Question and Answer Session 1

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

April 25, 2019

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Audio Transcript


Embracing Braille: Question & Answer Session: April

Presented by Vileen Shah

April 25, 2019

Vileen Shah: Last Thursday. All sessions are going to be recorded, and later on, these will be posted on the website. All right? So, I would like to start with Jenny’s question about the transitioning from EBAE to UEB. Those who are new learners, it's something new. But those who learned braille years ago, they learned what we used to call, I call it EBAED, but it can be something else that people call it, but it's English Braille American Edition, E-B-A-E, which was a standard, contracted Braille, with all the rules and regulations, and which was used for years and years and years.

Then it happened, that the English speaking countries came together in Europe, and, not necessarily Europe, I may correct myself here, English speaking countries came together, that included some countries of Europe, but also Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and they came up with the code, called Unified English Braille, U-E-B.

The purpose was to make the exchange of braille books easier among the English speaking countries, and they came up with the common English braille code, known as UEB. That's how we have the UEB here. The United States, among the ten English speaking countries was second to last to join. Other European countries, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have been using UEB since 2004. The United States, I think, joined in 2013, and decided to adopt UEB for all publications, starting January 4, 2016.

This is, in brief, about the braille code, which is now known as UEB. Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired offers the course. It started off in the course, “Transitioning to UEB” since 2015, and I think I've taught some 400, 500 students, how to do the transitioning from EBAE to UEB. So Hadley has a course, it's a small course, literally consists of only six lessons, and it gives you all basic information about the changes made in UEB.

One thing I would also like to add here, that many people are scared about UEB. I have had lots of discussions with people, at Hadley and elsewhere, that they were not even prepared to adopt this new code, and they said, "Why do we need? We have our EBAE and EBAE is perfect and there's no need to change." The question is not whether you are perfect or not, we are never perfect as such. Even UEB is not perfect. The question was to be part of the international community, consisting of ten English speaking countries, and make the give and take of braille books and braille materials easy by adopting the common code, called UEB.

So eventually the United States was convinced and it adopted it, so that's how we are also now part of that English speaking group and we speak English, but we were not joining the common, new braille code. We are now. Since 2016, all printing houses in the United States has started publishing materials in UEB. So, Jenny, I think, you may want to enroll, or if you do not know, of course, if you know, it's all well and good. You may want to enroll in the course called “Transitioning to UEB”. We have different instructors, and one of us will teach you the changes made.

Yes, I was trying to make a point, that UEB is not really an entirely new code. It's approximately 5% different. 95% braille remains same. Those who are by chance scared about the change in the braille code, please change your impression. It's not bad, it's just a 5% difference, and that's not a big deal. We can always adopt something which is different by 5%.

Alright, that's basic. Any questions on that? And I would like to invite more questions. Jenny, any questions on the UEB? I hope she's there. Anybody else have a question on UEB?

Linn: Hey Vileen, it's Linn, and I just wanted to tell everybody, I'm taking “Transition to UEB” right now, and it's a great course. I'm through two of the six lessons, and it's easy to understand. They give lots of examples, and there are even little reading practice supplements that you get. So, Vileen's right, if you're at all hesitant or scared, give it a whirl, because it's good to learn and it will clear up any questions you have.

Vileen Shah: Thank you, Linn, and let's start the practice of saying 'Over', that I forget too, so I will express myself.

Linn: Over.

Vileen Shah: Go ahead, that's fine. We are all winging it. By the way, I would like to add here, that Linn is a coworker at Hadley. She is also a learning expert, or an instructor. Thank you, Linn, for joining us, and you're input is always most welcome, as well as anybody's input is most welcome, but I feel more safe, more relaxed than I have, having some instructors from Hadley to help me here. Thank you so much.

Okay, I also wanted to check if another Hadley staff, not a learning expert, but a staff, Sara joined us. I would like to check. Sara, are you there?

Sara: Yeah. Yes, I am here. Thank you.

Vileen Shah: Would you like to say anything about yourself, Sara?

Sara: Sure, I'm happy to.

Vileen Shah: Okay, please. Yes.

Sara: I am working with the development team, and I am currently working on an article to send out to the Hadley community about all of the different discussion groups that are being conducted, so I'm just here to kind of listen in as a fly on the wall, and get a feel for what this group is talking about, and thank you for having me.

Vileen Shah: Okay, Sara, are you going to be addressing braille group in your article?

