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The Braille Highway

For your reading convenients below you will find all the Braille Highway published in 2015

January 2015

Happy New Year! May the year 2015 be filled with health, happiness and prosperity! I would like to give you a bit of background information about myself and my passion for braille. Also, I would like to include a brief guideline of what I hope this article will represent in upcoming newsletters. I hope you enjoy what you read and that I have intrigued you enough to have you wanting to read more!

I learned braille as a youngster over 30 years ago on a good old Perkins braille writer. I then learned to use the slate and stylus. As the technology became available I used all sorts of refreshable braille displays and writers. I enjoyed using braille so much that I now produce it professionally. I use braille in all parts of my life; work, personal, entertainment and in making life less complicated.

When it comes to braille, we have a lot to thank Mr. Louis Braille for in his creation of this tactile language for the blind to use. I am thankful for my early educators to have had the foresight to teach me this great medium to read. Early in my life braille came in handy during studying for spelling b contests and nemeth for mathematics. It also made learning other languages such as French and Spanish easier by being able to read it. Feeling diagrams in my biology textbooks and Feeling and figuring out graphs and other graphics such as world maps and shapes made learning easier.

Throughout my life I have used braille to simplify things, things that our sighted counterparts take for granted. For example, something as simple as picking out a DVD or cd from a pile of them can be frustrating. One can make this task very simple and quick to pick out. Take a little time and label your media with a clear plastic labelling tape. So it still can be read very easily by the sighted people in our lives as well as us being able to quickly pick out the one we want, without becoming frustrated. Jotting down a phone number and being able to read it can easily be done by learning the slate and stylus method. Having one that is located in a mini binder with braille paper is handy for this and other daily task. Just flip the lid, add the paper, and start brailling the number or any other notes you may need to make.

You may argue that you can do this by using your mp3 device or your smart phone. That definitely is your own personal preference. All I am trying to say is either by itself or in combination with other technology braille is a great asset to have.

Rest assured I am not going to be using this article to nag you into using braille. I will simply be describing different daily things I use braille for and will be inviting you the readers, to send in your points of view and yes, I will be writing all pro and con emails. I honestly feel that braille is an awesome resource for people who either already know it or someone who is thinking of learning braille. Even as an adult you can still learn braille by enrolling yourself in the Hadley Online school where they teach both contracted and uncontracted braille. I am a firm believer that any education is a bonus.

I will be describing how one can make simple braille diagrams using your braille writer and or slate and stylus. Also how to create re-usable labels for food boxes or cans. And, for something that is entertaining, how to make your own playing cards or other card games. I will also give my opinion on different devices I have used and or heard about that may be of interest to you the readers.

My final message to you is remember to stay on the dotted line in life! Talk with you again in February.

February 2015

Hello readers and welcome to another article of The Braile Highway! I cannot believe how fast January flew by for me. Since we are now in February and it is the month of love, that is what i have concentrated on for this month. I will give you some ideas on making Valentine’s Day extra special for the braille reader.

Making a personalized Valentine Day card would make it an extra special day. Speaking from a personal point of view, I really appreciated when my significant other took the time and effort to create a braille card for me. It really is not that difficult. I will give you 3 suggestions on how you can make this Valentine’s Day extra special for your significant other.

For this first suggestion, you will need braille paper, a braille writer or slate and stylus, a pattern wheel (the kind you would find in a sewing store), and a heart shaped item such as a cookie cutter or a chocolate heart. Fold the braille paper in half to create a card. Next, open it up and place what will be the front (left side) of your card on a foamy mat. Then, put the heart shaped item on top of that (card cover). Trace the heart with the pattern wheel. This will create small dots on the outside of the braille paper, which is in fact the cover of the card. Once the heart shape is completed, you can either place the card in the braille writer or in the slate, and then braille a short message above the heart you just created. Although space is limited, a sweet romantic message would be nice, but I will leave that up to your creativity. Lastly, braille your personalized message inside the card.

The second suggestion has one change in regards to the heart shape on the outside of the card. If you are having difficulties or simply cannot find a pattern wheel, then all you need is a paper clip. Take a paper clip and mold it into a heart shape. Once you have made that to your satisfaction, place it to the side. Repeat the folding of the braille paper, and put your romantic short message on the top of the front cover of the card. Then Braille your message inside the greeting card. Now comes the fun part of putting your paper clip heart on the front. You can rub glue on the bottom side of the heart and then place it on the paper; careful not to smudge the glue. Next, place something heavy like a book over the heart to allow it to stick. You can also use a little bit of scotch tape; by placing little pieces around the heart to keep it affixed to the card.

