Improving Reading Braille


Improving Reading Braille

     "How can I improve my Braille reading?" Mike asked. He was a new student for me, transferred from a former teacher; she had always bragged about this student's motivation. He was thirty, partially sighted and wanted a method of reading with less of a struggle and with more fluency. He had just told me that he had learned contracted Braille in three months and has been doing independent reading for another two. "I'm reading magazines and books, but it's so slow."

     "What speed are we talking?" I asked. My mind starting to develop a list of further questions; including a second list of things to try. However, I didn't want to go too far with that. First I knew I'd better see what his unique situation was before I expended too much energy coming up with strategies.

     "Well, I counted the words on the average page and took my time for reading the page and came up that I am at twenty-five words a minute." He explained, his frustration clear in his tone. "I'm enjoying it, but I need to read faster."

     "Okay. And you are right, there is a lot more speed and even more pleasure that I know you can get to," I said. Thinking we now needed to get into the mechanics of it all. "So to help me figure out what to suggest first, I have a series of questions for you. Beginning with how often do you read?"

     "At least an hour every day. That's at home and I have a magazine with me and read on the bus to and from work."

     "Very good. Next let's take a look at your technique. I need to see how you are going about reading," I said. I wanted to start with the basics and have him demonstrate exactly how he went about it. I didn't want to assume or misinterpret any part of it.

     Magazine on the table, he said, "I'm right handed, so I read with my right index finger. My left index finger is positioned at the beginning of the line. So when my right gets to the end of the line, my left drops down to the next line and my right comes back and matches up with the left and starts reading again."

     It was exactly like I had been first taught at the state school for the blind. And with what I now knew about reading Braille, that method was limiting. But before I jumped to any erroneous conclusions, I needed to know more. "Let me ask you this," I said, "do you have problems with any of your fingers, hands or wrists?"


     "Okay, let's have you read so I can see your technique. And, with me being blind too, I'm going to lightly place my fingers on top of yours. It will make you a little self-conscious, but just try and do what you normally do."

     His right index finger began tracking, the movement was steady; he read aloud the first five words and on the fifth word he back-tracked in order to figure it out. Reaching the end of the line, his right finger dropped down and slid over to meet up with the left and he read on.

     "I rarely have to stop and scrub up and down on a cell any more, " he said. "I can see that if you relied on that method it would really slow you down. So I try to do what I used to do when I read with my eyes; flow smoothly left to right across the line."

     "Well, for the method you are presently using, I didn't see anything to suggest to improve it. Have you tried a different technique?" I asked. Still wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt in terms of what he may have been taught about reading Braille.

     "No, but how do other people read? How do they get their speed up?"

     "Well, there are definitely other techniques, methods of speed building and awareness's for you to learn about reading BRAILLE. Using just one finger, if you think about it, it's a mighty small window between you and the page. So what I am going to do is get you a document, in Braille, which is a compilation of other Braille readers and how they employ and use their fingers and what methods they suggest for increasing your speed and in general improving your reading and enjoyment of Braille."


e-mail responses to

**1. Many proficient Braille readers use their left hand fingers for reading, including me. I always encourage students to experiment to find out which fingers on which hand seem to be most sensitive and work best for them.

I have also found that people who take notes and write other significant things in Braille every day develop faster reading speed and skills. Interacting with the written language needs to be multifaceted. Reading isn't enough to develop good reading skills. And, everyone reads different kinds of material at different speeds, so it isn't a matter of simply timing oneself on the number of words. Moreover, I think that worrying about speed tends to distract people from actually reading with full attention and thereby developing greater speed. Timing speed should be done only every few months. The rest of the time, people should be working on reading, enjoying, remembering what they read, taking notes on what they read, summarizing what they read, writing new material that they can read back to themselves, or use as prompts in presentations they do on the job or in a club, etc. Prompts that are written in Braille can be read over a few times before a presentation or meeting, and then kept available under ones fingertips for when one forgets vital information, etc. Although this may be a little challenging at first, after a while, the preparation will become easier and the ability to check prompts while speaking to a group will develop... and little by little, reading speed will increase.

