Question and Answer Session 2

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

May 30, 2019

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Audio Transcript


Embracing Braille – Q&A Session: May

Presented by Vileen Shah

May 30, 2019

Vileen Shah: Today is your day. I'm not presenting anything. You are presenting and by which I mean, that you are allowed to ask your questions related to braille learning.

We all encounter challenges when we read or write braille, and if that's the case, it's good if you ask a question and then you hear the answers from other participants. That will make you feel that you're not the only one facing challenges in learning braille. Especially for beginner learners, braille is quite a challenge. As I mentioned in my announcement [crosstalk 00:00:50] learning anything new is a challenge.

Let's get started. Question.

Kelly S: Hi Vileen. It's Kelly. I've got a question about something I've been wondering for a while. It's to do with labeling things. I used to have a Braille labeler. There may have been a spot on there where it had like a trigger basically, and then you would move the dial to wherever. But anyway, I think it did have a spot where supposedly it would cut the label but it didn't seem to work very well for me.

But anyway, what I'm wondering is anyone has any strategies for labeling things like cans or CDs? What the best way is to do that?

Vileen Shah: Good question. Thank you so much for asking, Kelly. I'm pretty certain it's just not you. Many other people also have faced this challenge, or are facing it. There are quite a few here who have quite a bit of experience, intense level of experience, in doing things. So let's hear the answer.

By the way, now if you would raise your hand, only if you do it if you have any answer, any comment, any input about this question. Once we are done with having answers from everybody to this question, then we'll take the next question. Do not raise your hand for the next question until this issue has been thoroughly discussed. All right? All right.

Allen raised hand. That's what my computer says. All right Allen. Let me hear your answer.

Allen: Hi, this is Allen. There's a couple things you can do. What I've done with CDs and movies. I used a number system, A and then 0-1, and then I did a list with an Excel spreadsheet, and list that column with those numbers and then the title, or you could do an abbreviated title.

Now when it comes to labeling cans, you can either use the label maker to do that, but once you put it on, you're going to be throwing it away. But if you use a three by five card and a rubber band, you can braille the three by five card with what it is. If you want to do just a short labels, you can do like "Corn" "C-N" and stuff like that, but you need about three cells of tape. If it's too short, they pop off. They don't stay on there. Over.

Vileen Shah: Perfect. Thank you. Thank you for sharing, Allen. Anybody else? The floor is open. You don't have to even raise your hand. You are not muted, so please start saying,

Linn: Vileen, it's Linn.

Vileen Shah: Wonderful.

Linn: I have over a thousand CDs labeled.

Vileen Shah: Wow.

Linn: You can buy sheets of material to label that are sticky backed. Then you can put them right in a Perkins Brailler. That way you can do two or three lines. But the thing is, then you have to cut them. You know what I mean? You either have to or have to get a sighted friend to cut, if you're not real comfortable doing that.

You can also get braille tape, braille on tape, but it's one line tall. Then if you have a slate, there are tape slots. That way you don't have to cut anything. You use the slate and you can Braille on it, and then take that line and stick it on the CD or DVD. But I'm with whoever it was that says, "Don't waste that on cans." Unless you put it on a magnet and then you can put the magnet on the can and when you've used up the can, what I do is I put the magnet on my fridge. It's a ready made shopping list. Over.

Vileen Shah: Terrific. Terrific. Anybody else?

Okay. Labeling is certainly such an essential part of our living because we do need to label hundreds or thousands of things. As Linn said, she has thousands of CDs. I don't know what she does with that. I am just kidding. But that's really good, because Linn is for music. She has her expertise not only in music, but also in Braille music. She also does Braille music until [inaudible 00:07:00].

Okay. I think I so far figured out three ways of preparing labels. One, using the standard braille labeler, with a dial, I think that's what you mentioned, Kelly, right?

Kelly S: Yeah.

Vileen Shah: With a dial?

Kelly S: That's right.

Vileen Shah: Okay. Then another one is using your Brailler, Perkins Brailler, or Braille writer. I think I saw kind of gadget to help you keep your little strip in line, but I don't remember that lot. Maybe Linn knows? We'll get her further input on that. I never used it. I'm not a great labeler. Probably, I have a sighted device. That's probably the reason.

