Basic Braille Skills

Who should have basic braille skills?

June 20, 2019

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Audio Transcript


Embracing Braille – Basic Braille Skills

Presented by Vileen Shah

June 20, 2019

Vileen Shah: Today's topic is a bit different. It's who should have basic braille skills, and that's really a good question and that leads to, actually speaking, several answers. But as I said in my introductory invitation, probably the shortest answer is who should have basic braille skills, the shortest answer is you and me. But if we elaborate on this and if I continue to draw on this topic, I may say that everyone who has sight impairment who has a vision loss should learn braille and should at least accomplish basic braille skills.

The question then arises, how far it helps and who should have, who cannot have, who should have but cannot go for it, multiple issues involved here. But once again, I'll go back to my generalization, everyone who is blind and visually impaired or everyone who has a vision loss should learn braille, should have basic braille skills.

However, there are exceptions to everything in the world and that question is how about the people who have neuropathy who cannot feel dots or even if they can feel dots they cannot distinguish between dots, how about them? My answer is a little simple here, they should also try and they should try their best.

But basically, even though you do not have a good sensitivity in your fingers you should not give up. You should be persistent, you should keep trying, and ultimately of course there's always a point where we can stop. If we cannot, we cannot. But there's a feeling of gratification, there's an inner satisfaction that yes, I tried my best. I did, but I could not. So that's a different feeling.

Vileen Shah: So then moving on, first of all, when I said everyone who is blind and visually impaired but we do know that blindness does not occur at a particular time. It's not the course of natural physical development that things happen at a particular time, particular age. It may hit anyone at any time. In which case, I may say that all children going to school who have vision loss or who have limited vision, even if they're able to read large print, they should learn braille. As we have some of you here, Jasmine keeps telling us that she's learning braille because in the future she thinks that she may need it, yes, that's the way to go.

You may want to learn braille if you think that you may need it in the future. See the bottom line is my friends that learning never hurts. Learning always enhances your ability to understand, and therefore, learning braille is also equally important. There's no exception, we must learn. All of you must learn. Also the people who lose their vision at late age, maybe in their 50s and 60s and 70s, they should also learn braille because if they develop at least the basic braille skills then they can do their day to day tasks independently.

They can prepare a to do list and most importantly, they can do the labels. If they can do the labels that they can read by themselves, that is a good amount of independence that they can accomplish. So the people who get blindness at late age should also learn braille and acquire basic braille skills. When I said you and me, yeah, I do include everybody who has good braille skills. Now you can't have good braille skills until you have the basic braille skills, so all of us who have learning experts and all of the people who are professionals who are doing some other job but have the vision job should have the basic braille skills, because you can't acquire the higher level of braille proficiency unless you acquire the basic braille skills.

I would like to include the professionals, particularly the sighted people. And if they are rehab teachers, if they are rehab professionals, even if they teach mobility and particularly if they are itinerate teachers, that is the teachers who are assigned to teach blind and visually impaired children at school, they should have the basic braille skills and you may wonder, but there are examples in which there are teachers who are supposed to teach blind and visually impaired people do not know braille, and that is something I see it as ironical.

You're teaching blind and visually impaired and you do not know braille, that's something strange. And of course they keep encouraging those children to depend on the audio, when there were tape recorders they will go and find a tape recorder, and now the computers. With the coming of the computer we will take the topic separately of course. The computer technology, with the coming of the computer the braille world has changed, and much of our dependence, including those who had been using braille for almost everything has been reduced because computer has been compensating.

However, there are things that can be done in braille only, and learning braille, again as I said before is literacy. You do not want to be illiterate. You do not want to remain a person who doesn't know how to read and write. Many of the forms that I have to fill out, I have to answer a question, do you know how to read and write? And I say yes, in braille. Because by definition of course when they ask they never think of blind and visual impaired people, all the print word and all the media word and all the computer word, including the software, including the Office 365 or whatever form.

When they prepare these things they never think of the blind and visually impaired people. So the development of new software, print forms, they're always aimed at asking something about print, and if I would say yes they may misunderstand me. They may think that yeah, I'm able to read and write. So I say "Yes, in braille" so they should know that here is a person who is literate but he or she, in my case he, has to use braille.

Okay, so that's one thing. The sighted people, and yet another group that I would like to add here, and thanks to Hadley, Hadley has had the program to teach family members who are sighted but who have a blind member in their family. They should learn braille because that way they will be able to communicate with their family members. If they have to write a note, if they have to read a note that a blind person has written, if they know braille it helps.

