An Insight into Braille Reading

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

July 11, 2019

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Audio Transcript

Hadley

Embracing Braille - An Insight into Braille Reading

Presented by Vileen Shah, Lisa Salinger and Caitlin Dilamani

July 11, 2019

Vileen S.: Good morning everybody. Welcome everybody. This is Vileen Shah and we begin our session today with two presenters. Today we are going to have two presentations of reading and also both presenters will share their experience with reading how they developed good reading habits, how they acquired good reading speed.

It's important that you develop good skills for reading as well as writing in braille. Braille literacy as we said before, is a way to salvation from illiteracy. It is literacy that enables you to read and write. So for all blind and visually impaired people, I strongly suggest learning both reading and writing. The purpose of today's session, having two presenters and having the title for the presentation today, "Demonstration and Presentation Braille Reading by Lisa Salinger and Caitlin Dilamani." Lisa has been access technology specialist at Hadley and she has a good braille reading speed of over 300 words per minute, which means she can speak five words in a second, which is certainly a great speed and not only that, she can read in braille. Similarly, Caitlin, who's reading speed I have not measured but is almost same or more. The purpose is to help the people motivated, to have the participants here inspired that if Lisa can do, if Caitlin can read with this speed, you can also do it.

I would like to also make one brief observation here that everybody does not have the same finger sensitivity level. If you cannot go that high, if you cannot develop the reading speed as other people have, then do not panic. Do not. Do your best and that's your reading speed. However, as I said earlier, the purpose is to motivate people to work on developing their reading speed because if you can read braille fast, it becomes more enjoyable, more rewarding for you, you feel so gratified when you read braille. And if you can read with speed, you do not feel frustrated because print people can read fast. You don't want to get the impression that you can't read braille that fast. Let's begin with Lisa Salinger. Lisa, you will correct me, your last name, pronunciation, please bear with me and please share your experience with reading and give us the demonstration. Before I forget, Lisa is going to give us a presentation or demonstration of reading braille from actual braille or hard copy braille as well as from the braille display, which is certainly the advanced technology. There's something you have on the computer screen and you can still read it using your braille display. Over to Lisa, and tell us a bit about yourself as well, Lisa.

Lisa S.: OK, I'm very pleased to be here to demonstrate today. I've had discussions with people about braille reading speed and some people get a little disconcerted and they say, I didn't know it's a competition, and it's not. It can be if you enjoy that, it can be a competition with yourself, but mostly, who can't use more time in a day? If we can read more quickly, we can get more of the things done that we need and want to do. So I have two samples of braille in front of me. One as Vileen said is called "hard copy braille." It's paper braille. I'm going to show you two things. One of the things that I like about being able to read relatively quickly is that I can skim to information that I want. This is a little booklet and on the front it says don't pay any attention to what they write about you, just measure it in inches. It's a quote attributed to Andy Warhol. When I open it up and it says, "Summer Picks 2019. What's new at a glance?" These are offerings from National Braille Press, it says that somewhere here, I don't know where, because it's not here at the beginning. We've got "Dating in the Digital Age: An Accessible Journey for Finding Love Online", Will Shortz's Mind Games, 100 alphabet riddles, cooking light, make ahead recipes. I think I'm done, I don't really want to see what else is new. I'm going down the headings finding... There's a blank space. The first thing we come to is Dating in the Digital Age: An Accessible Journey for Finding Love Online. I'm not interested in that, so I'm going to keep going down. There's another space. Here's Will Shortz's Mind Games, 100 alphabet riddles, NPR puzzle master and New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz has been challenging and entertaining puzzle fans for years.

Now he starts a new series of word games and brain teaser books. Mind Games, the first volume, alphabet riddles contains 100 of his popular initial puzzles - turn the page - where every answer is a familiar two word phrase having the same pair of initials. For example, using the initials S and B. Let's kick at a World Cup- soccer ball, portable advertising sign: sandwich board, shade of hair that's reddish yellow: strawberry blonde. He adds the last one is God and it's supreme being, braille two volumes and BRF $12.

We have other things. Don't miss the big book of Braille Puzzles. I've read enough about puzzles. Going down, cooking light, make ahead recipes. I'm going to pick a few more here. More warm weather cookbook, getting visual and assistance with an iPhone, you can be friends with your friends. Let's pick one more. There's Getting the Job Done with Shortcuts, An Introduction for Blind Users by Anna Dresner.

I was honored to write a book for National Braille Press and it was gratifying to see that in braille. I didn't write it completely. I was the lead writer and had some collaborative help, so here's that information. It says, getting started with Google suite, a brief overview of Google's most popular productivity apps by Lisa Salinger, Kim Loftis and Chris Grabowski. Take your productivity to the next level with some of the most popular Google apps for the home and office.

