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The Braille Highway

For your reading convenients below you will find all the Braille Highway published in 2019

January 2019

Happy New Year! Wishing you a year filled with happiness, good health, prosperity, and lots of blessings. It is not only a new calendar year but The Blind Perspective is a year older and of course, so is the Braille Highway.

It is also Louis Braille�s 210th birthday on January 4th. Keeping Mr. Braille�s birthday in mind, I will be giving a quick lesson on learning braille. I will begin by stating that I am not a braille instructor nor do I have any training in teaching. For folks who may have learning braille as one of their New Year�s resolution I will give you a very basic and brief lesson on the A, B, C�s & braille numbers. I do encourage you to find an official institution that teaches braille once you get the fundamentals from this article. As per usual, I do invite you to email me by using my address mentioned at the beginning of this article.

The directions below are for use with a braille writer, not the slate and stylus. I would recommend that you have ample braille paper available to practice on, as practice makes perfect.
We will begin with the first ten letters of the alphabet. First the letter, then the dots needed to create that specific letter will be given.

A. = dot 1.
B. = dots 1 & 2.
C. = dots 1 &4.
D. = dots 1. 4. & 5.
E. = dots 1 & 5.
F. = dots 1. 2. &4.
G. = dots 1. 2. 4. & 5.
H. = dots 1. 2. & 5.
I. = dots 2 & 4.
J. = dots 2. 4. & 5.
I would recommend that you practice these 10 letters until you can recall them with ease.

To create the next ten letters of the alphabet in braille, you need to add dot 3 to the first ten letters. See below.

K. = dots 1 & 3.
L. = dots 1. 2. & 3.
M. = dots 1. 3. &4.
N. = dots 1. 3. 4. & 5.
o. = dots 1. 3. & 5.
P. = dots 1. 2. 3. & 4.
Q. = dots 1. 2. 3. 4. & 5.
R. = dots 1. 2. 3. & 5.
S. = dots 2. 3. & 4.
T. = dots 2. 3. 4. & 5.

There are six more letters that remain, U through Z. With the exception of the letter W, add the dot 6 to the letters K through O to create the remaining letters.

U. = dots 1. 3. 6.
V. = dots 1. 2. 3. & 6.
X. = dots 1. 3. 4. & 6.
Y. = dots 1. 3. 4. 5. & 6.
Z. = dots 1. 3. 5. & 6.

Since the w was not used in France during the 1800's, it needed to be added afterwards.
W. = dots 2. 4. 5. & 6.
That concludes the alphabet. Like I already mentioned, practice is the best method for learning anything new.

As for the numbers, A. through I = 1 through 9, and J = 0. To distinguish between the letters and numbers, you must first use the number sign to represent the dots as a number, rather than a letter.

Here are the numbers, be sure to put the number sign before the dots representing the number.
Number sign = dots 3. 4. 5. & 6.
1. = number sign, then dot 1.
2.= number sign, then dots 1 & 2.
3. = number sign, then dots 1 & 4.
4. = number sign, then dots 1. 4. & 5.
5. = number sign, then dots 1 & 5.
6. = number sign, then dots 1. 2. & 4.
7. = number sign, then dots 1. 2. 4. & 5.
8. = number sign, then dots 1. 2. & 5.
9. = number sign, then dots 2 & 4.
0. = number sign, then dots 2. 4. & 5.

Once you have mastered the A. B. C�s and numbers, you can then purchase Dymo tape and go label crazy. It will truly open many doors for your independence. Label medicine, spices, canned/ frozen foods, files, DVD�s, CD�s, documents, and much much more!

Thank you for reading my article! Remember to stay on the dotted line of life! Be safe and see you again in February!

February 2019

Hello and welcome to the Braille Highway for the month of February!

What a better way to begin the new year, than with a Braille Pal! You will not only be able to practice your braille skills, but you can make a new friend. The Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), International Services & Global Issues Division has begun a �Braille Pals� initiative.

Braille users and learners at any level can develop friendships with others from around the world. This program currently has a classroom of students from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired communicating with other students in India. They welcome more classrooms and individual students to communicate and practice their braille with other similarly-aged students around the world.

The main concept of this initiative is to encourage braille along with friendships. However, braille does not need to be the only form of communication, as individuals with low vision and non-braille users are welcomed. Both adults and children are encouraged to participate.

Participants are connected initially through email. It is then up to the Braille Pals to exchange addresses to begin writing in braille or continue communicating through email.

There are several Pals from many countries who are either using or learning UEB (Unified English Braille), and they would like to have a Braille Pal to practice and communicate with. These individuals come from such countries as Algeria, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Macedonia, and Poland.

If you are interested in becoming part of this Braille Pal initiative, please email Lisa Johnson at LMJohnson1025@gmail.com
Be sure to provide your name, location (state, country), age, gender, the languages you speak, your level of braille in English (you may include other languages that you braille), and other information that may help connect you with an appropriate Braille Pal.

Braille user's do it with feelings. Why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille. Remember to stay on the dotted line of life. Stay safe and we will talk again in March.

March 2019

Hi Readers!
For the Irish, and those of us who are Irish for a day, Happy Saint Patrick�s Day! Many of us will be moving our clocks forward. And, either you will be welcoming spring or fall in your neck of the woods. As for me, I can�t wait for spring. We have had too much snow in my area of Canada this winter season.
I have finally been able to spend some time with Karen Santiago to conduct a Q&A about braille. For those of you who don�t know, Karen is the editor of the Blind Perspective, and the author of Movers & Shakers, as well as the International Perspective articles. Below you will find her thoughts and experiences with braille, so, rread on.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
I live in central Massachusetts with my two daughters, Kandis and Erika, and my guide dog, Sheila. My vision loss is due to glaucoma, which I was diagnosed with at the age of five. Before losing most of my sight in 2007, I own and operated a preschool center. For the past eight years I have been working for Easter Seals, an organization that provides services to adults and children living with disabilities.

