Here is a brief clip highlighting the the things I got to see during my visit to the Braille Institute in Los Angeles. An awards ceremony, a tour led by the President of the Institute, Les Stocker, and an interview with the Vice-president of the Institute, Sally Jameson.
I had the wonderful opportunity to conduct an interview over the phone with Mr.Patterson, former Vice President of Programs and Services at the Braille Institute in Los Angeles.
I will be posting it as a two-part series, with a fire alarm as the interlude (Of course there would be a false fire alarm. It wouldn’t be W without one.)
If you want to learn more about neat methods that are used to get around visual impairment, visit the Solutions in Sight video section of the Braille Institute website, where they show the bill folding method, closet organization,tango classes, and more! They’re seriously awesome:
Here’s a cool trick I just learned that is used to know where food on your plate is:
Use the Clock Method!
“Your veggies are at 12 o’clock. Your meat is at 3 o’clock. And your pasta/salad is at 6 o’clock.”
And so on and so forth. It’s a pretty neat trick, and people at restaurants use this trick for people with visual impairment so they don’t have to scramble around on their plate trying to figure what food is which, and what it is exactly. Since a clock is almost universally distinguishable, it’s easy for everyone to know what it means and use it.
I recently found out that the Braille literacy rate for people with visual impairment is actually really quite low:a little less than 10%. Only 1 in 10 visually impaired people know Braille. This is partly because most people who are blind weren’t born blind, so they learned their native language, and it wasn’t until later in life that they developed serious sight loss. Thus, learning a language is harder for adults than it is for children, whose brains are still developing. Moreover, touch sensitivity in people’s fingers is lost as they grow older.
However, it’s extremely important for children to learn Braille, because it’s the only medium for true literacy that they have; while audiobooks and new technology comes very in handy with interacting and communicating with the world, learning Braille, or any language, activates and stimulates important parts of a child’s brain that deals with learning. It’s crucial to their development.
So apparently, I’ve been practicing reading Braille incorrectly. What I’ve been doing is taking my right index finger and rubbing over the raised dots and scrambling through all the different dot combinations in my head to try to remember which character it is. It feels like a three-part process, which it probably shouldn’t be: first, I feel the raised dot combinations, and then convert what I feel into a visual image of what the raised dot looks like, which then leads me to knowing what character it is. I’m pretty sure that second step shouldn’t really be happening, if I was doing it right. I’ve tried to mostly stick to memorizing the Braille alphabet by touch only, but initially I did memorize what they looked like visually – sight-reading Braille, essentially. I want to get away from that now, though, because I want to be able to actually read Braille by touch, not sight.
I also need to let up on how hard I press my finger on the Braille dictionary I’ve been practicing on. Appparently, you’re only supposed to lightly brush your fingers over the raised dots, otherwise it interferes with the flow of reading.
Also, I have this annoying tendency of moving my finger within the Braille cell – in essence, not covering the cell completely with my finger, meaning that I lose that flow that needs to be there in order to read Braille rapidly, as well as sometimes missing raised dots because I’m not brushing my finger over the cell fully.
Must. Practice. More. More. More.
Here are some VERY cool iPhone apps I found – and relatively cheap, too!
LookTel Money Reader ($9.99): recognizes currency in real time
SayText (free): scans text in image and reads it out loud
Color Identifier ($1.99 or free): identifies and speaks specific color names. It can also distinguish specific color shades of the sky (sunsets, cloudy)
Light Detector ($0.99): emits a sound which intensifies as a light source is found and approached. (For example, to find the nearest exit.)
Unfortunately, I was not able to get a hold of Harry Potter in Braille. Nor any book, for that matter. The reason is because of the Braille “grades” I mentioned in a previous post. Most Braille books contain contracted (Grade 2) Braille, which is basically a form of shorthand Braille used to reduce the number of cells used for each word. For example, with uncontracted Braille, the word “and” has 3 cells – one for each letter. With contracted Braille, there’s actually already a specific dot cell formation for the word, precisely because it’s used so often. While not all words have contracted forms (pronouns don’t, for example), it requires an additional memorization of words and endings.