My third suggestion is an add on to an existing product. Find either a heart shaped chocolate or candy. Then on dymo tape braille a personalized message for your significant other. AS the old saying goes, the way to a person's heart is through their stomach. In all honesty, who could refuse a sweet gift with the added bonus of a personalized braille message? Good luck on your Valentine Day efforts and remember to follow the dots on the braille highway!

March 2015

Hello and welcome to another mini trip down the braille highway! In this month’s article I will be explaining how I make my own braille playing cards.

I have purchased my fair share of braille playing cards over the years. Some came with the card’s value and suit beside each other. Others came with the card’s value and suit one on top of the other. Then they further complicated things, with what they used to represent either the card’s value or the suit. Then to add to the ever increasing pile of negativity towards purchased playing card, and probably the most important fact is they cost anywhere from $4 to $15 per deck, depending on where you buy them. That is for a regular 54 card deck. Leave alone the European deck of 40 playing cards or a deck of playing cards for Uno. I have personally never bought the European playing cards nor a deck to play Uno. I have always purchased a regular deck and put the braille on myself.

You can buy your own regular deck of playing cards at your favorite store. If you want the best price, and you live near a casino, go to their guest services and they will give you a deck of playing cards for free. The only drawback is that the cards have been used for one or 2 rounds of play and they will have some kind of marking to prove they have been used. For example, a corner may be cut off, a whole may be punched somewhere on the surface of the cards, or a cut may be inserted along one of the sides of the cards. My least favorite method is the cutting of the corner. In any case, the price is right and in most casinos, the cards are of the top value in quality.

Ok, now to the actual brailling of the playing cards. I will only give my preferred card values and suits in my examples, but you may use whatever you prefer. You can use either a manual braille writer or a Slate and Stylus. In my examples I will be referring to a Perkins braille writer. Make sure the paper guide knob is all the way to the right hand side when you have the writer in front of you. Just for clarification, this margin’s knob allows the user to either have binding room on the paper or give a small amount of margin set from the end of the paper to where the braille starts. So you want to have as little space as possible from the end of the card to where the braille starts. Lift up the paper lock, and make sure your cursor is all the way to the left. Slide in the playing card and lock it in to place by engaging the paper lock down. Then roll up the card and braille the card’s value; such as 1, 2, 3, etc. Only use the number value, no number sign is necessary. So for 1 it would be an a, for 2 it would be the letter b, and so forth. This is used for 1 through 9 which would be the letters a through i. Then the suit follows; d for diamonds, c for clubs, h for hearts, and s for spades. Next, roll the card out of the Perkins writer and repeat the entire process for the other end of the card.

I am going to give you a listing of what I use to mark my playing cards but once again you can use whatever you prefer. 1 = a, 2 = b, 3 = c, 4 = d, 5 = e, 6 = f, 7 = g, 8 = h, 9 = I, 10 = x, Jack = j, Queen = q, King = k, and Joker = j o

Suits: Club = c, diamonds = d, heart = h, spades = s

Most casinos’ playing cards are plastic or plastic coded. So this will give you nice clear crisp braille. It will take a long time for the dots to ware down for them to be un readable. If you happen to buy a deck and it is paper based have no fear I have a little trick to harden and protect the dots. Use clear nail polish. If you are comfortable using the little brush that comes with the nail polish bottle, brush the dots with the solution. If you are like me and are not comfortable then use a cotton ball and wet that with the clear nail polish solution and rub it on the corner of the playing card where the braille is. Obviously, leave the cards on a flat surface for about 10 minutes or so to let dry. Then once dry, you can look at your handy work. A head’s up for you is that where the nail polish has been applied it will be glossy.

With the Uno cards, do the same thing for the card’s value; such as 1, 2, 3, etc. Use the first letter for the color; b for blue, g for green, etc.

The European playing cards are a little smaller than the traditional North American 54 card deck. So what I did for my European cards is once the card is in the braille writer I press the space bar once or twice. Next, I follow the same procedure in the card’s value but I put a blank space and then braille the suit. With the European deck of cards being smaller, if one puts the braille in the upper left corner of each side of the card, when you try to stack the cards up they will not stay stacked. So that is why I suggest putting the braille on the top line but 1 or 2 spaces in toward the center. Doing this to both ends of the cards will allow you to stack the cards and still be able to read them while in your hand.

If you are using a slate and stylus make sure to use the 4 line slate or the slate made especially for the making of playing cards.

If you have an alternate way to produce braille playing cards, please feel free to email me your ideas directly at the email listed at the Contact link on this news letter's website. Also if you want to write in to let me know your perspective on braille feels free to do that as well.

Remember on the road of life to stay on the dotted path!

