Common Braille Errors

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

May 16, 2019

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Audio Transcript


Embracing Braille: Common Braille Errors

Presented by Vileen Shah

May 16, 2019

Vileen Shah: Yes, very good. Okay. Today's topic is common braille errors in reading and writing. Before I start, I would like to make a couple of clarifications. One, I'm thinking, and I'm going to try, that we can reserve last 15 minutes for general question answer session every time. I think there is a good demand for that, and we really want to help everyone, particularly those who feel uncomfortable learning braille and need help. We are going to try that, how it works-

Vileen Shah: That's one thing. The second thing is, I got a real good suggestion, and I really appreciate it. I believe, because of my accent, some people have difficulty understanding at least part of the presentation, if not the entire one, so I will go a little slow. Please bear with me if you think that I'm speaking too slow, but I think that may help better. I can't change my accent. I always ask my audience, and most of them say that, yeah, they have no problem understanding me despite my accent, but some people do have that problem, I know, particularly those who have a partial hearing impairment, and because you are raised listening to the American accent, and I have my accent even when I say American, so it becomes difficult. I do understand that, so no problem.

Common braille errors in reading and writing, that is our topic. As I said, errors are common when you read or write, and not only us, the blind and hearing-impaired people, but also sighted people make errors. They spell a word wrong, or they sometimes write a wrong word, or ... there are things like that. When we talk about common errors in reading braille and writing braille, obviously, our situation is so specific, because braille by itself is a system based on dots.

For the beginner learners, you may want to listen and understand what challenges you are going to face down the road. I was thinking in mind, if I had to restrict myself only for beginner learners for this Embracing Braille group, I wonder if I could find more than 5 or 10 topics. I think we can continue with the list of topics we have, and beginner learners can brace themselves and try to understand what's coming. For those who know braille, particularly the contracted braille, some of my tips will be pretty helpful.

Here we go, common errors that we find in reading braille. I'll take reading first, and then I'll address the issue of writing. In reading braille, oftentimes, people have difficulty in deciphering, which is in figuring out, in finding out, whether the letter or symbol is one or another, by which I mean ... let's say, take an example that most people have difficulty differentiating between an apostrophe and a capital sign. They feel the dot, it's a single dot, and then they feel that, it's a dot, but where to locate? How to read it? They find it difficult to figure out whether it is apostrophe or caps sign. Those who know braille, you know that apostrophe consists of dot three, and the caps sign consists of dot six.

There are several such errors that I actually encounter while grading assignments. For instance, the email sign, @, most people, or many, not most, I have to correct myself, many people read it like letter C. @ consists of dot four plus dot one, and when you put that combination together, it does look like a C. The shape looks like letter C. Similarly, the caps sign and letter L, caps sign is dot six, and the next cell, letter L, one, two, three. That looks like a numeric indicator, what we used to call the number sign.

Sometimes, you may not be able to differentiate between upper B and lower B. Upper B is a regular B that consists of dots one and two that, of course, my braille Lit 2 people are also learning, and lower B consists of dots two and three. I am saying lower B because this sign that consists of dots two and three is used as a semicolon, or sometimes you call it semicolon. I'm okay with both ways of saying semicolon. It is also used as two Bs in the contracted braille. If you are reading contracted braille, and if you're not able to differentiate between an upper B and lower B, then you may not get the spelling correct.

The whole question is, how to differentiate? There are a number of such errors that people make while reading, and sometimes in writing, because if they read wrong, they write wrong. We will address that issue later about writing, as I said, but in reading, a few things that you all may want to remember that braille is not a system of shapes. Braille is a system based on dot positions and dot proximity. For proximity, I also use the word distance. The dictionary meanings are different, but practical meanings are same. How much is the distance between two dots, between two cells? Once you understand the distance, once you remember the dot positions, you will be able to read braille with better accuracy.