Q: Did you learn UEB, and if yes when and how did you learn it?
I have not yet taken on the challenge of learning UEB. However, shortly after losing the majority of my sight and leaving my teaching position, I began to learn braille from the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I completed all four literary courses, as well as many other courses. In fact, in 2010, I was awarded the Student of the Year award from Hadley!

Q: When you produce braille, which methods do you use?
I use my slate and stylus to jot down notes, and to label documents that I need to file. I have a datebook with a convenient storage pouch for a slate and stylus. This is great for noting appointments, date reminders, and the like. I have a slate and stylus set at work for creating my meeting notes.
I use my Perkins braille writer for the �bigger jobs�, such as brailling letters, and creating my username/ password reminder list. I also have created a golf guide for when I play the computerized golf game. This lists the golf clubs and the distances that each one is used for. It comes in quite handy!
I also use electronic braille. I use Perky Ducks to create electronic documents that I can either read by using a braille display, or by sending it to my Cyclone braille embosser, to create a hard copy.

Q: When you read braille which methods do you use?
I use both hard copy and electronic braille. I however, prefer to read books using the hardcopy version. If I am going somewhere, and I know I will be waiting for an extended amount of time, I grab a braille book to take along with me. Whenever I travel, I also pack a braille book. The plane is a great place to read braille!

Q: Do you use braille at home and/ or work?
I do use braille at home and at work. At home, other than the previously mentioned usages, I use braille to label my appliances such as my stove, microwave, washer, and dryer. I label my medications, spices, food, and various beauty & skin care lotions.
At work, other than creating meeting notes I have recently labeled things throughout the office. Working for Easter Seals, and what we stand for, we are in the process of making the office accessible for all. My part was to go around the entire office, and create necessary braille labels and post them. This included such labels as names of rooms, emergency exits, stairwells, and the microwave.

Q: Give a detailed description of how braille impacts your life.
Braille impacts my life in several different ways. However, I feel the number one impact is the amount of independence it has given me, and for so many things. I hate to rely on other people for simple tasks like finding a spice or can of food I need, setting the oven, heating up food in the microwave, reading my medications, and many other chores. I also believe my daughters like it too, so I don�t have to keep asking them for help.
Braille is also very important to me because it gives me the ability to read and write. I can read books, magazines, recipes, and even do it when the lights go off.

Q: In your city do you have access to braille?
For living in the second largest city in New England, I wish there was more access/ exposure to braille material/ signage. Yes, there is braille on elevators, most entrances to restrooms, and some ATM machines. We do have quite a few restaurants that have braille menus, you just need to ask.

Q: Do you have any braille games?
Yes, I do! I have braille playing cards, Uno cards in braille, and a King Cribbage game that has been modified in braille. My family and I love to play dominos, and I have a magnetic set with tactile dominos. I also have coloring books with raised tactile dots.

Q: As a braille user what would you say to a blind person who does not know braille to convince them to learn it?
Well I have said different things to different people. But the main point I try to convey to each of them, is to, at least learn the alphabet. Knowing just the alphabet will give you so much independence. Just look at all the things I am able to do by myself, because I took the time to learn braille.

Q: Do you have any cute or novel story to relay that someone has done with braille?
I have two that come to mind. First, I remember shortly after finishing my braille literary 4 course, my mother gave me a card. My mother had taken a braille transcription course when I was young. It had nothing to do with me, since my vision was fine, she just wanted to do it. Well she brailled the message onto the card. It was the first card I was able to read since losing my sight and learning braille. I was so touched, I started to cry. My daughters have also sent me letters from summer camp in braille. They used a portable braille label maker. They would braille the sentences, cut the label, and then stick them on to a piece of paper to make the letter.
Secondly, when I could see, I was a fanatic about taking pictures, especially when the girls were young. Well, for Christmas one year, they created a photo album for me. They got out that braille label maker and labeled the pictures! This is a present I will treasure forever, not only because I can read it, but because my girls took the time to make it for me! Another emotional time for me.

Q: What are your opinions of braille?
I can only reiterate what I have already stated. For me, learning and knowing how to read and write in braille is literacy, which in turn, has given me so much more independence throughout my Daly life, both at home and at work.

I want to thank my editor for taking the time out of her busy schedule to share her thoughts, views, and experiences with braille. As always remember braille users do it with feeling. Don't complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille. Stay on the dotted line of life! Until next time, take care.

April 2019

Hello Readers!
As you all know I write about braille because I enjoy using it, both for reading and writing. Also, I am a huge advocate for blind and visually impaired people learning braille in order to gain more independence within their own lives. There is a way those of you who either are Wanting or contemplating learning braille to do it! That is through the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired, formerly known as the Hadley School for the Blind.

Hadley is the largest provider of distance education for those who are blind or visually impaired. They are also the largest educators of braille throughout the world, serving over 10,000 students annually. Classes are free, and they are also offered to family members of blind or visually impaired students. Interested individuals can go to the website and complete the enrollment application online.

Once enrolled, there is a wide selection of courses to choose from. These include, but are not limited to the following categories; independent living, technology, business, literature, science, and recreation.

No, I did not forget braille, here are just a handful of the braille courses Hadley has to offer:
Braille Literacy 1: tactile readiness
Braille Literacy 2: learning the braille alphabet
Braille Literacy 3: uncontracted braille, UEB version
Braille Literacy 4: uncontracted braille, UEB version

The below portion of this article was written by Karen Santiago.
If there is any one of you saying to yourself, �I am too old to learn braille now.� I have someone for you to meet! Clarice Cocco, who resides in Texas, is 92 years young and completed the entire braille literary series. She received the Hadley�s Braille Student of the Year award last fall.

While Clarice�s vision wasn�t so stable, she wondered what she would do if she couldn�t read or write anymore. Terry, a representative from the blind services of Austin, told her that there was braille for that. At that time, at the age of 84, Clarice said, �Oh, I�m too old for that!� Then a year later, Clarice thought learning braille would be a good idea. She talks about it as if Terry planted the seed, and it took a year for it to mature.