Vileen Shah: Then, another thing that Linn mentioned is using your slate and stylus. Yes. I did that. I did use my slate and stylus to prepare labels, but mostly it is with the dial that I do. I write. You were right, Kelly. Cutting the label is a real problem. Sometimes the strip is too sticky and the cut option doesn't work well. You have to really press hard. If it doesn't work, then you have to use your scissors or something else. But that's definitely a challenge sometimes.

But those are kind of hard things that we all so used to living with ours, and we have to face them. We have to resolve them. We have to find other ways, and not be frustrated, but rather find some options to do [inaudible 00:09:01].

Using a slate and stylus is a little more challenging because if you have a strip which is not too wide enough, and if you have to put it between the two parts of a slate and if you need to make sure that it doesn't move when you're writing, yes, you have to be really careful. That's something challenging, but doable. I have done it.

When I put some labels on my microwave, you know, I just use some shortcuts. "Seal", for clear. "S-T" for start. And of course, numbers without the numeric indicators. I keep telling you, each of my learners, that never ever use the right numbers without using the numeric indicators. It is true. When you do your assignments, you don't want to write numbers without using the numeric indicators. But I do, for the microwave, because I do it for my convenience.

So as long as you are aware that these are the numbers and not letters for your own purpose, you don't need to use it. In the braille calendar, we don't use the numeric indicators when we put the months and dates because we know that these are the numbers and not letters. There are multiple ways you can accommodate your needs. There are multiple ways you can customize your labeling…

All right. Let's hear Allen.

Allen: This is Allen.

Vileen Shah: Yes.

Allen: One of the things with the label maker that you get from Hadley. When you cut, sometimes that little piece that partial cuts gets stuck in the roller. Somebody that has vision, you can usually remove it with either tweezers or a small pen knife. That's sometimes why it won't cut very well if those pieces get stuck in the roller. Over.

Linn: Vileen, it's Linn.

Vileen Shah: Yes Linn.

Linn: And yes, I have that thing you're talking about that you put on a back of a braille writer.

Vileen Shah: Yes.

Linn: It's kind of shaped like an L. You put the labeling tape in it, and it has places on each end to hold it. Then the shorter part of the L just slides up against your braille writer, on the back of the braille writer, and it holds it in place so that it doesn't move or get out of alignment. So, yes, you can get it from Perkins. It does work.

Vileen Shah: It does work. It works wonderful. Thank you for your input, Linn. Actually, when I saw that gadget and I thought I would buy. When I saw the price, $20, I said, "No! For this little thing? I don't have $20 to pay." At that time, of course, I didn't have a real good job, of course.

Okay. But that's right. Sometimes price is also an issue which we can discuss later. Okay. Good. Anybody else has a different way? I enumerated three ways of making labels. The labeler, of course, slate and stylus, and braille writer. Anybody else is making labels using any other device or any other idea? Please share.

Elyse: We have a hand up from Kelly S.

Vileen Shah: Kelly! He's a cool guy. Yes, Kelly.

Elyse: Okay.

Kelly S: This brings up another question, actually, I was just going to segue with the braille labeler that I had. This was a number of years ago. I would use it to label cassettes years ago. The one thing I had problems with, as I say, with that cutting part, if that's indeed what it was. I'm assuming that's what it was. But anyway, as I said, it didn't really work so I had to use scissors.

But then there was the problem of getting the back off the label, you really had to use your fingernails on there at least I did. Anyway, one thing I'm wondering is, I know that Hadley has a labeler but I guess that's only if you're taking one of the braille literacy courses, as I understand it, but is there anywhere else you can get a braille labeler?

Vileen Shah: That's a good question. Let's see who has the answer.

Elyse: Okay. I see Allen has his hand up.

Vileen Shah: Yes. Allen, thank you so much. You are a great contributor. Yes.

Allen: This is Allen. I got mine from MaxiAids. It's a little bit more durable, and it's the handle to press for the dots in the cells and the cutter itself is a little bit easier to work with. It's a little bit more pronounced, as far as the dots are. What else what I going to say?

