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Fun with Braille

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As the country recognizes the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, families may be having new or additional conversations about access and inclusion. With this in mind, we thought it might be helpful to share resources for kids and families from our colleagues in the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), part of the Library of Congress.

NLS administers a free national library program that provides braille and recorded materials to people with temporary or permanent low vision, blindness, or a physical disability that prevents them from reading or holding the printed page. Created by an act of Congress in 1931 to serve adults, it was expanded in 1952 to include children. For parents and educators looking for resources about disability, NLS staff developed “Disability Awareness for Children Pre-K through Sixth Grade,” “a descriptive listing of books, games, and activities that educate children with and without disabilities on disability awareness, people-first language, sign language, and braille.” NLS services are provided through a network of libraries in every state and territory and these libraries frequently have programs and other services that may be of interest to parents and teachers.

coloring sheet of a baseball field
Activity sheet showing simbraille from the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled.

The staff at NLS developed “Fun with Braille,” a series of activities for sighted kids to learn about braille that includes color-by-braille images, braille fill-in-the-blanks, and a downloadable braille alphabet. As part of the Library’s programming for the 2018 exhibition Baseball Americana, the NLS team created the color-by-braille activity above. It shows simbraille, which represents the tactile dots of braille as a visual, and remains a fun activity for baseball fans that also introduces the braille alphabet.

The braille cell, an arrangement of six dots, is the basic unit for reading and writing braille. Sixty-three different patterns are possible from these six dots. Braille contains symbols for punctuation marks and provides a system of contractions and short‑form words to save space, making it an efficient method of tactile reading. Louis Braille invented the braille system of embossed writing in 1821. It gradually came to be accepted throughout the world as the fundamental form of written communication for blind individuals.

Braille is read by moving one or more fingers along each line. Both hands are usually involved in the reading process, and reading is generally done with the index fingers. Usually, one hand reads the majority of one line while the other hand locates the beginning of the next. Average reading speed is approximately 125 words per minute, but greater speeds of up to 200 words per minute are possible.

We hope you find these activities to be an engaging way to begin a conversation about accessibility and to learn more about the work of NLS and the community it supports. You can also visit the NLS website for more information on eligibility and applying for service. NLS services include:

  • Talking Books and Magazines: Audiobooks and audio magazines on digital cartridges are mailed to your door. You return them the same way, through postage-free mail. Digital talking-book players are also provided free to patrons.
  • Braille: Braille books and magazines are delivered directly to your door at no cost.
  • Music: Music appreciation materials, music scores, and music instruction in braille, audio, and large print.
  • Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD): A Web-based service that provides access to thousands of special-format books, magazines, and music materials. The same materials that are offered on digital cartridges are also available for download in compressed audio or braille formats.
  • BARD Mobile: Download and play audio materials on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Many of the materials available on digital cartridges or in hard-copy braille are also available for download in compressed audio or braille formats.

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