Clarice enrolled in the Hadley School, and began the braille literary series at the age of 85. It took her six years, but she did it, completing all four parts of the braille literary series. Not only that, but she did the majority of her braille lessons with a slate and stylus! Clarice uses braille to label many things, such as her hangers to identify clothing, her crochet hooks, and her various cards in her wallet.

When asked why she decided to learn braille later in life, these were her remarks.
It took me a long time to decide to do it, but I have never regretted it for one moment. I find these little things that I am able to do have made me more independent, and it was worth the time it took me to learn braille.�
She added that it was great to be able to work at her own pace and that the staff was extremely helpful and encouraging. She concluded our talk with these words, �Really, we are never too old to learn.�

I want to publically thank Karen and Clarice for the above article. I must congratulate Clarice for successfully completing the braille literacy course and for doing it later on in life! Well folks, here was another living example of a person putting their mind to completing something and successfully caring it out!

As always, why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille. Braille users do it with feelings! Finally, remember to stay on the dotted line of life!
Talk with you again in May, and stay safe!

May 2019

Kellogg�s Rice Krispies Treats & Love Notes

Isn�t it wonderful when we can find a product labeled in braille? We know then that the company took the time to consider the needs of the blind community. Well, Kellogg�s has gone a step further. Read the below Q&A I had with Emily Minardi, Associate Marketing Director of Rice Krispies Treats.

How did you (and NFB) come up with this idea?
Rice Krispies Treats believes love and support are the most important back-to-school supplies. For the last few years, Rice Krispies Treats has provided parents and family members with the opportunity to send their children a sweet treat with a write-on wrapper for notes of encouragement.

However, with more than 62,000 children who are blind and low-vision in elementary through high school across the United States, Rice Krispies Treats realized not every child is able to experience written love and support. By partnering with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), we created accessible �Love Notes� including Braille stickers and re-recordable audio boxes that are inclusive of children who are blind or low-vision.

Rice Krispies Treats worked closely with the NFB throughout the entire process of creating the Braille stickers and re-recordable audio boxes to ensure they are user-friendly to those who are blind or have low-vision. We also worked directly with NFB members for trial of the �Love Notes� Braille stickers and re-recordable audio boxes.

Why did Kellogg�s decide to do it?
Kellogg has a larger connection to this cause with W.K. Kellogg having lost his sight for the last decade of his life and continued to work at the company full time for a number of years afterwards. Inclusion is in our DNA at the Kellogg Company. Everyone is important, and we want each child to be able to feel loved, supported and acknowledged.

Can you describe the braille Love Notes and the audio box?
The �Love Notes� Braille stickers are heart-shaped to match the space on Rice Krispies Treats writable wrappers for written notes. Each Braille sticker sheet includes eight uplifting phrases for parents and family members to share with children, from �You�ve Got This� to �Love You Lots.�

For children who are auditory learners or don�t read Braille, the re-recordable audio box holds a Rice Krispies Treats crispy marshmallow square inside and when opened, plays a 10-second pre-recorded auditory message. The audio box messages can be re-recorded more than 1,000 times, offering opportunities to share love and support throughout the entire school year.

How can someone get the Braille Love Notes?
Currently, people can order the �Love Notes� Braille stickers at: RiceKrispies.com/Love Notes
at no charge, while supplies last. We�re still discussing what the future might hold for this program, so nothing is concrete at this juncture; however Capable, Kellogg�s disability-related business/employee resource group, was closely involved in the program and is exploring future opportunities for collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind.

How has the response from the public, and blind community been?
We�ve received a lot of positive feedback on the Braille stickers and audio boxes and parents have shared some heartwarming stories and comments. Here are a few amazing examples we saw on Facebook:
Video comment: www.facebook.com/ChinaMom
Video comment: www.facebook.com/courtney
�We just received ours and my daughter was so curious! She is legally blind and deaf. It was great that not only did it come with the stickers and treats, but it also came with the letter in Braille on top of being written out and also an alphabet card for others to learn! Thank you for thinking of the blind/low vision community!�, Dana H.

�Thank you for sending our daughter her letter and Braille stickers she loved them!!! ? ? ? ? ? and 3 different flavors of Rice Krispies! So much love to you all for doing this� � Amanda W.

�Thank you! My daughter will love these.�, Megan P. (shared photo of her daughter who is blind holding her cane)

�Thank you for finding a way to include our children. Can�t wait to send this to lunch with my daughter.�, Brittany C.

�As a teacher of the visually impaired, I am VERY impressed. Thank you Kellogg's Rice Krispies for being so thoughtful and inclusive!�, Delaney C.

�Everything needs a chance and a change, I'm glad this is being addressed where it matters most. Thank you Kellogg's Rice Krispies??�, Tracy M.

Can you provide us with contact information?
To learn more about Kellogg�s Rice Krispies Treats, please visit our Contact page online or call 1-800-962-1413 between 9:00am and 6:00pm ET, Monday through Friday.

Website: Rice Krispies Contact

Is there anything else you would like to add?
We found the strongest emotional connection to this product came from parents, siblings, grandparents and family members of individuals who are blind. Teachers and administrators from public schools have been using the products as a learning tool for sighted students and students who are blind, encouraging inclusion. Current and retired teachers, as well as administrators from local and regional schools for the blind, have been using the products as rewards and prizes for blind students. National organizations for the blind have featured the products at events and conferences as an example of a successful program and motivation for new ideas.

Here is a link to assets (a press release, imagery of the products, a fact sheet, a video/b-roll, etc.)
Rice Krispies Information

As always, why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille. Braille users do it with feelings! Finally, remember to stay on the dotted line of life!

June 2019

Happy June to everyone,
For our readers in the northern hemisphere, enjoy the start of summer! For those of you experiencing the start of winter, keep warm!
I had a very busy month of May with a trip to the states, celebrating my mother�s birthday, and Mother�s Day! Before leaving to visit with my relatives in Washington State, I had made a few braillables to give to my young nieces and nephews.
I gave my youngest nephew, 4 years old, a sailboat braillable. He figured out that the picture was a sailboat right away! My two nieces each received a braillable of small hearts framing a large square piece of pink paper. They both told me secretly that they were going to draw a picture in the middle and give it to their mom as a Mother�s Day card, and they did! Finally, for my 8-year-old nephew, I gave him a braillable of a truck. He said, Ah, cool!� So, as you can see these braillable pictures aren�t just for blind/ low vision people to enjoy.
Below find the directions to make these fairly easy braillables, and share them with others.