Sara: Absolutely, yeah.

Vileen Shah: Okay. Alright, so good news for all participants here. We are going to be featured in the article that Sara is going to prepare, and she and I have cordial meeting tomorrow.

Sara: Yeah, thank you very much.

Aaron: Vileen?

Vileen Shah: Yes.

Aaron: This is Aaron and I have a question to ask.

Vileen Shah: Yes please.

Aaron: I've been sighted for most of my life, and now I'm pretty well legally blind, and I wondered, when I used to read as a sighted person, I looked at words and read them all at one time. Now, I have to read words letter by letter, starting with the first letter, and it's a whole different psychological approach, which I have difficulty with. I can read the letters fine, but I have difficulty reading words letter by letter, and not word by word as I used to do it. Has anybody else had that problem? And how have they solved the problem, or has the problem been solved automatically from doing a lot of braille?

Vileen Shah: Okay, thank you, Aaron. Thank you for this question, and certainly we'll address this question. I just wanted to make sure that nobody has a question on UEB, something that they picked up on in the beginning?

Jen: I actually, I had a question about UEB.

Vileen Shah: UEB, yes please.

Jen: It's Jen, and my question was, is everything now taught in UEB, all the lessons from Hadley, or do you have to specifically request it? Over.

Vileen Shah: All the publications are being made in UEB. All Hadley courses in braille are going to be UEB. So, UEB is our code now. We do not use EBAE.

Jen: Okay, thank you.

Vileen Shah: Anybody else on UEB?

Angelene: This is Angelene, I just have a comment about, when I first started taking the “Transitioning to UEB”, when I was thinking about it, I was actually afraid, and it took me a little bit to actually get used to it, but it's not so bad once you get used to some of the differences and the different rules. It's not too bad. Of course, if you're used to EBAE, yeah, you might be like, "Oh, I don't know if I'm gonna learn this. I don't know if I'm gonna get it." But actually, it's not so hard. Over.

Vileen Shah: Oh, thank you for confirming my view. It's not that different. You don't have to be really scared about it. Thank you so much. Okay. Somebody else? Yes, go ahead.

Jen: Sir?

Vileen Shah: Yes.

Jen: My question had to do with, there's two different organizations: Hadley and National Library Service, that are telling me two different ways to format a page for this UEB braille, and I wanna know which format is correct.

Vileen Shah: Unless, if I have to answer your question, hold on, what's your name?

Jen: Jenny.

Vileen Shah: Jenny, okay. Jenny again. If I have to answer this question, I may have to say, that unless I see the two different versions, I will not be able to say which one is correct. I'm unsure why NLS and Hadley are suggesting two different formats, but I may want to clarify one thing: UEB does not have anything to do with the format. Formatting the braille textbook or braille materials from print to braille, or braille to print, is altogether a different ball game. There are two different formats suggested by Hadley and NLS, I think we are talking of something different and not UEB.

Another point I would like to make is that--

Speaker 7: What is it that he said, alternate what?

Vileen Shah: I'm sorry, what's that? What are you asking me?

Jen: Sir, my question is that NLS is saying the 3-to-1 paragraph format, and Hadley they are saying 1-to-3, what's the difference and why is there a difference?

Vileen Shah: So here's what I may say, number one, I do not know the answer, and I would not hesitate to say that, and again, unless I see the NLS materials. I used to teach contracted courses as well, and I did teach one UEB introduction course, but I haven't come across that. So, why would we do it differently. Let me see if Linn has any answer or anybody else has answer of what Jenny is asking. Linn, do you have any answers?

Linn: Well, I'm wondering if they're talking about the difference between textbook formatting and just literary, casual reading formatting. I don't know, but Vileen is absolutely correct that this is a formatting issue, not that UEB has changed it. UEB changes various things about the braille, but it does not change format. So there were probably these two formats before, and sometimes, you'll see braille page numbers on the bottom right, on the odd pages, and often in NLS braille, they'll be on the top right, but I wonder if it's something to do with textbook versus just literary reading. I don't know, but that might be.

Jen: Because this is a list, like you have a sentence like, number one, and then it's a sentence, and then, number two, and then a sentence.

Linn: Oh okay, a list, again, this is not UEB, this is good old whatever. A list, each of the numbers will be in cell one. And run-overs will be in cell three. That is because it's easier to skim down the left side of the page and catch the numbers, than having to slide your finger tip in two spaces every time. But yes, often NLS will put those in paragraph form.

