIB
PO Box 173
Peterborough
PE2 6WS

Email: stacey.temperley@rnib.org.uk

If you would like to know more about the competition, or request a paper copy (in braille or print) of the entry pack, call Stacey Temperley on 01733 375102. The closing date for entries is 30 April 2014.

2013 UK finalists

Be inspired! You can read the essays selected to represent the UK in last year's European final below.

2013 results

Unfortunately we didn't have any UK winners last year but the successful essays were of a very high standard and gave a fascinating insight into people's lives from such diverse countries as Finland, Russia, Spain and Montenegro.

RNIB online shop

Shop online for a wide range of products that you need to remain independent. From talking scales to tactile labels, mobile phones to magnifiers, we can help you keep doing the things you love.

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