Literacy and People Who Are Blind

About Sarah Blake LaRose

Sarah Blake LaRose is a freelance writer and a professor of Biblical Hebrew at Anderson University School of Theology in Anderson, Indiana. She is one of three blind academic scholars who received the Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind in 2016 in recognition of innovative work in the field of access to biblical language texts and tools for people who are blind.

Without an appropriate mode of literacy, people who are blind are at a strong disadvantage when it comes to communication, relying primarily on what other people choose to share with them and hoping that other people transcribe their words correctly onto forms or other material that requires written responses.

The most basic form of literacy is the mode of reading and writing that we use. For many people who are blind, braille is the most efficient literacy medium, allowing for accurate knowledge of spelling, grammar, and othen some aspects of print formatting.

Some people use both print and braille as reading and writing media, relying on one for accessing short notes, mail, etc., and another for lengthier reading.

Some people expand the definition of literacy to include not only reading and writing but also the ability to take in and communicate at large. Using this definition, it can be argued that at advanced levels, audio reading is also a tool for literacy. For that matter, screen readers with advanced features such as the ability to identify font styles and other print attributes also serve as tools for print literacy.

The articles listed on this page provide information about issues concerning literacy for people who are blind. Some provide theoretical discussions; others present the results of research; still others provide information about teaching methods. Articles with an asterisk (*) beside them are hosted on this site.


The Importance of Braille Literacy

* The Importance of Braille Literacy
This article discusses further the reasons why there is debate about whether children should be taught braille and provides a strong argument for the teaching of braille to children with low vision.

>Braille And Beyond: Braille in a Larger Context
Susan J. Spungin discusses eight factors which she identified in previous presentations as reasons for the decrease in Braille literacy.

The Braille Literacy Crisis for Children
This article discusses proposed reasons given for blind children not learning Braille.

Comprehensive Literacy
Phil Hatlen discusses the traditional definition of literacy, positions on the importance of using recorded materials held by teachers of the visually impaired, and the necessity of skill in using a variety of methods to gather information.

Illiteracy and Low Literacy in the United States
Visually impaired readers may be overrepresented in statistics on illiteracy and low literacy. Read this article to find out why.

Is Listening Reading
Dean Tuttle discusses reasons for his conclusion that listening can be an effective mode of reading.

Literacy: The Key to Opportunity
Fred Schroeder discusses the importance of Braille literacy.

Perceptions of Braille Usage by Legally Blind Adults
Fred Schroeder discusses a study of Braille usage by eight blind adults and their attitudes about its importance and effect on the lives of blind people. This is a very small sample, but the study is a step in the right direction.

Weaving the Cloth of Literacy: The Relationship Between Braille and Reading
In this article, Braille is explained as a tool which helps to combine prior knowledge with new information.

The World at My Fingertips
This book contains several essays on the importance of learning Braille.

Braille for Students with Low Vision

* The Great Debate
Braille bills are designed to support the rights of visually impaired students to learn Braille and to ensure that textbooks are available in Braille. How effective are they, and what factors are involved in making decisions about whether students with low vision should learn Braille?

Early Literacy- Braille and the Young Child
This article provides scenarios which demonstrate how decisions can be made about whether a child is a tactual or visual learner. Suggestions are also provided for early literacy activities.

Emergent Literacy

* Emergent Literacy and the Young Blind Child
This article discusses the development of emergent literacy and provides some suggestions for parents and teachers.

Emergent Literacy: A New Perspective
J. M. Stratton discusses the concept of emergent literacy and what it means for blind children.

Reading Comes Naturally: A Mother and Her Blind Child’s Experiences
Diane Miller offers suggestions for sharing reading experiences with young blind children based on her experiences with her daughter.

Teaching Methods and Resources

* Writing Anywhere with the Slate and Stylus
This is a one-stop source of information about using and teaching the slate and stylus.

* Teaching Reading in Braille
This article provides an introduction to teaching methods and issues of concern when selecting the method to use with a particular student.

Beginning Braille: A Whole Language-Based Strategy
This article introduces the concept of whole language and discusses ways in which it can be adapted and used with young Braille readers.

The Braille Readiness Skills Grid: Providing a Foundation for Literacy
The Braille Readiness Skills Grid is a system for keeping track of students’ learning and for planning for future instruction. This article provides an explanation of how it can be used.

A Primary Reading Program for Beginning Braille Readers
This is the text of a 1979 article written by Hilda Caton which was published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. The article discusses selecting appropriate vocabulary and teaching methods.

A Review of Textbooks to Teach Braille to Blind Adults
This article discusses the method and results of a review of 19 textbooks for teaching Braille to blind adults.

Miscellaneous Articles and Resources

* Where to Find Children’s Books in Braille
Missy Garber provides contact information and descriptions of several producers of children’s books in braille.

How Much Space Does Grade 2 Braille Really Save
This article discusses the effect of several factors on the space-saving ability of Grade 2 Braille and factors affecting the validity of previous studies.

Library of Congress Certification Programs
The Library of Congress homepage provides information regarding certification in Braille proofreading and transcribing as well as assessment of Braille competency for professionals who work with blind people.

Reading Rates of Young Blind Children
Diane Wormsley discusses the results of her study on hand movement and reading rates of 22 blind children ages 6-12.

Tactile Acuity, Aging, and Braille Reading in Long-Term Blindness
Age-related decreases in the sensitivity of the fingertips may have an effect on Braille reading.

Teachers’ Voices: Comments on Braille and Literacy from the Field
This is a report on a study of the attitudes of teachers of students who are blind and visually impaired about Braille. This report is unique in that it includes actual quotations from respondents.

American Braille Basics
David Holladay and Jesse Kaysen explain the braille system and provide some basic information about transcription and formatting. This is a good page to read before transcribing a document.

Paths to Literacy
This site has numerous annotated links to literacy resources and information about the Getting in Touch with Literacy conference.