So I will keep now the session open for questions and answers, comments, and input, and you are most, most welcome to say anything about this topic today. We will then have a discussion later, but let's open the floor for the topic who should have basic braille skills. And feel free to ask, no question is bad.

Now we had a hand raised before, I hope that hand is still up or can be up again.

Elyse: It sure is. So the hand raised is number, area code starts 661, go ahead. And introduce yourself, you can say your name and then ask your question or comment.

Alejandro: Hello?

Elyse: Yes, hello.

Alejandro: Oh, hi my name is Alejandro and-

Vileen Shah: Alejandro.

Alejandro: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yes-

Vileen Shah: Okay, all right, go ahead.

Alejandro: I don't know if you covered this already but what is the level of vision that someone needs to have to start learning braille?

Vileen Shah: Let me have the answers from other people and I'll also give my view on that. But let's hear theirs. How much vision you should have or the level of vision that should make you learn braille or encourage you learn braille? Okay, who has the answer? People-

Linn: Vileen it's Linn.

Vileen Shah: Yes Linn.

Linn: It depends, as Vileen was saying somewhat before, on what your prognosis is, what might happen to you. If you have a degenerative or vision loss that's going to increase, I would say learn braille as soon as you can because that way you won't have a lag time where you don't read print or braille. So I think it depends on who you are and what your needs are.

Vileen was talking about neuropathy, even with neuropathy if you have a braille note taker, a little gadget which has a braille keyboard on it, it can give you speech output back. So even if your hands don't read easily you can use the braille which goes much faster for those who don't type previously. You could learn the braille, write anything you want, you can have phone number files, birthday files, note files, whatever, and you can braille and then all the commands will read back with speech output.

So even with neuropathy there's a really good potential, in my opinion, for learning braille. Over.

Lisa: It's Lisa, I'm far from my phone.

Elyse: Go ahead Lisa.

Lisa: Okay. I'd like to address also the neuropathy concerns a little bit. There are different options and different kinds of braille, so if you were one of those people that think "Oh I have neuropathy, I couldn't learn it" there is jumbo braille which is larger braille dots, there is braille... I forget what it's called, but it's regular sized dots but the spacing is different so that it's larger. Also some people with neuropathy for example can't read braille on regular paper but they can read braille on plastic sheets or other kinds of materials, or they can read it on the braille display that Linn mentioned.

I really think that when a person begins to learn braille it's kind of a personal decision. If you're having trouble reading and you find that you're squinting or straining, or maybe you can have something blown up to huge size but you're reading one word at a time and maybe you used to be a very fluent reader and now you kind of sound like a first grader who's just learning, then your functioning is affected. So that might be a really good time to consider braille.

Vileen Shah: Okay, say over.

Lisa: I'm sorry. Over.

Vileen Shah: That's okay. Great. So we are lucky, we are kind of linked to a few issues here, at what level of vision one should learn braille and also what if someone has neuropathy. So anybody else who has more input about at what level of vision we should learn braille.

Elyse: There's a few hands up, next person in line is Darrin. Go ahead, Darrin.

Vileen Shah: All right, Darrin.

Darrin: I agree that it's a personal choice, but it has to be an informed choice as far as what works for you. The reason why I put it that way is that when I first started losing my vision when I was 19 years old and I was in the training center and they said "You have to learn braille" I didn't want to learn braille because I didn't think I'd ever use it.

A long time later when I picked it up for the third time to be able to learn braille, I decided that I needed to learn it for me for a variety of different reasons. So it's that personal decision. Also thing to keep in mind here too is that everybody says "Learn braille, learn braille, learn braille." It's not like going into Home Depot and going down to aisle 25 and picking up the kit and you automatically know how to use braille. Because I can almost guarantee you, speaking from experience, is that if you go through Lit One or Lit Two is that you're looking at those letters, you're starting to scrub, you're trying to figure out those things, so if you have any vision at all that's going to hinder you.

If you're totally blind that's going to cause some other issues too, which way do you go? So I'd like to put it this way and kind of go back to what Vileen had said in his comments in that it is all about literacy. Literacy meaning that you can read and write, and what I mean is that you can actually know within the sentence if that's "there" or "their" or what the context of the words are and how that's done. That's literacy.