I'm going to post a handout that I have prepared on dot alignment and dot distance. I'm going to discuss this real soon, but you may want to go online later on and read it. When it is posted, you will be notified that today's recording and the handouts have been posted. I also found an interesting but long article on braille accuracy. This article underlines three main factors that affect the reading accuracy of braille readers. These three factors are gender, age, and education level. The article also refers to a survey made on a number of people with different age, different education level, and, of course, between the two genders. Most articles talk about two genders, the current situation or current ... I don't know what to say, current affairs, or current political news or social news have started talking about a number of different genders, three, four, five ... I do not know. Please bear with me. I will refer to only two genders so far, because that's not our issue here, that's a social issue.

The article points out that overall, in the lower age area, female make less errors than male. At the higher age area, they are almost equal, but in general, the female learners learn braille with more accuracy, they are able to. I don't know why. I'm not trying to be ... My purpose is not to offend anybody, so please bear with me. I'm just saying what the article says. Also, education level. They said that learners at the high school level make relatively less number of errors than the learners at the primary school level, grammar school level, and, of course, the age. Age is an issue. Children can learn braille better because their sensitivity is stronger. Others can also do. There is no hard and fast or generalization that you can apply, but in general, many learners who are in their late age, in their late 50s and 60s, find it difficult to read braille. Age is a factor that affects the accuracy of braille reading.

Let me go back to the handout that I'm going to post and which I have prepared on dot alignment and dot distance. By dot alignment, I refer to the dot positions. It would greatly help you if you would remember the dot numbers for each braille sign, because these numbers guide you to understand where each dot is located. As you all know, braille consists of six dots in a rectangular shape divided into two rows of three dots each. On the left side, which is also called the first side, the dot numbers are one, two, and three, which means number one is at the top, number two, middle, and number three at the bottom. On the right side, or the second side, the dot numbers are four, five, and six. The top is four, middle is five, and bottom is six. This is going to help you a lot if you remember the dot numbers.

Many people find it difficult to differentiate between the letter D and F, or even H and J. If you remember the dot numbers, D consists of dot one, four, and five, which means top left, top right, and middle right. That also gives you the shape. I'm not saying that you don't remember the shapes, but I'm saying, do not go only by the shapes of the letter. Say, for instance, letter F consists of dots one, two, and four, and if you press dots two, three, and five, it will- [crosstalk 00:15:45] It will make the same shape. Therefore, do not determine your reading by the shapes of letter. Dots two, three, and five actually makes the exclamation point in braille, and also in contracted braille, it makes two Fs. Therefore, if you realize or if you understand and remember the dot numbers, and then feel the dots, then you will realize or understand it better that this is a letter F and not the exclamation point.

Sometimes, the finger's sensitivity is not so sharp, and people really struggle how to figure out whether it is dots one, two, or four, which is letter F, and dots two, three, and five, which is exclamation point. Most effective way is to feel the alignment with the previous letter or next letter in the word, or what they call symbol sequence and all that kind of thing, new braille says that, but I would like to say, use the word “word”.

Let's take an example. I always emphasize for all my learners that you should double-check. I like that word double. Those who know how to write the word double in braille, think of that first. When you read double, you want to figure out, double, what's the spelling? Is it two Bs or one B? In contracted braille, if it is two Bs, then it will be a lower B, and if it is single B, then it will be an upper B.

Now you want to gently feel the dots, see the heights of the dots, compare it with the next letter. In this case, D-O-U-B-L-E. You know that L consists of three dots, one, two, three, and if the top dot of letter B aligns, look at the height, if the top dot of the letter B aligns with L, if the height of both top dots is same, then it is an upper B. Had it been a lower B, which is dots two and three, then the top dot of B would align with the middle dot of L, because it is dot two, which is the middle dot.

Once again, this may be a little difficult for many of you to understand the whole concept. You may want to hear this again. I'll briefly repeat that when you feel the dots, feel the height of the dots, and compare that height with the next or previous letter. I will again repeat and give you a little more explanation about this. D-O-U-B-L-E. Those who know contracted braille, O-U-

Speaker 4: [inaudible 00:19:32]

Vileen Shah: O-U consists of dots one, two, five, and six. [crosstalk 00:19:40] Compare this letter B, you will see that the second dot of letter B will align with the middle dots of the O-U sign. When the middle dot aligns with the middle dots, that means that it's dot number two, and above the middle dot is, of course, dot number one.

