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On Bob Branco’s Grade Two Braille Article from Ann Foxworth

I learned braille in first grade and by the end of second grade I was reading contracted braille. I participated in spelling classes all the way through high school. I took spelling tests. There was never any time when I didn’t know how to spell a word that I had seen in grade two. The problem is not braille; the problem is that children in general, and blind children in particular, are not getting a sound education in the area of language. With the advent of computer usage and especially e-mail, blind people have plenty of opportunity and need to learn how to spell. So I say the theory that grade two braille inhibits a blind child’s ability to spell is hogwash and an excuse for either poor education or laziness.


On Money and the iBill

In response to a reader who believes that purchasing an IBill is an inexpensive solution for identifying paper currency, you should be aware that there is a long waiting list to obtain one. I have been waiting since early March, and a few other people I know have been waiting since January, so even if you submit an order request now,you might not receive one for three to four months, if not longer. Apparently Orbit Research, the manufacturer of the IBill can’t keep up with the overwhelming demand for this breakthrough product.


Gerald Levy


Bob Branco’s article, in which he asserts that, when blind children learn grade two braille, it hinders and hampers development of their spelling skill, perpetuates an old and untrue stereotype about braille readers and the braille system. Since Bob tells us that he is a braille reader himself, I would think that he would know that his contention is largely a myth. I learned grade one and two braille at the New York State School for the Blind, in Batavia, starting in kindergarten. By second grade we had covered all of the braille contractions. This is not to say that I knew them all, and could always use them accurately, just as second grade sighted children may not write or spell accurately all the words they have learned. By the way, we also learned to write on the braille slate in first grade, something which the so-called experts in blindness education today say is too difficult. We also had spelling classes, in which we had to spell out entire words. The fact that Bob Branco knows one sighted adult who misspells one word, (with) does not prove his case at all. Braille, in all grades, written on all kinds of devices, along with typing, keyboarding and spelling are vital skills, which blind children of normal intelligence will learn as easily as their sighted counterparts, unless some adult tells them, or their parents, that it is too hard. This blind reader will answer Bob’s question: “Yes, Bob, you are making too much of this.”

Tim Hendel

Huntsville, Alabama


I want to comment on the article “Does Grade 2 Braille Spell Trouble. I can tell you first hand that it certainly does. All through my first years of learning braille, I’d learn the contractions then transcribe them to my typing. This made my parents laugh so hard. They’d explain that the written word isn’t spelled the way I wrote it. Even today I forget how to spell a typed word sometimes and have to slow down and think about it.


I read with interest and bemusement Robert’s article on Braille and spelling. When I first started using computers during the DOS days of 1987, there were no spell checkers to speak of. My two volume set of “TWENTY THOUSAND WORDS” got quite the royal workout. Perhaps because of this, learning to spell often started with thinking of the word in Braille, then translating into print. I did this with the typewriter previously, but since I spent more time at the computer keyboard in a week than I spent at the typewriter in a month, I thought the transition to thinking of spelling in print terms would have come more rapidly. 

The article also brought to mind a very amusing incident which occurred in 1958, while I was in the midst of JR. High School. The usual pubescent problems combined with my shyness and lack of general interaction with any others but blind teenagers was a definite disadvantage. We were mainstreamed in that we had a study hall with all Braille equipment and a teacher versed in Braille: yet attended all other classes. 

I fondly remember the day in history class when I happily volunteered to discuss one of the pioneers in the fledgling rubber industry: a gentleman named “Charles Goody right.” I prattled on and on like the village idiot that I was until the teacher politely asked if I didn’t mean “Charles Goodyear?” Sure wish there had been a trap door in the floor. 

Of course, being a name “g o o d y e a r” was spelled out as g o o d dot 5 r. Thanks, Robert, for that blast from the past. 

Dick Wamser: Roseburg Oregon



I’d like to comment on several articles that were in the latest issue. First of all, Susan Roe should know that Fatally Flaky is available through the Bard site. I enjoy Goldie too and am reading the first book in the series. I’ve read others, so obviously I haven’t read them in order.

In regard to Bob Branco’s piece, I can remember when I was mainstreamed into public school and spelled the word from as frum. To say the least, my mother was dismayed, and learning to spell became a major part of my life at that point.

I couldn’t agree more with Tim Hendel. My husband and I are both blind, having both been in marriages with a sighted partner. We talked through all the problems that a blind couple would have before we married, and there really weren’t any surprises, but we always say that spontaneity is just not an option. Seeing sunsets and faces would be nice, but there are lots of other things that are way above either of those on my wish list.