April 2015

As the seasons have changed to Spring in many parts of the world, Autumn or Fall in others, there is a particular language that has been in existents for over 200 years that is undergoing change as well. Braille as we know it English Braille American Edition (EBAE) is being changed and people like myself, who have been a braille reader for over 30 years will take some getting use too. In this month's article I will be mentioning some of the changes and my personal opinions about some of them. I invite you to email me your thoughts or your rebuttals. nat@the

One never knows, I may put some of your points of view in the May edition.

There are 9 contractions that are being used in the current Literary Braille Code that are being eliminated in the Unified English Braille Code (UEB). These are: by, into, to, com, ble, dd, ation, ally, and o'clock. Another major change is the elimination of grouping of contractions. No longer can you group the following contractions together: and, a, the, for, into, by, and with. The reasons given for these changes can be found at click here to read about these changes

They state, “The overarching reasons for deletion of these contractions are the need for accurate, automatic, forward- and back-translation between print and braille, the need to allow for more symbols without creating conflicts in the code, and the principle of reducing exceptions to braille rules.”

It has become second nature for me to add those specific words to the word "the" without a space in between. For example, at the top of this article it says by Nat Armeni. If that was written with the UEB Code the word By would be on its own and spelt out b y. No more the lower j and next to the following word with no space in between. The way we used to braille and the, for the, with the, and into the are just a few examples of what has changed. It has changed to better reflect the printed word.

Somethings I am finding challenging to read and write are words such as: really, creation, and enabled, just to name a few. If you are a braille reader, then the next part is second nature to you when it comes to English Braille American Edition. For example, the word creation; the EBAE way of brailling it would be c, r, e, and the ation contraction. As for the UEB way it is c, r, the e a contraction, and the t i o n contraction. It takes some getting used to reading this word in the new way as well as brailling it. The word really in EBAE way is r, e, and the a l l y contraction. In UEB it is r, e a contraction, l, l, and y. The word enabled looks different due to the fact that the b l e contraction has been eliminated. So the old way is e n contraction, the b l e contraction, and the letter d. Now with UeB it is written this way, e n contraction, a, b, l, and e d contraction.

One new change that I am excited about is the elimination of the Computer Code. So when writing web addresses or email addresses we no longer need to surround it with the Computer Code symbols. Also, we can include contractions in the writing of both Web Site and email addresses. Using www.the blind perspective dot com as an example, you would braile it like this; w, w, w, period sign, the contraction, bl contraction (for blind), p, e r contraction, s, p, e, c, t, I, v, e, period sign, c, o, and m. Another exciting change is the period stays the same in any way you braille it. Therefore, along with website and email addresses the period sign (lower d) is used in decimals and ellipsis.

In no way have I completely covered all the changes in the Unified English Braille Code, but I have given you some highlights along with my personal opinions.

Remember to stay on the dotted line of life.

May 2015

Happy May to everyone! Slates and stylus, plastic or metal, oh my! Yes, you guessed my topic for this month's article. All about the different kinds of slates and stylus I have come across and currently use.

Way back when I first was learning to use the slate and stylus, I used a wooden board that had a metal slate with 2 knobs sticking out of the back end that fit in holes on the board. The board had a clip on the top that I lined up my braille page and clamp down to hold it in place. As I finished 4 lines of braille, I then lifted the page up slightly and slid the slate down so that the knobs would fit down the board and I could begin my next four lines. The board was meant to keep the braille straight on the page. Once I became confident and comfortable with brailling on the slate I began my love affair with different slates; plastic, metal, aluminum, and a bone type material.

The first slate I remember is a 40 cell across by 4 lines and it was made out of metal and weighed quite a bit. The stylus was the wooden knob type. Then I started to use a metal slate but for the 8 1/2 x by 11" braille page. Once again this too was made out of metal. One of my beefs with using both the 40 cell and the 28 cell slates was the pain in the butt it was to open the slate and flip the page to read what I had just written. This challenge was fixed when I came across a lightweight aluminum slate that was 28 cells wide by 4 lines. It had the ability to open the back end while the page was still in place, in order to read what I had just written.

I have come across a slate that was 19 cells wide by 6 lines down. This slate was convenient to braille on to an index card. I also use a full page slate at my desk when I know I am going to be needing either a full page or more than 8 or 10 lines of braille. I leave this slate at my desk since it is not as convenient to bring along with me on my travels. I also use a double sided slate that is made out of a non flexible plastic. One would slide in an 8” by 5” index card in to this particular slate. Then one would braille on the slate which was 19 cells wide by 6 lines. Once done on that side, Just flip the slate over for another 19 cells wide by 5 lines of brailling. This slate enables you to produce double sided braille on the go.