As far as if you have to cut it with scissors, if you put the tape face down, braille down, and take your fingernail on the corner and kind of just scrub it, eventually the tape starts to roll up and then you can peel it off a little bit easier. If you try to hold it in your hand while trying to take the tape off, it's not sturdy enough to be able to get that backing off. Over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you, Allen. One quick question to what you said. The labeler that you get from MaxiAids. In terms of the shape and type and the matter of doing the braille labels and all, is the same as the one that Hadley provides?

Allen: No. It's a little bit more streamlined. It's not like a gun. It's a little bit more streamlined, and more heavy duty. The whole make of it is more heavy duty. I never have a problem with the cutting device. I've had it for years.

Vileen Shah: Okay.

Allen: I've been using it off and on now. I have an electronic braille label maker that I got from LoganTech, and that I had to send back because those pieces got stuck in the roller and my feed wouldn't work as well. There is in an electronic one, but it runs about $500, $600 to get. I got mine about four years ago, and I got it at a discount. That's another option if you have the funds to be able to purchase one.

I love that one because it has a little brailler. It has the six dots, a space bar, and the cutter so that you can Braille with contractions just like you would on a Braille writer onto your label. Over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you. I was going to raise that question, but you probably picked my brain and you included the electronic braille labeler. That's the fourth way of doing labels. If your pocket can afford to buy, spend $5600, $600 dollars, the labeler works wonderful. Great.

Anybody else has a question about a labeler or further input about the braille labelers? Okay. Sounds good. Okay. I think it's now time to move onto the next question.

Elyse: Here we have a hand up. The phone number ends in 5-9-6. Go ahead.

Michelle: It's Michelle. Hi. This is Michelle.

Vileen Shah: Michelle.

Michelle: Hi.

Vileen Shah: Hi.

Michelle: My question is, is there any known conferences other than NFB, ACB, where we could attend to see updates? Whether it's about braille or devices, other than also CES, which is incredibly expensive. Over.

Vileen Shah: Wow. That's an interesting question. Thank you, Michelle. Certainly I may say, but I would need Linn here and Elyse can also help, and anybody else. Remember one thing, that MFB and ACB are two consumers groups who promote braille and have a good deal of materials on their websites.

There is one more, which is American Foundation for the Blind, but this is a kind of a provider, and not a consumers group. I'm not sure if they have conferences. They should be having something, but yes, on their website, you can get tons of information about braille and braille-related problems and solutions and things like that. Initially, AFB, American Foundation for the Blind, was a promoter of braille, almost the only, the lone promoter of braille around 1933. It supported Perkins School for the Blind to prepare the design for a braille writer, and even obtained a grant for designing the braille writer.

American Foundation for the Blind has a long history of supporting braille. All right. Let's get the input from others. Linn, are you there by chance?

Linn: Yes.

Vileen Shah: Okay.

Linn: I was just waiting to see if others would.

Vileen Shah: Yeah.

Linn: There's something called, people refer to it as CSUN, and it's a great big conference out in California, usually every March. It is very expensive, but you can often get a one day pass to the exhibit hall. Then you just go from thing to thing to thing. Every embosser, every braille display, everything you can think of it is pretty much there. If it's a place you can get to.

Another thing is, there are different stores in different cities. They don't have everything, but there's Second Sense in Chicago, and there's one Council for the Blind in Madison, Wisconsin. There's a Superstore. I think that's in Colorado. They don't have everything, but they have lots of things just from something very simple to the technology. You can go and get your hands on stuff and check it out. Over.

Vileen Shah: Great, great. Thank you. Would you please spell that name of conference? Something C-SA?

Linn: Yes. C as in "Cat." S as in "Sing a song." U as in "Umbrella." N as in "November."

Vileen Shah: Four letters?

Linn: Yes. CSUN.

Vileen Shah: CSUN. Is kind of okay. All right. C for California. Good.

Linn: Yeah.

Vileen Shah: Interesting. Do you know what the town? They have a particular town or they change the town? Where do they hold this conference?

Linn: I think this year it was in LA.

Vileen Shah: Okay.

Linn: Do you know, Elyse? I think it was. We had several of our Hadley people go. But it is a very expensive conference, so if you're not a real tech person, I would just, if you happen to be somewhere near there, I would go and take a one-day pass to the exhibit hall.

