Embracing Braille

How Braille is an Integral Part of My Life

June 4, 2020 at

Emily Michael, a professor, poet and published author who is also blind, will talk about using braille in all walks of her life.
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Past Discussions

Hadley practice leader Charmaine Martin explained how a print file is electronically transcribed using Duxbury and also outlined its basic commands.

Michael Hudson, Director of the APH Museum, gave details on the transfer of the Helen Keller Archive from the American Foundation for the Blind to the American Printing House in Louisville, KY and also shared information on these archives.

This week's discussion was an open-ended question and answer session.



Brian Mackie, an independent living skills/assistive technology specialist in Canada, outlined the significance of continually using braille on a regular basis.


Smartphone Apps:


Embracing Braille group member Binaebi Tamunosisi Mac Pepple outlined various braille services available in her country, Nigeria.



Hadley Learning Expert Debbie Siegel talked on the significance of reading braille during your leisure times and also enlightened us about Hadley's annual braille reading contest.




  • Bookshare offers free membership to current U.S. Hadley students and discounted memberships to current international students.
  • The Braille SuperStore sells a wide variety of braille books for readers of all ages. Phone: (800) 987-1231
  • National Braille Press Bookstore offers contracted and uncontracted braille books in hardcopy and downloadable braille. Phone: (800) 548-7232

This week's discussion was an open-ended question and answer session. We also discussed Hadley's Braille Pen Pal Program.


Using Braille at Work

March 19, 2020

Cheryl Orgas, Executive Director at ABLE (Audio and Braille Literacy Enhancement), shared her experience with using braille at work.




  • MaxiAids - braille paper available here
  • Braille SuperStore has specialty items for sale- braille related, peel 'n stick labels and vaious paper weights
  • Vision Forward Store offers low vision/blind specific products, including clothing labels

Marrakesh Treaty

March 5, 2020

Attorney Scott LaBarre presented on the Marrakesh Treaty and how this international treaty allows for copyright exceptions to reproduce braille materials from print.


Question and Answer Session 11

February 27, 2020

This week's discussion was an open-ended question and answer session. Topics included slate and stylus tips.

Donald Dawes, former proofreader at National Braille Press, discussed the significance of proofreading braille assignments and share his 30 years of proofreading experience.

Touch and Go

February 13, 2020

Rabih Dow, Director of Advocacy and Outreach at Guide Dogs for the Blind, shared his experience with using braille at home and at work.


The Roles of ICEB and BANA

February 6, 2020

Jennifer Dunnam, former president of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) and Manager of Braille Programs at NLS, outlined the progress leading to the transition from EBAE to UEB.


  • As I Saw It, War of the Dots, published by American Foundation for the Blind
  • Braille: Into the Next Millennium available on BARD
  • The Slate Book: A Guide to the Slate and Stylus by Jennifer Dunnam



This week's discussion was an open-ended question and answer session. We discussed the numeric indicator, other braille symbols, and more.

Braille and Technology

January 23, 2020

Hadley Practice Leader and assistive technology expert Ricky Enger presented on braille displays, note takers and more.


  • Mystic Access - training for assistive technology. Phone: (716) 543-3323.

Karen Keninger, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled presented on the role of NLS in promoting the use of braille.


Embracing Braille group member Kelly Sapergia shared his experience on learning braille in a small school setting.

Presenter Resources:


Braille Day

January 2, 2020

This week we celebrated World Braille Day, which is held annually on January 4 to commemorate Louis Braille's birthday. We discussed braille literacy, and how learning braille has impacted our daily lives.

Question and Answer Session 9

December 26, 2019

This week's discussion was an open-ended question and answer session. We discussed dot alignment, braille contractions, tips using a braille writer, and more.

Hadley Learner Allen Kmiotek, and other group participants, shared tips on how to increase finger sensitivity, an important part of reading tactile braille.


Braille Games

December 12, 2019

Hadley Learning Expert Elyse Heinrich presented this week on games available in braille. The group shared their favorites and learned some new ones!

Braille Games:

Online Games and Smartphone Game Apps:

Miscellaneous Resources:

From EBAE to UEB

December 5, 2019

This week we discussed many of the changes that Unified English Braille (UEB) brought from English Braille American Edition (EBAE).


Question and Answer Session 8

November 21, 2019

This week's discussion was an open-ended question and answer session. We discussed sending materials through Free Matter for the Blind, as well as sharing tips on correct hand positioning.


NLS and BARD Services

November 14, 2019

Katie Malloy, an Outreach Librarian at the Wisconsin Talking Books and Braille Library shared information on the National Library Service (NLS) and Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) services.


Hadley Learning Expert Elyse Heinrich and Learning Designer Diane O'Neill presented this week on Tactile American Sign Language (ASL).


