What does it take to learn braille? Connect’s Lead Braille Designer, Emilia discusses the learning process and describes what a typical day in the studio is like.
Can you tell us a bit more about your role at connect?
As Lead Braille Designer, I oversee the modifications, transcription, and quality control of all braille products. This includes exam papers, educational resources and tactile diagrams. I’m also in charge of delivering braille training, both within the company and externally.
What interested you in working with braille?
When I was asked to learn braille, I jumped at the opportunity. I thought it would be a fantastic challenge, and it felt like a worthy cause.
How long did it take you to learn?
In total, it took around 6 months to become ‘fluent’ in braille in terms of reading and transcribing – but I’m learning new symbols and techniques even now, two years down the line.
What was the learning process like? How did you go about learning braille and how did you assess your level of learning?
I started learning braille with a website called UEB Online – a fantastic learning resource created by the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children’s Renwick Centre. It’s an online braille course with around 30 lessons for sighted learners. The best thing about it is that it tells you exactly when you’ve made a mistake, and doesn’t let you progress until you’ve corrected yourself. Frustrating, but effective!
From there, I had a go at any braille assessments I could find online, and would compare work with my colleagues. We also have a wide range of braille textbooks and guides on hand at connect, which I would make notes and revise from.
What level of expertise would you say you were at now?
I would say I’m an expert at reading and transcribing both literary and technical braille. I’ve also started learning music braille and the Nemeth math code (the technical code used in America).
What were the main challenges you encountered when learning braille?
When I started learning braille, I was a little intimidated by the number of symbols, concepts and rules that there were to take in – I was worried I would find the whole process too difficult and be overwhelmed by dots! However, once I got into the thick of it, each rule blended nicely into the next, and I got the hang of the symbols at a gradual pace. Getting my head around each new concept was a very rewarding challenge.
Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to learn how to read braille?
My top suggestion is to take your time with the basics. Even the most complicated concepts in braille are rooted in the basic principles, so it pays to really get these in your head at the beginning.
I’d also recommend keeping up the habit of reading and writing braille as often as possible. When I started out, I downloaded a braille app on my phone and took to revising on the bus, on the train, or during my coffee breaks, which was really helpful.
What does an average day in the office look like for you?
A typical day might involve modifying texts to make them suitable for a blind or visually impaired reader, transcribing and/or proofreading braille documents, and providing training for colleagues who are just starting to learn braille.
I also make sure I spend some time researching ideas or issues within the braille community, and any new technologies for people with visual impairments – anything that can help us in creating effective, high quality documents.
You can learn more about the braille transcription services that connect offer here.