These materials are from the archive of the SSC Website and may be outdated.


University of Edinburgh

First Steps to Teaching Braille

Presented on Thursday & Friday, 30 September and 1 October 2010

Braille: Why bother?

Janis Sugden

How Important is 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 NB The Sight Loss and Health magazine.

Louis Braille's bicentenary was celebrated across the globe. But with the introduction of modern technology, e 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

The answer?

  • Cost
  • Age and circumstances of when sight is lost

Notes: Nobody can be sure but it is probably a combination of perceptions of braille cost and the fact that when people lose their sight in later life they decide – for various reasons not to learn braille.

Online Certificate in Modyfying Written English Texts for Deaf People (accredited Units)

It is now mandatory that all teachers working wholly or mainly with sensory impaired learners are appropriately qualified within 5 years of taking up post. It is recognised that the postgraduate courses offered by the university will remain the main route to qualification, the SSC has developed an evaluative framework that provides an alternative and flexible route to the acquisition of an appropriate qualification.

All courses are evaluated to gain feedback for further course developments and to gain statistics, which are collated and reported upon in annual and interim reports to the Scottish Government.

Children, 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.

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


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. Childhood visual impairment had far reaching consequences throughout life.

Curriculum for Excellence

  • Developing skills and attributes
  • It aims to develop four capacities, helping children to become:
    - Successful learners
    - Confident individuals
    - Responsible citizens
    - Effective contributors

Notes: The 3-18 curriculum aims to ensure that all children and young people in Scotland develop the attributes, knowledge and skills they will need to flourish in life, learning and work.

The knowledge, skills and attributes learners will develop will allow them to demonstrate four key capacities - to be successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

Steps to literacy

Notes: I believe that if a child is likely to need braille - this is a debate that I will leave for now - then it  is vital to introduce this as soon as possible in teaching literacy to young blind children and people. As soon as children take an interest in books the child should be exposed to a combination of braille and print.

I know it is easy to download whole books so that the child can listen but children who use print do not do this all the time. Children need a print copy or a braille copy so that they can develop good spelling, syntax and grammar. (This may be revisited at later in the course)

Braille should be thought of as a basic building block of literacy for a blind child- just as reading is for a sighted child

Teaching Braille to children

  • Challenge
  • Independence
  • Choice

Notes: Braille is challenging for most children who learn to use it. The children will need time to learn the braille codes and they will need lots of support.

This is no reason not to use Braille: All children need support and encouragement from family and teachers to learn how to read. It also takes time and practice.

When children learn to read they also develop skills in learning spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Children are entitled to a choice. They may choose not to use Braille when they are older in favour of technology but at least they will have a choice.

Who teaches Braille?

  • Teachers
  • Support Assistants
  • Parents

Notes: If we go back to the RNIB surveys we will see that the majority of children using Braille were being educated in mainstream schools or resourced mainstream schools.

How do children learn Braille?

  • There is no one correct model.
  • Pupils who use Braille can be successfully supported in different contexts.
Janis Sugden

NB The Sight Loss and eye health magazine Issue 37 January 2009.

Information Exchange Issue 80 Spring 2010