Basically, you may want to track the alignment of dots and determine [crosstalk 00:20:15] what dot numbers are these. When you will read my handout, you will understand this more. After listening to this, that will be a good recapping your understanding.

That's one thing, alignment. You may want to check the alignment, whether the top dot aligns with the top dot of the next or previous letter, middle dot aligns with the middle dot of next or previous letter, and the bottom, of course, with the bottom. Another thing is, there is a difference between the distance between two rows of one cell. Let me remind you, six dots, divided into two rows, consisting of three dots each in braille. There is slightly less distance-

Vileen Shah: Okay. Between two cells, there is slightly a wider distance, longer ... The distance between two cells is slightly bigger, it's all minute things, slightly bigger, than the distance between two rows. Once you learn that difference, you will be able to read braille with so much accuracy.

I gave you the example of @, dot four, and then dot one. That looks like letter C. It is because you have not yet exactly understood the difference between the distance. Had it been letter C, the distance between two dots would have been much less, but because it is the @ consisting of two cells, dot four and dot one, the distance between two dots is a little bigger than what it should be in letter C. I suggest trying on your own, write in braille, letter C, and then you write @, which is dot four and dot one, and see the difference.

The pound sign, which is dot four, those who are learning Braille Literacy 3 can understand this better, dot four and letter L, oftentimes, this is confused with one single cell as if it is dot one, four, five six, as if it is a T-H sign in contracted braille, but no. It's dot four, then there is a little bigger distance, wider distance, and then the letter L. You may want to practice and feel the distance between two rows of single cell and between two cells. Unless you understand that distance issue, you won't be able to figure out or read braille correctly, accurately. Therefore, oftentimes, I tell my learners that dot alignment and dot distance are the two pillars, let me repeat my words, are the two pillars, two poles, of learning braille. Your learning braille is located on two posts, two pillars, and that is dot alignment and dot distance.

I'm afraid that when you learn braille at schools, or when you learn braille in some other organization, you are not told about the difference between the two cells, about the difference between the dot alignment and dot distance. I am kind of inclined to assume that many of the teachers do not probably even know that this is what they should tell their learners. Unfortunately, that's where you make more errors. However, those who are here, you may want to try and feel the distance between two cells and the distance between two rows of dots and see the difference, also feel the heights of the dots and see the difference. Write a letter K, and then write another sign that consists of dots four and six. They just look alike, but they both do not make letter K.

Similarly, oftentimes, many learners ask me whether the boldface indicator consists of dots four, five, or one, two. Well, it's simple. If it is dot four, five, then it will be closer to the next cell. If it's dots one, two, it will not be that close. The second row of that sign will be blank, because there are no dots four, five and six, had it been dot one and two. If you get this idea, which is a little complicated, I understand, but it comes by practice, then you will know better.

All right? These are some ways to avoid errors in reading and writing ... in reading. The writing part, it depends what device you are using. If you are using a slate and stylus, you may hit a wrong dot. You want to press dot number one and four to write the letter C, but your stylus press dot one and five. It jumps to the middle part of the rectangular cell, and therefore, it just happens that even if you intended to make dots one and four, and you happened to make dots one and five, and you did not even realize while writing. The best way to avoid such things is, of course, train your hands, train your fingers not to jump incorrectly, but also, read what you write. When you read, you cannot read dots one, five, as letter C. You may press dots one and five, but when you read, you may realize that this is a letter E-

[crosstalk 00:28:00] Similarly, if you are using a braille writer, and ... When you use a braille writer, you are doing one letter at a time. For instance, you want to write letter H, which is dots one, two, and five, but somehow, your mind is a little confused, and you happen to press dots two, four, and five, then you happen to make letter J. To make it simple, when you press the wrong keys using your braille writer, then you make errors, and when you press the wrong dots using a stylus, then you make errors. There are also other errors when you write. If you do not know the spelling of a word, then you make errors, and sometimes, if your paper moves and you overwrite a line over another line, then also, those are errors. Of course, it's called bad braille, because [crosstalk 00:29:11] braille that cannot be read.

