This week is National Story Telling Week; how do you read yours?

On a table in the Braille room there is a copy of a Harry Potter book, just beside it there is a stack of 16 braille volumes of the same book, towering over it. There is also a Perkins brailler just behind the book.

Whether you love a weighty hardback, the portability of an e-reading device, or listening to your favourite story being read out to you when you’re on the go, reading and stories are pastime shared by many all over the world.

 

But, have you ever thought about what it’s like to read with your fingertips?

 

Many students at The Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) learn Braille; a concept designed by Louis Braille based on six raised dots used in multiple formations to enable visually impaired people the chance to read with their fingers. Through Braille, students not only access their studies in a format that suits them, they can also read for pleasure.

 

Audio books are widely used, yes, but it is often said by visually impaired people that they still like to feel a book between their hands, and not use their own imagination for voices.

 

Braille books are almost always larger than standard print books. Braille paper is A4 size, sometimes square, and so Braille books can take up a lot of room. There are two types of Braille: Uncontracted and Contracted. Every letter of every word is spelled out in Uncontracted Braille. For Contracted Braille, there are signs that are used to replace common features of spelling, such as ‘ing’ or ‘th’; this shortens documents, sometimes considerably…

 

JK Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ is 766 pages long, the largest in the series. Even in Contracted Braille, this single story becomes 16 volumes! It looks pretty impressive when placed next to the hardback version of the book, as in the picture.

 

Whether it is for study or pleasure, for a current need or as a way of safeguarding for the future, students learn Braille because it suits them. It may be in addition to using a screen reader or magnifier, or it might be the student’s preferred method of reading and writing. It enables privacy and independence, allowing students to receive and read their own mail, for example.

 

Find out more about braille courses at RNC