I hope this helps a little.

Best regards,
Sylvie Kashdan, M.A.

Instructor/Curriculum Coordinator
KAIZEN PROGRAM for New English Learners with Visual Limitations
810-A Hiawatha Place
South Seattle, WA 98144, U.S.A.
National Organization of Blind Educators

**2. I too was first taught to use the dominant finger only, while holding your place on the page with the other hand. It was okay, but I didn't ever get a speed of reading going that made reading pleasurable for me. In fact, I remember it use to take so much concentration that it made my brain tired. That sounds funny now to say, but it was like that, it just was a lot of work. And because of this, how it was for me, I didn't sit down and read novels, well I did a few times and even read a couple of magazines in Braille too, but mostly I used Braille to label things, keep addresses and phone numbers. And back then I just didn't feel that I was a real Braille reader, not with the ease as I saw many other blind people. I really did use to envy those who could stand up in front of a crowd and read their notes or a story in Braille and sound just like a sighted person reading print. And it is sad to remember this one, but I didn't read children's books to my child as my sighted wife did.

Now I can read good enough to stand before a crowd and read and I do now read novels and like it. Because I've figured out how to increase my speed in reading Braille. And here is what worked for me.

First I will say, that what works for one person, in terms of the technique of getting faster used is not necessarily the same as the next persons approach. And also, the ending actual technique of how you do the "faster reading," as in your placement of fingers and your mental strategy part of your reading will not necessarily play out to be like the next persons approach and style. And in saying this, the good news is that there is more than one way to get there and more than one way to "look like" as you do it; there isn't just one technique for reading fast.

My first step on this journey was to find out what others would say about how to increase reading speed. Here are some of the key elements that I learned:

1. Learn to get as many fingers on the page as you can. The main work-horse fingers they spoke of were the two index fingers.

I talked to several people who were primarily two fingered readers and this worked fine for them; were able to utilize Braille text books in school, could read fast enough to give a speech, etc. And there appeared to be two different styles of these "two-fingered readers."

The first were "Switch finger readers" in terms of reading the left side of the line with the left finger and the right finger taking over at about the middle of the line, while the left is getting ready to start the next line down. Here again, you have just one finger reading, but both have to be basically equal good reading fingers, with the speed coming in part by the coordination of when the right finishes, the left starts immediately to read the next new line.

Then there was the second "two finger reader," and they always had two fingers moving side by side, working a two finger window into the brain. And what they say is, that one finger is dominant and the other is the supportive. For example: the right-handed person usually has a right dominant finger and it more quickly and acridly picks up the in-coming flow of patterns then does the left. And so the right being in the lead starts recognizing the on-coming flow of patterns and most times accurately "sees" the letters which make up the word before it gets to the left, yet quite a lot of the time the right will only pick up a portion of the picture of the word, but as it flows on under the left, the rest of the picture comes clear and the word then is recognized.

(I use the term, the concept of "seeing" the word. A lot of people speak of seeing the words flowing by in their head, in their "mines-eye." The "side-by-side two-finger reader speaks of being able to see the picture of an entire word as it passes under the span of the two of their finger-pads. And some who speak of "reading the Braille in their head, via their mines-eye, the people who are reading at a speed of 200 or 300 or 400 words a minute, they will say that to get there they had to not speak the words aloud in their head as they flowed by. And this is what sighted speed readers are also taught, because you can only speak so fast aloud or silently and to break that barrier, you need to see and mentally recognize the words, not see and speak them.

A second group of these two-handed-readers and the ones that are usually the faster readers of all Braille readers are the ones that use multiple fingers on both hands. And here too, you can find some who do the "switch hand" thing of the left reading the left side of a line and the right doing the right side. And then there are some who have the two hands moving together with the line flowing beneath the two, one after the other. And these readers say that each finger is about equal, though they don't normally use just one of them to read with and find it awkward to try and describe the process, because the fingers of a hand are working as a unit. And here too, they speak of being able to hold a multiple word image in their head of what they are reading.

Another point of what the multiple finger readers can say, is that they can detect, feel/see the end of a sentence coming via the ending punctuation mark and will then be able to emphasize correctly the end of the sentence as they read along.