Sailboat:
1. Space once, dots 4-5-6, CH (dots 1 & 6).
2. Space once, dots 4-5-6, space once, CH (dots 1 & 6).
3. Space once, dots 4-5-6, space twice, CH (dots 1 & 6).
4. Write ED (dots 1, 2, 4, & 6), x four times, n.
This sailboat is a simple figure. It can be made as large as you want by using dots 4-5-6 for the mast, increasing the number of spaces by one for each line added. Make the boat length correspond to the width of the sail.

Heart:
1. Write s, e, i, WH (dots 1, 5, & 6).
2. Write GH (dots 1, 2, & 6), space twice, A R (dots 3, 4, & 5).
3. Space once, e, i.
This is a very simple heart to make. That is why I decided to frame the paper with a bunch of these. Try making these small hearts, you can be very creative!

Truck:
1. Write p, 5 c�s, TH (dots 1, 4, 5, & 6).
2. Write l, space 5 times, dots 4-5-6.
3. Write l, 5 spaces, dots 4-5-6, i, c twice, WH (dots 1, 5, & 6).
4. Write l, space 5 times, dots 4-5-6, space 4 times, c, TH (dots 1, 4, 5, & 6), o.
5. Write v, IN (dots 3 & 5), c, EN (dots 2 & 6), 2 hyphens (dots 3 & 6), number sign, (dots 3, 4, 5, & 6), 2 hyphens (dots 3 & 6), IN (dots 3 & 5), c, EN (dots 2 & 6), number sign (dots 3, 4, 5, & 6).
6. Space once, e, hyphen (dots 3 & 6), i, space 5 times, e, hyphen (dots 3 & 6), i.
This braillable is a bit more complex. Take your time, especially with the last two lines. This is a side view of a truck with a box-like trailer, a cab, a back and front wheel, and a light on the front.

The idea can be expanded to make a school bus, using a series of contractions for (a full cell) as windows.

Thank you for reading my article! Why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille. Braille users do it with feelings! Remember to stay on the dotted line of life. Stay safe and chat with you again in July!

July 2019

July is upon us, where has the first half of 2019 gone! I want to send out a happy birthday to all my fellow Canadians for Canada�s birthday on July 1st! Also, happy 4th of July (Independents day) to all the American readers!

Over the last 5 years of writing the Braille Highway, I tried covering as many subjects I could find, and that I thought would be of interest to the readership. At the end of May I realized to my surprise, that I have left out a significant segment of the blind population by not covering some deaf-blind issues, or at least how important braille can be to them. I reached out to an instructor of braille who teaches both blind and deaf-blind students. Find below a little something she wrote about her experiences. As always, I look forward to receiving readers emails and encourage you to continue sending me them, just use the email address at the top of this article.

Braille Instructor for the Deaf-blind
My Name is Colleen Dupuis. I am a Braille Instructor here in Lafayette, Louisiana, at a place called the Deaf Action Center. My students are older individuals who are deaf, and eventually they will lose their sight. Most of the students take my class to learn and keep up there Braille skills to use the many different phone devices that they have.

I started working at the Deaf Action Center back in 1997. Throughout the years, I had to learn how to work and teach the deaf-blind. I did learn Sign Language, although not the best at it. However, I know enough to teach my students. Nowadays many deaf cultures don't use English Sign Language, instead they use American Sign Language (ASL).

When you are signing Using ASL, you may leave out words like of, the, is, etc., Shortening the time it takes to sign. So, when I am Explaining Braille to my students I have to break it down. I am totally blind myself, so when the student and I are signing to each other we have to sign in each other�s hands. Most of the time when a deaf-blind person is reading they have to keep one hand on the book and sign with the other.

Most of the time I just explain the contraction and give them a lesson to braille using that contraction. I Braille out all my lessons. I have use the book Braille Series.

I have taught individuals that are only Visually Impaired as well. This is a little different, because I can read along with them as they are vocal and do not have to sign.

Other methods I may use are the famous tennis balls to explain the dots of the Braille patterns. I also may use the Braille peg board. I enjoy working with my students, they are quite amazing! Just like you and me, they have no limits of what they can do. They cook, keep house, and use iPhone and other devices. To me, they really give the example of What God wants all to do (See Through Faith and not by sight).

I want to thank Colleen for writing a little about her experiences in teaching braille to deaf-blind students. Braille users do it with feelings! Why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille! Finally, remember to stay on the dotted line of life! Keep safe, and speak with you again in August!

August 2019

Hello and welcome to the August edition of The Braille Highway! I hope the weather has been to your liking in your neck of the woods, it has been a nice summer on the West coast of Canada. I do enjoy receiving emails from readers, so feel free to send me one by using the email at the top of this article. This month you will read some emails I have received lately and also how society has made some improvements when it comes to accommodations.

Here is an email from Mel living in Australia.
Dear Nat, Love your article, especially the cross section of topics and opinions. Late last year I visited my sister in Vermont. She recently adopted a cousin who happens to be blind. During my visit, my sister showed me the Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats & Love Notes. How exciting! I must say that the Kellogg company really surprised me and also has made me a complete loyal customer. I could not wait to get back home to Australia to see if we had the same thing available. Sadly, I must report that they have not come to my grocery store. Luckily, I took a package from America to bring back home to put in my daughter’s lunches. Thank you for mentioning the Kellogg initiative and good on the Kellogg company. Keep up the great work!

Thanks Mel for taking the time to email me and for sharing your story. Please let me know if and when the Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats & Love Notes arrive in your neck of the woods.

