Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Braille for Real Life

By Gayle Yarnall

There are some statistics regarding braille and successful employment in the United States. I don't have the exact numbers but these statistics go something like this. 70 to 80 percent of the working age population who is blind is either unemployed or vastly under employed. 2 out of every 10 people who are blind read braille. 80 percent of the gainfully employed blind population uses braille.

There is a story here that needs to be told.

Recently I was at a presentation that was given for a group of people about adaptive technology. There were three of us who were visually impaired giving this presentation. Two of the presenters were low vision and I am totally blind. All three of us could have been considered successful in our field, we were from different parts of the country, and we were of very different ages. We were all braille users.

When I was a child I had more vision than I do now but I never could read normal print. I went through school without much in the way of special services. I spent two years in elementary school at a school with a class for low vision kids. No one ever taught me braille; they never even gave me the option. I sat with my nose pressed against a large print struggling to read. In high school someone asked me if I wanted to learn braille. I said no and the subject was dropped. I still wonder why they did not ask me if I wanted to learn geometry, Braille certainly has been more important in my life than geometry ever was.

When I was 30 I was divorced and suddenly I was a single mom with three kids and no work experience. I new I would be in big trouble if I did not take advantage of all my options. I registered for rehab services and the councilor visited me and gave me a book to use to teach myself braille, a braille writer and he signed me up for typing lessons. I taught myself enough braille to read simple things in a week. I was amazed to see how simple it was to learn braille. It was just a code with logical patterns. It did not take my fingers long to get used to feeling the dots. The act of learning something new helped give me the confidence I needed to go out and look for a job and braille allowed me to communicate with myself. This was in 1976, before computers, talking or not.

I am not going to bore you with my life story. I just wanted to explain how I came to realize how important braille has been in my life.

I expect that you have heard it said that braille is literacy. When someone says that blind children can just use books on tapes, I like to say that visual kids could use tapes as well. Why go through the trouble to teach anyone to read. This usually stops that conversation right away and braille and large print becomes part of a visually impaired child's education plan.

I think it is harder to convince adults that braille will make a difference in their lives. People often think of braille as a way to read vast amounts of material and not as a simple way to label things and keep track of everyday life. You don't have to be a fast braille user or even use contracted braille to have braille improve your personal and professional life.

I use a braille display along with speech access on my computer. The braille display allows me to keep track of document formatting. Braille is a faster and less complicated way to read phone numbers and dollar amounts.

  • I use a braille note taker because I don't like talking technology in meetings with other people.
  • At home I use braille to label appliances, and CDs.
  • I read to my grand children from books that have print and braille, we call them bumpy books.
  • I play games with my grandchildren that are braille labeled.
  • I read braille gardening books to help me plan and care for my garden.
  • I use braille cookbooks and to keep my recipes straight.

In closing I want to say that I am a normal average person who learned braille as an adult and I can honestly say it changed my life.

Article Source:

No comments:

Subscribe to receive posts via email

* indicates required

Browse Articles by Subject

Follow us on Twitter


Write for us

Your input and support in the evolution of Fred's Head are invaluable! Contact us about contributing original writing or for suggestions for updating existing articles. Email us at


The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

The products produced by the American Printing House for the Blind are instructional/teaching materials and are intended to be used by trained professionals, parents, and other adults with children who are blind and visually impaired. These materials are not intended as toys for use by children in unstructured play or in an unsupervised environment.

The information and techniques contained in Fred's Head are provided without legal consideration (free-of-charge) and are not warranted by APH to be safe or effective. All users of this service assume the risk of any injury or damage that may result from the use of the information provided.

Information in Fred's Head is not intended as a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Consult your physician before utilizing information regarding your health that may be presented on this site. Consult other professionals as appropriate for legal, financial, and related advice.

Fred's Head articles may contain links to other websites. APH is not responsible for the content of these sites.

Fred's Head articles created by APH staff are (C) copyright American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. You must request permission from APH to reprint these articles. Email to request permission.

Any submissions to Fred's Head should be free of copyright restrictions and should be the intellectual property of the submitter. By submitting information to Fred's Head, you are granting APH permission to publish this information.

Fair Use Notice: This website may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright holder(s). This site is operated on the assumption that using this information constitutes 'fair use' of said copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law.

Opinions appearing in Fred's Head records are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Printing House for the Blind.