Tips and methods for how to increase the speed of reading Braille:

Tips I've heard are-

First, All say that as you are reading along and if after reading the first part of an on coming word and if by the context of the sentence that you can guess the word, then press on, don't take the time to read it if you suspect you know it. If after guessing the sentence isn't turning out right to where you thought it was going, then pop back and read the word in more detail.

A second tip is that as you practice reading, purposefully push your hands to go faster and don't worry about being able to "read/see" all the words as they flow by. That some words, patterns will come quicker than others. Later with practice you will have more accuracy.

Third, some say, learn that entire words have a shape and they too can be learned to be recognized. And so, when you are zipping along some words can come under your fingers and instead of breaking them down into letters or contractions and by doing so "reading" the word, instead allow your mind to see the larger picture, the shape of the multi-character configuration and put a word to that shape. For example, visualize the three characters "TGR" that make up the contracted word "together." Or, the to character words of "then" and "them." Or, the single character words like "with," "and," "the," "of" and how in some sentences they can be placed together, no spaces in-between and so in the context of the sentence you can quickly decide what those combinations are and move on with out spending time to "read/see" what each of them are by their individual dot patterns. And of course, many other word patterns can be equally learned to be recognized.

Fourth, immerse your self in Braille. Meaning, the more comfortable you can get in thinking Braille as a reading medium, the more natural and comfortable and at ease you will be with your reading of the code. So use it all through out your day. And this means if you are using sight for some or even most or all of your reading, then you'll have to decide to forgo the visual as much as you can and work with converting to a tactile approach to reading and writing. And yes, this may prove difficult for some. And by immersing oneself in the tactile, doesn't necessarily mean not doing some reading of print during the day, but finding that mix, that tilting point where Braille becomes the main and comfortable mode of reading.

A few specific methods for building speed are-

1. Read a page, then go back and read it again and this "next time," push your speed; you already know what to expect, not necessarily word by word, but that element of "having been there" helps the second and third and fourth time you might push through it, ever increasing your speed, getting use to seeing the patterns flow by, faster and faster. And the whole purpose here, is to get your fingers and brain use to picking up on a more rapid flow.

2. Read along with a taped version of whatever it is that you are reading. This auditory information is there to aid you in anticipating the pattern flow, giving you that boost of knowledge of what your fingers are or will be reading/seeing and allowing you to push ahead. Again, the purpose is to help your fingers and brain to get use to a quicker rate of recognition of patterns.

Robert L. Newman.

**3. I would recommend suggesting using both fingers to track across the line while one is reading.
I tend to read with one finger and track with the other index finger. I was
taught however to keep both fingers together as I track across the page and
as I am finishing the last word or two, to drop down and move over with my
left finger then follow/catch up with the right. Even though it doesn't seem
you are picking up any "reading information" with your non-reading finger, it
does pick up some helpful picture of the words, not to mention helps you
track better. Just a suggestion of how I do it.


**4. This one took me back a few years. Back in the day, when I learned to read, we had the Braille readers, and then we had the partially blind (in that day they were partially sighted) readers. I was a Braille reader, and when ever one of those "partials" read, it allowed me to get well ahead, as we all took turns reading for the class. I'd read my paragraph, and then a print reader would slowly read his or her paragraph. Later, Bob and Ray's routine about the National Association of Slow Talkers of America would also remind me of listening to our print readers. Now jump forward about twenty five years, and I was in a meeting with Dr. Jernigan. He said that he routinely read Braille at over four hundred words a Minute (and I thought I was good) and he demonstrated it to us. Talking with him, I asked how he did it. As I remember, he said something like this: You need to read with both hands. Start with your left hand at the beginning of the line, and take it halfway across. When it gets there, continue with the right to the end of the line. Drop the left down to the next line as soon as the fight takes over. Drop the right hand down to the next line as soon as the left takes over. Anticipate words. If you see a word that is a cognate, don't bother to read it. Push your speed daily, and check it periodically. I took these ideas to heart, and when I had an hour lunch hour and I've never been able to use a whole hour to just eat lunch, I started working on my speed using these ideas. I started at about 200 words per minute, and in six months, I'd doubled that speed. I would read for about forty-five minutes, count the words on an average page, and multiply by the number of pages, then divide by the number of minutes. It worked. Of course, the converse is also true, if you don't practice regularly, your speed reduces. I'm back down to around 30-0 now.

