The Braillists Foundation runs regular Masterclasses introducing various aspects of using braille and available braille technologies.
On this page you can find resources produced by the Braillists Foundation, including recordings and notes from previous events. If you find these resources helpful, please consider attending a Braillists event live.
All audio recordings are also available on our Braillecast podcast, which can be found in your podcast app of choice.
An Introduction to Grade 3
Most of us know about grade 2, of course, with its 180 contractions designed to make braille quicker to read and write and occupy less space.
Grade 3 extends this concept still further with over 300 additional contractions, rules to allow vowells to be omitted, and provisions for reducing spaces and new lines. Whilst it’s not an officially recognised code, it has a loyal following amongst long-time braillists, who have used it very successfully to take shorthand notes or transcribe passages of text for reading aloud. It’s especially useful in conjunction with a hand frame or slate and stylus.
James Bowden led a Masterclass exploring this code in more detail. Whilst he wasn’t able to cover all of the 300+ contractions in an hour, he did explain the concepts used to form them, introduce some of the most useful ones and the rules which govern their use, and signposted to resources with more information.
More information about grade 3 braille can be found in the 23-page pamphlet below. Note, however, that this is a compilation of user research and not an official document. For further support, please email [email protected].
JAWS and Braille: A Closer Look
In Using Braille on Windows, we introduced you to the basics of making a braille display work with various screen readers. In this session, we took this to the next level in the first of an occasional series of Masterclasses looking at the braille settings of a particular screen reader.
This time it was JAWS. There are lots of settings and we weren’t able to cover all of them in an hour, so instead we reviewed some of the most common questions we’re asked, found the settings that relate to them, and explained what they do.
- Adding and selecting your braille display
- Choosing your braille code and grade
- Status cells and their use in structured mode
- Reversing panning buttons and panning by paragraph
- Using JAWS Braille In ™
Introducing Braille on the Amazon Fire Tablet
Over the years, blind people have benefitted from incredible enhancements in the fields of electronic braille and accessibility in general. In fact, it’s now possible to purchase a fully accessible Amazon Fire tablet for under £50 which, pared with an inexpensive braille display such as an Orbit Reader, and Amazons Kindle store which offers access to quite literally hundreds of thousands of digital books, makes for an incredibly cost-effective braille reading setup. But how does it work?
In this masterclass, presented by Ben Mustill-Rose, we provided a general overview of the Fire tablet, the basics of setting it up, how to connect a braille display and how to navigate the device using it. We then purchased a book from the Kindle store and walked through how to read it on a braille display.
Braille in the Kitchen
This Masterclass has a more low tech flavour as we take a wander into the heart of the household. If you’ve ever wondered how to read braille recipes without ruining them or what to do when the label is too big for the jar, this session is for you.
Emma Williams led the session – teacher of Independent Living Skills at New College Worcester, and a familiar voice to many from our Clever Cooking events last year. She drew on a wealth of personal experience of using braille in the kitchen, as well as things which have worked well (and maybe some which haven’t) for her peers and her students.
An Introduction to Braille on Android
If you’re a blind Android user, you’re bound to have come across Steve Nutt at Computer Room Services. He’s blind himself, been in the accessible smartphone business for over 20 years, and has a vast amount of knowledge and experience when it comes to using smartphones with braille displays.
We’re delighted that he joined us to present an introduction to using an Android device with a braille display. He covered which braille displays work with Android, how to connect them, how to navigate the operating system, other key concepts, and how to use braille input.
What is a BRF and Why would you Want one?
We’re starting to hear more and more about BRF files. They’re the default braille format on platforms such as RNIB Reading Services; they’re regularly used in the transcription industry to share braille versions of documents between producers; and notetaker users have used them to transfer files from one brand of braille device to another. This session offered more detail on how BRF files are constructed and how to read, write, navigate and emboss them.
How to Choose your Braille Display
We were delighted to be joined by renowned braille display expert Jackie Brown. Jackie is a freelance writer, regular reviewer of braille technology, and author of “Braille ON Display” (published by Mosen Consulting), a comprehensive comparison of braile displays and guide to choosing the right one. She talked us through the process of choosing a braille display. She outlined which factors to consider and why, and the key features of the braille displays which are currently on the market. If you’ve ever wondered “Which braille display is the best one?” you are sure to have the answer at the end of this session.