Here is an email I got from Luke who lives in Newfoundland Canada.
Hey Nat. I was fascinated with the lady who is blind and teaches braille to both blind and deaf-blind students. It amazes me how she can communicate with her deaf-blind students by showing them the dots physically. After reading the article, it dawned on me that would be the only way to do so. Then, I was kind of embarrassed with myself. Anyway, thanks for bringing this issue up and for shedding some light on it.

Thank you Luke for taking the time to email me and for your positive feedback. I am a firm believer in where there’s a will, there’s a way, and my July article kind of proves that.

The 3rd and final email I am sharing comes from Sally, who resides in California.
Dear Nat, I absolutely love braillables! I got so excited when I read the Junes Braille Highway and saw the instructions for 3 braillables. Needless to say, I have made them several times over and have given the heart ones to several friends. Thank you for your article and especially for the braillables!!!

Well, Sally, your welcome and I quite enjoy making braillables too! I just love it when I make a braillable and give it to someone who identifies what it is right away. That kind of serves as proof that I made it correctly.

I do not know if you are like me, but I really get a kick out of company’s when they produce items that have accommodations for people with disabilities. This is especially true with things that have speech and even more so with braille straight out of the box.

The blind Mice Mega Mall have advertised in the Perspective for their talking microwave and, more recently for the Black and Decker talking toaster oven, both accessible! Those are both awesome products that are made even more awesome with speech.

The Apple products; the iPhone, the iPad, and the iPod are all easily used by the blind. No need to purchase any additional products since it works straight out of the box with the voice over feature. That is a great thing in my opinion.

A friend of mine Named Eric, who lives in New York went to his Lowes Home Improvement store and purchased a window base air conditioner. This unit is compatible with Alexa and Google Home. But that’s not all, imagine how surprised Eric was when he looked at the remote control which came with the unit and saw braille next to the buttons.

Here is a brief description about the unit.
GE 350-square feet Window Air Conditioner (115-Volt; 8000-BTU energy star qualified. This air conditioner delivers 8000 BTUs to cool small rooms up to 350 sq ft. This unit has connected functionality to fully control your air conditioner from the convenience of a smart device, such as Alexa or Google Home. You can also monitor, schedule and control your air conditioner while home or away with the GE Appliances app on your phone.

The remote has six round bubble buttons down the left side of the remote. The braille is to the right of each button. The buttons are as follows:
1. on/off
2. mode
3. fan speed
4. timer
5. temperature up
6. temperature down

When you press one of the buttons, it emits a tone so you know you activated it. The following link will take you to the GE web site for this particular air conditioner. Here you can register it, view maintenance and care, view and download the installation guide, view or download the owner's manual, and more.
Products.GEAppliances.com

Thanks to Mel, Luke, Sally, and Eric for sharing their stories, opinions, and suggestions. Why complicate things with gadgets when you can complement things with braille. Braille user’s do it with feelings.
Remember to stay on the dotted line of life! Stay safe and talk with you again in September.

September 2019

Hello and welcome to the Braille Highway for September!
Back in the spring of this year I received an email from a person who wishes to remain anonymous, but has lots to say against braille. I have shared many emails with you, whether they are favorable or not, and I include my own opinions. I encourage you all to email me with your opinions after reading this month’s article at my email address mentioned above. Keep in mind that these are all James’s opinions (not the real name) and at the end of each of his points, I have my rebuttal. Read on and enjoy!

Dear Mr. Armeni. I hope you will take what I am saying with an open mind since most of what I got to say goes against your articles. I have been totally blind since the age of 5 and I was raised in a big city in the United states. The so-called experts taught me braille and provided all my school materials in braille until my graduation. My first point is where was the beloved braille once I entered post-secondary school? It went away with the dodo bird. Some schools have braille services but very few do, so it makes it a real challenge. If braille is so valuable, why is it not readily available in our post-secondary institutions?

Rebuttal: Being born and raised in Canada, I went to post-secondary here and the disabled student services where I attended, provided my exams in braille. Granted my books and most of my hand outs were given to me in an audio format.

We as blind people are always crying that we want to be treated equal to our sighted counterparts. So why do we demand braille menus, braille on business cards, braille on elevator button panels. If I am not with a sighted person at a restaurant, I can take out my trusty iPhone and use an OCR reading app and read the menu independently. Same thing when I get a business card, all I need to do is use an app to read the info on the card. If the manufacturers would make things the same, then we would be able to figure out where the correct buttons are for the floor we want. If all elevators had an audio component telling us what floor and whether the elevator was going up or down, it would make life much easier, not only for the blind but for the elderly who may need the extra alert to what is going on. I know you write in all your articles “why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille,” I think the exact opposite is true. If we would try to blend into society rather then ask for special accommodation’s things would be much more pleasant for all involved.

Rebuttal: James, with all the different colors and font sizes of menus I think using technology is a little more challenging than you make it sound. I think that when businesses take the time and money to provide their business cards in braille, it shows me that the business thought enough of me to make their contact information accessible. In a perfect world, all elevators would be made by the same company and yes, making it easier to familiarize yourself with the layout and with the added info of the audio announcements on each floor. That is living in a pipe dream James.

Regarding identifying the colors of clothing, why have the added pain in the butt to sew on the braille color tags. The technology is here to use smart phone apps to do that exact task of telling you the color. If you do not trust the color identifiers, then use the services of “be my eyes” or Aira. It is faster and very reliable. Same thing with labelling cd’s or DVD’s. Why have them “sticking out” with braille on them. Once again, pointing out that we are different. I thought we wanted to be treated the same as our sighted counterparts. When wanting to identify cd’s and DVD’s there are so many devices out there to assist, such as pen friend and ID mate, not to forget “be my eyes” and other smart phone apps. The garbage excuse you have used; what about in the case of a power outage or the batteries dies at the most in opportune time. Well, my reply to that flimsy excuse is we need batteries for lots of other things around the home like the tv remote or smoke alarms etc. We more than likely would have lots of batteries around to replenish our electronic assistive devices.