Okay? This is briefly, I may say, the errors that you commonly find in reading and writing braille. I would like to keep this floor open for discussion. Once again, please, feel free to ask. No question is dumb. We have so many participants. When I was talking, I didn't have a chance to check, but I know that the number of participants always go above 20. It's a good group, and everybody here intends to learn something. There are also good people who would like to help others. That is possible only if you ask. If you do not ask, then you cannot be helped. Do not hesitate to use the help available here, and do not feel that any question is dumb. No question is dumb. [crosstalk 00:30:18] All questions are smart questions. Therefore, feel free to ask. We have some- [crosstalk 00:30:28] Okay. Here we are. Please, open up and ask your questions. The floor is open for asking questions.

Jeannie: [crosstalk 00:30:41] Go ahead.

Susan: All right. This is Susan Browning.

Vileen Shah: One second. Before you ask, I'll definitely allow you, someone typed in the message that if you want to write a word, how do you do that? That all you will learn when you learn braille, okay? It's hard to say now, but as you learn, you'll know. Okay, who I stopped? I didn't want to offend you. Yes, please.

Susan: That's okay. Susan Browning. I'm in Braille Literacy 2. I have, the last week, been practicing every day, but I find that I do ... I don't know, maybe 10 minutes at a time, I'm usually distracted, I get up and do something else. Is that okay to practice that way, or is it most beneficial to sit for a half-hour, an hour?

Vileen Shah: Another thing that I would like to include here is, let's see if anybody can answer your question. I would like to make this session more interactive, and then I'll also add my input. Anybody who could answer [Jasmine's 00:32:11] question?

Jeannie: Sure. This is-

Automated: [crosstalk 00:32:14] currently unmuted button.

Jeannie: This is Jeannie Johnson, and I would be glad to try to answer that.

Vileen Shah: Oh, great.

Jeannie: I taught braille for over 20 years. I recently took the course Transitioning to UEB Braille. For those of you who are beginners, don't let that confuse you.

I always tell my students... in fact, I have a student right now that I'm teaching on the side, although I'm retired, but I always say, when you're starting out, practice and study for about 15 minutes, then take a break, and then go back to it. I think it's better and easier on your fingers and the brain, because of course, with your fingers, you are supposed to be touching gently, but sometimes, people forget that. I think it's easier for your thought processes and your fingers and keeping proper position and all that to do it in small sessions and not get burnt out on it, maybe two or three times a day, but not for a half-hour or an hour. I suggest that they do it for 15 minutes at a time.

Susan: Oh, good. Thank you. Over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you. Appreciate it. Anybody else?

Cinnamon: This is Cinnamon. [crosstalk 00:33:34] I found that a lot of times, it's easier if I just do it for 10, 15 minutes, and that way, I don't get frustrated, like whoever was just talking said, but then other days, I can do it for a half-hour. I think it just depends on how you're feeling that way. Other days, I'll sit down and read for an hour. It goes day by day is what I do. Other days, I've sat down, and I've only made five minutes and said, "My brain can't do this," or, "I just am not feeling the dots right," and I just walk away and come back to it later. Over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you. Anybody else?

Darrin: This is Darrin. I just wanted to mention, too, as far as your studying habits, you're retraining your brain to understand and know what the dot positions are and how that all works, but then you're also training your fingers and your muscles to be able to read and react. When you think about sitting down for your lesson, there's a process to it. Just like if you're going to take piano lessons or you're going to do anything else [crosstalk 00:34:46] there's an opportunity where you need to actually ... You need to warm up, you need an opportunity to be able to focus on what you're going to do for that exact period of time, then you need to learn it, then you need to practice it, then you need to do something else, and then come back to it and set yourself up for that same process.

As you work through, say, Lit 2, that you're going to try to figure out what the letters are, you can use some of those previous lessons to be able to go through and warm up your fingers to make sure that that set goes over the dots, but for that 10, 15 minutes or whatever is to focus on what you want to be able to do so it is productive. Over.

Vileen Shah: Great, thank you.