When I have attended National conventions in the United States or Canada, I have visited the exhibit halls and I have seen and in some cases, have purchased unique slates. For instance, I have plastic slates of 28 cells wide by 4 lines. There are my plastic and aluminum slates of all sorts of widths and lengths to make different tasks easier for me to complete. Of course one of my favorite is the playing card slate. This is the same size as a playing card with 2 rows at the top of the slate and 2 rows at the bottom, both 7 cells wide. Just slide the playing card in to the slate and line it up. Then emboss the cards with either the 2 cells next to each other or the very top and the cell immediately below. I have also seen a slate for placing a business card inside for 13 cells across and 4 lines down.

As I have mentioned a few times already in this article, I have come across so many kinds of slates but my favorite stylus so far, is what they call the Ssaddle Stylus. Just place your index finger over a little groove on the top of the stylus and use the power of your entire finger and hand to press down on the stylus. I find I can write braille for a much longer duration using this stylus. Finally, the most recent slate I have seen and was impressed with is the King Slate. Instead of brailling from right to left, having to make the braille characters reverse, one can braille from left to right and use the same dot formation as one would do to emboss on a Perkins Writer. In the inside of the slate there are the full braille cells with the little raised dots. The stylus for this unit is a point that is hollowed. So you would position your stylus over the pin of the dot you want to make and press down on it. The paper is a special plastic coated paper that is sold by the booklet. It is a fast and easier way to jot down a quick note and the paper is longer lasting since it is plastic coated.

If you have any slates and or stylus stories you would like to share with me, feel free to email me at nat at the blind perspective

Remember to stay on the dotted line on the highway of life!

June 2015

Hello and can you believe that it is almost at the half way point of 2015? I cannot believe how fast the months have flown by. I have heard many opinions about learning braille. Many people's number 1 excuse for not learning braile is why would I want to learn a new language when my trusty computer can do it all for me. Then with the invention and the mainstreaming of the I-Devices, it has given the majority of the population the needed ammunition to avoid learning. Well the point of this article is to give you reasons why braille is important to learn or to maintain its knowledge.

Apart from the regular arguments such as improving spelling and sentence structure, braille definitely increases the independence of a blind person. Let me give you a few examples that come to my mind as a result of a recent trip I took. I used my braille labeler to label the important documents and papers I would need for this trip. It started when I arrived to the airline ticket counter. First was finding my E-Ticket that I had printed out and labeled. I read the braille on the document and gave it efficiently without handing over a pile of printed sheets. Then when I had to locate my frequent flier card for that airline I found it quickly in my wallet and handed it over when it was required. You may say, no big deal but for me it was, and is, a big deal. We as blind people always cry that we want to be treated equal to our sighted counterparts, but we often take the easy way out. With a little organization on my part I was able to locate the proper printed pages and the correct plastic card independently and in a quick amount of time. Then I found another sheet of paper that had the house address as well as the alarm code in braille.

When I arrived to our vacation home in Arizona, in a very quick amount of time I was able to find the labelled food in the deep freezer as well as find the canned items. The most satisfying thing was that I was able to leave my home, fly to Arizona, then be able to go in and prepare a healthy meal independently with the assistants of braille. Once the kitchen was in order and all the plates and pots in their places I went out in to my yard. I met up with the neighbor and we had a few games of crib which I am able to play since I can read my brailed playing cards.

I learned braille as a young person and have found lots of useful ways to incorporate braille in my life. If you are one of those people who lost their sight later in life, and believe it’s too difficult to learn braille. My rebuttal to that argument is just learn the A, B, C’s and numbers and the heck with contracted braille. It is so refreshing to be able to label important print pages with a line or 2 of braille. I always have the emergency number for the credit card company brailled on a homemade business card. I also have important numbers that I do not use often brailled in a little binder that I have with me at all times.

I find with ease I am able to cook, locate important printed documents, find phone numbers quickly, and locate passwords to bank accounts and other important companies who need password to identify that I am who I say I am. When I think back to little things, like finding a particular spice when the sighted counterpart has left to run an errand and I finished the cooking independently, it’s a great feeling. And, when I found a bag of snack food to give to unexpected guests. Individually they are small achievements but when one puts them all together it is a wonderful way to live.

I have not even begun talking about labelling clothing in braille. For men it is not a big deal as it is for women. However, it is nice to know that I am wearing a blue shirt with white pin stripes, or Black dress pants rather than dark grey ones. The labelling of my flat screen microwave panel or the stove, not to mention the washer and dryer are all helpful in me being able to use them independently. Brailling my CD’s, DVD’s, and computer disks just to mention a few more make life so much easier to find what I want.
Remember to stay on the dotted line of life!