In this one volume overview, the team at mystic access guide you to downloading, installing, navigating and using Gmail, Chrome, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Hangout and Calendar on a PC with helpful notes about Mac and mobile devices. Helpful appendices summarize the key command and websites mentioned throughout the book. Braille, one, volume, VRF word and daisy, $12 and up. That is a brief sample of reading in hard copy braille. Let's switch now. I need to unlock my screen. I have a braille display connected to my computer. You can also read very similarly with a note taker or you can pair it with a smartphone or tablet.

Vileen S.: Lisa, tell a little more about the brain display, how it works because some of our participants are beginners and they're not exposed to such devices, and then do your presentation.

Lisa S.: Sure. A braille display is a long narrow device. Basically, it is taking the place of a screen. Some people use braille alone, some people use it with speech. For this demonstration, I'll be just using the braille alone, but many times I use it with speech. If I need to quickly spot check the spelling of someone's last name or confirm that I've written a number correctly, I do that.

The braille display, is a long narrow device and there are little holes in the top of the display and pins come up through these holes and they go up and down to make the letters. In this case, I'm not going to skim. I'm going to read a little bit from a book that is probably familiar to most of you. It is one of those children's books. It's timeless because it's not for children. It is called, Oh! The Places You Will Go!

Congratulations. Today is your day. You're off to great places. You're off in a way. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. I pressed the wrong button on the braille display and I lost my place. Here we are. You're on your own and you know when you know and you are the guy who decides where to go. You'll look up and down the streets, look them over with care about some you will say, I don't choose to go there, with your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet. You're too smart to go down any street and you may not find any you'll want to go down. In that case, of course, you'll head straight out of town.

I won't read the whole book, but that's how it works. For me ever so slightly, a little less fluid with the display, but barely. It's still doable for me and usable.

Vileen S.: Even if it is slower, it opens the whole print world for us with any book available on the computer screen, any book available electronically. Can we read using a braille display? That is an advantage. You don't have to produce books in braille if you have a braille display and a computer and an electronic book, right, Lisa? Am I right?

Lisa S.: Yes, you're not limited to getting things in braille. You can read anything with braille if you have a display. It used to be that they were expensive, and now there are a few that you can get that are in the $500 to $700 price range.

Vileen S.: Good to know. Are we done, Lisa, or you have more things to share?

Lisa S.: That's it. I can talk about some of the ways that I've learned, but maybe we want to do the other demo first and then circle back around if we have time?

Vileen S.: We could do that. Let's go to Caitlin Dilamani. Caitlin completed the course with me. It's called Everyday Reading in UEB and that course teaches you how to read different things in braille and how to read them with good proficiency. That includes short stories, poems, itinerary and restaurant menu, articles, catalog, recipe, reading loud for the children, directions, puzzles, electric bill and check register and legends and biography, just name it. All different formats in braille this course covers. Caitlin, over to you. Share a bit about yourself and then do some demonstration updating.

Caitlin D.: Hi everyone. I'm Caitlin Dilamani. I'm 22 years old. I was born blind. I've known braille for about 17 years I think. I started learning when I was five. I attended a special program through [inaudible] services up until third grade. I moved to my own district to start getting vision services in my regular school. I've had a lot of practice with braille. I've also had some experience reading from braille display. I used to use a braille light or a braille note which is a computer, but in braille. It's an electronic braille writer. Let me say, Lisa, you did a great job. I was barely able to tell the difference between when you were reading from paper and from your braille display.

I'm going to be reading everything from hard copy braille. I'm going to be reading texts from the Everyday Reading in UEB course. I'm going to start off with a story called, Through Grandpa's Eyes by Patricia MacLachlan, and then I'm going to read part of a biography about Martin Luther King.

Here's the first story. Through Grandpa's Eyes by Patricia MacLachlan, part one. Of all the houses that I know, I like my grandpa's best. My friend Peter has a new glass house with pebble pass gardens that go nowhere. Maggie lives next door in an old wooden house with rooms behind rooms, all with old glass doors, and brass door knobs. They're fine houses, but grandpa's house is my favorite because I see it through grandpa's eyes. Grandpa is blind. He doesn't see the house the way I do.

He has his own way of seeing. In the morning, the sun pushes through the curtains into my eyes. I burrow down into the covers to get away, but the light follows me. I give up, throw back the covers and run to grandpa's room. The sun wakes grandpa differently from the way it wakes me. He says it touches him, warming him awake. When I peek around the door, grandpa is already up and doing his morning exercises, bending and stretching by the bed. He stops and smiles because he hears me. "Good morning, John."