So how do you get to that point is where you can actually label your medicine bottles, you can actually know it's a can of tuna not a can of dog food, you know that it's a can of beans and not necessarily a can of chili peppers, you know, all those different things that matter when you cook, that helps you get to literacy. But the fundamental issue here is I have neuropathy too. I've got a muscle disorder that I also have, I've got issues that I've got to deal with. So if you really want to learn braille what you've got to do, and I believe in it, is that you figure out a way how to do it. It's not easy and it takes practice, practice, practice as Vileen says.

But it's about you, it's about what your needs are and the more that you try to fight between the visual world and the blind world, especially when it comes to braille, you're going to lose. Meaning that if you want to read braille put the sleep shades on or put on a pair of dark sunglasses and focus on reading so that your brain retrains itself to learn how to pick up braille, because- and the second piece is then use it, use it, use it, and practice it, practice it, practice it, meaning read and write with it every day.

You don't have to have technology to do it, which is fancy and nice to have and hopefully that will be down the road for everybody, but for right now what works for you today. Set your goal, focus on literacy, get yourself there, and invest the time, because when I first started taking braille, and this is the final thing, I thought with Hadley that I was going to be reading within a short amount of time. I'm still learning every day and still growing every day using it. So it is something like a garden, you have to water, fertilize, and make it grow. Over.

Vileen Shah: Great, great. And I like that phrase, the more you fight between the print world or sighted world and braille, the more you're going to lose. So better you make a decision and start learning. That probably answers the question that Alejandro put in for us, and certainly we can get more input. But I believe if someone, you know, it doesn't matter what level of vision you have or anyone has, but if someone is told that your vision is going to deteriorate then you now know when you would reach the level of blindness, that's the time.

The day you know that your vision is going to deteriorate, you may want to start learning braille. If you lost some vision, if your vision is stable, then probably it's okay. If you would learn, it's great. But if not, then yeah, then it's better that you learn so that's one thing. And learning it all is growing, yes Darrin, I agree with you. Absolutely right. Learning, maybe learning the gardening, maybe learning mobility, maybe learning braille, learning continuously is always growing. Over.

Okay, any more input?

Elyse: We have some more hands up here.

Vileen Shah: Sure.

Elyse: Next person, please say your name, your area code starts with 608.

Rhonda: Hi, this is Rhonda in Wisconsin.

Vileen Shah: Oh hi Rhonda.

Rhonda: Hi. But there's a technical and measurable issue that's important if Alejandro is new or anyone who is new, because at least in Wisconsin to qualify for the digital player your doctor, your ophthalmologist, or a low vision specialist has to certify that you have a visual impairment.

For example, at six inches I can see the 20/200 card in my right eye, that's my impairment. And that's what qualifies me to get the digital player which you need for a braille course, for Braille Literacy 1 and 2 and 3, I don't know about 4 yet, but-

Vileen Shah: Yeah, even 4, even 4.

Rhonda: Yeah.

Vileen Shah: Okay.

Rhonda: So that's a measurable impairment. Over.

Vileen Shah: To that, I would add, Rhonda, that yes, you need to prove, you need to qualify by a certificate from your doctor or your organization that you're eligible to use such services as a digital talking book or DTB or any other services that the government or agencies provide. But in order to learn braille you do not have to qualify that you have certain amount of vision, certain level of vision, you can start learning braille any time you want. So that's a plus.

Vileen Shah: Over. More hands.

Elyse: Okay, our next person, their number area code is 386.

Jasmine: Hi, I'm Jasmine. I just wanted to say that another reason why a person would learn braille is, well two reasons. One is if you wanted to be an educator for the visual impaired, that's what I want to do. I want to be an early intervention specialist for the blind and visually impaired. The second reason is for a progressive eye condition, like with me, I have glaucoma and my mentor, my NFB mentor made me learn braille just in case I lose sight from glaucoma because right now my vision's stabilized because I'm taking my eye drops, but who knows when it's... As I age, you know, what if my eye drops stop working and I start losing my sight.

He's got a good point, because back when I was a little kid, I thought braille wasn't for me because I could see a little bit and I thought it was hard and it was just for totally blind people. But then at my blind school when I was in 10th and 11th grade I was working with blind children as a teacher’s aide. I felt bad that I didn't know braille because some of the kids were totally blind and they couldn't read braille, so I felt bad that I couldn't help some of the children with their work because I didn't know braille.

