Each January we celebrate Braille Awareness Month in honor of Louis Braille’s birthday on January 4, 1809. It’s also a great opportunity to recognize William Hadley’s contribution to learning braille by founding the Hadley School for the Blind in 1920, to offer anyone a chance to learn braille through a correspondence course in the mail.
Braille Awareness Month this year marks another milestone for braille training as Hadley adds the latest innovation for learning braille to its legacy of tactile braille courses. Hadley’s redesigned website at Hadley.edu now offers a whole new series of workshops called, “Braille by Sight,” These highly interactive workshops are available at no cost, streaming from the website, after completing a simple, one-time, registration login. Registration can be done online, using the website, or by calling Hadley Support Services toll-free at 800-323-4238.
Braille by Sight invites a whole new group of braille learners to check out the fundamentals of the braille code with short, interactive, workshops. Older adults with a newly acquired vision loss, vision professionals, and family members who want to learn braille may find these online workshops more appealing than more traditional methods of learning braille by touch. For those wanting to dive into braille by touch, Hadley continues to offer a complete series of tactile braille workshops that can be completed at home, in contact with one of Hadley’s braille Learning Experts, who can review work and offer support by mail, email, or phone.
How Does Braille by Sight Work?
After logging in, learners select from several categories of workshop topics: Daily living; Adjusting to vision loss; Recreation; Technology; Braille; and Working. From the “Braille” category, the following “Braille by Sight” series are available:
- Basic Braille by Sight: Reading Series;
- Basic Braille by Sight: Writing Series;
- Contracted Braille by Sight: Reading Series;
- Contracted Braille by Sight: Writing Series
- Special Braille Symbols: Reading Series;
- Special Braille Symbols: Writing Series;
- Producing Braille Series.
Each series contains several narrated workshops with interactive activities. These activities might include multiple choice exercises, fill in the blanks, creating words or sentences by choosing the correct braille cells, etc. After each exercise the narrator’s voice offers encouragement for correct answers or an invitation to, “Try Again.” Workshops will vary in length, depending on the learner’s familiarity with the subject. For example, a professional just brushing up on their braille may take only 10-15 minutes to go through a workshop, while a new learner may take 45 minutes or more. Workshops can be repeated as often as needed, paused and resumed later, and learners can select specific topics within workshops by selecting them from the menu.
In addition to the narrated workshop content, each workshop has a “Resources” tab containing additional content, like downloadable files or handouts. For example, in the first workshop, “Braille Reading by Sight: Letter a-j, learners will find two downloadable PDF handouts, “Hints,” and “Braille Alphabet,” as well as links to two websites, “Flashcard Fun: a-j,” and “More Reading Practice.”
In keeping with the tradition of personal interaction William Hadley began in 1920 of including personal notes with learner’s assignments, each workshop invites learners to “Ask the Experts.” The braille instructors, or Learning Experts are listed, with a picture of each, and an email address and phone number provided for questions or comments related to the workshops. Learning Experts are available during business hours, so learners taking a workshop have quick access to a knowledgeable professional.
Braille by Touch
As mentioned earlier, Hadley continues to offer more traditional, braille correspondence courses through the mail using both audio and hard copy braille. Audio is sent on a DAISY Talking Book (DTB) cartridge or flash drive. To locate these workshops from the website, select “Learn” from the Main Menu. And choose “Braille” from the category options. The print and audio workshops are listed within the “Braille” series. These workshops include the following 6 series:
- Tactile Readiness
- Braille Alphabet
- Reading and Writing Uncontracted Braille
- Contracted Braille
- Transitioning to UEB
- Everyday Reading
These workshops may be ordered online or by calling Hadley directly. There is no charge for courses and learners will need to verify that they have a vision impairment. Learners will receive the name and contact information for one of Hadley’s braille Learning Experts to work with as they progress through the course at their own pace, forwarding assignments to their instructor.
Weekly Braille Discussion Group
For nearly a year, Hadley has hosted a live discussion group, “Embracing Braille, moderated by Learning Experts, Vileen Shah and Elyse Heinrich. Embracing Braille is live every Thursday at 11:30 AM Central, and all past episodes are archived, and include additional resources and a transcript of the episode. Registered learners can access the Zoom information from “Embracing Braille or by calling Student Services, listed above.
Braille by Sight is a convenient way to practice and improve your braille skills, or just get started learning braille at your own pace. This year, the braille code is nearly 200 years old, and Hadley begins its second century. Celebrate Braille Awareness Month by checking out the latest innovation in learning braille, Hadley’s Braille by Sight online workshops.