Braille for Low Vision

Vision Rehab Podcast logo closeup of an eyeThe Vision Rehab Podcast is a short monthly podcast od topics and issues related to vision rehabilitation therapist and vision rehab. You can also listen on your smart speaker, just ask for, “Vision Rehab Podcast.”

 

 

The following is the transcript for the latest episode of the Vision Rehab podcast, Braille for Low Vision–Take Another Look.

Hello, and thanks for joining me today on the Vision Rehab Podcast.

January is Braille Awareness Month in honor of Louis Braille who invented the braille code nearly 200 years ago. Braille is not a language of its own as many people think. It is a system that converts the alphabet and words into an arrangement of raised dots on paper or braille displays that can be felt, so it is just reading by touch.

As a vision rehab therapist, I learned braille some years ago, so I could teach basic braille to clients, and have at least a rudimentary ability to read it. Before learning braille I assumed, perhaps like you do, that braille was used exclusively by individuals who are blind. What I discovered is that it’s also really useful for anyone with low vision to label items in the cupboard. Identify medications, clothing—anything really where the print might be too small or the lighting dim. A deck of cards, for example, can be easily labeled with braille, so someone with reduced vision can join in the game.

One of the things I learned when I started working with folks who acquired a vision loss later in life, from Macular Degeneration or Diabetes, is that there could be a little discomfort talking about braille, or for that matter, using a white cane, because people associated them so strongly with blindness. Many people with an acquired vision loss may be reluctant to try something new like braille, if they associate it with blindness.

If you’ve lost enough vision to make reading print difficult I’d like to encourage you to consider learning braille as an opportunity to regain some of your independence. You’ll probably never read a book in braille, but a little label you can feel might help you pick the cloves instead of ginger when you choose a spice from your kitchen, or help you tell the difference between two medications that are in bottles that look identical.

How can you learn braille? Vision rehabilitation therapists, also called VRTs teach braille to adults, as well as many other daily living skills related to vision loss. VRTs are usually available through your States Department of Education or Department of Labor. To find one, just checkout the VisionAware Directory of Services at www.visionaware.org/directory. You can also call the APH Connect Center at 800-232-5463 and someone will help you find one. And don’t worry, there’s usually no out of pocket cost for their services or it’s on a sliding scale.

You can also check out braille Instruction from Hadley. Hadley’s been teaching braille for over 100 years to adults with a vision loss, by mail, recordings on talking book cartridges, and most recently right from their website at Hadley.edu. To connect to someone at Hadley, just call 800-323-4238 and they can get you started. You can also just go the website, www.hadley.edu, register for a free login, and start taking workshops right away. And by the way, there’s no charge for the training.

These days, you’ll find braille everywhere—on restroom doors, in a hotel, on an elevator, even a Starbuck’s Gift Card. If you do have a vision loss, give braille another look, it might make some of your everyday activities a whole lot easier. And Happy Birthday Louis Braille!

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