So that made me want to learn braille, and my NFB mentor in 2015, so I'm glad that he told me to learn braille and he helped me with braille, and I learned it at my blind school. So that's it, over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you Jasmine. Try to be brief please. One quick interrupting thing is if you have a good mentor, if you find a good mentor you'll be lucky to get good advice, so that works for some people. Some people don't need a mentor. So anyway, any more input about this question?

Elyse: We have another hand up. Allen, you're next on the list, go ahead.

Allen: Hi, this is Allen from Kissimmee, Florida. As far as the neuropathy part there are some things you can do. You had taught me to take a page of braille and then move your finger lightly across the braille, up and down, back and forth, in circles, for 15, 20 seconds, 30 seconds. It helps stimulate the blood vessels in your fingertips, that might help you. Now if you have problems with sensitivity you can use also a cream called "Aveeno." It's a non-greasy formula and it works really well. The other thing is I have neuropathy in my pinky and my ring finger, my left hand, so I have a hard time typing.

I can't type the letters A, Z or Q because I can't feel the key so I had to use my index finger for that, and that's the same thing goes for if you don't have the feeling your finger, find another finger that might work even on the hand that's not dominant and see if that works for you as well. Over.

Vileen Shah: Terrific. Allen always has very effective suggestions and he's so nice to share with us that help. You may refer to, I'm not sure if it's still there on the website, but one of the presentations I made was using different fingers for reading braille and that's exactly what Allen said, that if you do not have enough sensitivity in your index finger, the finger that most people recommend and use, sometimes strongly recommend, are different from them, I say that you may read braille with any finger that works well with you.

So do not even insist on a particular finger. Whatever finger reads well, that's the one you want to use. As I said in one of my earlier presentations I read braille with my thumb. So it doesn't stop you from reading braille question your thumb as well, okay? That's a great contribution, thank you Allen. Moving on, let's see who else has a question or has an input for this question.

Elyse: Okay, we have another hand up, and number area code is 602. I'll go ahead and unmute you, and please introduce yourself.

Roderick: This is Roderick.

Vileen Shah: Roderick, yes.

Roderick: Several years ago it was suggested that I learn braille because I was losing my eyesight. But at the time I could still see fairly well. My question is while I was able to see, the reason I didn't go to learn braille then is because I thought that I would become dependent on my eyes and then when I lost my eyesight, I'd have to learn it all over again using my hands. I don't know if I was wrong or not. Over.

Vileen Shah: Okay, great Roderick, that's a good point, yes. Also a point to be added to Alejandro's question, at what level of vision you should start learning braille, and yes if you start learning braille but if you have sight and you start using sight for learning braille then you're not helping yourself. You must, I will say it's a must, that you need to use your fingers and read braille by touch, particularly when you know that your vision is going to deteriorate.

And trust me, it's very tempting, very tempting to open your eyes and see a little bit and see the dots and figure out what that combination of dots means.

Elyse: Okay, we have another hand up. Allen, go ahead.

Allen: Yes, this is Allen. The main reason why is the part of your brain that you use to read by sight is different than the part of the brain you use for touch. So that's why it's important to make sure you are using touch because you have to retrain that part of the brain to feel these characters as you're going along. So that's definitely important to keep your eyes shut or the sleep shades, etc. over.

Elyse: All right, let's go to the top of the list, area code is 210. I'll go ahead, unmute you, and-

Vileen Shah: That's Dorothy Brown.

Elyse: What's your name?

Dorothy B.: Thank you, yes this is Dorothy Brown.

Elyse: Okay.

Dorothy B.: One of my biggest regrets y'all was waiting and waiting. Like no one ever mentioned to me about braille. I was working and I did not think about it myself because I guess the person that I was in contact with was with Lighthouse for the Blind in San Antonio. So I did go through the mobility training but I didn't ask about braille. I didn't think about braille, and it would have been very helpful to have learned the braille at that time, because a couple of years ago then when I got my first package I couldn't really see to deal with getting the package and figuring all that out.

So I guess I would encourage someone if they're doubtful and they think that they might need braille to learn braille. You can't lose that way and actually we do not know when something else can happen to the eyes. In my case, my retinas held out for a long time and my severe changes didn't happen until last year, about, I don't know maybe for 20 years after I was first diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. So I'm just saying that I'd be better to go ahead and have it and not have to use it than to not have it at all. Over.