Jen: Okay, thank you.

Vileen Shah: Okay, let me quickly add, because I want to take Aaron's question after that. If at all you found two different formats, maybe both are correct, but Hadley uses one way and NLS uses another way. As I said, unless I see both, I cannot say for sure, but formatting is not at all part of UEB. Formatting is a general part of any braille material, okay?

Jen: So is that depending on the braille writer or not? I have a Perkins brailler, and I'm trying to do it on the Perkins brailler, does that make any difference?

Linn: No.

Vileen Shah: No. Not at all. Perkins brailler, or any other writing device is out of question, it's out of the context of whether you do UEB or not. It's not an issue at all.

Jen: Okay, thank you.

Vileen Shah: Let's take Aaron's question, and I understood him, and I will certainly welcome everybody's input and any experience, any comment, any answer that you can provide to Aaron. I have been blind since age three. I never learned print. But, I almost live with sighted people and in my line of teaching in a sighted college when I came back to Hadley, and I'm currently teaching them too, so I get the feelings how it can be difficult.

Certainly, if you are able to use your vision for reading, not only is that correct that you can read the whole word at a time, or most that, but I may say that you can visualize almost an entire page the moment your eyes are on the page and you know the format and you know what different things are there and punctuation and this and that. It's really different. But if you read braille of course you can use your [inaudible 00:17:13] and certainly feel how the page looks, but it does take longer than what vision does.

Certainly, we have to accept one thing, that braille is different from print, number one. Number two, reading braille is slower than reading print. And, number three, reading braille requires altogether a different technique of grasping the material. In the sense that when you are reading braille, you read it letter by letter, I will even correct, sometimes, what Aaron said, sometimes you read it dot by dot. These two dots, does it make a V, or is it a semicolon? Is that a dash number 4-5, dash number 5-6, or dash number 1-2. So you have to feel dots, you have to feel as I did in one of my previous presentations, you have to feel dot alignment, dot positions, it's certainly a slower process.

However, I may want to say something very encouraging, that there are people, who, by practice, develop a really good speed, and they're able to read braille almost as good as print. But, in general, yes, the process of acquiring information, the process of sending signals to the brain is altogether different when you read braille by hand than when you read print. Okay? So let's see more input. I'm done saying. I'm saying Over, and your comments, your experience and your views are most welcome. Everybody, anybody can speak.

Dorothy: This is Dorothy.

Vileen Shah: Yes, dear.

Dorothy: My experience, and I'm now in the early part of Braille Lit 4, my experience has been, that I will sometimes spell out a word dot for dot, and to my daughter's credit, she said so the other day and heard me do that, and I still, when I got to the end of the word, I still did not realize what the word was. It took me a moment, and it was the word 'April'. I mean, that's a pretty easy word, but I'm slow learner, and I've had a very difficult time leaning braille, and I believe that because all of us learn differently, it might come slower to us, like in that case when I didn't immediately recognize that word.

My experience has been that, as I get more practice, and so on, that it is coming easier. My instructor told me in my review yesterday that my reading is much improved, and I encourage you to continue, and I will tell you one little tip that I do myself. When I do my, I call it transcription work, the part of the test that is the dictation, I write it down first into an email. Vileen, you saw this because you had me for Lit 3. I write it down first in an email or on a sentence where I can get it letter by letter, then I'm not having to sit there and struggle with, "What in the world is this word?"

That has helped me a lot because then I can go back and read it again for the Hadley recording for the reading part of my test. I hope that helps, Aaron. Over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you Dorothy for this great input. I may want to add that it's all fine to be different and I believe, even those who read print, when they learn, they are also different. They approach the print materials differently. Diversity may not be as wide in people who are learning braille, but it's fine. Any approach that helps you, learning any different, you may adopt it and use it for your own purpose and your practice. Over.

Allen: This is Allen. One of the things that, when you're first starting out, you're gonna be reading letter by letter, and it's gonna take a while before you can scan quickly over a word and identify it. I'm talking, it could possibly take years to do that. Don't get discouraged, it will come in time. Unlike reading print, you just look at the word, and boom, you see the whole thing in your head. You can't really do that with braille. So, it's going to come with practice and increasing your speed and identifying the characters quicker to be able to scan a word faster. Over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you, Allen, and I may want to add and I'll let you ask lady, I'm sorry. Let me quickly add, Allen tells us, also from his own experience, I know he struggled pretty much to learn braille, but he has improved his braille skills by an admirable level. Over.

