It's National Braille Week

Date
7 October 2016

Braille is a type of written language using raised dots. Each raised dot represents a letter of the alphabet and numbers. The raised dots enable vision-impaired individuals to touch, read and write using their fingers.

Although braille has now been overshadowed with the introduction of technology, in our early days teaching braille was very important. Two braille objects which proved vital were the braille typewriter and braille watch.

The Braille typewriter enabled veterans to enhance their skill set by increasing their literacy skills, meaning they had a greater chance of gaining employment. One such veteran was Walter Newland who was wounded near Ypres in August 1917. Walter was only 24 years old so regaining his independence was crucial.

Typewriter

After he joined Blind Veterans UK, which was known as St.Dunstan’s at the time, he was rehabilitated and learned how to adapt to his sight loss. As part of this rehabilitation Walter was taught to read and type Braille with a Braille typewriter.

Walter excelled and went on to pass a typewriting test. Using these skills he went on to set up his own business in poultry farming which he continued until his retirement forty years later.

Another incredible Braille object is the Braille watch. The watch has raised dots to enable vision-impaired individuals to identify the time. These watches were usually given to veterans recovering in hospital.

Braille watch

In our earlier days, Sir Arthur Pearson would visit the veterans at the hospital and give them each a watch. One blind veteran Bob Young remembers receiving the watch, he recalls: “I thought “What the devil does he want to give me a watch for, doesn’t he know I’m blind? I didn’t know what a Braille watch was…

“All through the night you’d hear those watches, they were hunter watches, you’d hear the watches clicking all over the ward, the men were telling the time, they were doing something for themselves independent for the first time in their lives, and I thought well I can do that, that’s something. It was the beginning, the first step on the ladder, but it was the genius of Arthur Pearson that realised that!’