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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions and Answers

Why is there so much information on this site? I just want to learn braille.

There are many different forms of braille: standard literary or Grade 2 braille, Grade 1 braille, music braille, Nemeth braille for mathematics, etc. This site tries to give you a general framework for issues you will encounter in deciding which braille to start with and the various choices you have for both learning and using braille. Also, the more complete the information you start with, the more easily you can tell when other information is incomplete, inaccurate, or out-of-date.

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Which braille code should my child learn first?

There is some controversy over this question. Grade 2 is often considered to be the easiest since there are many shorthand symbols or contractions for common words and parts of words: there is one cell for the word and, another for the word the and so on. And most of the letters of the alphabet are also used as shorthand for common words such as c for can and k for knowledge.

Some people think that children should learn Grade 1 braille first since it is more like print (and easier for a mainstream teacher who doesn't know braille) even though they will read it more slowly than Grade 2. Grade 1 may also be more appropriate for children with cognitive or learning disabilities.

You will need to study both sides of this issue and decide what you think is best for your child. Hopefully, you will have some influence on the course of study.

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Can I read braille by touch?

It can be difficult to discipline yourself to learn to read braille by touch if you have any vision. Children and others who are learning to read braille by touch sometimes have to cover their eyes with sleepshades in order to avoid using their vision. There is some research that indicates that the same part of the brain is used for reading by touch as by sight. If you are a print-literate adult, you might want to use your vision to learn as much about braille as you possibly can before worrying about the difficulty of tactile reading. People over the age of 90 have learned to read braille by touch!

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How can I ever remember all those dots?

Actually there is a pattern to braille so you only need to memorize the dots for a-j plus a few others. (This site also has a new memory aid for this.) For example, the dots for the letters k-t are the same as for a-j but with one extra dot. Also, unless you need to know the dots for some particular reason such as helping a child, you can represent the braille cells in a number of equivalent forms besides dots as explained in the answer to the next question.

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What do you mean by "dotless braille"?

Braille is a system for encoding print information by using only 63 different characters and without taking advantage of additional information conveyed by special typesetting. As far as the encoding part, it doesn't matter which 63 characters you use since you can convert them to the correct dots later. My idea is that it is very important to understand the system of braille and that it can be easier for some sighted people to learn the system by using dotless characters which are easier on the eyes and easier to memorize.

"Dotless" braille isn't a new idea. Computer programs, for example, don't use dots; they often use the numbers 33-95 for the braille cells. (This is called ASCII braille.) Many sighted braille transcribers read ASCII braille in a dotless form by using the print equivalent of these numbers which includes various special characters such as the dollar sign and the equals mark. Several new forms of dotless braille for various purposes are suggested on this website. The one called DotlessBraille™ is unusual because it is based on an extended set of more than 63 characters.

Once you understand the braille system, you might want to learn to read simulated inkprint dots. Of course, people who read braille by touch read a raised version of the dot-based characters.

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Why is there so much about computers on this site?

Computers are important to the tactile braille reader and to the sighted person who is learning braille as a parent, teacher, or transcriber. In addition there is a close relationship between braille and computer technology.

Learning how to use a computer is almost as important for a braille reader as is braille literacy itself. A computer with a refreshable braille display gives a braille reader instant access to the Internet, eBooks, and email. Moreover, even a small child, who learns how to use appropriate technology such as a Mountbatten brailler, can prepare materials in both braille and print.

Second, good computer skills are critical to transcribing braille and preparing other materials in alternate media in this electronic age.

Third, there is a synergy between concepts used in braille and those used with computers so that understanding either one will help you understand the other better. Two things that braille has in common with computers are the binary number system and the use of a linear markup code.

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Where else can I learn about braille?

Check out our annotated links page. There are several places to learn braille free online.

I'm a computer scientist. How can I help?

Check out our volunteer page.

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This page was first posted March 08, 2002 and last modified on May 31, 2002.

Send questions to info@dotlessbraille.org