Niki has mastered the basics of Braille, but wanted to extend his knowledge. He decided to go to an expert, a seven year old blind boy who uses Braille on a daily basis for school. Niki and Theo put their SMART Braillers side by side and the lesson began. With incredible speed and fluency, Theo demonstrated the contracted Braille that he was learning. Uncontracted Braille represents every letter separately which can lead to very long documents. Contracted Braille uses dot combinations to represent common words or letter patterns, such an “and” or “ing.” The ease with which Theo brailled was inspiring, demonstrating that it is a masterable skill. Niki has a bit of practicing to do.
Theo quickly moved on from writing to drawing. He created for us a drawing of the story, Princess and the Pea. On the right side of the page was the 20 mattress bed with a small pea underneath. On the left side was a ladder leading to some stairs. There was also a trap door to get to the pea. We were amazed how he formed this picture in his head and then added dots to it line by line, just as a printer would. We thought SMART Braillers were for literacy education – I guess they are for fun too!! Niki finds the visual display on the SMART Brailler which shows and speaks the letter typed quite useful. Theo also uses this to share his Brailler with his friends and classmates. We had not thought previously of a SMART Brailler as a way to bridge the gap between a blind and sighted child. We are quickly discovering that a SMART Brailler has many uses other than writing.
While Niki might have gone to a Braille teacher, who better to be inspired by than a child who uses Braille on a daily basis. We are grateful to the SMART Brailler Backpacking programme for providing us with the Brailler to experiment with.