Dave Hyde, Professional Development Coordinator
Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired
1700 W. State Street
Janesville, WI 53545

**5. Self taught at the age of thirty, I patterned my Braille reading after a blind man I had watched reading many years before. He used his right index finger to read with and his left index finger to keep track of the lines. He also opened his mouth and stared at the ceiling while he concentrated on his book. But that is a topic for another day. By the time I became a Braille instructor at the orientation and training center in Seattle, I had learned of faster, more efficient technique. So I became one of those folks who say, "Do as I say, not as I do". I taught my students to place three fingers of both hands on the Braille page. Moving the right hand across the first line, the left hand would drop to the next line and begin reading as the right had finished. As the left hand traveled across the line, the right hand dropped down and met it about
halfway along the line. Taking over, the right hand moved along to the end of the line while the left hand dropped down and returned to the beginning of the next line.
At that time our students had two, one hour Braille classes each day. Knowing that this was not enough, I encouraged them to take their books back to their rooms and continue reading at night. I don't need to tell you how well that went over. But a few students did rise to the challenge. Most felt they were far too stressed by the day's activities, and just kicked back at the dorm. So I developed the, "Great American Braille Challenge". By this time I was director of the center and I had on staff two Braille instructors. We developed contests challenging students to improve their reading skills by offering prizes to the most improved reader of the month. Most sought after were the heaping platters of my home-made chocolate chip cookies. But the goal was to make Braille fun. I also kept copies of the most current magazines published in Braille. Here students could find topics more to their individual interest. Nonetheless, promoting Braille continues to be a challenge. To be effective, a training center must have support from the entire staff. Braille needs to be worked into every class. Recipes and other instructional materials in Home Ec., blue prints in shop, travel instructions in O&M class, and so on. A center that truly promotes Braille will make it the center's official language.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv

**6. I was born blind and have been reading Braille since first grade; that's around 40 years. Until reading a very interesting article in the Braille Monitor back in the 1990's, I too read Braille with only the right index finger while using the left index finger as a guide. This article encouraged the use of other fingers for reading as well as making efficient use of both hands. That means that when you bring your left index finger down to the next line, you read a few words and have your hands meet somewhere in the middle of the page. There is no doubt that my right index finger is still my dominant reading finger. But now my left index finger does some reading. I also try to keep my middle finger on the right hand on the page which seems to help. Finally, here's another helpful tip. When I was still in school, one of my teachers noticed that I was moving my lips while reading silently. She told me to stop moving my lips and my speed would increase. IT did. IT takes a good bit of work to increase your speed; lots of practice is required. But the benefits are well worth the effort unless you have neurological issues that limit the sensitivity of your fingers. I can now read Braille fluently in front of a microphone with ease. One final note. While my Braille reading speed is good, it still doesn't match the speed at which I listen to the speech on a PC.

Bob Hachey ACB-L listserv

**7. I'm anxious to read responses to this thought provoker. I have to admit that I'm not a fast Braille reader. I've read Braille all my life, but I learned the same way as the student in this provoker and have never developed another method. Actually, the only other way I've heard to read, a little faster, is to start reading with the right hand, drop to the next line and begin reading that with the left, then meet the left hand in the middle of the line and continue to read with the right, to the end of the line and continue that way.

I think my problem is that my thumbs get in the way!

Anxiously awaiting responses,
Cindy Handel
Willow Street, PA

**8. learning TO read Braille take a very long time and many hours of work. Then add in hearing lost in high frequency sound area it really get a lot more harder to learn Braille. The article does not give us any idea how many years that he have been learning Braille. His way of reading Braille is correct for one of way to read Braille. One have to spend at least two hours a day at beginning to learn Braille. But with all electronic ways of equipment to read it out loud to you. Braille today have a very limit use. Using Braille is good for labeling things If you have skills to learn quickly and learn how word sound out Braille would work good.