Shelia: Hi, this is Shelia. I have pretty much the same problem, because I have the sight and learning braille too, but are there any smaller study groups that we can participate in, say for someone that needs to ask a question during the week or something? Over.

Allen: This is Allen. You can go to Susan's office, Susan's braille chat, which is on Tuesday at 3:30 Central Time, and it's through the Mister Conference telephone number with the code 6658 to get into the call, and other questions can be asked that aren't related to a specific topic there as well. Over.

Shelia: That is great. Thank you so much. Over.

Linn: This is Linn. You can also call or email the learning experts. As in, if you had a question on Friday, you could email Vileen or me or, well I'm doing braille music right now, but various instructors, and they would email you back.

I wanted to talk about reading technique. When I teach, I encourage people to sound out words as they go. They may not be exactly right all the time, and I've had a few people say, "Well I sound like a first grader when I'm saying, 'aaa-pr-I...'." Well, 'apri-' could be 'April', 'apricot', whatever, but if you verbally sound as you go, or even do it in your head, the words that are possibilities will pop into your head. You'll start and you'll say, "e-sta-estab ..." you know the word by then, it's 'establish', or you skim to the end and there's a 'ment' at the end of it.

So, sometimes just sounding things out as you go really will help increase your reading speed a lot, and the quicker you read, as you skim your fingers to the right, your alignment will stay more sure, because you're not going back and forth. Over.

Shelia: Excellent, thank you so much. Over.

Allen: This is Allen. One of the things about sounding words out, it can kind of confuse you. Because if you have a word like 'once', o-n-c-e, and you start pronouncing it, "oh-own-ownce," it doesn't sound like what it was gonna eventually turn out to be, so that can sometimes confuse people. You might have to go back over the word several times once you get all the letters down and pronounce the vowels correctly. We have 16 vowel sounds in the English language, so it makes it very difficult, whereas Spanish only has the five, and that's it. Over.

Darrin: This is Darrin. I started to learn to read braille sighted, and then as I've lost my sight, now I'm doing it entirely by touch, but what you're doing in your brain, is that you've already got the pattern recognition of what those symbols looks like or appear. So as you look through the page, or printed page, you're actually looking for certain groupings or things that will tell you that, yep, that's that word and that word, and you move on, you move on.

As far as reading braille, and actually using it with your fingers, and eventually the more you read and the more you train your brain to accept what's coming in from your finger, that is actually then going into your brain, you will actually start to read braille where you will see braille symbols in your head as you go along. The trick here is to be able to find something that you can read that you can enjoy, and you can get context clues from it.

For example, I'm reading a book that has the name Arthur in it, and has the name Gloria in it, or has the name Jeffrey in it, that you know as if you come across it, you've seen it so many times before, and you go, "Yup, that's it," from the context clues and you move on. Eventually you start to read just as you did with print, and you start to see those patterns and you start finishing sentences, you start doing those things. It's those context clues then that will speed up your braille, but also help get you to the point of where you can actually look at a page or look at what you're reading and go, "Yup I know what I'm doing." Over.

Vileen Shah: Terrific, thank you.

Linn: This is Linn, and Darrin, you have a great idea, something I bet Vileen uses and I do too. Read things that you know when you're trying to get your speed up, or get so your hands and your fingertips recognize things. Read a song that you know the words for: The Star Spangled Banner, Mary Had A Little Lamb, whatever. Read a story that you're very familiar with. You won't know it by heart, but as he's saying, those words are gonna pop quicker, more quickly into your head. That will help you train your brain and your fingers, and it will increase your reading speed. Over.

Vileen Shah: Terrific, Linn, thank you so much, and welcome, Darrin. What Darrin was saying is also so good. I would like to add here, that one important thing that you all want to keep in mind, that yes, when you start reading, and when you read half a word, as Linn mentioned, sometimes you may easily pick it out, however, there is one thing I would like to alert you about, is do not assume a word until your fingers reach the end of the word. For instance, 'establish', it may be 'establishing', it may be 'establish', it may be 'establishment'.

