Last year I made a few big changes in my life. Met my partner, moved from Liverpool to Nantwich, took up my first admin job after a number of years teaching. This year the changes continue and life is quite exciting!
I applied for an admin job here at Connect back in September, and before I’d even started I was asked if I’d be interested in learning Braille. As a lifelong learner, I jumped at the opportunity. I signed up for the online course at www.uebonline.org and got stuck in straight away.
The course is aimed at sighted people learning to read and write Braille visually. It’s really well structured, starting with the basics (alphabet, basic punctuation) and gradually becoming more complex. Each of the 31 lessons includes transcription and translation, using just six keys on a standard computer keyboard. Is there a pattern to help you develop? Not really, it’s down to regular practice, even just a few minutes a day, to keep the muscle-memory going.
So every evening I fire up my laptop, stretch my fingers and place them on what I hope are the correct keys and get stuck in. Sometimes my fingers drift one key too far to the left or right and I end up with the wrong letter or contraction (words made from single letters or groups of letters, a bit like shorthand). The good thing about the UEB course is that you can’t move on until you’ve typed in the correct word. Sometimes I get really frustrated, wondering where I am going wrong, but I get there eventually.
Braille is basically another language. I found some websites to help me with translation and there are lots of staff at Connect who are very experienced in reading and transcribing Braille who have been a great help to me.
I’ve now completed the UEB course once and restarted it for practice! I’ve also started on ‘The Birmingham Braille Course’, which uses a textbook. I downloaded a Braille writing programme free from the Internet (http://www.duxburysystems.com/freeware.asp) and at the end of each lesson there is a short exercise to complete to test what you have learnt. I completed the first test without the help of the online support from the UEB website – it was quite tricky! One of my colleagues checked over it and went through the correct answers with me, helping me understand the errors I’d made.
The tests have to be timed and I was worried that I was taking too long, but soon learnt that it is well worth giving yourself plenty of time to check for typos and the like. As I gain more experience I am given less guidance, so now I am given a total number of mistakes made and have to work them out for myself. Still not quite getting that all the time yet but I’m working on it.
Patience is a virtue and all that!
by Susan Munro