"Where's Nana?" I ask him. "Don't you know?" He says bending and stretching. "Close your eyes, John, and look through my eyes." I close my eyes. Down below I hear the banging of pots, and the sounds of water running that I didn't hear before. "Nana is in the kitchen making breakfast," I say. When I open my eyes again, I can see grandpa nodding at me.

He's tall with dark gray hair, and his eyes are sharp blue even though they are not sharp seeing. I exercise with grandpa up and down. Then I try to exercise with my eyes closed. "One two," says grandpa. "Three four." "Wait." I cry. I am still on one, two, when grandpa is on three four. I fall sideways three times. Grandpa laughs as he hears my thumping on the carpet.

"Breakfast," calls Nana from downstairs. "I smell eggs frying." says grandpa. He bends his head close to mine, "and buttered toast". The wooden banister on the stairway has been worn smooth from grandpa running his fingers up and down. I walk behind him, my fingers following grandpa's smooth path. We go into the kitchen. "I smell flowers." Says grandpa. "What flowers?" I asked. He smiles. He loves guessing games. "Not Violets, John. Not Peonies." "Carnations." I cry. I love guessing games.

"Silly." Grandpa laughs. "Marigold, right Nana?" Nana laughs too. "That's too easy." She says putting two plates of food in front of us. "It's not too easy." I protest. How can grandpa tell all the smells mixed together in the air? "Close your eyes, John," says Nana. "Tell me what breakfast is." "I smell the eggs. I smell the toast." I say, my eyes closed, "and something else. Something else doesn't smell good."

"That something else," says Nana smiling, "is the Marigold." When he eats grandpa's plate of food is a clock. "Few eggs at nine o'clock and toast at two o'clock." Says Nana to Grandpa. "And a dollop of jam," I tell Grandpa, "at six o'clock." I make my plate of food a clock too and eat through grandpa's eyes.

Vileen S.: Caitlin. Do some demonstration of other paragraphs. This is good enough. Thank you. Do you have something else?

Caitlin D.: I was going to read a part of the biography about Martin Luther King.

Vileen S.: Let's do that.

Caitlin D.: Do you want me to show, as Lisa was saying, scanning for information? It's a really time efficient way of reading. Do you want me to-

Vileen S.: Let's do a couple of paragraphs from Dr. Martin Luther King and then you can do that.

Caitlin D.: I'm going to read the first paragraph at the top of the biography. The title is "Martin Luther King Jr." Martin Luther King Jr, January 15th, 1929 to April 4th, 1968 was an American Baptist Minister, activist, humanitarian and leader in the African American civil rights movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.

That was the beginning paragraph. I'll say the headings and if you want me to read more I can. The headings are Early Life and Education, Civil Rights Activists. There's an, "I have a dream" speech.

Vileen S.: OK, great. So you can tell us how you scan through the headings in the book.

Caitlin D.: I use the line spaces and the paragraph breaks to scan the book and find the information I want to read. For headings, there's usually a blank line in between each heading. After that intro paragraph about him, there's an extra line space before Early Life and Education, then it goes all the way down. The next line break is at Civil Rights Activist. Then it pauses and goes to the "I have a dream" speech. It gives some lines from there, which is also separated with a blank line and then it goes back.

Vileen S.: Do you have anything else that you can tell very briefly and then we can listen to Lisa for five or seven minutes and then we'll open the floor. I would like to give people an opportunity to ask their questions. Any brief comments [inaudible].

Caitlin D.: I would say reading out loud might be a little slower. Some people can read fast silently. I would say one's reading speed doesn't measure everything, whether you're reading to yourself or out loud, it can be two different measurements.

Vileen S.: Good point. Over to Lisa. Lisa, would you like to share how they can improve their reading proficiency? We will listen to Lisa when we are able to hear her. Let me keep the floor open. Feel free to ask her questions related to braille reading. Give your observations. Do us what you found today. Were you able to learn something more about braille reading? Here is the opportunity for all of you to ask her questions related to braille reading, which is today's topic. Raise your hand first. Lisa, are you back?

Lisa S.: I am. I got kicked off. It's bad when the technology person has those technology days.

Vileen S.: I was opening the floor, but let's finish in about five minutes, whatever you would like to say, then participants will ask you questions.

Lisa S.: Like Caitlin, I'm totally blind from birth and I hesitated to say that because I don't want people to think you have to be blind from birth to achieve.