American Sign Language in Movies and TV Shows from Cultura Colectiva +

  • The Shape of Water: film, deaf woman makes contact with a fish-man through sign language
  • A Quiet Place: horror film, deaf actress has to survive with her family in complete silence
  • The Big Bang Theory: TV show, one character dates a deaf girl and learns sign to communicate
  • How I Met your Mother: TV show, characters use ASL in story about dating a new person
  • The Silence: film, animals hunt humans by sound, so the story uses ASL to communicate and survive
  • Pretty Little Liars: final season, has a deaf actress on show
  • La Famille Belier: French film, most all of the family members are deaf
  • Switched at Birth: show about teens daily life, with all the drama, ups and downs Hollywood can include
  • Miami Medical: film, a deaf boy comes into ER, doctors must find a way to find out what's wrong and fast
  • A Silent Voice: an animated film with deaf characters

This week's discussion was an open-ended question and answer session, which including questions on the difference between hyphens and dashes, the changes between EBAE and UEB, and the International Council on English Braille.

Using Braille at Home

October 24, 2019

Hadley Learner Annely Rose will present on the many ways braille can be used in and around the home.

Making Braille Holiday Gifts

October 17, 2019

Hadley Learner Darrin Cheney presented on making braille holiday gifts and cards. He also shared how to mail items using Free Matter for the Blind.

Braille by Sight and Touch

October 10, 2019

This week Hadley Learning Expert Leeanne Frydrychowicz shared her journey of learning braille by sight before learning it by touch. The group also discussed common challenges to reading braille.

Braille for Beginners

October 3, 2019

This week we shared our tips for beginner braille learners.


Question and Answer Session 6

September 26, 2019

This week's discussion was an open-ended question and answer session. The group discussed how to use braille displays, how to access braille reading material, and how to help study your braille contractions.


Braille and Holiday Gifts

September 19, 2019

It's never too early to start shopping for the holidays! This week, we discussed the usability and accessibility of braille in holiday gifts. We also shared ideas of where to buy these holiday gifts, from a variety of organizations and crafters.

Resources shared during the presentation:

Resources shared by participants:

  • American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults - print/braille and braille-only books are provided free to children and adults who fill out an application, and donations are accepted. Phone: (410) 659-9315, extension 2287.
  • Horizons for the Blind sells braille and large print cookbooks, books on plants and gardening, books and kits on crafts, knitting and crochet patterns as well as seasonal baking items with braille and large print instructions. They also offer braille and large print books on poetry, medical tips, and household hints. Phone: (815) 444-8800.
  • Lutheran Braille Workers provides free, faith-based materials in braille, large print, and audio. Phone: (800) 925-6092.
  • Seedlings Braille Books for Children - Their primary focus is braille books. Choose from UEB and EBAE formats. Books are available in Grades One and Two; with and without pictures, depending on grade level. They also have braille shirts, totes, jewelry, flashcards, playing cards, and alphabet blocks. Phone: (734) 427-8552.
  • Two Blind Brothers - Primarily sells apparel, but has some braille jewelry. Phone: (917) 722-6284.

Braille History

September 5, 2019

Mike Hudson, director of the Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind, presented on the history of braille, from 1784 to the modern day, and why we still use it.

This week's discussion was an open-ended question and answer session. The group shared several great resources for braille labelers and tips on learning dot spacing and alignment.

Braille Reading Proficiency

August 22, 2019

We discussed the limitations and opportunities you might encounter when it comes to your braille reading proficiency.

Resources mentioned:

Braille Drawings

August 15, 2019

Dennis Sellers led a demonstration on creating a braille drawing of a sailboat. Keep a braille sheet and slate and stylus, or your braille writer, handy while you listen.


Braille Music

August 8, 2019

Hadley Learning Expert Linn Sorge presented this week, along with three other musicians, to talk about braille music.


Contact Hadley Learning Expert Linn Sorge at sorge@hadley.edu

Hadley Learner Allen Kmiotek presented this week on his life-changing experiences while learning braille and beyond.

Braille: The System of Dot Distance and Alignment
Word Document by Hadley Learning Expert Vileen Shah

This week's discussion was an open-ended question and answer session. The group shared many great resources for incorporating more practice into your day.

Sources of Braille Books and Magazines:

More Resources:

Crocheting with Braille

July 18, 2019

This week Sue Brasel presented on how to use braille for crocheting and knitting projects. The group also discussed how to access BARD to download books.

This week featured braille reading demonstrations by Lisa Salinger and Caitlin Dilamani.

This week's discussion was an open-ended question and answer session. We also paid tribute to Helen Keller for her 139th birthday.

To commemorate Helen Keller's 139th birthday on June 27, here is a letter from Helen Keller to the National Braille Press founder, Francis Ierardi.

