University of Edinburgh

First Steps to Teaching Braille

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

Learning and Literacy: Media

Janis Sugden

Introduction: Yesterday we spoke about how we might introduce braille to a young child as their main reading and writing  tool.

Today we will continue with this but we will also consider the older pupil or young person who has lost their sight or whose vision has deteriorated.

Key Factors

  • Assessments
  • Relevant background information
  • Objective Process

Notes: Decisions must be objective, clear and understood by everyone involved. There is no one single way to teach or introduce braille or a standard for when it might be introduced. Assessment should be ongoing and at the very least assessment of reading needs should be carried out once each school year. This should be based on the above factors

Pupil: Information

  • The eye condition: What do we know about this?
  • Observations: A systematic analysis of the child or young person's use of their other senses.

Objective Process

  • Ability to read using current material
  • Ability to read their own handwriting

Stamina and comfort level: This needs to be judged both in a single session and throughout the day. It is more difficult to judge this objectively and so the accounts of parents, teachers, the pupils themselves should be noted.

We can record behavioural observations more objectively Rubbing eyes, poor behaviour, avoidance of visual tasks etc.

Appropriate Decisions

  • Continue with print as the primary medium
  • Continue with print but with intensive input to improve reading ability
  • Begin to teach braille.

Notes: Continue print but also include technology or support from an SA to supplement print reading and writing. Continue with print but provide targeted sessions to measure what factors may be affecting reading ability.

Are they losing the place on the line of print, failing to find the next line of print, skipping out words, muddling up letters, finding glare a problem, mving the position of the page or adopting an odd head posture, taking too long between words and lines? Not able to use pictures or diagrams.

Begin instruction in braille reading and writing while continuing to use print and other options until they can use braille as their main literacy medium.

What factors must be considered?

  • Requirement to teach braille
  • Time to teach braille
  • Desire to learn braille

Notes: Need to teach braille reading and writing eventually to replace print or the need to teach braille immediately so that the pupil can continue to learn (accident/ sudden vision loss).

The role of braille reading and writing to continue to make progress, to facilitate independence and for employment.

Need to consider the pupil's other needs age and stage of schooling etc.

The desire the student (and to a lesser extent) parents to begin Braille.

  • Administrative considerations
  • The school or local authority policy

Notes: These are easily identified but are often the most difficult to address because their will be many external factors cost budget cuts etc that will influence the decision. This is where we might turn to legislation to protect the rights of the child.

Administrative decisions: Availability of qualified teachers. The available time on a teachers workload, the teacher’s level of comfort in teaching braille reading and writing or cost related factors.

The local philosophy or personal bias for and against teaching braille.


Chapter 12 Selection and Assessment of Learning and Literacy Media for Children and Youths with Low Vision. In Foundations of Low Vision Anne L Corn and Jane N. Erin Editors, AFB