I teach a reading course and I come across people making such errors. So, yes, you may easily assume what this word may be, however, do not assume it entirely until you read it thoroughly until the end. For instance, a learner, recently while reading an assignment, said, "south," the word was 'southern', and somebody said, "south." So, because the reader here assumed the word and not let the fingers read all the letters underneath her fingerprints. That's just one example. So, yes, by practice, and more and more reading, as Darrin said, and that's my three-word slogan that I say every time. If you want to acquire good proficiency in braille, you need to do three things: number one, practice. Number two, practice. Number three, practice. Yes, that three word slogan will help you a lot. Over.

Angelene: This is Angelene, and I have a comment about the braille reading. Something that I would do when I was learning braille is, my teacher would have me actually sit with a friend who read print, and I was reading braille, and I would get a twin-vision book, and this was just a fun book that I had received when I first started reading braille, it was called The Three Kittens, and so my friend who could read print would read the print version while I was reading the braille. If I had trouble with braille, she could kind of tell me, "Oh, that's 'three', that's the number three. Three Kittens." Because sometimes I had difficulty, even though I would feel the letters, letter by letter with braille, because I was used to reading print at that point.

Sometimes it helps. A lot of people would say, "Oh, that's cheating." But that's what helped me to learn braille, was by having somebody there to help me sound out the word if I had trouble with the word. Over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you. Anybody else?

Estelle: This is Estelle. I just wanted to make a couple of quick comments. The fact that many of us still have sight, some sight, makes it a little slower for us, because it's hard for us to give up using that sight when we read. Even though I work on braille, I still enjoy reading things in print that I can still make out. It's a matter of trying to spend more time working on the braille, instead of spending more time reading print, and that's kind of hard to make that transition. Also, I wanted to mention, when you said, read things that you know, that is similar to my feeling that repeating sentences is very helpful. Once you've struggled through it one time, read it again, and it'll be a little bit better, and read it again and that'll get your fingers and your brain to understanding it. Thank you. Over.

Vileen Shah: Terrific. Good idea. Yes. Thank you, Estelle. Who is next?

Rick: This is Rick with a question. I had attended a training center years ago, 20 years ago in fact, I'm a retinitis pigmentosa guy, so I had good vision. The time when I took it, I did the best I could, but it was a busy time at the center, the class was pretty crowded, and I spent a lot of time at night with a roommate student, and we would read, and I would often fall asleep because I was so darn slow with the attempts to get going with it. With electronics and so forth, I wondered 20 years ago, are most of you who are studying, are you using paper and braille writers, or are a lot of people going to the devices with Braille Display?

Vileen Shah: Are you done saying?

Jen: I use both. I use both to study with.

Linn: I use both too.

Tanya: This is Tanya, and I just need to say that, I have a Braille Display. I love using it, when I can figure out how it works. Remembering all the commands are really difficult for me. So I end up using a braille writer and my slate and stylus so much more often than I do the Braille Display. But the Braille Display is an excellent tool when you're traveling. Over.

Vileen Shah: I would like to differentiate between the two in a sense. First of all, when we're talking about a slate and stylus and a brailler, we are talking about writing braille. When we are talking about Braille Display or anything braille, we are talking about reading braille. Reading braille is entirely different from writing. Reading braille is altogether a different technique than writing braille. Let's not make them both, that it's one thing.

There are certain devices that work as both, a braille writer and a Braille Display, and I think maybe we can have a presentation on that as well. Basically, the question is about using braille or using electronic media. I would certainly say, I use both. Most of you use both, and I would like to combine and define the best benefits of using each one as braille and as electronic media. Over.

Jen: Well, I use both because I've grown up using braille and I grew up using the braille writer. I had a BrailleNote at one time. You can write braille like QWERTY keyboard, and it comes across the Braille Display in braille. So I kept up my braille reading skills while I was writing for the print community.

Vileen Shah: Over? Thank you.

Darrin: This is Darrin, and I can tell you, I did it over at the presentation last week too, you've got so much going through your head that you're trying to be able to learn to put all this stuff together if you're just now making the transition to braille or you're just now reading braille. Focus on the braille writer, focus on using a slate and stylus, that way you've always got something to write with. You can always put a slate and a stylus with a couple of note cards and you're good to go.

Once you step into the realm of learning technology, depending on what your background is and what your skill is, then that's a whole other level of knowledge and information that you have to remember that, yes, you can navigate around the page or the app or whatever you want to do all these different things, but you have to remember what those commands or shortcuts are first. As I started to put all this stuff together, because my number one goal was I wanted to be able to read and write braille books, and be able to write and do all those different type things, you still have to have a solid foundation of that reading and writing process first, and then you can ease into the other.