Vileen Shah: True. Great. Yes. Probably I would do that too. Okay. Interesting. Anybody else has any further input about the conferences for the blind? There is certainly one more. It's called BANA, which is Braille Authority of North America. BANA is the one that takes care of standardizing braille and sometimes even framing the rules for braille or else what is that word?

Disseminating the information about new braille rules framed by International Conference for Braille. ICEB. BANA holds its conferences two times, and these conferences are purely, entirely committed to braille. Only the issues related to braille are discussed in these conferences, and they have a conference every almost six months. Annual conference, and semi-annual conference, and all that.

That's probably one more thing you may want to keep in mind. BANA. That consists of a number of members that are organizations. Hadley Institute for the Blind is also a member of BANA. Over. Anybody else?

Elyse: Vileen, going back to the CSUN and Linn, you're correct. It was in California. The Assistive Technology conference is sponsored by the California State University Northridge Center on Disabilities. It's the largest international conference that's focused on assistive technology. It's goal is to expand the awareness of professionals, and introduce newcomers to the field of disability.

Vileen Shah: Great. Thank you so much. Once again, as I now understood, I kind of recall something having read about it, but not so much as all of you said, Elyse and Linn. CSUN is much more a technology conference than a braille-related conference. That is fine. We all need technology, of course. It's not a problem. Okay.

Linn: Yes it is, but it has lots of braille gadgets so to speak.

Vileen Shah: Yes.

Linn: Embossers, displays, things like that. Yes. It is very much, note takers, it's very much a tech conference.

Vileen Shah: Terrific. Yes. I am for braille and technology. I like to combine…

Elyse: There is a few write-ins from the chat group. One person using their iPhone sent to the group, "Visionaware.O-R-G," as a website. As a resource, I'm gathering, for braille. Another, this is from the Braille Chicken to everyone. Said, "I would love to find a way to get or borrow or purchase a braille embosser. I need one for my final in transcription." Looking for a braille embosser.

Vileen Shah: Okay. All right. Anybody else has written anything?

Elyse: That's all for the chat at this point.

Vileen Shah: Let me answer the question regarding braille embosser, and of course we will also take input from others. First of all, you may want to decide whether you want to buy a braille embosser or not, because how much you are going to use it? If you are going to produce tons of pages, or at least, 20, 30, 50 pages off and on, if not every day, then probably that's an option for you.

It's particularly because of the price. Braille embossers are now available, what I can say, on different websites by the vendors. Like eBay and also you can the advertisements on Braille Monitor, which is a periodical published by National Federation of the Blind, Braille Forum, a periodical published by the American Council of the Blind, in which you may find a used Braille embosser for a price of anywhere between $1000 to $3000. The original prices are normally around $5000.

Number one, let's take the median price, $2000 for a used embosser. If you are willing to spend that much of money, and if you have that much of utility, if you are going to use your braille embosser, than it's worth doing. If you would like to try, then these are the options. Try those Braille Forum, Braille Monitor, or eBay, or Amazon. Yes. Amazon sells everything under the sun.

Thank God it doesn't sell the sun. Amazon is the one where you can probably find a braille embosser, and it tells you the price and it tells you how many braille embossers are available for you. That's one more option you want to try. Let's see anybody else who has any input on where to buy, how to buy, a braille embosser.

Tammy: Vileen, this is Tammy. I can offer one.

Vileen Shah: Sorry. I missed it. Say it again?

Tammy: I said, this is Tammy. I can offer an idea.

Vileen Shah: Okay.

Tammy: Blind Mice Mart has a buy, sell, and trade list. I've seen embossers for sale on those, on that list.

Vileen Shah: Could you tell a little more about it?

Tammy: It's actually, like I said, it's a buy, sell, and trade email list where people put up all kinds of items that they're wanting to sell. I have seen some braille writers there, and I have seen some, every once in a while, you'll see an embosser available for sale there.

Vileen Shah: Great. Thank you for sharing, Tammy.

Tammy: You're welcome.

Vileen Shah: Appreciate it! Okay.

Elyse: I don't see any hands. Somebody wrote in the chat here.

Vileen Shah: Yes.

Elyse: From their iPhone, "Blind buy, sell, trade list." I believe that's what they were talking about. Blind Mice. "Buy, sell, and trade list."

Vileen Shah: Okay. That's probably what, a vendor?

