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Dot, dot, dot

January the 4th is World Braille Day. To mark this annual event, one of our volunteers, Charlotte, has written a blog post for us all about the benefits of learning braille. Read on to find out more:

“I thocht they were jist a pattern!”

Thus did I discover the Co-op, alone amongst supermarkets, puts braille on many of its own products, if the packaging allows. This was some years ago,  I was going round the shop, with one of the staff. He had handed me an item from my list and my hand brushed across these wee dots.

Very useful, when ferreting around in the freezer, knowing exactly what type of pizza I’ve unearthed before I’ve even taken a bite.

And, if the Co-op can make the effort to provide this service, why can’t other supermarkets?

When the Social Work department offered me the chance to learn braille, I had no illusions I was going to wheech through War and Peace. No, I just wanted to be able to identify things, such as packets of medication, and signs. Although, for a Blinkie, you usually need the help of a sighted person to find these for you. Try searching for a braille sign plonked on a long, roughcast wall!

Despite what the sighted think, it is much easier to identify these dots than raised lettering, which can be in such a variety of fonts. Items labelled in braille are usually labelled in Grade 1, where a particular arrangement of dots stands for a particular letter. No need to learn the many combinations used in Grade 2, where dots can represent common words.

Identifying medication or the contents of a packet only involves learning 26 groups of dots; 27, if you include the combination resembling a reversed L, which shows the dots following are numbers, not letters.

Memorise these and you’ll never swallow anyone else’s tablets again. You will identify a vast amount of your shopping, as long as you shop at your nearest Co-op and, if some strange bloke turns up at your door, you will be able to identify his employer. If he doesn’t have his company’s identity card in braille, report his company to the DDA.

Progress to Grade 2 and you can tackle reading proper stuff. Letters from the DWP, recipe books, even novels.

And, no, I haven’t read War and Peace. I watched it on the telly; with audio description. When I could see well enough to read, I was a fast reader so I prefer novels as Talking Books. However, I have braille recipe books. The only problem being that braille is bulky. The Lord of the Rings runs to about 20 volumes. But braille recipe books are another story altogether.

A braille recipe book can be left beside the cooker, you can dribble stuff on it. Not deliberately of course, but all you Blinkie cooks will know exactly what I mean. Flour can be dusted across a page and it only needs a quick shake to remove what’s lodged between the dots.

On a dreich morning, there’s nothing better than selecting a favourite recipe from my trusted Delia or Nigella and off we go, wheeching my hand over the dots. Slitter treacle across a laptop and the poor thing would never be the same again. Nor is it sensible to place your iPad too near the cooker. In comparison, braille is invincible.

Image of Natasha Johnston
Written by: Natasha Johnston

Posted on the: January 4, 2022
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