Rebuttal: James, what about when you are searching your closets in the very early morning and your significant other is still sleeping, how inconsiderate would it be to be playing your device to tell you the color when a braille tag would do the same thing in a quieter fashion. I know from experience that I can search for a cd or DVD with my braille labels way quicker than it would take to scan each one with either a pen friend or an ID Mate.

I would like to thank you for reading my email Mr. Armeni, and I hope I have made some compelling arguments, for if we as blind people want to be treated as equals then we need to stop demanding braille on things which makes us totally different. Let’s use the great modern technology and be less different.

Well folks, I hope it was not too difficult to have endured reading James’s point of view. I still think braille is awesome on many fronts and it beats technology. Despite the opinions of James’s, braille users do it with feelings. Why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille.
Remember, to stay on the dotted line of life! Keep safe and speak again in October!

October 2019

Hello & welcome to the Braille Highway,
I want to thank everyone who took the time to write in their opinions about my September article. Just a reminder, it was about James strong opinions of braille.

I asked for you folks to write in, & you certainly listened. Since I received an overwhelming response, I decided to forgo my typical article, and just post the replies I received.

Here is a little bit of what Bob had to say in his email:
“Just read your item in this month Blind Perspective. I do not use braille but I think James is a little out of line. If I had continued to learn braille back in 2003, I would be using it now. When I started to learn braille, I had a stroke which did damage to my finger tips on the right hand. This made it impossible to feel the dots. Keep up the braille stories because even though I do not use it I enjoy your items.”
Thanks Bob, I do appreciate your email.

Here are Marie’s kind words:
“Nat, I support your views about braille. I agree that braille is awesome on many fronts and it beats technology! Keep on promoting braille!”

Read on for Brett’s remarks:
“So, I conclude that a mix of both the old school, and the modern approach are valuable for today’s blind community. There are times that Braille is just not feasible. Although, there are times that I find Braille to be the best way to do things. Besides, I do carry my smart phone. I do not carry a Victor Stream, Braille note, Pen friend, laptop and scanner, or for that matter, a 6 volume Braille novel in my backpack. So, I don’t believe that either side is perfect for an imperfect demographic. We are all human, and will develop our own preferences.”
I agree with you Bret, I just feel no one should be all braille or all technology. A healthy balance of both is an ideal solution in my opinion.

This is what Kaye had on her mind:
“I read your article each month, but this is the first time in a very long time that I have felt such a compelling need to respond. I must truly take issue with the opinions of “James” about Braille, but I imagine you knew I might. James, of course is entitled to his opinion, but I do believe he is truly missing out.
I learned Braille at the age of 5 just as he did. Similar to his experience, I had Braille in Elementary school and High school, but the ability to come by Braille textbooks definitely diminished as I entered college. I then knew that it was up to me, not the school or university to keep up with my Braille Knowledge. Without Braille, I was functionally illiterate, and that was not something that I wanted for myself. I used Braille notetakers, and even made my parent purchase a Braille embosser for me. 
Fast forward almost 30 years, and Braille is still something I use today. Without the knowledge of Braille I possess, my job would be virtually impossible.”
Kaye, thanks for sharing your experiences.

Read this interesting viewpoint from Colleen, a blind mother:
“Well, as a totally blind mom. I have to agree braille is a great skill to know. It is a great feeling to be able to share reading time with your little one, to be able to read to them I believe gives the little one and mom a more enjoyable time of reading. I especially enjoyed reading her the ones with the tactile pictures. I also am able to play games with my daughter. We can play card games, UNO with braille UNO cards, and they have monopoly and scrabble as well. And many others. I also was able to braille game cards with pictures that help to teach my little girl how to identify different objects. So, you can be very creative with Braille as well. And I totally agree Braille has a way that you can quietly do things without sticking out with voice recognition. Such as telling time with a Braille watch. I cannot stand to be somewhere out and about and have to press my watch, so everyone knows I am checking the time. So, don't knock Braille, it has its good points.”
Nice hearing from a mom’s perspective Colleen!

Read Andy’s opinions as a person who is furthering his education:
“I was reading this and thought that I just had to put in my opinion. I am currently taking braille, after a decade and a half of not wanting to learn braille. I lost my sight at 25, and have gone on to obtain an associate in liberal arts and a bachelor in interpersonal communication. I plan on furthering my education with a masters in rehab teaching, which includes teaching braille. I think it is sad that less than 1 in four people who are blind or vision impaired know how to read braille. This is staggering, considering that if the same amount of sighted people could read print, this world would be in deep trouble. Plus, as long as I am on stats, it is around the same number of people who are unemployed, I echo the above statement. Think for a second, if the sighted world had 1 in four that could read, one in four that worked, we would be less than a third world country… so equality comes like this, let us get our literacy rates up and let us get our employment rates up, then we can talk about equality.”
Andy, you bring up great points, thanks.

Here is Marjorie’s email to me:
“I would like to make a few comments on the September Braille Highway. This reader boasts he can get through life without having had braille to guide him on his way. Firstly: he assumes every blind person in the world has a smart phone and knows how to use it. There are many of us who don't have one and frankly don't want one. As you said, aps are fine to a degree but for most people they can be rather daunting.
	If this reader is married and has children how did he read to them when they were toddlers and at elementary school. If he used a talking book then he didn't read to his kids, someone else did and in that way, parents don't get the bonding with their kids if they do it themselves.
	Having very tiny kids how does one even teach them the alphabet or numbers without braille unless they had a magnetic alphabet and number kit. Also, they would have to know the print alphabet to help their kids.
	if he does anything in the kitchen or in a workshop, does he run to his smart phone every time he needs to read his recipe or instructions on what he is doing. I would imagine a smart phone would be very lucky after being touched with sticky hands from batter making a cake, etc. yes, Smart phones have their use in life and am glad some folks can benefit from them, but there is nothing more rewarding than being able to read a book yourself, even under the covers on a dark wintry night. How did this wonderful member learn to spell or do math’s if he is dependent on technology? Even with sighted kids and it has been proven, they do tests on the iPad or tablet finding information on the web, and other kids who do the same tests via the written word and it has been proven that those who did the written word were leaps and bounds ahead of those who did the tests electronically. Mainly because the kids who read the questions etc. retained the information longer than those who received the questions and answers via technology. so much so that some schools are banning smart phones during school classes.”
Marjorie, I think you have given us all something to think about.