Allison Fallin


From Tara, regarding Bob Branco’s article concerning Grade Two Braille and Spelling


No you’re not making too much out of this at all. Your point is perfectly valid. I’m blind and have used braille all my life, but I was in a school for sighted students until the age of 12. When I learned spelling at the age of 5, I learned each word in grade 1 and grade 2. Ok it was more work, but the benefits of this were huge. My spelling was probably as good as any sighted child’s, and at least if I ever did make mistakes it was due to a general weakness of how to spell a certain long and difficult word as opposed to being badly taught spelling or not taught it at all. Plus I was learning grade 2 to enable me to shorten words to write things more quickly. The trouble is that these schools for the blind do not teach spelling properly from what I can gather. In the secondary one I went too from the age of 12, I was told by some students that when they started learning how to spell, they used to learn the word friend as just fr and not the propper spelling and then they used to tell me that their spelling was bad. Well of course it would be, they had never learned to spell. I think it is despicable that teachers of blind children feel they can cut corners in such a manner as to neglect people’s spelling in this way. Teaching spelling can be easily remedied as in my case above.


I totally disagree with Mr. Bob Branco statement that the Braille learners learn Grade Two Braille contractions before they actually learn how to spell the actual real word.

Because through my experience from my Braille teachers and being a Braille teacher myself, we have to make sure our pupils have mastered the actual word first before introducing the Braille contraction of that word.

In my work as a Braille teacher, the youngest pupil I had was aged 5, and at age of 6, she mastered the grade 2 Braille and of course with the correct spelling of each word.

However, in some cases, Braille teachers don’t do this procedure, and then I feel sorry for the learner.

My suggestion to Braille writers is to think first before they hit their contraction, as two words may sound the same, but they might have different spelling and different meaning, i.e “with” and “width”.

As we observe misspelled words on blind colleague’s e-mails, do we blame Braille contraction for that? I don’t think so, no one is perfect, but it’s for the writer to check his/her work. 



I’d like to comment on Bob Branco’s articles. First of all, regarding his friend who has a volunteer help him once a month, lots of utility companies have automated phone systems which allow a person to find out how much his or her bills are ahead of time. Also, people who have computers can get email notifications of when their bills are available to be read.

As far as Braille is concerned, when I attended the Kansas School for the Visually handicapped, our spelling books contained words written with and without contractions. When we had spelling tests, we had to write words first with the Braille contractions and then write them without the contractions. I think it’s important for blind children to learn how to spell words both ways. This is especially important when they learn to use a computer.

Elaine Johnson


On Ann Chiappetta’s article regarding parenting

I too am a parent with a visual impairment. My husband is also partially sighted, as I am. We had our daughter in 1984 when there was much less written about parenting with a disability and no known support except what you might get from any visually impaired friends you had who’d done it already. In this I was lucky as I had several friends with less sight than I who’d had several children and we were always looking for ways round feeding from a bowl, turning books into braille (this was pre-braille leaved with print books), pulling an old fashioned pram (still its some form of harness a bit like a donkey in a cart). There was no Disability Discrimination Acts, little use of computers in schools to produce materials for parents, etc., etc. Probably the only thing there was then which there is less of now was the amount of equipment one could buy from national organizations for the blind (I’m in the UK), which could be used to overcome things like making up bottles of milk, etc.

Staff didn’t understand much about the special needs of the visually impaired parent either, so parents evenings, joining in school events, etc. was still very difficult.

It was in the 1980s that the UK finally had its own peer support group (now known as the Disabled Parents Network), and later on the international group ‘Disability Pregnancy and Parenthood International’ of which both groups I have done as much as possible to support other visually impaired parents.

In some ways today’s visually impaired parents are lucky in that there are well established peer support groups (in the US there is the San Francisco based ‘Through the Looking Glass’ which has been around for many years too).

But there are still some things which ‘come difficult’ for us for which modern technology has yet to come up with a safe simple method of allowing us to be even more independent than we already are.

Chris McMillan (UK)



I want to comment on the article “What Happened to Our Voice” in the May tenth issue. I think what is happening is that our voice is being suppressed by the biases of society against the blind. People are uncomfortable around people who are blind in many cases and they feel that not giving us a voice will make us go away. Yes, I believe that we should strive to make the most out of our lives and utilize our unique talents. But when it seems that you are hitting your head against the wall your head begins to hurt and you say enough already. As Rodney Dangerfield said: “we don’t get no respect.” Society has to start looking at us as an asset not a liability. They have to come to the realization that it is “ok” to be blind and treat us with the respect and regard that we deserve. 

Bill Meinecke Virginia Beach Virginia


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