I know several blind people who will not learn Braille because of time necessary to learn it. It take a lot of paper to do Braille including special equipment to write Braille.

AT present I am roadblock on one lesson of Braille because my hearing does not hear the word right to enable to answer questions right.

Dexter Terry

**9. I have been very frustrated with this situation and although I know every possible contraction for grade two Braille, it is still extremely slow. Unfortunately, I had desensitized fingers in all but my index on my right hand so I just keep my left hand at the beginning of each line and just have the right hand go across. What is the point of having the left trail the right if you already read it with the right hand? This way, you are not working both sides of the brain by trailing back with the left, but just the right for reading.

Jonathan Alpert

**10. Actually, i can identify with the character here. I, too, learned Braille as a teen ager, and, to this day, I read with my right index finger. I learned Braille at the California Orientation Center, and that was the way I was taught, and never learned any other way. i must say that at that time I was still acting out against the notion of doing things without sight, and threatening to walk out every other day, so I would imagine that the teachers didn't want to do anything that would rock the boat. I must say that the slowness of Braille reading kept me from enjoying doing any real Braille reading at all, and thus Braille fell into the realm of taking notes, which is the way I use it today.

Andy Baraco ACB-L listserv

**11. I'm hoping the student hasn't implanted so much muscle memory that he can't make some changes in method. I'm also wondering what reading plans/styles he used when using the print medium. Considering the huge amount of print in the environment, one hour isn't much reading at all, the teacher wouldn't want to criticize a new student. Before getting into a discussion of method, I think I'd explore reading possibilities. For instance: calendars, playing cards and other games, greeting cards, plaques, charts and graphs, (how could Braille be used at work?) bus schedules, recipes, shopping lists, banking information, addresses and phone numbers, menus, programs, TV and radio listings. There could be lots; more depending on the lifestyle. Each venue requires a somewhat different method. While one finger tip is a tiny window to the words on the page, one magazine is a tiny window to the possibilities of reading. Once some kind of reading program had been outlined, considerations of how, when and where reading occurs might happen. For instance, if he's a TV watcher, could he work on plans for updating address files while taking in a program or game? Also, we're often considering that reading and writing are seldom separate. His Braille writing should parallel reading; even if he's a computer user with JAWS speech only, there are things he could be writing to conform to his lifestyle. I think most people on this list will not find any of this very new. I have to remind myself daily, however, as I acquire new students. Not that it's new information, but I, like the teacher in the story, am eager to have a competent, confident and versatile Braille reader as a student. I always have to guard against, after all this time, letting my eagerness get me too far ahead of the game.


**12. Two things stood out here: 1) Mike wanted to learn quickly; and 2) He was concerned about right hand/left hand issues. Both of these must be dealt with before effective learning can take place. First of all, speed kills. If Mike is to learn anything, he can't expect instant results. Braille is no different from any other language: in order to master it, you must take a building-block approach, and get every point step by step. Case in point: I'm taking a sign language course at a Deaf school. The course is part one of a ten-part series. In these classes, we're learning to sign words by categories (i.e., the manual alphabet, animals, foods, family members, genders, time, numbers, and so on). One way I practice is to fingerspell each word in a sentence individually (so I can memorize the alphabet), then use actual signs for the sentence itself. It's not easy, but I'll pick up speed and smoothness with practice. But I've often thought about how Braille is taught. I assumed that a "practice" sheet might have the entire alphabet repeated in rows. That is, "A" repeated ten times on the first line, "B" on the second, etc. That way, you get a feel for recognizing each individual letter. The next step (I would do, anyway) would be lists of simple, two and three-letter words, so you can practice recognizing letters within the context of the word itself. Then you work your way up to bigger words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and so on, with gradual increases in complexity. Would that work? I've often thought about putting together a systematic plan like that, unless somebody else had already done it. As for the right-hand issue, I was told that blind people are taught to read with both hands simultaneously. This actually could be an issue. Some people (myself included) don't have that kind of coordination. (Even now, I'm typing with my left index finger, because it's too strenuous to use both hands at once. I'm just not wired that way.) Maybe with a child, the teacher could train the student to use both hands. But this gets harder with age. Is there no room for compromise? I had a real problem with that over the years. My 10th Grade typing teacher demanded that I put the textbook on the right side of the typewriter. I couldn't do that, being left-handed. But he wouldn't budge. And nowadays, in my sign language class, the teacher insists that I sign right-handed. It confuses the heck out of me to watch people do that. (Is Mike from Turkey? Some cultures still harbor superstition about lefties.) But, then, anything worth doing is worth doing well. Mike should let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Take that Braille, and boil it down to every detail you can find, and drill every one of them until it's second nature. Remember those Spanish ads that said, "S O C K S...gee, Spanish is easy!" No, it's not that easy. Nothing is. There are no legitimate short-cuts to learning.