July 2015

Welcome to July’s article. In this article I will be concentrating on having fun with braille. I will be describing how you can create braillables. What are braillables, you ask. They are diagrams created with either a braille writer or slate and stylus. I am going to give you instructions on how to create 4 simple braillables (diagrams). After having mastered these simple ones listed below, then you can get your creative juices flowing and come up with your own braillables.

You can use either size braille paper, but for the purpose of this month’s article I will be using the standard sheet size 8.5” x 11” braille paper. Once you have completed these braillables, you can have people color in the shapes or if you are showing them to a real youngster, it may be fun for them to feel and see if they can correctly identify the simple shapes. If you have no idea about braille, do not worry I have included both the character’s name along with the dot numbers that will create that symbol.

The first shape I will be describing is a circle. For this braillable, we will start at the very left hand side of the paper or flush left.

Line 1: The letter s (dots 2, 3, 4), followed by 2 letter c’s (dots 1, 4), followed by WH sign (dots 1, 5, 6).
Line 2: Return the carriage back to the very left. The letter l (dots 1, 2, 3), followed by 2 blank spaces and then the dots 4, 5, 6.
Line 3: Once again bring the carriage back to the very left hand side. Braille the GH sign (dots 1, 2, 6), followed by 2 hyphens (dots 3, 6), and then the A R sign (dots 3, 4, 5).
You can enlarge this circle by adding the same amount of C’s and hyphens, as well as remembering to add l and the 4, 5, & 6 sign. For every 2 c/hypens, I would add 1 extra row of l/4, 5,6 signs.

The next braillable or shape we are going to work on is a rectangle. Once again, this shape will be located on the very left hand side of the page. So make sure the carriage is pushed all the way to the left side of the braille writer.

Line 1: Braille a letter p (dots 1, 2, 3, 4), followed by 4 letter c’s (dots 1,4), then a TH sign (dots 1, 4, 5, 6).
Line 2: Bring the carriage back to the very left hand side. Braille the letter l (dots 1, 2, 3), followed by 4 blank spaces, and Then dots 4, 5, 6.
Line3: Bring the carriage back to the very left hand side. Now repeat line 2 for 5 more times,. Now you will have 7 lines completed.
Line 8: Bring the carriage to the very left hand side. Braille a v (dots 1, 2, 3,6), followed by 4 hypens (dots 3, 6), then a number sign (dots 3, 4, 5, 6).
You have completed the rectangle.

We are now going to work on a square. This is our last braillable that will be located on the very left hand side of the page.

Line 1: Braille a k (dots 1,3), followed by 6 a’s (dots 1), then braille another k (dots 1, 3)
Line 2: Bring the carriage back to the very left hand side. Braille a k (dots 1,3), followed by 6 blank spaces, then braille a k (dots 1, 3)
Line 3: Bring the carriage back to the very left hand side. Braille a k (dots 1, 3), followed by 6 blank spaces, then braille a k (dots 1, 3).
Line 4: Bring the carriage back to the very left hand side. Braille a k (dots 1, 3), followed by 6 apostrophes (dots 3), then braille a k (dots 1,3).
When you look at your handy work you should have a square.

The fourth and final braillable is a triangle.

Line 1: The carriage should be pushed all the way to the left hand side. Press the spacebar 12 times now, braille a ST sign (dots 3,4), followed by a CH sign (dots 1, 6)
Line 2: Bring the carriage all the way to the left hand side. Press the spacebar 11 times, and braille a ST sign (dots 3,4), press the spacebar 3 times, and braille a CH sign (dots 1,6)
Line 3: Bring the carriage all the way to the left hand side. Press the spacebar 10 times, braille a ST sign (dots 3,4), press the spacebar 4 times followed with a CH sign (dots 1, 6)
Line 4: Bring the carriage all the way to the left hand sige. Press the spacebar 9 times, braille the ST sign (dots 3, 4), press the spacebar 5 times followed by a CH sign (dots 1, 6)
Line 5: Bring the carriage all the way to the left hand side. Press the spacebar 8 times, braille the ST sign (dots 3, 4), press the spacebar 8 times followed by a CH sign (dots 1,6)
Line 6: Bring the carriage all the way to the left hand side. Press the spacebar 7 times, braille a I N G sign (dots 3, 4, 6), followed by 10 hypens (dots 3, 6), then braille a u (dots 1, 3, 6) If done correctly you should be feeling a triangle.

I hope you have enjoyed making these simple braillables as much as I did my first time making them. If you plan it out and visualize it in your mind’s eye, you can “build” a triangle on top of a square and you would have a simple house. The possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination.
remember, to stay on the dotted line of life!!

