University of Edinburgh

An Introduction to Braille and Braille Technology

Presented on Monday 14 & Tuesday 15 November, 2011

Why Should we Teach Braille?

Janis Sugden

Unified English Braille


At the end of October 2011 the committee of the UK Association for Accessible Formats took the decision to adopt Unified English Braille, which is already in use in other English-speaking countries around the world, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This decision follows almost a decade of deliberation and research into the attitudes of existing Braille users and the benefits and drawbacks of adopting the new codes.  

Is it necessary to teach Braille?

In this day and age is it really necessary to teach Braille?

Notes: John Sanders investigated the importance of Braille in an article in issue 37 of The Sight Loss and Health magazine.

Louis Braille's bi-centenary was celebrated across the globe. But with the introduction of modern technology, eg; screen readers audio books etc. is it necessary to teach children and young people how to read and write Braille if they are unable to see print?

Braille Users

  • Approximately 18 thousand adults
  • 850 Children and young people
  • 365 thousand people registered blind and partially sighted

Notes: John Sanders in 2009: 18 thousand adults in the UK use Braille as their main format for reading and writing. Two thirds of these had become visually impaired before the age of 16 and would have learned braille while still at school.

Around four percent of the blind and partially sighted population of 5 to 16 year olds in Britain are Braille users.

What are the benefits?

If Braille is so useful why do so few people use it?

Only 18,000 adults out of 365,000 adults

Notes: Turn to the person next to you and jot down a few reasons why you think this is. Let me read out some of the benefits that have been argued for continuing with Braille Read pages 36 and 37 of Talking point. Highlight a few examples.

Young People and Braille

  • 19,000 visually impaired children and young people in Great Britain
  • 5% of these are braillists
  • 34.5% have additional support needs

Notes: Over the next two days the focus will be on the other end of the age spectrum. In 2006 I helped to deliver a similar course and found the above figures for children.

RNIB carried out surveys in 1997 and again in 2002 and they found that figures remained fairly stable in that period.

Children, Young People and Braille

In each year group 70 children will use Braille as their preferred means of written education.

Young People and Braille Why?

Notes: I asked myself this question back in 2006 and if I ask myself now I would still provide the same answer.

Mainly I have a fundamental belief that all children have a right to choice and that all adults involved in their education parents, teachers and other professionals have a shared responsibility to invest in their future.