I think a lot of cases, it was my experience, especially with the centers, is that, the sight-see stuff is a technology that we're gonna put you in right away, and we focus more on that than really what's truly important, as far as how can you read braille, how can you utilize it before you make the leap. Hope that makes sense. Over.

Allen: This is Allen, and the fact of reading braille on paper as opposed to a Braille Display, are gonna be different. A Braille Display is gonna be much better dots, they're gonna be more precise. When you're reading on paper, depending on what it is, if it's a book from the library, the dots may not be as sharp. At first, when you start learning to read braille through Hadley, through the four courses, you're only gonna be working mostly with paper. So that's what you probably should get used to so that you don't have a problem. If you only learn on a Braille Display, then having to read paper, it might be more difficult. Over.

Vileen Shah: Ah, good.

Rick: This is Rick, if I may respond?

Vileen: Yea, sure.

Rick: Thank you so much everybody. I think what Allen has just described is one of the things that I've had such a difficulty with, was sensitivity, and I wondered about Braille Display versus the paper because of the condition of my hands from the factory work I've done for 20 years. At the same time, I don't have a Braille Display, but I think we were using the McDuffy Reader. It had a good logic to it. I have had trouble feeling it, but everybody tells me, "Keep at it, it'll come." I just need to get it out of the closet and work on it some more I think.

Jen: So with sensitivity you can use rice, to sensitize your fingers.

Rick: Use what?

Jen: Rice, like uncooked rice, or uncooked beans. That'll sensitize your fingers to the braille.

Rick: Really? How do you do that?

Vileen Shah: How can you do that? Say it more, please?

Jen: All you do is, you put some rice or beans on the table in the shape of the braille dots, and you pick up one of the pieces and you just continue to feel it with your fingers and eventually it sensitizes your fingers to those beans or rice, and then you can move to the braille dots.

Vileen Shah: Who is saying this? I never heard, thank you so much.

Linn: I have never heard that either.

Allen: This is Allen, if you don't have that item or that product, what you can do is, take a page that's a braille page and lightly, go back and forth, up and down, in circles, not trying to read anything, just lightly moving your fingers over it about a minute or so. That helps stimulate the blood in the fingertip to help it make more sensitivity.

If you have dry fingers, use something like Aveeno, A-V-E-E-N-O, it's a really good moisturizer but it's not greasy so it doesn't stay on your hand, so that you can read. Make sure that your hands are warm, and also a little bit dry, but not totally dry, because that makes it a little bit harder to do as well. Over.

Vileen Shah: Great, thank you.

Angelene: This is Angelene and I have a couple things to add a comment to what Allen was saying about the difference between a Braille Display and reading paper. I also noticed different types of paper have different textures. For instance, like if you use the Thermoform paper, the braille is more pronounced, whereas, regular braille paper, it doesn't seem to be as pronounced. Maybe that's just me.

Also when I was learning braille, when I first started, my braille teacher actually used a peg board and pegs. They have holes in them in the shape of the braille cells, and that's how she was able to get me to be able to feel what the braille would feel like. Plus, I was able to see the contrast. The pegs were yellow, and the board was black. So that also helped me to kind of get a feel, and be able to see what braille looked like, but also feel the shape. Over.

Jen: My braille teacher used the peg board too.

Darrin: This is Darrin, and one of the other things to think about too is, as you read out of a book, the book is gonna have 25 lines of braille, 40 cells per line, and if you switch to a Braille Display, then that's also going to mean that you only have one line of braille at a time, and, depending on how many cells, to be able to read.

Right now, I'm reading a book that was written in 1933 from the library, one of the oldies, the Robert Heinlein book, and it's in braille, embossed paper, and it's almost a struggle to work your way through it, just because of tracking, and all those bits and things. I switched to another book on my Braille Display where it's one cell, one line at a time, yeah my reading and everything else picks up, but I'm actually putting more time and energy in reading one line at a time and being comfortable with that and being lazy with technique, whereas trying to read the other stuff is gonna be a bit more harder. So it's a balancing act. Over.

Linn: This is Linn. Those old books that Darrin is speaking of, 1933 I think he said was the date, there was a project in our country, called the WPA Project, and a lot of those braille books from way back were done by hand, and they would shellac the pages to make the dots not rub down so quickly, which is okay, but it is a very different read. Sometimes they were a little sharp, and sometimes, depending on the weather, your fingers tend to stick a little more to the shellacked pages.