You do not have to be blind or have learned braille from an early age. The same thing that helps me to learn to read quickly and successfully can be used by anyone at any age. For example, I have a friend started learning to read Braille at age 15 and sadly she got a crash course in effective braille reading when she lost the vast majority of her hearing.

She had to rely completely on braille and now, in her forties, although it happened much sooner, she is a fluent braille reader. For me there are some things that helped increase my speed. One is learning which hand works better for me. I read primarily with the index finger of my right hand. Everyone seems to be different. One thing that seems to work well for me and seemed, from what I've heard, to work well for others who read braille rapidly, is to read with both hands. I'm reading across the line with both fingers. I'm sure the left one, in some ways, is registering what I'm reading, but it's more just keeping my place. I get halfway through the line, and I might read with both hands going across, "Oh, these places." This is more for paper braille, but my left hand will drop down to find the beginning of that next line while my right hand is still reading, "you'll go."

I can easily find where I am. Sometimes the problem is people get lost between lines, so that can help. There are many things that people do, especially if they have neuropathy. They may want to read with warm hands. If you're reading a lot of material, it can be helpful to know what medium you read best in. For example, there was this stuff that used to be used to produce braille, called thermoform. It was these kind of plastic sheets and it made my hands sweat for whatever reason. I felt like they stuck, and I didn't read as well on thermoform. Knowing how you read and the ways that you read can be helpful. To me, the main thing is practice, practice, practice.

I hear people say "I'm 70 years old and when I read braille, I sound like a first grader." You're going to, and the only way to fix that is to keep practicing. In my case, I was really lucky because when I was learning to read braille, I did sound like a first grader, but I was a first grader. I was learning to read too. It is hard, but you can do it. You can practice and it's important to read a little bit every day whether you read a Bible or a book that has religious significance to you, or an inspirational quote or a favorite book or magazine. It's important to read every day. I think that's primarily all I have to say. Thank you.

Vileen S.: Thank you so much Lisa and thank you Caitlin also. Great presentations, good sharing. Appreciate it. Alright participants, the floor is open. 815 please tell your name first.

Linn: Hi Vileen and Elyse, It's Linn, and Lisa.

Vileen S.: Our friend here, great.

Linn: I loved the choice of books. I'm a puzzler and so that delighted me, and I give Oh! The Places You'll Go for graduation gifts when somebody is graduating from high school or college. I'm with Lisa. Practice, practice, practice like a daily vitamin, but another tip that sometimes my students like is read something you know. Get a book of Christmas Carol Lyrics or a familiar poem or a favorite short story and read it, not once, but two or three times and you will pick up speed the more you go. It just does help to get more familiar. If you're going to read something to a youngster, read it first, get ready ahead so that you're more comfortable, and if you're reading like a first grader, that's a good beginning and you're still reading.

I read similarly to Lisa, but a little bit differently. I've been reading a little longer than Lisa has. Can you believe that? Quite a bit longer actually. I read with both hands and do what she does. I go part of the way across the line and then I drop down with my left hand. As my right hand finishes, my left hand starts to read the next line. That's an advanced skill, but it does make you go quicker because then you pull your hand back, hit your fingers and read across again. It does help, but I always say to my beginning and intermediate students, it's just fine to have your left hand be the police person or the officer on guard. Those are my reading techniques. The biggest, biggest thing, practice every day, even if it's reading three or four lines, you'll be amazed that in a couple of weeks, those three, or four lines will go more quickly. Over.

Vileen S.: Thank you Linn-

Lisa S.: I did the same as you Linn but you described better.

Vileen S.: Read something that you are familiar with and that helps you build your reading speed. Who is next?

Elyse: Next person, number 573, go ahead.

Rick A.: Hi there. Rick from Charleston City. I'm a second time caller and I was going to say what Linn just said about, if you're going to read something aloud, it's a big advantage to have recently, underline recently, read it before and then it goes fast. I don't know what part of the reason is, a part of it is that you can anticipate what's coming, changes of speaker and the mood of the person or the text. You have a better idea how to inflect it.

Vileen S.: Welcome. Good point. Next one.

Elyse: The next person's number starts 303, go ahead.

Estelle: Hi, this is Estelle calling from Colorado. I haven't been on the call for a couple of months.

Vileen S.: We missed you Estelle.

Estelle: I have three things I wanted to mention or ask. Could you tell us what that first book that your first reader read from? The title of it. It sounds like something that would be interesting. I don't recall.

Vileen S.: The first reader was Lisa and the second reader was Caitlin.

Estelle: Lisa. What was the first book she read from?