David Lafleche

...FROM ME: Yes, there are several programmed text books to learn Braille out of and they do a good job in presenting the material in a manner that starts with the single character and builds up into words and on and on through the entire code.

**13. this thought provoker jumped out at me because I am in the same boat. not too sure if it's because I started learning Braille in my senior year at high school or what.

Ben Micek

**14. I read exactly as you described because I am a lazy--but very fluent--Braille reader. Probably the proper technique should be described as a way to increase your speed. When the left finger is following behind it seems to make the right finger feel more confident. LOL Of course, practice, practice, practice is the best remedy.

Barbara Hammel

**15. I was waiting with baited breath for the part when you could reveal to me the technique for faster reading! One technique I have found good is to read something familiar, so you can predict the words you should be feeling and don't have to worry about working out spelling etc. This meant that I could focus on my movement and technique. Personally, I also like to keep two hands together, I am not quite up to the scissor motion of reading to the middle with both, the right finishes the line and the left goes back and drops down. It is something I would like to achieve in the future. Can't wait to read the responses. if you could post them to nobe-l once they have been compiled that would be cool - there are a few teachers who would be interested.

From Penny Stevenson from Australia

**16. In reading this short story I had to begin to think of how do I read Braille and how did I learn I am totally blind and have been an avid Braille reader since the age of eight. That would make fifty years, so I do know how to read and have used several techniques to read faster throughout the years. I used to read with both hands and really get in to a given book. As years went on I developed the habit of reading with my left hand followed by my right hand. I figured there was no right way of reading Braille, it was the comprehension and enjoyment of a given magazine or book I now read with my left hand and it does work for me. I read several magazines a month and some books. I think it is the enjoyment of reading not the certain method that is important. this man will find his way of reading that is most comfortable for him, and his frustration will vanish overnight. Read what you enjoy, and reading Braille will come very easily as it did to me.

Merry Christmas to all of you
Karen Crowder

**17. I have an idea: I read many Braille books, the more the better, especially the ones I like. I read with both hands. Sometimes, it helps to read familiar books, so you can practice speed.

Marianne National Organization of Blind Educators

**18. In this story it mentions that Mike is partially sighted. Now I'm not going to say any prejudiced things about partially sighted Braille readers, because I know some very good ones. What I do want to say though, is that Braille reading is a tactile medium and, therefore, the student has to be put into a tactile frame of mind. The student in this instance is obviously using his fingers to read and not his eyes, which some partially sighted people attempt when learning Braille. But I would suggest blindfold training. I would suggest that, under blindfold, this Mike person be encouraged to explore objects by touch, using all of his fingers and even other parts of his hand to figure out what the objects are and what make them unique. This is what blind children are (in good circumstances) taught to do before or during the time they learn the Braille alphabet. Using as many fingers as possible, even the pinkies and thumbs is the way to gain speed with Braille, and the way to gain sensitivity in these fingers is to isolate them while reading for a while and then add them with other fingers until no fingers are preferred over any others and all of them are being used FOR READING and not just tracking. Another thing I'd like to say along these lines is that children are great and natural learners and, although adults can pick up more complicated concepts more easily, learning to read as an adult should model that of how children learn to read, albeit in a different context. Children don't start out reading fast. They get fast by reading the same short books a million times and seeing or feeling words all over the place until they have them memorized. And they never worry about speed. So I suggest having initial reading materials that are not daunting, but are short and cover enjoyable topics and to re-read them a lot, until they are memorized. Like somebody else had mentioned on this topic, fast readers use word anticipation, skipping over obvious, incidental words, and some studies show that sighted readers don't even realize when internal letters in a word are flipped around because they don't look at the whole thing. So learn to read words at a glance. Tape note cards all over your walls like graffiti if you have to, but you have to get common words memorized and you have to think IN BRAILLE when you're not reading. If you treat Braille like something that's only there when there's a book there, you're not going to have it in your brain.