August 2015

Hello to everyone out there and I wish you all a brailliant day!! Ok, I know that was kind of corny but I could not resist. In this month’s article I will touch on a couple of things, of course, all within the subject of braille. I do appreciate all the emails I receive from readers and I would like to invite any and all comments regarding braille. Just send me an email and you never know if your subject becomes a future article. Do not worry, I will give credit where credit is due.

I really became attached to my Rolodex that I bought at a local office supply store. I made a few minor adjustments and presto it became blind friendly. On the card stocks that had a tab I brailled out the alphabet on dymo tape and labelled each section with its own letter. In this particular model of Rolodex the stock paper is thick enough at least 80 pounds stock, which allows for the braille to remain clear and legible. I was also able to buy a refill pack of the paper that goes in the Rolodex.

Another way to create a phone directory without going out and spending lots of money is to take a little binder and make your own phone directory. First you need to create the tabs for each letter. So, determine how far out you want the tabs to be and cut the dymo tape appropriately. Then take the cut down size dimo tape and place it in to a slate and emboss the letter. Then remove the backing and bend over the tab making sure for each end not to touch otherwise good luck ripping that back apart. Position it on the page of course, with the A being right at the top of the page. Then with each subsequent letter, go a bit further down on the next page so that the tabs can be read and selected to get to the correct letter. Staying with making the most of the paper and minimizing waste, I would put the first name of each letter on the page that has the tab. I would stick to 1 name per page so it goes without saying, to use as small as possible binder so that you can maximize the space you use on each page for each entry.

In my home base braille production company I use Duxbury System’s transcription software. I love all the features and the ease with which I can prepare a document for braille production. There is a software that is free and is great for electronic braille. It is called Perky Ducks. Just enter that name in to your favorite Web searching software and I am sure you will find it. So you can create your document with a Perkins braille writer 6 key entry. Then you can do one of 2 things with that electronic braille document. You can send it to your braille embosser if you happen to be fortunate enough to have access to one. Otherwise, you can email it to a braille reader who has either access to an embosser or a braille display. Thus, enabling the person to read your document.

Online education offered by The Hadley School for the Blind allows for many course assignments to be submitted by electronic braile format. You may be thinking how can I proofread my work if all I am using is a screen reader. At least with JAWS, it reads the braile as if it is print. I cannot speak for any other screen readers out there. By submitting one’s braille courses via electronic braille it makes taking the course easier and more cost effective. First of all you do not spend money on braille paper. There is also the extra head ache of the time it takes for the postal system to deliver the assignment to your instructor. The less turnaround time equals speedier completion of the course.

I cannot put in to words on how braille has influenced my life in a very positive way. I would like to extend an invitation to all of you who read The Braille Highway to email me your favorite braille stories. Perhaps you can share how braille has effected your quality of life. It can be as little as the braille on your measuring cups or spoons that enable you to cook that special meal. Maybe tell about the time you inconspicuously read your braille watch during a boring meeting or class. You may have a fun story about the time you played a card or board game with your sighted peers. I will take all your opinions and/or stories and may even put some quotes in the September newsletter. This will allow me, as well as fellow readers to have a better sampling of the opinions out there in the big world. Finally, remember to stay on the dotted road of life!

September 2015

Hello and happy September! Thank you for all your emails and please keep them coming. I find your emails in some cases refreshing to know there are people who see things like I do. Of course, there are as many if not more, differing opinions which are always enlightening to read. AS I had indicated in the August article, I will put excerpts of reader’s emails in future segments. In this article I have included parts of 3 emails that I have received. I appreciate these readers first of all, taking the time to email me and equally important, what they had to say. In my opinion, they are worthy to be shared with the readers of this newsletter. I have included some braille and/or identifying tips as well.

The first email that is presented comes from a lady name Amy, who uses a braille tactile watch. I found this email interesting because I experienced a similar reaction when I took a quick look at my braille watch to check the time. Here is part of Amy’s email.
“I was asked to show some of my blindness stuff to a group of special needs kids in another room. They were pretty much all mentally and emotionally challenged, and I don't know if they joined regular classes or not. Anyway, I was just showing my stuff to them and explaining how I used it, when their teacher had to step out in to the hall for a minute. While I was talking, I wanted to know what time it was, so I opened my braille (tactile) watch and quickly felt the hands. All of a sudden there was a huge commotion. I mean the kids were going crazy, calling their teacher, I think, and just exclaiming all over the place. I stopped talking and was just totally mystified as to what was going on. When the teacher came in, she asked me what was going on and I said I didn't know. Then one of the kids said, "Her watch! Her watch!" That's when I remembered I'd looked at my watch a few minutes earlier. It's an action I take for granted. Just like a sighted person would, I guess, glance down to see their watch, I'd touched mine in the same way without giving it much thought.”