Vileen Shah: Great, thank you so much Dorothy. Maybe you didn't get a good mentor, some people are lucky. So that's how it goes. But anyway, yeah, your advice should help. I think that is where such support groups, discussion groups should find their places to help people who do not know enough about braille, do not know the significance of learning braille, and I believe our discussion group is a big support for that. Over. Okay, next hand.

Elyse: Okay, the next person in line, their area code starts 573. Go ahead and introduce yourself please.

Rick: Rick from Jefferson City, Missouri. I was on one of Vileen's calls recently actually. Anyway, again, yes if you're even likely to lose sight, yes, by all means learn braille. My mother forced me when I was eight and nine and thank god for that. But yes, I had glaucoma too and I noticed one of the other callers said she had glaucoma and further deterioration, even if your eyes are stable you think, it's very likely. So yes, do please learn braille.

I still visualize, although I learned by touch, I still visualize the dot patterns as they go by in my head though I can't see them on the paper of course. But I visualize them in my head anyway. There's nothing wrong with that, but yes, reading by touch is important. When I first started to learn the first time, I saw braille I thought somebody had spilled something on the paper and it dried, and I have normal finger sensitivity, so don't be put off by that at first. It's not going to make sense to you.

But what my parents did is they put tacks in baby blocks in the shapes of the letters. So I got used to that and then I could slowly work down to the standard size.

Vileen Shah: Over? Thank you Rick. Great point. Okay, next one.

Elyse: Wonderful. This person's area code starts 209. I'll go ahead, unmute you, and please introduce yourself.

Susan B.: Hi, this is Susan from Angel's Camp, California and I was diagnosed 20 years ago with Stargardt's while I was going to school to become a teacher. And as it went along, my vision started deteriorating more and I'm using my magnifier all the time. And also I live in a rural area, so I didn't know where to learn braille. My mom had told me when I first got diagnosed "You should learn braille" and I thought "Yeah I should but there's not a school down the street that has braille classes." So it took me quite a while, you know?

I went to Society for the Blind 70 miles away on a bus and a train once a week to try and learn, but it wasn't enough. I'm so grateful to have found Hadley and Braille Literacy 2, and finally started to pick up some momentum, and especially this support group, this meeting. Anyway, so the reason I want to learn braille is so that maybe I'm more employable, because at this point I don't think I'm going to be able to teach using a magnifier. It's pretty difficult and I lose my audience. That's it, over.

Vileen Shah: Good point, Susan. Are you Susan Browning?

Susan B.: Yes.

Vileen Shah: Okay, great. Yeah, good point. You don't want to lose your audience and for that you must learn whatever helps, including braille.

Susan B.: Yes.

Vileen Shah: Okay, great. Next one.

Elyse: Great. Okay, next on the list is Nancy.

Nancy: All right, this is Nancy from New Jersey and I just wanted to start by saying I have the most awesome Braille Literacy instructor. That would be Mr. Shah. But where I live here in New Jersey the state agency who would be in charge of teaching us braille informs us that it's six easy one hour lessons and you will find out everything you need to know about braille, and learn how to do it, and that just discourages most of us who live here in these little counties where I live. So Hadley has been a very big blessing for me.

Vileen Shah: Over?

Nancy: Over. Thank you.

Vileen Shah: Thank you Nancy, thank you for your kind words. And the most important part is that this group becomes such a big help for so many people and I'm glad you're participating Nancy. Okay, anybody else?

Elyse: We have two more hands up, so I will-

Vileen Shah: Two more! Very good. We have very good participation. People are so actively engaged and that thrills me. Okay, who is next?

Elyse: Wonderful, area code starts in 604.

Vileen Shah: 604, okay.

Elyse: 604, you're unmuted, hello.

Dennis: Hello, can you hear me?

Vileen Shah: Yes.

Dennis: Okay, this is Dennis from BC, Canada, hi. My question is the reason I lost my sight ten years ago, and I have diabetes and I had a hard time reading regular braille, then I found out about enlarged jumbo braille, that helped me. Then it got worse and got worse, and then I stopped for a while but now I'm back into it because the thing is I want my independence back. I want to be independent, that's the big thing about learning braille, you want to be independent because sometimes you don't want somebody at your side to help you out, right? So independence is a big thing for me. Over. Thank you.

