One Dot at a Time: Learning Braille As Someone with Low Vision

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Hand moving over text in braille

I love to learn. I read books frequently. I ask people about how they do things. I visit museums. I watch TV programs and listen to podcasts reporting on news and art and history. Give me the remote, a Netflix documentary, and a bowl of white cheddar popcorn, and I’m set for the night. My curiosity about life compels me to understand.

When I gained low vision a few years ago, I decided to learn how to adapt so I could still live a purposeful life. I switched from paperbacks to ebooks and audiobooks. I use audio tour headsets at museums. I continue to talk to people about their lives. When I watch a movie and I feel like I’m missing information, I use audio description at theaters and on Netflix. My visual impairment doesn’t affect my desire to learn.

Learning Braille with Low Vision

With this attitude, I decided to learn braille. But wait, you may say. You have some remaining vision. Why don’t you just use technology like text-to-speech software and other aids to read print? Well, I see braille as another option in my toolbox of ways to manage low vision. If I can read braille, or at least identify letters and numbers, I can navigate accessible public spaces when I’m alone by selecting the right floor on elevators and entering the intended office. I can label frequently used items at home. I won’t strain my eyes using a magnifier for print when there’s a braille copy. Glare? No longer an issue to these eyes with a tactile language. I will regain the tactile experience of reading. I will find labeled spices and kitchen tools faster. Braille will simplify my life. By learning braille at a time when some people may think I don’t “need” to, it’s a testament to the importance of options. We don’t all do the same things the same way. Life is full of change and options help us deal with it.

How to Learn Braille

There are many ways to learn braille. I enrolled in a correspondence program through the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I complete a lesson each month. Maintaining a sense of joy during the work allows me to connect positively to the material rather than create frustration. I know I won’t learn braille overnight, and I don’t pressure myself to do so. By using good posture and solid habits, I will become an efficient braille reader. I take things at my own pace and enjoy the process Hadley’s staff carefully planned.

Finger pointing a braille dots

Recently, I finished the introductory course featuring reading techniques and a few letters. When I run my hand over a page using flat hand scanning, I determine if a page is full of lines or columns. When I run my fingers gently along a line, I notice how the three vertical dots of an L feel different compared to the horizontal pair of dots of a C. I start to notice the space between letters, the patterns of each character. As the tiny real estate of my fingertip hits dots and spaces on paper, the motion stimulates electrical impulses under the skin, sending signals to my brain. Slowly I’m recognizing letters instead of touching random bumps on a page.

I’m learning a new language, a tactile code, one dot at a time. Learning a new skill isn’t easy, but it’s rewarding and part of a fulfilling lifestyle with options. Braille will be one of my options as I live well with low vision.

Learn More About Braille

All About Braille

What Is Survival Braille?

Unified English Braille Is Here with the New Year

Visually Impaired Adults, Let's Talk Braille with Parents of Visually Impaired Children


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