Here are Patty’s thoughts:
“I would first just like to commend you for reading and answering that angry email about Braille. That’s a lot more than most would do. I’m not quite sure how I as a promoter and newsletter owner would’ve reacted to that.
To me it seems as though “James” has some anger issues going on where his blindness is concerned, maybe someone said something to him about his braille use, maybe he’s just decided to be a difficult blind person, I don’t know. But, his arguments and solutions to not using Braille are too out of line to consider.”
Thanks Patty.

Finally, here is a response from Suzy that sums it up for me:
“I still feel that “in addition to” rather than “replacement of braille” just makes sense. Keep on the highway.” 

I would like to thank everyone once again, who took the time & effort to email me. I encourage readership interaction and input. Braille users do it with feeling. Remember to stay on the dotted line of life! Keep safe, and talk with you in November!

November 2019

Hello, and welcome to the November’s Braille Highway!
I am excited to present to you a Q&A session I had with an exciting lady with an even more exciting idea that she is putting in to action. Who would of thunk it, fashion and braille?

Keep reading, and as always, I invite you to send me your thoughts, opinions, braille tips, and techniques to my email listed above.

Here is my Q&A with Alexa Jovanovic, from Toronto, Canada. She is the creator of Braille In Fashion.

What inspired/ motivated you to combine braille and fashion?
I want to change the way we think about accessibility.
Braille in Fashion began during my undergraduate capstone project while I was studying Fashion at Ryerson University. In school, we were taught the importance of disrupting fashion industry norms through innovative design thinking and the co-design process. At the time of my capstone there was a rise in beaded clothing in the market and I immediately made the connection between the similarity in size of small beads and braille dots.

Fashion needs to be designed with all abilities in mind. By incorporating braille into clothing through beading, the clothing is not only functional, but aesthetically pleasing and can be marketed to a larger audience which can help reduce stigmas surrounding braille and the visually impaired. What was once a beautiful intricately beaded garment is now also inclusive, fully legible for braille readers, advocates for accessibility and empowers consumers.

Braille In Fashion products are created through a co-design process, which means the consumer is involved every step of the way and that I can adapt the products to fill any unmet needs. The current prototypes were created alongside a group of seven visually impaired individuals.

Together, we are carving out an entirely new space in the fashion industry.

Where are you at in your research study?
Since graduating from Ryerson in 2016, I have continued to research the topic of inclusive fashion and have obtained a U.S design patent for the work completed thus far. Just recently, I was invited to join the Fashion Zone at Ryerson University, an incubator for fashion-inspired startups. We are working hard to evolve the research project into a business and will soon be expanding our team.

How have you incorporated braille into design?
At Braille In Fashion, small beads are added to the exterior of clothing to form phrases in Braille that communicate clothing characteristics such as colour, textile, and care content. The beading doubles as a source of adornment and functional feature. It enhances the visibly fashionable aspect of the inclusive garment for sighted consumers while allowing Braille readers to fully identify their clothing through the beaded messages.

Can you describe your products that include braille?
Braille In Fashion currently has four different prototypes:
1. A white, long sleeve, collared, button down shirt with black matte Braille beading.  The goal of this prototype was to test legibility through various bead sizes, spacing extremes, orientations and fabric weights. Aesthetically, the prototype tested blind and sighted opinions towards Braille beading as a fashionable feature by using a high contrast black and white colour palette.

2. A long black, sleeveless dress with black matte Braille beading and black gloss decorative tube beads.
The goal of this prototype was to determine legibility with consistent use of small beads and refined spacing through the use of a Braille slate and stylus. Aesthetically, the prototype tested blind and sighted opinions towards discrete Braille beading as a fashionable feature by using an all-black monochromatic colour palette. Black gloss tube beads are added as line dividers to separate different categories of information.

3. An oversized blue jean jacket with different sized pearl white stripes on the back. Black matte Braille beading is added on top of the stripes.
The goal of this prototype was to test a new bead fastening technique to increase bead security and legibility. The added strength allows this beaded jacket to be laundered in a washing machine. Aesthetically, the prototype tested blind and sighted opinions towards high contrast black Braille beading as a fashionable feature on top of a striped pattern. Pearl white lines were added in a variety of sizes to separate different categories of information. These lines change the texture of the beaded areas and were tested as an alternative design feature to help differentiate between information categories.

4. Removable clip with Braille.
I am currently developing prototypes for a removable Braille clip that can be discreetly placed onto any existing piece of clothing. These clips include Braille that is used to identify the colour of a garment and easily slides onto the hem without damaging the textile. The high aesthetic appeal of the Braille clip provides wearers with the option to wear the clip in public or easily remove it and then reattach it.
These Braille clips are patented and can be added to all existing garments in a consumer’s wardrobe.

Beaded Braille Description:
All of the Braille beading on the garments are done in uncontracted Grade 1 braille. Alexa uses very small beads that are approximately the same size as a brailled dot on paper. To confirm accuracy and legibility, she works with a group of blind individuals who read Braille.

Below is the beaded description you would find on the first garment mentioned above:
Alexa positioned information about the shirt in two different places; on the collar and on the front of the shirt. The collar is thicker material than the front of the shirt, and has the Braille beading on a slight diagonal. The beaded braille says; Line 1, #65% polyester; Line 2, #35% cotton; and Line 3, Size small.

Whereas the front of the shirt is a lighter weight, and has the Braille beading in two straight horizontal lines. Both of These beaded braille lines say, White with black beading, using different bead sizes to compare legibility.

Where are you marketing this?
So far, the majority of my focus has been on research and development to find more cost effective ways to produce these items. My recent entrance into the Fashion Zone marks the next stage of my development journey as they have the resources to aid in the development of my go-to-market plan.