Lisa S.: It was a catalog of books actually available through National Braille Press. If you go to their website you can find email and phone number to contact them. Their website is www.nbp.org .

Estelle: Thank you.

Linn: If you are familiar with NPR Weekend Edition, the guy that wrote that puzzle book has little puzzle segments every Sunday morning on NPR.

Vileen S.: [inaudible] the braille users.

Estelle: I had one other comment. You talked about reading things you're familiar with, and I certainly agree with that, and repeating, reading again and again. I have found that National Braille Press puts out these small, almost a pocket size quote books, and they have one for different days of the week. That's really helpful to me. That way I make sure I get at least one page of that read every day. Those are really helpful, and I've read some of them more than one time.

The other comment, I think I made it months ago, sometimes when I'm reading something that's many pages or a few, the page numbers are hard to figure out because it seems sometimes they're on the top, sometimes on the bottom, sometimes in the middle. One of those is for the person who is transcribing, and it's the print version, but it doesn't seem to be a standard on finding the correct page. When I go through the contents, and it tells me one page, and I look for that page, and it's something different. I wondered if you had any comments on that. Thank you.

Vileen S.: I can explain to you that, and we'll also get it from Lisa and Caitlin, our presenters. First of all, the old system was to have the page numbers on the top right, but the new system generally mentions the braille pages on the bottom right. However, on the top right there are other page numbers and those are the print page numbers. If you're communicating with a sighted person, or if you're a student and if you're reading braille, you can easily connect with sighted people by telling the page number, print page, which are given on the top right. In between, sometimes there's a page number and that is a print page indicator that's given with the straight row of dash three six, and at the end there's a number.

That indicates when the new print page number begins which may be in the middle of the braille page. The system helps you to connect with the print world by having the print pages on the right side of the top line and sometimes in the middle by suggesting that now the print page number changes, even though your braille page does not change. I hope that helps, and let's see from Lisa.

Estelle: Thank you very much.

Vileen S.: Welcome. Do you have anything to add to this, Lisa or Caitlin?

Lisa S.: I don't.

Caitlin D.: I could actually say...let's say there is a page, because braille is a lot bigger than print. The pages in braille are going be a lot longer than a print page, so one print page can be two or three pages in braille. The way they indicate that is, let's say you're in class with sighted people and the teacher says turn to page 32. One way you can do that is... Let's say the page 32 is in the middle of the braille page. If you keep turning the pages and looking on the top right, it continues on with A32, B32, so each page in braille, if it's a continuation of that same front page, it goes on with letters to show that you're still on that page.

Let's say I turn to A32 and the page before that is 31, then I'll know that 32, it starts in the middle of the page and I have to feel for that line, that three six is to know where the page starts. You wouldn't always know if it starts in the middle, you have to check the page numbers and see which ones. I hope I was clear.

Vileen S.: You were. Our co-host Elyse has left because she had to go to attend another meeting and I believe I had requested her. I believe she has unmuted everybody. Please feel free to ask a question without raising hands and say your name and please be brief. If your question is addressed to a particular person, any presenter, then Lisa or Caitlin should give the names. Thank you.

Allen: Hi, this is Allen from Florida. One additional thing with the page numbers, the print page number is very helpful in a classroom setting. When the instructor says to turn to page 41, then you can know that, that's print page 41 that you need to look forward to, not the braille page 41. Over.

Vileen S.: Thank you, Allen. Everybody please say, over when you're done saying and please be brief. Next one. I like it this way. I like to have everybody unmuted. The other problems in order to control that, I have to mute everybody, which is something I'm not too comfortable with. Next one.

Jasmyn: This is Jasmyn here. I have three things to say about reading braille. One is, I like the two volume braille books, and I have two books that are in, two volumes for reading, and it's really enjoyable. It's the NFB literature and on the other one, it's a book on Glaucoma. [inaudible]. It's really enjoyable and I really love it. I would love to read what Caitlin read. Caitlin, on Oh! The Places You'll Go, because I like Dr. Seuss. Dr Seuss was actually my first braille book. I read it [inaudible] it was really enjoyable. My other favorite thing to read is, is my work after I've removed it. I'll do sentences and the contractions. I'll practice and I'll read it and it's also my books. Another thing is, my favorite reading technique is the hands' concentration because I don't have to strain my arms, my whole hands. The hand goes the other way and my other hand those to the left. I really like that about the [inaudible]. Over.

Vileen S.: Thank you for sharing and next person.

I wish you all a good week ahead and good weekend. Next Thursday we'll talk about using braille for crocheting. It's going to be a good topic. Have a good day. Bye now.

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Embracing Braille - An Insight into Braille Reading

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