A Message From Our Chairman

Hi everyone,

On behalf of the Braillists Foundation Board of Trustees, I hope this finds you safe and well.

As we approach the end of our second year as a registered charity, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your on-going support, reflect on our progress over the previous twelve months and look ahead to the coming year.

The Braillists Foundation continues to grow and promote braille usage across the UK and around the world. You may remember how wonderful it was to kick-off in January with so many attendees at our first event of the year, a celebration of World Braille Day. Thanks again to our excellent panellists, Saima Akhtar, Fred Reid and Gary O’Donoghue for sharing how braille remains a vital literacy tool for blind people in the 21st century.

Details of our World Braille Day event for 2022 are included later in this Newsletter. In addition, the Braillists Foundation has been invited to take over the Visionary Twitter account on 4 January 2022. If you are on Twitter, we hope you will follow @Braillists and like and share Tweets promoting braille usage and use the #WorldBrailleDay hashtag.

In 2021, the Churchill Foundation recognised the value of braille and awarded the Braillists a second grant. We are using this to remunerate the presenters of our Masterclasses, cover the costs of transcribing episodes of our Braillecast podcast (including Masterclass recordings) into both text and braille, and engage part-time staff to provide much-needed management and administrative support. These staff, in partnership with our amazing volunteers, are working to create resources that we hope can be used to learn and promote braille usage for many years to come.

As well as our email forum and social media channels, our Braille Bar is where our community comes together to learn from one another. You always surprise and delight with your wide and varied discussion at our open question and answer sessions. Your respect for other attendees and willingness to share your knowledge is helping attract a positive, welcoming culture recognised across the world. Special thanks to Ben who often does the lion’s share of the work for these sessions, making sure they are well-moderated.

You can be sure our Masterclasses, where we take a deeper dive into some aspect of everyone’s favourite tactile reading system, will also return in the new year. Where else could you find a description of how to draw a Christmas tree with a Perkins, an introduction to grade 3, a guide to braille in the kitchen, an explanation of the BRF file type, how to get started with a slate and stylus, braille music and much more? If you missed a Masterclass, you can find recordings of all of them via the Braillecast podcast and on our Media page, along with transcripts and supporting documentation. We hope also in 2022 to make much of this content available for people offline via SD Cards that you will be able to access with your braille display or braille note taker. Many thanks to all our presenters for improving our collective skills and knowledge.

The Thursday evening Book Club is where beginners and more experienced braillists practice reading skills in a supportive and safe environment. These sessions continue to be well-attended and provide a friendly place for graduates of our Braille for Beginners course to apply what they’ve learnt. Multiple rooms are available so you can find a space where people are reading at your pace. Berni, Mel and Adeel do an outstanding job steering this group, again ably supported by Ben and Matthew.

Speaking of Beginners, if you or someone you know would like to get started with braille, it’s not too late to register for our free Braille for Beginners course starting in January. Mel will be guiding us through the basics including pre-braille skills, alphabet, numbers, punctuation and making sure that at the end of the 8 weeks we will have enough braille knowledge to play a game, make a label, create a shopping list and genuinely find braille to be useful in everyday life. Mel, I know how much our beginners value your patience and benefit from your experience.

None of the Braillists Foundation’s activities would take place without the tireless dedication of our staff, contractors and volunteers. They turn up week after week and often work long into the night to make sure our hundreds of hours of events are well-organised and promoted, and our many high quality resources are created. I am sure you’ll join me in offering my sincere thanks to everyone involved both in front and behind the scenes. Adeel, Ben, Berni, Ed, Hazel, Ilka, James, Judith, Kawal, Matthew, Megan, Mel and Steph to name a few. Superstars all of you. If I missed anyone, that’s a reflection on me not you!

Finally, it only remains for me to wish you season’s greetings and a prosperous and safe 2022.