It was a breath of fresh air when I received an email from Danielle, who shares my enthusiasm for braille. Here is a portion of her email.
“Hi Nat, My name is Danielle, and I will be a college freshman this fall. I, on a whim, visited the blind perspective website recently, and I came across your article on braille in the June newsletter. After reading it, I have a question that I am hoping you could shine a bit of light on for me. I am one of a surprising few in my generation of blind people who prefers braille to electronic formats. The only one that I know of, in fact. I was taught braille from an early age, and I will to this day tell anyone who thinks otherwise that kinetic and auditory learning are incredibly different in terms of their purpose when it comes to a blind or visually impaired student. This being said, I have not been able to converse with anyone else who holds my views.”

This 3rd and final email I am sharing with you is because Lou gives a good tip in helping us to keep organized. Here is a portion of Lou’s email.
“I know what the subject line of this e-mail says, but another use I make of braille is on post-it notes. It is pretty easy to stick one of these in a slate. I find it handy if I have to hand someone a bunch of papers, and I want to know what I’m handing them. As a blind professional, it is another way for me to be organized and more independent. I know people who put them in checkbooks as markers, and they can be quick and dirty labels until someone gets home from a store. They are only limited by the user’s imagination.”

With the month of September upon us, in North America and Europe many are gearing up for the start of another school year. I always had either in my knapsack or laptop carrying case some index cards to jot a quick braille note, paper clips to keep handouts together for later scanning, a roll of dymo tape just in case I was handed an electronic storing device that I would need to label, and last but definitely not least, a slate and stylus.

Until October keep safe and remember to stay on the dotted line of life!

October 2015

Hello, here are a couple of worthy notes for you to keep in the back of your mind. It is 86 more days until Christmas day from October 1st, and also 92 more sleeps until New Year’s Eve! So, after those 2 dot crashing announcements what can I follow it with of any worthiness you ask? In this article I have shared my 2 cents worth to the merits of learning the A B C’s and 1 2 3’s of braille, and how it can open many doors you may never thought of before. I have pasted a bit of an email I received from Suzy who writes me from Tennessee, with a great suggestion.
Just a friendly reminder to send me an email with your opinions, whether positive or negative regarding any aspect of braille. Check out the Contact us link on the website and look for my email address.

Although I learned braille at a relatively young age, I have continued to be efficient in the reading and writing of braille. You may be a person who may have lost your sight later on in life, or perhaps you simply did not learn braille. I am not saying to take all the time and effort that is needed to learn braille, its contractions, and the rules, but to at least learn the alphabet and basic numbers. It will amazingly open so many doors for you.

You may be thinking, like what? By learning the A B C’s and 1 2 3’s of braille it will enable you to accurately and independently use measuring utensils such as measuring cups and spoons that are labelled with large print & braille. There are even braille rulers that have tactile and number indicators for inches as well as centimeters on the opposite side. As I explained in an earlier article, just by knowing how to write the alphabet and numbers, you can make your own playing cards. Would it not be exhilarating to be able to participate in a card game with sighted friends? You can label your appliances with letters and/or numbers that help you to independently use it. For example, braille an S for start, a C for clear, a D for defrost, and some numbers to navigate the keypad on a microwave oven. All these things and many more can become a reality with learning 1 2 3’s and A B C’s or grade 1, also known as uncontracted braille.

Many agencies for the blind as well as online stores give directions on how to create braille letters and numbers, sell braille alphabet and number cards, or can mail them to you for free. Then all you need to do is purchase a slate & stylus and you are well on your way to being more independent. For folks who want to dress with color coordination independently, sew on braille letter tabs to the inside clothing label. For example, sew on the PK tab to the inside label of your pink shirt. You can get these clothing tabs for free by writing to:
Mr. & Mrs. Nicholas Dudas
499 Grove Ave
Edison NJ 08820 USA
Please send request in print only
(mention - Help for the Blind. Free clothing tags.)
There are 14 different colored tags per set, and there are two sets of tags in each envelope. They also provide an instruction sheet defining Braille Symbols for the alphabet
The sky is truly the limit with simply learning the fundamentals of braille.

Here is a snapshot of Suzy’s email that I would like to share with you:
“I’m enjoying your Braille segment of this publication since I use it daily. A couple of labeling options I’ve found handy for both the slate as well as the Brailler are these. The Avery clear labels, for computer printers, hold braille extremely well, are water-proof, can easily be wiped off, and are see-through. These work well on shampoo and conditioner bottles, which often look the same, and stand up well to the water in the shower. Another find was at a yard sale where a stack of tractor-fed labels had been discarded.”