Vileen Shah: Thank you Dennis, that's very true, very true. Independence is the first and foremost principle of life and that does make you feel so proud of yourself if you accomplish the necessary level of independent, and braille is there to support you. As far as the jumbo braille is concerned I think nowadays they call it large cell braille but it's just a different name, whether you call blind or visually challenged, I'm okay with all words you know?

But what I wanted to bring or add to that is probably you may want to try reading the dots on braille display, even though it's not jumbo braille, but they are so prominent. They can be read with least, I've heard, in comparison to reading braille on papers. So if you have not tried that and if you have any access to braille display, that's one of the things you may want to do. I hope Canada, CNIB, Canadian National Institute for the Blind is a good resource that can help you, because braille displays are otherwise very expensive.

But you may want to explore that possibility, okay? All right, we go to next.

Elyse: Okay, next person's area code starts in 815. Go ahead please, say your name.

Linn: That's me, it's Linn. And I apologize, I somehow lost my connection so if I'm speaking something that's already been said just cut me off. I want to remind our Canadian friend about what Lisa said, reading on plastic or plastic backed tape, you shouldn't scrub, as a braille teacher Vileen and I will both tell you that. But if you rub a little harder on the plastic it's not going to fade away as much, and the braille displays, lots of them have different intensity settings so they may feel a little sharper, they may not push down as easily depending on what you've set it for.

My last thing is we're talking about mentors and role models, if you're a grandma or an auntie or a good friend of a little one who's visually impaired, get braille in your house for them. There are magnetic Fisher-Price letters that you can put on your refrigerator. I think you can get them from National Braille Press, but even if you got a two year old who is visually impaired or totally blind, put stuff there that that child can see, the braille letters, just as he would if he/she were sighted.

So be a good role model for them and that will help them to start... I had wonderful role models ever since I was a teensy one, and it motivated me like crazy to be able to read independently. Over.

Vileen Shah: And why are we looking for any mentor? We have a mentor here, Linn, and thank you for being wise and thank you for mentoring the whole group, appreciate it.

Linn: Sure.

Vileen Shah: Okay, so I may say that Alejandro's question generated so much discussion and a lively, active participation, that he left. You are here to continue, I don't know if he came back, but my computer said that he left, but that's okay? Okay great.

Elyse: Okay, great, some more hands are raised. Allen, you're next in line.

Vileen Shah: Oh okay, let's carry on then.

Allen: I'm sorry, I don't think I raised my hand. You hear me?

Vileen Shah: Yes.

Elyse: Yes.

Vileen Shah: That's okay.

Allen: Okay, but I do have a comment about the large braille. Keep in mind that you're not going to be able to get anything in print with the large braille. It's going to be very difficult to find something like that, so learning to read the standard braille is more beneficial to you. Over.

Vileen Shah: Okay, thank you. Yes. Anybody else?

Elyse: Wonderful. Let’s go to Jasmine, your hand is up. Go ahead Jasmine, there you go.

Jasmine: Hi, okay. So another thing, I would really recommend as a future early intervention specialist is for parents to teach their child who's blind or visually impaired pre-braille skills. So to get the child ready for when they learn braille when they're older, and as a future educator I want to do that, and I want to really encourage braille and parents to label their toys in braille, things in the house in braille, and best of all read to the child. I want to encourage, especially kids who maybe they're totally blind or visually impaired from glaucoma, and they can't read print at all, because I have friends with my eye condition that are blind. Most of them read braille and had learned braille when they were little.

Since I didn't learn braille when I was younger I'm really strong about young kids learning braille who are blind and visually impaired. It should have been me, but I can help other children to learn braille, and I strongly encourage all blind and visually impaired people to learn braille, especially those with glaucoma to learn it because sooner or later you might lose your sight. I know sooner or later there's a chance I might lose my sight and I want to be prepared. I want to be ready, I want to have braille as like a gun to shoot when glaucoma attacks. Over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you Jasmine. Appreciate it. Next one.

Elyse: Yes Dennis, your hand is up, go ahead.

Dennis: Oh thank you, yes. Somebody answered my question already.

Vileen Shah: Okay.

Dennis: But I do have one more. How many combinations in braille there is total? Over.

Dennis: Yes, how many contractions is the proper term I believe. Over.

Vileen Shah: Oh, okay. Elyse you want to answer that question?