Advocating for braille in the wider world
This session provides advocacy strategies for speaking with businesses in order to get braille menus and signage. We also talk about accessible communication from the NHS and the council.
Advocating for Braille at Work or University
In this session, we talk about the Access to Work and Disabled Students Allowance schemes. These are government funded schemes which enable disabled people to access support, including braille, in work and education.
Note Taking: Creating Notes for Yourself
This session will introduce you to strategies for taking braille notes for yourself, both digital and hard copy.
Note Taking: Creating Notes for Others
If you are required to take notes as part of a team, whether that’s in a meeting or for group projects, this session guides you through using braille to take notes that are also visually accessible. We touch on taking notes using a braille display, and writing Markdown in braille to format your notes.
Using Braille as a Presentation Tool, part 2: Public Speaking
If you need to deliver speeches for work, school, or as part of one of your interests, this session guides you through using braille to present more effectively. We cover writing a presentation script, using cue cards and the best way to set up your braille display or hard copy braille when speaking.
Using braille as a presentation tool, part 1: Using Braille with Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides
This session covered using a braille display with Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides. We guide you through how braille output works with these applications and the ways in which braille output can enable you to deliver more effective presentations.
Using Braille on iOS
Led by Matthew Horspool, this session explained how to pair a braille display with an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and how to get the most out of using braille with these devices.
Using Braille on Windows
Led by Holly Scott-Gardner, this session explained how to pair a windows PC with a braille display, which screen readers support braille output and some tips and tricks for using braille output.
An Introduction to Unified English Braille
Led by James Bowden, Braille Technical Officer at RNIB, this session answered questions such as: How does UEB differ from Standard English Braille? Where can you learn about the changes? What tips and tricks are there for switching to UEB?
World Braille Day 2021
For World Braille Day we were joined by a panel of braille users to discuss how braille enhances their lives, and the future of braille as the needs of the blind community changes. Thanks to Saima Akhtar, Fred Reid and Gary O’Donoghue for participating in this panel.
An Introduction to the Abacus
What is an abacus and why would you use one? In this session, led by James Bowden, you will learn about the various features of the abacus and why it is ideal for use as a blind person.
The session covers:
- Physical description and orientation
- The beads and their meaning
- Setting numbers
- Basic addition
- Overflows and carries
An Introduction to Braille Labelling
This event, led by Matthew Horspool, acts as an introduction to the various types of braille labels available and how to create your own labels using a range of materials. The session covered using a slate and stylus, a Perkins brailler and a braille labeller to produce labels, as well as tips for labelling various products around the home.
An Introduction to Braille Music
In this practical introduction to braille music we introduce you to braille music notation, how to both read and write braille music, where to access braille music and how to continue learning. This event was led by James Bowden, Braille Technical Officer at RNIB.
Knowledge of contracted braille is required to follow along with the session and the handout, which is located below the media player.
Using Braille for Learning Languages
This session looked at how to use braille when learning a language, including accessing BRFs and using your iPhone to assist with reading. We discussed various language codes used around the world, including for biblical language study. Participants shared their own experiences learning languages and the various resources they have accessed.
This session was delivered by Holly Scott-Gardner.
Links to the resources discussed in the recording can be found in the notes, which are available for download below the media player.
An Introduction to the Slate and Stylus
This event, led by James Bowden, Braille Technical Officer at RNIB, was a practical introduction on using a hand frame (also known as a slate and stylus). The session covered inserting the paper, holding the stylus and writing some characters, as well as some basic types of frame and where to get them. If you have a braille hand frame you can complete the activities as you listen, and use the written notes (found below the media player) to support your learning.
Getting Around the Orbit Reader 20
Dave Williams, Brailleists Foundation Chair and Customer Experience Manager at RNIB talks us through the Orbit Reader. What is it, how does it compare to other displays on the market and how can you get one?