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Teaching braille

A national survey of local authority visual impairment advisory services to discover the number of braillists in the UK, their education and the training that teaching and support staff had received.

Author: Sue Keil and Louise Clunies-Ross, Publisher: RNIB


In 2002, a national postal questionnaire survey of local authority (LA) visual impairment (VI) advisory services, and case studies of four LA VI advisory services and one specialist school for blind and partially sighted pupils were carried out. The aim of the survey questionnaire was to find out:

  • the number of braillists in the UK
  • where they were being educated
  • who was teaching them
  • what type of training their teachers and support staff had received. The case studies were intended to explore in detail how braille teaching was provided to children in different settings and why provision was organised in this way.

Key findings    

  • The survey identified approximately 850 braillists up to the age of 16 in England, Scotland, and Wales in 2002. This represents around 4 per cent of the population of blind and partially sighted children between the ages of five and 16, suggesting that in the five years between 1997 and 2002 the overall proportion of children learning braille in the UK remained relatively stable.
  • A smaller proportion (2 per cent) of children under the age of five years were identified as being in the early stages of learning braille or acquiring pre-braille skills.
  • The majority of braillists (71) were being educated in mainstream or resourced mainstream schools, although the proportion was higher for primary pupils (83) than for secondary aged pupils (60).
  • A higher proportion of secondary aged braillists was being educated in specialist schools for blind and partially sighted pupils: 36 compared with only 16 of primary aged braillists.
  • A variety of people may be involved in teaching braille to children and to helping braillists access the curriculum. In many services and schools teaching assistants (TAs) play a key role in teaching braille to children.
  • The case studies illustrated that braillists can be supported successfully in a range of different contexts, provided there is appropriate organisation of specialist staff, adequate training for staff and properly targeted funding.