How Students Who Are Blind or Low Vision Read and Write

If your child has little or no usable vision, they will probably be learning to read and write in braille. Braille is a code—a system of dots representing the letters of the alphabet that your child can use to read independently and write down their own ideas. As with children learning to read and write print, instruction in braille will be a major part of your child’s education for the first few years of elementary school.

  • Your child will need instruction from a teacher of students with visual impairments in reading and writing the braille code. Like students learning to read and write in print, your child will need braille instruction several days a week in the early elementary grades, if not every day.
  • Braille materials should be accessible to your child simultaneously with sighted classmates receiving print information. Regularly having materials read aloud due to unavailability in braille isn’t a lasting solution and shouldn’t be routine. Proficiency in braille takes a lot of reading practice.
  • When your child completes assignments in braille, the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments must make them accessible to non-braille-literate teachers. They should transcribe your child’s braille work into print, including any errors. This allows the classroom teacher to review the actual work.

Supporting Distance Visual Needs

To provide your child with access to information at a distance, the classroom teacher has several options.

  • The teacher can provide your child a copy of the material on the board by giving it ahead of time to the teacher of students with visual impairments so he or she can produce it in braille for your child.
  • The teacher can read aloud what he or she is writing on the board.
  • If your child uses a computer, the teacher can provide an electronic file containing the material so your child can read it with synthetic speech software, which simulates speech.

Tools for Reading and Writing Braille

There are a variety of tools for both reading and writing that are used by children who are blind. These might include the following.

  • Perkins Braillewriter: This device resembles an old-fashioned typewriter and has six keys to create braille embossed dots on paper.
  • Slate and Stylus: A handheld tool for braille writing. Often used for short notes like phone numbers or shopping lists, it’s also great for labeling items like DVDs. Children typically start using it around third or fourth grade.
  • Personal Digital Assistant (PDA): This portable device is akin to a screenless laptop. Your child can type using a standard or braille keyboard. They can read content through synthetic speech or a refreshable braille display.
  • Audiobooks: For extensive reading material, listening can be helpful. Audio texts are available on CDs or digital formats for computers, PDAs, and other devices.
  • Computer: Your child will likely use a computer with assistive technologies like screen readers or refreshable braille. This allows direct access to electronic texts and the internet. A braille embosser can produce hard copies of their work for teachers to read in print.

It is important that your child not rely on just one tool. Instead, the goal is for your child to be skilled in using a variety of tools. This allows them to pick the most appropriate tool for any given task that is needed to be completed.