Basic Braille Skills

June 20, 2019

Who should have basic braille skills?

This week we talked about who should have basic braille skills. Here is an excerpt of "Who Should Learn Braille" from NFB's Future Reflections quarterly magazine.

Louis Braille

June 13, 2019

This week we discussed the hypothetical: what if Louis Braille had not become blind?

This week we talked about Louis Braille and braille literacy. More information about Louis Braille.

Braille Literacy Statistics:

The American Printing House for the Blind polls each state for data on children between the ages of 4 and 21. Their results are alarming, it is estimated that 60,400 students are attending public schools or public ran programs. Here is a breakdown of the literacy percentages for these children:

  • 34.8% of students are identified as non-readers
  • 9.2% of students are defined as auditory readers
  • 18.3% of students are pre-readers (learning the reading basics)
  • 29.2% of students are defined as print readers
  • 8.5% are identified as Braille readers

Contributed by Michelle Boyd. Source: BrailleWorks

Notes from Sheila Gunn on what would have happened if Louis Braille had not become blind.

Braille Printing Press

June 6, 2019

Let's discuss the role of braille printing press in enhancing braille accessibility.

This week's discussion will be an open-ended question and answer session.

Braille Embossers

May 23, 2019

This week we talked about the role of braille embossers in promoting braille.

This week we discussed the affordability and usability of braille embossers.


Common Braille Errors

May 16, 2019

Let's talk about common braille errors that can occur in reading and writing.

This week we talked about common errors that can occur in reading and writing braille.


Braille Writers

May 9, 2019

Let's talk about the usability and affordability of Braille writers.

This week we talked about braille writers:


Braille Displays

May 2, 2019

This week we talked about refreshable braille displays, their limitations and how they enhance independence.

This week's discussion was an open-ended question and answer session. We touched on braille displays and how to increase reading speed.

Braille Pens

April 18, 2019

How can braille pen technology enhance your independence? Speaker Darrin Cheney will join us for this discussion.

Embracing Braille group participant Darrin Cheney led the conversation this week to talk about the BraillePen and how this technology enhances your independence! Here's a quick note from Darrin:

I set two goals when I decided to learn braille with Hadley: read and write without sight; and read web-braille books. While I was taking Braille Literacy 3 & 4, I researched web-braille and reading electronic files with a refreshable braille display. I purchased a BraillePen refreshable braille display and an iDevice to create a braille notetaker that would enhance my independence.

The BraillePen is an ultra-portable braille refreshable display - about the same size as a 1 inch thick, 4 X 6 notecard. A BraillePen pairs perfectly with your iDevice, smartphone, or computer via BlueTooth. It has the familiar Perkins style, 6 braille keys to enter text either in uncontracted or contracted braille; a Space button, a Control button, and an Alt button to perform various functions; two navigation keys to pan the braille left and right; and a joystick to navigate and to select items.

A refreshable braille display has cells where pins raise and lower depending on what text you are reading. An electronic braille page has 40 cells per line and 25 lines per page. The BraillePen has 12 cells. As you press pan left or right, the BraillePen will refresh the display. An integrated cursor routing system allows you to select and move your cursor to a particular cell which is desireable for writing and editing text. You can set the display input or output text in either uncontracted or contracted braille depending on your skill level.

I use my iPhone with VoiceOver - the integrated Apple accessible technology software built into the operating system - to control my BraillePen. I can keep my iPhone in my Pocket, and use the BraillePen without someone listening in. At a doctor visit, I can send a text message to my wife, check my calendar, read my notes, or even search for information. At home or on the go, I can also write email, articles, or that first novel. Plus, I can also read any text on a web page, iBook, .PDF file, or from any app.

Web-braille is an electronic file that is translated into braille with special software like Duxbury. These web braille or .BRF files are displayed on your device. Both NLS and BookShare have thousands of braille books you can download and read if you have an account. NLS uses the BARD: The Braille and Audio Reading Download system. I use the BARD Mobile iOS app from NLS to download web braille books on my iPhone and read them on my BraillePen.

The BraillePen 12 Touch sells for $995 and you can buy it direct from Harpo in Poland. There are other similar braille displays for around $1,000-$1,500. You'll spend more if you add cells and other features. Take some time to research and talk to other braille display users before you spend your cash.

In conclusion, I like using my BraillePen and the independence it provides. It allows me to be literate where I can read and write effectively by touch and access thousands of books. The BraillePen is a good place to start for new braille users wanting to learn more about accessible electronic braille.


Important Considerations

Content shared during discussions is for general information purposes only. We encourage you to thoroughly consider if any resource or suggestion is a good fit for you. The inclusion of links does not imply a recommendation or endorsement. The opinions expressed by the participants are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hadley.