Michelle: Hello, this is Michelle. I'm just going to say ... I'm going to start with saying what the article that Dr. Shah read earlier. You don't have to go by articles and statistics, but each person is different, and the levels, age, academia, etc., and based on that, I start with the first lady who taught for 20 years, and she said, based on whatever you can do. It's in the learning stage that makes that comfortable for you. I think that's what works best. It's easy to say 30 minutes for one person, but one person may really only be able to take 5 minutes and that's it before their retention stalls. Thinking about where you are in life and your learning capacity and competency ... not so much competency, but [inaudible 00:36:32] I would think that would have [inaudible 00:36:36] over.

Vileen Shah: Absolutely right. I agree with you that each individual is different, and it varies. As an adult, you may determine how long you can stand with learning, practicing, reading, writing braille, but certainly, as our friend said in the beginning, Ms. Johnson, that if you feel tired, then your thought processing gets less effective or non-functional, then yes, that's the time you may want to stop, take a break. How long a break you should take? That is, again, an individual decision, how well you can come back to your learning after 30 minutes, after 15 minutes, or even after 5 minutes, but certainly, yes, you need a break in between in order to learn braille well.

Anybody else on this question? Please feel free to say your views. Your input is most appreciated.

Jasmine: This is Jasmine here. Two errors that I make with braille that I try to improve on is, sometimes, for instance, my paper, it'll get crooked, and I always end up writing on the lines that I already wrote on, and then it's hard to read, and sometimes, with my slate, I don't press harder, and then the dots are just not raised, and it's hard for me to read it. I try to just give it another chance and spread out my time. If I wanted to practice braille for two hours, maybe I would practice in the morning and then again at night. I just try to not do too much, but get my studying in so that I can improve. Over.

Vileen Shah: Great, sure. Share your experience, please, and share your views, have your input, please.

Alan: This is Alan. One of the things about the spacing of the dots that you can try, if you have a slate stylus, a braille writer or a label maker, if you were to do a full cell, and say you're trying to figure out the difference between the three and the six, put the full cell, then a three, then space, then a full cell and a six, and then run your fingers back and forth over those two different combinations. That will kind of give you an idea of the spacing between those two in that kind of area, or you can do a six and a full cell and then do it reversed to see what it feels like in the other direction. That can help you with the spacing on certain items. Over.

Vileen Shah: Great. The wisdom comes from experience. Thank you so much, Alan. This is some great input. Anybody else?

Darrin: This is Darrin. I just wanted to mention that this is the first time that I've actually heard the spacing and alignment thing. This is my third time learning braille. Each time before, I was sighted and had a sighted person that was trying to teach me. What ended up happening is that they focused on the letters and the shape of the letters and such. I think now, when you're in Lit 1, you just want to be able to pick it up and be able to learn it, because you're eager to read, but I think it's something that needs to be repeated over and over again. It'd make a whole lot more sense if this was taught each time, or emphasized in Lit 4, but very helpful to understand and to relate that, yes, it is the unicode, the dots aren't going to change on the page, it's just how they're laid out, and to understand how that works. Over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you. Next one? Okay-

Jeannie: This is Jeannie ... Oh, I'm sorry.

Vileen Shah: Go ahead.

Jeannie: I was just going to say, hopefully you can put your mind at ease a little, because when I teach my students, of course, I also teach the alignment of the dots and the spacing, because it is crucial. You are so right on that.

Vileen Shah: Thank you. The feedback helps, yes. I'm glad you are doing it, because one thing I mentioned that many teachers are not, I'm afraid. I don't have any proof, but you are doing it. I'm so happy to learn that. Anybody else?

Speaker 11: This is [inaudible 00:41:33]

Vileen Shah: Yes, [inaudible 00:41:38] go ahead.

Speaker 11: The problem is ... two problems that I've been having. I'm easily distracted. I stay in an apartment complex, and the people around me are very noisy. I have people that live over me, and the floor's always creaking. That stuff throws me off a lot. Another one of my problems is, when I'm reading braille, I be wanting to read with my eyes. I be trying not to do it. I always end up doing it. Is there anything else I can do as far as ... I know the noise, ain't nothing you really can do about that when you stay in an apartment complex, but as far as me reading with my eyes, what can I do to stop doing that?

