University of Edinburgh

Skills Needed to Teach Braille to Children

Presented in March 2005

A curriculum for all?

Janis Sugden

“The purpose of the term 'special eduational needs' (additional support needs) is to direct attention to pupils' needs, to ask what it is she needs to be taught and what provision will help to meet those needs”

A curriculum for All? 5-14 Special Needs, edited by Elizabeth Jordan

The previous quotation brings thinking into like with HOW we might consider to educate the needs of ALL children in a class.

It is not necessary to ask a different set of questions when a particular child is not learning as well as might be expected. They are the same questions that would be posed when deciding how best to teach ANY child.

Note: 'how' and not 'what' in the quotation.

5-14 curriculum is not only about what to teach but very much about how to teach.

Much of the focus of the next two days is centred on debating or describing the how we might teach children who are, or are likely to be Braille users.

Why Braille?

Braille = CHOICE

Braille - EQUALITY

For blind, visually impaired and deafblind children, being able to read and write braille is the key to literacy, successful employment and independence.

All children need to be literate - to read, write and count - in order to enjoy intellectual freedom, personal security and equal opportunities when they grow up.

We must offer children who are blind or visually impaired a real chance at equality. We must offer them a choice of communication in a medium that is their preference.

What is Braille?

  • Braille is a code that presents written information
  • It is equivalent to print. The alphabet, numbers and any other symbol that appears in print can be replicated in braille by arranging combinations of six dots of the braille cell.
  • Braille is read by touch
  • When children learn to read, they also develop skills in spelling, grammar and punctuation.
  • Audiotapes and computers that 'speak' provide access to all kinds of written information but they fail to give new readers the tools that they need to read and write for themselves.

Braille = independence

  • Braille is a building block of literacy.
  • Literacy is a building block of independence.
  • Learning to read and write is challenging for most children.
  • It takes time and practice.
  • All children need the support and encouragement of family and teachers.

RNIB Research Study into Teaching Braille to Children in Schools 2002

  • Perceived decline in braille teaching and standards.
  • Research questions
  • Findings
  • Conclusions


There is no one correct model of support for children who read and write using Braille.

Case studies illustrate that braillists can be successfully supported in a range of different contexts provided there is appropriate organisation of specialist staff, adequate training for staff and properly targeted funding.

Braille = CHOICE

  • Clear need to teach braille at a young age
  • It is better to teach braille to a person with low vision who may never need to rely solely on braille than never to teach braille to someone who may need it in a few years.

Models of delivery of Brialle teaching provision

  • Research project has raised a number of concerns related to the teaching of braille and provision of materials.
  • Teachers raised concern regarding high professional standards in the provision of support.
  • Identification of examples of good practice.

References and useful websites

Braille Information Centre: The Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

Teaching Braille to Children, Sue Keil. The British Journal of Visual Impairment Vol 22 No1 Nov 2004.

RNIB Summary Report Research Study into Teaching Braille to Children in Schools

American Foundation for the Blind

A Curriculum for All? 5-14 and Special Needs: A Scottish Perspective Vol 4, Edited by Gwynedd Lloyd & Judith Watson.

Perceptual Factors in Braille word Recognition, CY Nolan, CJ Kederis.