My thoughts and experiences as a lifelong Braille reader,
Mike Sivill, Corvallis OR

**19. I'm glad I decided to read this thought provoker and comments, as I, like a lot of blind persons, am in the same boat, having learned Braille in junior high school, but using adaptive aids like magnifiers and cctv's to read print, and thus neglecting my Braille skills until now, at age (um, should I admit it?) 50, having lost my print vision totally. Reading the comments of others, I was most interested in the technique of reading with 2 fingers close together, with the result that one finger becomes the dominant and the other a helper finger. I currently do what I think most people do, which is to read with half a line with each of my index fingers and using my middle fingers as place holders or line finders. This is the technique that was taught to me one summer when I took a Braille speed reading course in high school. But try as I may, I haven't been able to push my reading speed past 100wpm. It of course takes practice, but I am definitely at an impasse. One thing I have noticed is that, like in print, a person has to get a picture in their mind of the shapes of entire words, not just the letters that make up the words. Often I run across a word that has a peculiar shape because of the unexpected sequence of contractions -- for example, the word "comment" and "acknowledgement" or "problem" or "blessing". It seems the only way to quickly read a page is to build up a mental repository of as many of these oddities as possible and practice rapidly recognizing them on a Braille page. Unfortunately, just like the cctv crutch that kept me from practicing my Braille, the new deterrent is a screen reader and But still I do find use for Braille in labeling things and taking notes and making outlines for speaking or teaching. But I still do not think Braille is obsolete and unnecessary -- it is as useful now as it has ever been. The only challenge is finding time and motivation to practice. Thanks for this thought provoker -- it has reminded me yet again that I should pick up my Braille! One other leading question: does Braille proficiency improve one's sensitivities in other areas? That is, is mobility or focus better when a person has mastered the Braille challenge?

Laura Eaves

**20. I am going to add something else into the mix. I have just become a proofreader with a company here in Stuart, Florida. We work with sighted copyholders, which means we often read out loud. And, while doing this, you need to be conscious of every letter, punctuation mark, composition sign and contraction. You want to read as accurately as you can and catch every mistake, plus you want to be fairly fast about it, because there are deadlines to get material out. I don't read as quickly out loud as I do to myself, not mouthing the words, so my boss did think I was a bit slow at first, even though I have been a Braille reader since age 6. But I appear to be getting faster, and the thing that seems to be working for me is that I am immersed in Braille reading every working day. I always liked reading novels in Braille, and some magazines, and some nonfiction books, but even so, I didn't read Braille anything like every day until recently. I wanted to read quickly, but more for the enjoyment of it. I also read with both hands, using the right hand as the dominant hand and letting the left hand go down to the next line but letting the right hand do most of the work. However, because of my evolving ability as a proofreader, I would have to echo those who have responded to this that total emersion and lots and lots of practice are the answers. If you are learning a foreign language, it is important not just to look at textbook material and recite drills, but to actually practice it as much as you can, even if you might say embarrassing things sometimes. I think becoming a faster Braille reader works much the same way.