What is the response?
Braille In Fashion has received very positive feedback from both blind and sighted audiences. The project was covered on national news through CTV, as well as various Ryerson University news outlets.

The white shirt with black Braille beading was even selected to be the only item presented at the Perspectives on Reconciliation institute in the Yukon as the perfect representation of Ryerson’s commitment to innovation, equity, diversity, and inclusion.

The participants involved with Braille In Fashion’s co-design process have provided their full support since the project was introduced. Their encouragement, enthusiasm, and innovative thinking is what drives the success of this project. Braille In Fashion has received comments such as “I’m really glad you decided to do this. It’s inspirational”, “Fantastic idea”, “This is empowering”, “Very inclusive”, “It looks like very pretty beadwork” and “I like the positive awareness and promotion of independence that it creates.”

Braille and disability are often stigmatized as a disadvantage. Focusing on blindness specifically, research indicates that only 25% of daily obstacles directly relate to the sensory disability, whereas the other 75% deals with the negative interactions blind individuals have with the sighted.

Please share your thoughts about the above statistic you shared with me:
Research plays a significant role in Braille In Fashion. All decisions are made on the basis of in-person interviews and disability literature. At the start of my research I was shocked by the limited academic resources available on the topic of blindness, braille, and disabled individuals as fashion consumers. When I came across this specific statistic in a research paper, I found it very interesting and wondered if Braille In Fashion could play a role in educating sighted individuals about disability etiquette and work towards preventing such a high number of negative interactions. As the Braille In Fashion team grows and we produce more garments, I will be able to re-evaluate the community impact the products have.

To learn more, visit the Braille In Fashion website at: www.BrailleInFashion.com
If you are interested in being involved with Braille In Fashion, please email me directly at: alexajovanovic.design@gmail.com
or for those of you living outside of Toronto click the link below and take the survey: BrailleInFashionSurvey

I want to publicly thank Alexa for sharing her idea of fashion with braille. This saying is so appropriate with this month’s theme, braille users do it with feeling. Do not complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille. Remember to stay on the dotted line of life. Stay safe and talk with you again in December.

December 2019

Happy December and welcome to The Braille Highway. The final month of 2019, where has the time gone! This month’s focus is on Tactile Maps produced by the LightHouse in San Francisco. As per usual I invite you to send me ideas for future articles as well as constructive feedback at my email noted at the beginning of this article.

I usually use both google maps and soundscape on my smart phone when I am travelling, especially in unfamiliar places. I have come across a wonderful service that produces maps in both large print and braille. In this month’s article I had the pleasure of speaking to Greg Kehret and Naomi Rosenberg, both from the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco. Greg is the director of media and accessible design lab and has been working for the LightHouse for 19 years. Naomi Rosenberg is the senior designer in the media and accessible design lab and has been working for the LightHouse for 4 years.

Dr. Joshua Miele's created tactile Maps over 10 to 14 years ago, for Smith-Kettlewell. The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute is a non-profit, independent research institute, affiliated with and located adjacent to the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Joshua wanted for blind people to experience all that our sighted counterparts do regarding orientation and location literacy. The Smith-Kettlewell partnered with the LightHouse for The Blind and Visually Impaired of San Francisco who took on the job of outreach, Marketing, and distribution of the tactile maps. With financial assistants through grants a tool was created that would take the information from programs such as OpenStreetMap and automatically create a tactile version along with a large print one in the same document. Eliminating the need of someone who knows braille and or a graphic designer.

Here is a simple version of how the procedure works, as I understand it. I will use myself as an example. I would begin by giving the address of interest to the person at the Adaptation store at the San Francisco LightHouse. Next, I would need to choose what size I wanted; a letter size page, 11 x by 11.5-inch page, or an 11 x by 17-inch page. If the address I am seeking is in an urban setting, then the preferable choice would be 11 x by 11, to be able to zoom in. Another decision to make is whether I want imperial or metric measurements. The 11 x by 17-inch page would ideally be used more for stationary purposes, since to carry around would be difficult not to bend.

The maps are standard, whether you get them at the LightHouse or at the exhibit hall at a convention.
The title is on the top left corner, the directional arrows are on the right-hand corner, and next to the left arrow is the scale ratio. For example, a 1-inch line equals 500 feet or 150 feet, whatever the calculation may be.
Below that the map begins with lines representing streets. At the end of the line is a 3-letter abbreviation, representing the street name.
You will also find directional information, indicating the direction in which the street goes. For example, Market street in San Francisco would have, N E and S W. this would reveal that Market Street travels North East and South West.

Upon placing an order, you will receive 2 copies of the same address. One is a simple representation of the area, while the other one is more detailed. Also included is the map key informing you of the full street names represented by the three letter abbreviations.

So far this calendar year, the MAD Lab (Media and Accessible Design Laboratory) has printed and distributed over 2000 maps! I conducted my interview way back in July and at that point the NFB National Convention in Los Vegas was happening.  Naomi informed me that they had produced over 125 copies of maps during the convention. A smaller and portable embosser from ViewPlus Technologies was used during convention to produce these maps. But back at the home base, an industrial embosser from ViewPlus Technologies is used to produce braille and print Tactile Maps.

If you wish to order a tactile map for a particular address, call the store at the LightHouse in San Francisco at 1-888-400-8933. It generally takes two to three days to produce, and then it will be shipped to you either through paid postage or free matter. The maps cost 25 dollars, but if you mention that you heard about Tactile Maps through the Blind Perspective, or use coupon code TMAP20, you will receive a 20 % discount!

If you prefer shopping online, the Adaptations Store website is: www.Adaptations.org
Direct link to order a TMAP from the website is: www.Adaptations.org/OrderMaps
In both of these online options, use the TMap20 code for a 20% discount. This coupon code is valid until December 20th 2019. I want to officially thank Naomi and Greg for allowing me to interview them. I also want to apologize for the lengthy time it has taken me to publish this article. Braille users do it with feeling. Why complicate life with gadgets when you can compliment it with braille. Remember to stay on the dotted line of life. Keep safe and write to you again in 2020!
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