Elyse: I think that's under Blind Mice website, where you can sign up if you want to sell or trade equipment that you've had.

Vileen Shah: Okay. That's right. That's good. Okay. There's one more source. Sure. Okay. All right. That's fine. It looks nobody else has any answer, any further input to this issue about braille embosser.

Elyse: No.

Vileen Shah: But I'll just give it one more minute, anybody can raise hand about this issue. Braille embosser. All right. Hearing none. Let's move on. I'm pretty certain somebody has a question about something else related to braille. Please feel free to ask. No question is dumb, remember that.

Fern: I have a problem when I'm practicing Braille. When they're individual, I can do it, but when they're like in a word and they're real close together, is that just a matter of getting familiar with it?

Vileen Shah: Let's see who has the answer?

Allen: Hi, this is Allen. It is difficult when you start reading two symbols together, especially if you're in Braille Lit one or two, because usually they're just random letters, they're not actually words. It doesn't present an easy way to figure out if it's a word or not.

If you can make sure your fingers are straight up and down. That you're feeling the whole symbol with the pad of your finger. If you're not, you're not going to be able to feel from one symbol to another. You're going to probably get parts of it, but it does take practice. Over time, it will get easier, especially when it comes into words or sentences that you're going to be coming across or that you're familiar with. You'll be able to feel it better. That's the most important thing, is to be making sure that your finger is placed correctly over the symbol. Over.

Vileen Shah: Thank you. That also relates to my presentation on spacing. The first and foremost thing you may want to learn or practice and figure out the spacing between two symbols and the spacing between two rows of the same symbols. For instance, letter J, that has dot two from the first row, and dot four and five from the second row of one braille cell.

There is a kind of spacing, kind of distance between dot two, and dot four, five. However that distance is much less, much minor or less, than the distance between the two letters. Let's say the word "Jam." The distance between letter J and A, between two cells, is slightly bigger than the distance between the dot two and dot four, five, in letter J.

I know it's a little complicated. In other words, once you learn the spacing between dots and the spacing between letters, you will find reading braille more convenient, more easy. You'll be more confident in feeling the letters, two different letters, three letters, or a bunch of letters. You will not mix them up. Okay? Try practicing. It comes with practice.

Elyse: We have a few more hands raised.

Vileen Shah: Okay.

Elyse: Rileen. I'll go ahead and unmute you. I believe this is Rileen.

Rhonda: No, this is Rhonda.

Elyse: Rhonda. Excuse me.

Vileen Shah: Rhonda. Okay.

Rhonda: Fern, I'm in Braille Literacy Two. I'm not sure if that's where you are, but building on what Allen and Professor Shah have said. When I do that 15 minute practice at the beginning of the lesson, I also put fuzzy dots on the pages that have the two letter combinations. I review those too, because one of those lessons in the beginning of Braille Literacy Two says that you're going to have to feel these at least 70 times before you get them down on the kinesthetic level.

Vileen Shah: Thank you Rhonda. Yeah. You have to feel at least 70 times. I've never counted, but that certainly helps.

Elyse: Thank you Rhonda. Allen, you have your hand up. Go ahead.

Allen: This is Allen. On your page numbers that are in your books, Braille Lit One and Two. It's not normal page numbers. You have full cells and you have the letter L. If you move your fingers back and forth between the two full cells, it'll help you with that spacing between that. Then if you feel between a full cell and the letter L, you can feel how different that spacing is. That'll kind of give you an idea of where that spacing falls into.

Especially if you've got the letter L further into, not actually the L, but in four, five, six, column, there's a whole different space there. That's not on that page, but if you have a label maker or Braille writer, you can create those on your own, and create those sets you can practice with. Over.

Vileen Shah: Correct. That certainly helps challenge yourself and create something different using your slate and stylus or Braille writer. If you have reached that level. If you are doing Braille Literacy Two, what Allen said certainly works. Feel the spacing between those six dots and letter L. That should give you some better idea how the spacing works. Again, spacing is very important when you read Braille. Okay. Anybody else?

Vileen Shah: I thank you everybody who is still here and those who already left. I announce now that this session is over, and I would love to see you all again on June the 6th, next week, Thursday. Okay? You all take care, have a good week ahead, and good weekend. Bye now.