This just goes to show you that one person’s junk really is another person’s treasure. It is also nice to see that right off the shelf items from stores can be adapted to benefit the blind.

If I am able to convince at least one person to learn the A B C’s and 1 2 3’s in braille my efforts are well worth my time. We as blind adults are known to complain about inclusion with the mainstream public. By enabling ourselves to be equipped with braille materials we can be more independent, and have fun too! We can play a card games using the braille deck of cards. We can bake a sweet treat by using the braille measuring cups and spoons. We can pick out a braille labeled CD by choice and entertain some company. These little things go a long way in the eyes of our sighted fellow humans. Until November, remember to stay on the dotted road of life!

November 2015

As I write to you for November, I am very excited to merge the Braille Highway with the modern technology highway to bring to you some information about a braille smartwatch that soon may be available. This could possibly be on the shelves as early as December. Well if it becomes a reality, I know what I will be putting on my Christmas wish list, a braille smartwatch.

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Natalie Shoemaker on the braille smartwatch.
For all the technological advancements we’re seeing in this digital age, little consideration has been given to those who cannot see what appears on a smooth, pixelated screen. There’s text-to-speech and the spotty accuracy of Siri commands, but the lack of devices supporting braille and their cost, which can be upwards of $3,000, has hampered literacy among the blind community.

However, a South Korean start-up company, Dots, wants to change the statistics and empower the visually impaired with braille-supported smart devices. Check out these features of their braille smartwatch:
• It has a tactile face full of actively shifting dots that pop-up or recede into the watch’s face, so users can read messages, e-books, or directions from their smartphone, which syncs over Bluetooth 4.0.
*One of the best aspects of this watch is it gives wearers some sense of privacy with their communications. Until now iOS messages had to be read by Siri.
*The watch’s face has four “cells” that contain six dots each. This enables up to four Braille characters to be shown at once. The cells can be calibrated to display new characters at various speed from a slower one-hertz pace to a speedy 100 hertz.
*The development team estimates the watch will be able to go around 5 days between charged.

But, what’s most promising for the future success of this product and the team’s goal to encourage literacy among the blind community, is the watch’s price. The braille smartwatch is expected to retail for less than $300.

I am going to be calling all my local suppliers of braille equipment to see if they are going to be carrying this exciting braille smartwatch. I just cannot stop imagining having something as small as a wrist watch to be able to read braille on. Not needing to remember to carry around my braille pen or other Bluetooth enabled braille displays, is sounding pretty good to me.

If you would like more information simply type in to your favorite search engine “braille smartwatch” and you will find lots of information.
Remember to stay on the dotted line of life!

December 2015

Wishing you all Happy Holidays filled with family, happiness, good food, and cheer!

Why not ask for, or give a fellow braille user a braille related gift item for the holidays? Braille is not just for reading, organizing, and labeling. There are many stores and organizations that offer a variety of braille products.

*Braille T shirts: Many companies have a wide selection of braille t shirts with different phrases. Here is a small glimpse of some of the saying; Love is Blind, Stop Staring, Time to get Tactile, Brailliant, and Braille letters A-z. Some of these companies also provide custom orders, allowing you to create your own original phrase.
*Braille jewelry: Braille jewelry has become quite popular lately. Such jewelry items you can purchase are military style dog tags, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and charms for either purses or key chains. Companies can braille names, initials, or words onto either brass, copper, or aluminum to create the jewelry you desire.
*Braille playing cards: Why not give a deck of playing cards as a gift, or get one for yourself? Many braille companies offer regular or jumbo sized deck of cards. Some also have large print on them.
*Braille board games: How nice would it be for yourself and your blind friends to play a classic board game amongst each other or with your sighted friends and family members? Well it is possible. Some games that have been adapted for blind users are Monopoly, Scrabble, Bingo, Tic Tac Toe, Checkers, and Sudoku just to name a few.
*Raised line Braille Coloring Books: Yes, there are tactile coloring books! Expose your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and others to the world of pictures made with raised dots. Many books come with a theme in mind. For example you can choose from holiday, animals, seasonal, and general kid friendly pictures. Children can run their fingers along the dotted lines and determine what it is, and then have fun coloring them in.
Braille Implements: Why not try a different type of slate and/or stylus? There is such a wide selection; from a few lines all the way to a full page slate. I wrote about a few choices of these in a previous article, which you can go back and read from the website. Just click onto The Braille Highway from the main page and skim through my past articles.

Whatever you choose, I hope you bring some new braille items into your life, your blind or sighted friend’s or families life. I think it is important to at least introduce braille to your sighted friends and to your family. And, this can be done in a fun and interactive way.
Remember to stay on the dotted line of life!
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