Mark Tardif, Stuart, Florida

**21. It is difficult for me to break reading down. I know I read faster than I can talk, but have never worried about how fast I read. When I read, I am totally engrossed in the material and not even aware of my hands. When I taught senior citizens what I called survival Braille, I.E. enough Braille to label, read elevator buttons, play cards, write down appointments and addresses, I stressed good technique and sensitizing the hands, then tracking, and finally got around to learning the basics they needed to know. I still have a box of cards somewhere that have different textures pasted on them for a simple matching practice. Some are easy like leather, velvet and corduroy; while others are pretty close in texture. I would give a student a set of these to play matching with a grandchild. Once they could successfully identify the pairs, we moved on to tracking. This was lines of characters to just practice the correct technique on with the left hand starting the line and the right finishing. The object is to glide lightly along and stay on the line. Lines are double spaced at first, but single spaced later. Then after doing this say fifteen minutes several times a day, I asked them to identify the letter that was different. Say a k in a line of l's, or an n in a line of letter o's. I never let them scrub, or rub up and down because the harder you press, the less sensitivity you have. If they couldn't find the odd letter, I would have them repeat gliding slower. I also had them make an address phone number book, a day planner/calendar, and Braille some cards to play games. One interesting thing is the refreshable Braille display on a notetaker is often crisper and easier to read for beginners, so I might have them read off my note taker when we started with the alphabet and numbers because the tracking and technique stuff could be practiced unsupervised and learning five or six letters a lesson was about as much as they seemed to be able to handle at a time. I used to wonder why some of them had such a hard time differentiating the dots in a letter until I tried reading it with my thumbs. When a finger isn't sensitized, it just doesn't feel the separate dots. That is why I stress reading readiness if you will to prepare the hands to be useful before you try teaching the alphabet and contractions. Hope some of this makes sense.

DeAnna Quietwater

**22. I'm a fast reader when I'm reading to myself, but I'm much slower when it comes to reading aloud. When I'm reading to myself, I'm not worried about annunciating the word or how it might sound coming out of my mouth. I'm only concentrating on seeing the word and understanding the content of the material I'm reading. On the other hand, when I'm reading aloud, I'm concentrating on annunciating the words and how it comes out of my mouth. Therefore, my reading speed slows way down to almost a crawl of about thirty words a minute vs. over a hundred words a minute when reading to myself. Despite reading a lot of Braille, however, I still prefer audio books simply because I can take it anywhere I go without the bulkiness of the book or magazine. I also like to be able to read a book while I'm doing my nails or art projects. Besides, it's also hard to read a Braille book when you're in the bathtub and you want to listen to something interesting while you're relaxing.


**23. First off, I apologize in advance for any problems with this response. I recently got a new computer, and I've been experiencing some electrical problems in my apartment. These are all good suggestions. I was taught Braille at a young age and am now fluent in grades 1 and 2. I think one thing that really helps in sensitizing the fingers is hand exercises, such as squeezing handheld objects or giving firm handshakes to people.

Jake Joehl IL

**24. I am a 25-year-old blind woman writing from the San Francisco bay area.
My blind boyfriend and I cohabit ate and both frequent an athletic club about 5 miles away.
We are students at colleges and universities in the area.
We are very self sufficient, walking and taking the bus if it means remaining as independent as possible, but excepting rides when it doesn't make sense not too.
We live within a really small yet bustling town close to Berkeley, California, and are both avid users of the Internet and Email.
It has been our collective experience, that negative attitudes of blindness persist amongst mainstream sighted groups of people, and that regardless of the laws placed on the books, people are going to think how they're going to think, in spite of elaborate legislation.
I use my example to educate, as I believe such means far more effective than going the legislative rout of coaxing people to change their attitudes.
It seems that people will always kind of talk down to you, dismissing you as a "valid" adult who has a say in her own experience.

I used to be what I call a braille NAZI, believing such a code the only way to self sufficiency. I even taught braille one summer, to recently blinded adults.
I knew some of the Grade 3 braille code, as well as the Japanese braille code(nihongo tenji) and was a whizz writing with a page slate.

Since those days, though, I have acquired a tactile apraxia, and though I still know the braille code for entering data into a VoiceNote, the appraxia dictates the hand and brain unable to communicate. Now I must use an audio means of learning, something not my preferred medium, though I am grateful that, in spite of a traumatic brain injury, I was able to retain the entirety of the braille code.

Carly Mihalakis, Albany, California