Alan: This is Alan. There are a couple of things you can do. First, you might want to get some earplugs, for one thing, so you can block out the sound.

Speaker 11: Okay.

Alan: The other thing is, if you have any usable vision at all, don't try to read the dots, but if you have any vision at all, even if you're not trying to read the dots, close your eyes, or you can use a sleep mask or very dark sunglasses. The sunlight, or the light coming into your eyes, is going to distract thinking [crosstalk 00:43:05] where your touch comes from one part of the brain, your sight comes from another, different part of the brain. If you block out one of those areas, you can concentrate better on the dots that you're trying to read.

Vileen Shah: That's coming from self-experience. Thank you, Alan. I wouldn't be able to tell such things, because I have been totally blind since age three.

Vileen Shah: Next one? Anybody else?

Dorothy: This is Dorothy.

Vileen Shah: Yes?

Dorothy: I, too, am very distracted by noises in the room. I like Alan's suggestion about the earplugs. I think for myself, I try to pick times when there won't be other activity about me, because it is very distracting. I especially find that it is difficult when I'm trying to use a slate and stylus.

I had vision when I started learning braille almost two-and-a-half years ago. What the guys have said, too, about the sleep shades or the dark sunglasses, something that is going to block out the light that's coming in, because it does distract your brain a lot. I'm grateful, too, for the spacing of the dots and so on. I want to sit down and try to practice this some, because I just started Braille Lit 4, and I'm having a really hard time with it now trying to learn the contracted braille, because I haven't practiced very much with the spacing concern, so thank you very much, Vileen, for covering this topic. Over.

Automated: [crosstalk 00:45:32] muted.

Vileen Shah: Thank you. I'm happy that you're getting some help. Okay, anybody else?

Alan: This is Alan. Also, one of the things you might want to do before starting to do your braille is get everything that you want done out of the way, so that you're not thinking about, "Oh, I've got to do this," or, "I have to make sure that gets taken care of," to get rid of those thoughts in the back of your mind. When you're distracted and you're concentrating on something else while you're trying to do braille, it's going to be very difficult. Try and find a time of day that you can finally get rid of all those thoughts and concentrate 100 percent on the braille. Over.

Vileen Shah: Terrific. Experience. Thank you. Anybody else?

Darrin: This is Darrin. One of the other things that you want to think about, too, is that reading and writing are not separate tasks. They need to be combined together, preferably, that as you get further on in Lit 4 or whatever, that you're actually writing every day as much as you're reading. The reason being is that if you try to get your muscles in your brain figuring out that as you come across the dots, this is what the dots mean, you'll emphasize that a lot more if you can actually write them, and then you can actually practice what you're reading and writing together. That way, then, you'll start to do that, and you'll make it work.

As far as being able to focus or concentrate, there are a set of sunglasses that are called blackout shades that you can get from that are basically black sunglasses, they allow your eyes to breathe, it works great, but you need to turn off your eyes, you need to turn off the sound, get yourself some noise-canceling headphones, whatever that you need to, but focus on what you want to do at that time, study it, learn it, keep up with it, and then you will learn and read effectively. Over.

Vileen Shah: Terrific. Thank you so much. Okay-

Dorothy: This is Dorothy again. I just wanted to say that my family, especially my daughter, has reminded me to be kind to myself. Even though I'm taking Lit 4, I don't have it down like you guys that have taken stuff two or three times or [inaudible 00:47:45] so I appreciate what you're saying here today. One of the things that happened to me, even though we can have a plan about how many minutes we want to study, the problem is that ... I had three major things, family things, going on, all in the same two-week period. That is not conducive to learning braille. I've had to learn to not push forward when the conditions are not right. Over.

Vileen Shah: Great. Thank you so much, Dorothy, and certainly, I love that phrase, be kind to yourself. If you work too hard, and if you almost torture yourself, you're not going to be able to learn braille correctly. That goes back to the original discussion we had. Take a break. Whenever you cannot do it, take a break, and help yourself by [crosstalk 00:48:50] recuperating or getting refreshed, and then start. Thank you. Anybody else would like to share their experience?