I forgot who was talking about Thermoform, but, yes, I often will start a beginner with Thermoform, because it stays up. Another time, this is a bit off the thing, but you never know when you might need it, if you have a student whose hands do tend to be sweaty kind of, because they're nervous, or if you have a little kiddo who's struggling with multiple disabilities and may have a bit of a drool now and then, you can wipe off Thermoform very very easily. If you're using it for recipes, and you get flour on it in the kitchen, you can take a little damp rag, clean it off, and the braille doesn't go away. Over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you.

Michelle: This is Michelle. It seems like each time that I come along, I'm so amazed that often I don't even have to ask a question, because just by listening, using those skills that we have, someone answers one, two, or three of the questions that I would have asked. Of course, going back to you, Dr. Shah, I love the way you inject, what works for one, may not always work for everyone. Also, at the different levels, I'm hearing people sharing their experiences, and I'm saying that's a plus for me as I continue this journey.

Quick question at the end, how does a person learn a foreign language with braille? That's probably a whole new topic. Over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you, Michelle. That's a great question, and I'm pretty sure we can take that question later also. But let's briefly cover that. Anyone who has experience about learning foreign languages. I'll tell briefly about myself, because for those who do not know, I'm Vileen, I'm the moderator here. I'm here from India, all my education was from India, but I'm so happy to be able to teach here. So, yes, I learned a foreign language, according to you, it was my first language, native language for me, and it wasn't English. I learned it in braille.

So, yes, each language, according to its alphabetic system, customizes braille and, accordingly, the braille code is prepared. For instance, the language that I learned in India, we had 12 vowels, and 46 consonants, so in all, I have to learn 58 different symbols. I learned it because that's how the braille code was set up for the language I was in.

Before you learn a foreign language using braille, you need to know the format of the structure of that language. Basically, how many vowels are there, how many consonants are there, how the words are formed. If you have some slightest idea, then it will be a lot easier to learn braille and use it for learning a foreign language.

For me, it was kind of other way around. I learned, according to you, the foreign language first, and then I learned English. English was my fourth language. So, that was quite a bit of different experience, but I would love to hear from others who learned some foreign language, learning their regular braille in English. Over.

Angelene: This is Angelene, and I actually took the two Spanish courses from Hadley in braille and audio. When I actually signed up to take the courses, I requested for students services to send me a braille copy and the audio. That way, while I'm reading the braille, I could listen to the audio. It did take some getting used to, because some of the symbols were different, there are accent marks that you have to learn, but what's really nice about the courses is, at the beginning of the book, it tells you special symbols used, and you can read the special symbols that are used in that volume, or in the course. Over.

Vileen Shah: Interesting. Thank you so much, Angelene, for sharing. Anybody else?

It looks we do not have many people who have tried learning a foreign language using braille. So, it's fine. We are reaching the end of this session. I'm pretty certain that quite a few people have some more questions, but please, keep your questions with you or email them to me. We will take that up next time. Also, there were quite a few questions about the Braille Display. For your interest, I may say that next week, the topic for discussion is Braille Display and how it helps enhancing your independence and what are its limitations.

So we are to have a topic fully devoted to the next week's session on the Braille Display. I'm pretty sure you'll like to attend that session. Okay? So, with this note, I would like to wrap up for this session, there must be many more things, so all questions that you could not ask, please keep it there with you. We have reserved, as you all know the last Thursday of every month for open-question-answer session. So you'll have a chance.

Also, we also have room for asking questions every week at the end of the presentation. However, at the end of the presentation, normally, the questions that you can ask need to be related to the topic of the presentation, the topic of the week. Last Thursday, it is an open-question-answer session, so you can come up with any question.

Once again, feel free to ask. No question is dumb. And you are most welcome to ask your questions, share your experience, give your views, and give your comments and remarks about the questions and about the session. All of that. Thank you so much. So, with this, I would like to conclude today's session. It's almost close to, your time, 12:30 P.M., many of you must be hungry in Central Time Zone. It's your time for lunch. It's too early for me, it's 10:30 here, and the Mountain Time could be 11:30.

So, I hope to see you all next week. I checked my computer, and it said we had 25 participants. That's a good number, and we had a pretty good interacting discussion. This session was very participatory. Keep it up, and I'll see you all next Thursday. Wish you all a good week ahead, and a good weekend. Bye now.