Visually Impaired Students Use a Tactile Form of Communication - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Visually Impaired Students Use a Tactile Form of Communication

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Dee Blake is a teacher for the Visually Impaired Department at the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind.  She explains the historical poor treatment of the visually impaired.  she says, "they were not taught how to read. They were not taught how to write. They didn't have any system of communication".  That all changed for the blind when Louis Braille invented a tactile form of communication in the early 1800's that bears his name to this day.

Blake explains, "the way Braille works is the placement of the dots within the 6 cell".  "every letter in the alphabet, every contraction, is made with these 6 dots,"Blake continues.   Patricia Levy is a visually impaired student at MSDB who can read Braille.  she explains. "there's a lot more to Braille than just the alphabet though".  In fact there are more than 175 contractions or abbreviations.  Levy says, "the contractions are hard to remember."

The raised dots that make up Braille allow a reader to feel the words on a page.  Blake says, "when one learns to read Braille, it's just like a visual person learning how to read. We read left to right".  Blake continues, "we use six fingers because again its 6 cells and we use our end pinky finger to find the end of the line".

The simple 6 cell makes for a complicated language that requires a lot of memorization.  Blake suggests, "repetition, repetition, repetition. That's the best way to learn it".

Levy says, "I'd rather use magnifiers unless I really need to read Braille.  Levy has low vision, so she uses her eyes and her fingers to read Braille.  She says, "with Braille I like to read it with my eyes, but your supposed to read it with your fingers".

If a whole language built around 6 dots isn't complicated enough, add some other dialects if you will.  Blake explains, "the misunderstanding is that people think Braille is one thing. It's not".  The most common form may be literary Braille, but there is also a system for math called Nemeth and another Braille system for music.

Braille isn't just for reading communication, it's also for writing.  Students rely on the Perkins Brailler to produce the Braille dots that they read.  Blake says, "it's like a typewriter, but it embosses paper to be in Braille".

A smaller hand held device known as the Slate and Stylus allows students to take notes rapidly in Braille.  This tool may be a little trickier than the Brailler.  Blake explains, "instead of how we read left to right, when you're doing the Slate and Stylus you're actually doing it right to left".  You create the Braille backwards so that when you take the paper out and flip it over, you can read the Braille like normal.

Computers and audio books may seem easier than Braille, but for many visually impaired students it becomes second nature after a while.  Blake says, "you're not going to have to worry if you have cell service if you have your Slate and Stylus".

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