Tamara: This is Tamara. I just wanted to share my appreciation for the Seedling books. I just got one, and they're so neat. I really appreciate them.

Cinnamon: The what?

Tamara: The Seedling books.

Cinnamon: Oh, okay.

Tamara: Yeah. They're really neat. They've got braille, and then braille underneath, so you can read along with your child or read with them. It's really neat, and they can read them, too.

Vileen Shah: Thank you, Kayla.

Tamara: Tamara, excuse me. Thank you.

Vileen Shah: I'm sorry, who said that?

Tamara: It's Tamara.

Vileen Shah: Good, okay. Terrific. Okay. We have had a couple of good general questions, however, if anybody wants to ask a question which is not strictly related to the topic today, then you are most welcome. I'll take one question and let everybody answer that, and I will also answer it. It doesn't have to be only common errors in braille, but any general situation related to braille. Yes? Go ahead. I thought somebody had a question, okay. Anybody, please, ask your question. Feel free to ask. No question is dumb, once again. [crosstalk 00:50:48] You're breaking-

Tammy: [crosstalk 00:50:50] I have one.

Vileen Shah: Yes, please?

Tammy: My name is Tammy-

Speaker 15: [crosstalk 00:50:56] You had mentioned last week that you read these notes with a stylus and slate while you were in college. I can't imagine how you were able to take notes quickly. Can you explain that a little bit?

Vileen Shah: Thank you for your curiosity, Aaron. I don't know how to say. Let me share my experience with you. Yes, that is true, until I earned my Masters, I was making notes in class using a slate and stylus. Number one, when you use your slate and stylus, you are slower than using a braille writer. Number two, you are certainly slower than sighted people who can write in ink real quick. Number three, that you are writing notes by listening to what your teacher is saying, and he's not dictating, he's just explaining, which means you have to keep up pace, otherwise your notes will be all garbage.

How I did? Again, number one, I was fortunate to have a real good speed in writing braille using slate and stylus. When I was in a blind school with about 100 blind students, I was able to prove that I was at the top of writing braille with speed. I'm not bragging, of course. You asked, so I'm just sharing. Secondly, I prepared more than 1,000 of my own braille contractions so that I do not have to spell out each word fully. I'll give you a couple of examples. Those who know braille a little more will enjoy, will understand, as well.

For instance, because I was majoring in political science. Each time the word political, politics, politicization ... These are long words, so what I did, I set up a contraction for myself. Dots four, five, six, P, equals politic, which means that if you have to write political, then I would write dots four, five, six, P, and letter L. For me, it is political. If it is politics, dot four, five, six, and S. These are just two examples. As I said, I prepared some 1,000 of contractions on my own.

I also used the concept of the contracted braille. For instance, you have dots four, five, and letter U, it means [inaudible 00:54:06]. That's an official contraction. I sat down and said, "Okay, how about dots four, five, other letters that are not used?" I would do dots four, five, and L, for me, it is liked. I would do dot four, which is not used for many letters, I would do dot four and H, which means house. These are some examples. That gave me a better speed.

Also, when you write braille, you make noise. I used to write braille on thin paper so that I don't make too much noise when the teacher is talking to students. I didn't want to disturb my classmates. That also helped. That's how I managed to write notes in class. Of course, I am not saying that I did everything, I'm not saying I wrote all that my teacher said.

Oh yeah, one more thing that helped me a lot. I was pretty good in summarizing. If the teacher said something in three sentences, I could write that point in about five, six words. Listen to the teacher or your professor and use your own contractions, write your braille with speed, and at the same time, keep summarizing. All these abilities together helped me write notes.

One other thing. When you have exams ... I may want to share this, as well. Most of my reading was done by my classmates. I didn't have official or paid readers, not something that I ever thought of, and I did not need, because most of my classmates were so happy to read for me. Of course, some of them were willing to read for me because they were able to learn from me, as well, some of the concepts that they could not understand while reading to me, [crosstalk 00:56:14] to explain, and I used to do that, so that gave me more readers. But, why I'm saying about these notes, when the exams are near, nobody is there to read for you, because they want to prepare for their own exams. At that time, these notes were so helpful, useful, and handy.