Elyse: Sure. Well, you correct me if I'm wrong with the new UEB, there's 189 contractions and short forms, although they did take out just a handful of them with the updated information. Now I'm going to scramble and get my cheat sheet and make sure I gave you the right number.

Vileen Shah: Oh no, let me [crosstalk 00:53:05] Okay, sorry. Let me... Was the question about the braille contractions? I thought-

Linn: How many combinations.

Elyse: Combinations.

Linn: How many combinations-

Dennis: Contractions.

Vileen Shah: Okay contractions. Actually now they're 180 probably. They eliminated 9 out of 189. But Linn probably can help us here better, Linn?

Linn: Actually I don't have my cheat sheet in front of me either. It used to be 163 didn't it? Back in the olden days. But what you need to know is you need to learn as you go, as in maybe for the first while I don't really need to know about bold face type, how the fraction line is written, how a... you know? You start out with good old alphabet and things that go with it. So when you're thinking "Oh my lord, I have to learn 180 something?" Eventually you will. But just like when you're a JAWS user, a screen reader user, you probably might use a fifth or a fourth of all it can do. But that is a godsend to you, and so you get really good at that and you climb a mountain in baby steps.

You go up a little way and then you sit somewhere in a nice spot and think about all you've gotten thus far. Then you go on a little bit further, and then you take another little respite and review and think about everything. You don't climb the entire mountain in a little bit of time. So remember, climb along, enjoy your view, and then take another step or two further. Over.

Vileen Shah: Great. The experience counts, see. Thank you, Linn, for sharing and helping our group. Okay, anybody else who would like to say more about how they learned contractions?

Elyse: I see Alejandro's hand is raised again. I will unmute you.

Vileen Shah: Okay. Alejandro's back.

Alejandro: Hello. My question actually is, and this might sound weird, but I notice now that when it comes to taking notes like in a class or something, I use a BrailleSense U2 to take notes and I realize now that when I have to type, like jog something really fast, I noticed that I tend to freeze for a moment and kind of need to think I guess the contraction or, I don't know, I guess I kind of go blank for a moment when I'm taking notes.

I'm not sure if it's the transitioning of the braille code or something like that, because before this never happened.

Vileen Shah: Okay. We'll get the answer from others but I think first of all when you Alejandro mentioned about taking notes, if you're taking notes for your personal use it doesn't matter that you forget or do not use a contraction as long as you're able to read it, that's your notes. So you should be so over conscious about using contractions when you are taking notes, but if you're doing it for any professional reason then probably it's a different story.

But as part of transitioning from EBE to UEB, I believe it's not a big deal. I mentioned this before, that it's approximately 5% braille has changed, 95% is same, so you UEB is not a huge issue as many people make it though some people scare you with that, and some people just think it's a new braille. No, it's not a new braille, it's almost 95%, 96% same, okay? All right, let's see who else wanted to say about that, UEB and anything else or contraction and foundation.

Elyse: Vileen this is Elyse, there's one more hand and we're just coming up to 12:30.

Vileen Shah: Yes, I realized that.

Elyse: 12:30 central, okay.

Vileen Shah: We'll take that one hand and we'll go.

Elyse: All right, Dorothy Brown, your hand is raised.

Dorothy B.: Hello. Thank you, can you all hear me?

Vileen Shah: Yes.

Dorothy B.: Okay. It may have to do with where you are in braille as to how you feel about the differences between the two, between EBE and UEB, because I found it to be quite overwhelming. But then I didn't know the old code, so when I run into something different and I'm still trying to learn UEB, it just felt overwhelming to me. But Alejandro what happened there, I kind of can relate in terms of I've had to actually step back and slow myself down in learning braille the last two weeks because my brain was doing the same thing. At least I think what you're talking about.

But the regrouping as y'all are pointing out, you know, actually just being patient and I think Linn said find the good place where you are and enjoy that place. I guess just patience with self is going to work and it's helping me group. Over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you. Okay, so-

Alejandro: Thank you.

Vileen Shah: ... with that input from Dorothy I think we will conclude the session. We will take this issue concerning the old and new braille code next time as well, and we'll invite more input and suggestions. Also next Thursday is your favorite session, open question answer, so please bring your questions. If you think that oh, you wanted to ask a question but you forgot then the best thing is write the question down, keep it ready before the session starts so that you can ask.

So with that, I declare that today's session is over. Thank you once again everybody for actively participating, answering questions, giving your input, giving your suggestions, comments, contributions, and keep it up.