What you can derive from all that I said ... as I said, I wasn't bragging, but just sharing, that any situation you encounter, you may want to find a solution that helps you. To me, every problem has a solution in the world. Figure out, work out your own solution to any problem you encounter. Over.

Jeannie: I would like to say something. This is Jeannie again. Like Vileen, I, too, got through college, got all the way through a Masters degree using my slate and stylus to take notes.

Vileen Shah: [crosstalk 00:57:22] Great.

Jeannie: Yeah, I know. I learned how to use the slate and stylus, started when I was in third grade, I was eight years old. Where we went to school, also a school for the blind, they didn't have enough braille writers to go around, so whenever we had to write something, we had to take turns ... Today, they might not have but four braillers, and there were six of us who used braille, so two of us would have to use the slate and stylus. All through school, they made sure that we had opportunities to use the slate and stylus so that we could build up your speed.

If you only use the slate and stylus once a week, say, to write a grocery list, and then you stop, that's good, but you're not going to build up your speed. You have to find ways and reasons to use it consistently so that you can build up your speed. When I was in third grade and had just learned to use it, there would be no way that I would take notes in a class using the slate and stylus.

All of what Vileen said is very true, but you do have to practice. It can be done. I, too, made my own ... A lot of times what I would do is I would make what we then called short-form words based on whatever I was studying, like he did. A few years ago, I went through massage therapy school, and when I took notes for that, MS was massage, instead of writing out M-A-S-S-A-G-E, which is an uncontracted word no matter what. You come up with shortcuts for the situation. As long as you're in the class, it's easy to remember what you were referring to when, for example, you wrote MS for massage. It can be done, but it does take practice.

Vileen Shah: Perfect. Thank you for sharing, Jeannie. I now know I'm not the only one. I kind of knew, but that's great that you were also using a slate and stylus. Perfect. Anybody else who'd like to share their experience? We already passed the time, but when a question has arised, that's [inaudible 00:59:38] from anybody else.

Roderick: This is Roderick. When I am doing my reading assignments, I found that it helps to read better when I write the sentences out first before I read them. That way, I can be sure that I've got every word right, although sometimes, I still make mistakes, but but we're all human. Over.

Vileen Shah: Great, yeah. One thing everybody needs to keep in mind, writing is both. Writing means reading and writing, in general, I mean, not always, but writing does cover a lot of reading, and as Darren said before, the best option for all of us is to have both reading and writing done together. Good. Okay.

Annely: This is Annely.

Vileen Shah: Yes, Annely? Where are you- [crosstalk 01:00:42] Go ahead.

Annalee: I couldn't let it go without saying anything. I also wanted to input in here that ... not only what Alan was saying, and several others, about reading braille, but you also want to sit comfortable, you want to have your book in a position where your arms aren't cramped up if the table is too high or if you're sitting ... I'm guilty of it, I sit on the edge of the bed, and I have to hold onto my book, because it slides off my lap. You want to sit comfortable, you want to make sure that your book is horizontal to you, and not at an angle. You want to make sure your fingers are pointing straight up to the top edge of the page, because if anything's off-center, you're not going to read those dots correctly, either.

Vileen Shah: Thank you, Annely. That's definitely great, and everybody may want to keep in mind, but I'm not going to take your tip ... I'm just kidding. I read braille while standing, because I'm able to read braille with my thumb. I hold a paper with four fingers underneath the paper and read braille with thumb, and then I can do it while standing. Again, I'm not bragging, just in case- I can inspire some people. Yes, go ahead?

Annely: I'm taking braille and having to follow people's readings or find where they're reading [inaudible 01:02:38] I sometimes read braille sideways, or I read it upside-down if they're sitting across the table from me.

Jeannie: Me too. You do that as a teacher.

Vileen Shah: Yes, I do that too. That's really good. Yes, you may want to keep your book in a right position in order to read braille correctly, properly, but when you have a real good practice of reading braille, and when you are able to read it upside-down, sideways, and horizontal- [crosstalk 01:03:08] Okay? All right. With that happy note, I would like to conclude today's session. I hope you all benefited, and you learned something, I hope.