Unmute Presents At Your Fingertips – episode two braille then and now!

Join us as we explore Braille greeting cards and grade three Braille in this episode of “At Your Fingertips, Braille Then and Now.” Discover DIY tips for creating Braille cards, sources for purchasing them, and the efficiency of grade three Braille in note-taking. Stay connected for more insightful discussions on Braille.


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Hi, everyone. Welcome to at your fingertips Braille then and now. It’s great to be back with you, and I really appreciate all those of you who have subscribed to my little podcast here on the Unmute Presents Network. Today. We have a couple of really cool topics, focusing, of course, on Braille then and now. But first we’re going to talk about the now topic because I think you’ll all find this really cool. I was looking up recently about braille greeting cards. I know that sometimes we send electronic greetings and those can be accessible or not, and other times we just want to send a card. I don’t think they’re going out of fashion, and so I thought I would give you some ideas about how to make your own cards for your friends or family members. And if there are sighted people listening, they can learn how to make those cards as well. But if you do want to buy some, there are definitely options out there. And so this is a really cool idea so that you could send one to someone who’s just learning braille or has just learned contracted braille. And so I thought we’d just talk about some of these ways of getting those cards out there. It really gives sighted people a real feel good, maybe pun intended, when they send a blind person a card, because it’s kind of like when I learn a few words in someone else’s language or maybe I know some really basic finger spelling that I can communicate a little more with a person who is deafblind. It’s exciting when you really are able to send a card in someone’s own reading medium. So I’ve gotten a few cards along the years from sighted people who really took the time to investigate where to get those. But first of all, I’m going to start with how to make your own card. There was a really cool episode on the Braille cast podcast from the Braillists foundation, and they had an episode around Christmas time on how to make your own cards, sending them know, labeling your Christmas presents, doing all that kind of thing. So if you want to take a listen, it’s a really neat podcast and I always tune in to see what they’re up to. But some ways to make your own cards. If you’re a braillist yourself and you just want to braille on an insert to fit the card, you can do that. That may be good if the card has a lot of glitter on it or it has a picture and something is going to get wrinkled if you happen to roll it in the Perkins brailler so you could write a message and insert it into the card. If you have a braille labeler and the text is pretty short, that is a possibility. You could just braille a few words on the labeling tape and stick it onto the card. If you happen to have access to adhesive sheets or larger labels, you could always roll those into the perkins and write your message on the sticky labels or pieces of larger labeling sheets and then cut them out to fit the card. Or you could definitely write on the card directly itself as you roll it in the perkins. One of the members of the braille cast was saying that it bothers her if the card is in portrait and she needs to roll the card in landscape, that the print and the braille are not going the same direction. That doesn’t really bother me per se. And I find that rolling the card in landscape so that the fold is at the top and you can only braille on one half of the card because it’s hard to roll a whole card in the Perkins, especially if the cardstock is thick and then know if it’s around the holidays and you have a bunch of glitter on there, that’s no good for your brailler. So you might consider rolling the card in the Perkins and having a go at that, thinking about how much you want to say so that you don’t run out of room at the end, and then you have no room to write your name and that kind of thing. So I’ve done that a lot of times, and I do get cards from a friend of mine who loves braille cards for me because she’s blind, too, and that’s the way she shares her cards. So those are some ways of DIY, do it yourself braille greeting cards. Sometimes you can just find a blank card and write on it, because then you know exactly what’s going to be there. Then I went on a little research project of seeing, okay, where can we buy braille greeting cards? And I was really surprised by all the options you have, everything from Hallmark, Etsy, Target, and Amazon, as well as specialist stores online. So first, I started with Hallmark because I heard they had braille cards, and they can actually send the card for you or mail it to you for you to send or to give to the person. So one example I found was a happy birthday card. So it was happy moments and happy days, and there was braille on the card, obviously, and it was only $2.99, which you can’t even get a print card for that price. And the fact that they can also mail it to your recipient and the mailing is free. They’re probably using the free matter for the blind option here in the US, that is. And I don’t know, I’m sorry to say, how it works in other parts of the world, but this is what I do know. It is print and braille on a glossy card and there was a balloon and fireworks coming out of an envelope. And it got good reviews on Hallmark’s website with 86% of people giving it a five star and 14% four star reviews on their website. So I thought that was really cool. And so I’m going to be exploring that for clients or people who might like to know more about that. If you look on Amazon, you’ll find very, very expensive cards. Anything from seven dollars to seventeen dollars and anywhere in between. They even have listings from Hallmark where one card was $15.12, which is ridiculous. So be sure that you don’t go through Amazon. It’s my recommendation if you really want a good deal because it’s not what you want to spend on a card, you might as well buy them a little gift for that amount of money. And in reading about a birthday card, I noticed on Amazon that the braille was in grade one, but that was from a shop in the UK. And of course, I don’t know why that would be the case, but you might explore that and give me feedback on that. Amazon also has the tactile vision store listed and they’re a group in New Brunswick, Canada, and they offer cards that are priced at about $6.95 with a $2 shipping fee to the US. And so that isn’t too bad for a specialist card and everything. It’s not much more than you would pay for some of the cards in the store, but so far, hallmark is your best option. And then, of course, on Etsy, there are lots and lots of customizable cards from $6 on up. I really didn’t check those out too much, but I know there are some folks that are doing a lot of things with braille on Etsy and so just kind of checking out and then you would have a chance to communicate with the creator as well. The last place is the Braille [email protected]. And they’re in Canada as well. And they have a really good deal. They have a collection of assorted cards, six cards for $13.95 and they have braille birthday cards, thank you cards, or Christmas. And it’s glossy stock with a message in braille. And there’s also a color picture. But you know what I was most excited to read about? There is a braille chocolate mold for greeting cards. I could not believe this. Yummy. So you make your own braille chocolate greeting cards, which is fantastic. So they are each $4.95 and it looks to be a mold that is like two cards in one mold, basically a left side and a right side as I’m imagining it. So the one mold is happy birthday, and on the other side of the mold it says love you. And another mold is have a nice day on one side and thank you on the other. And the other last mold is a merry Christmas on one side of it, like say these are like laying flat left and right and then happy holidays. Or you can get the whole set of four for $12.95, which is a steal. So each of these molds has the two messages and each bar is 4oz and they are six by four inches. Edible cards. Yes. And what you do is you melt baking chocolate squares and you pour into the mold and then you set it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. And amazingly enough, guys, the message is in print and braille. And there are pictures on most of these things. Like there are holly berries on the happy holidays ones and there’s flowers on the thank you card, I think. But this is amazing. I have to have these. I’m putting in an order. Mission accomplished. Very soon. Not only am I a chocolate fiend, but I mean, this sounds so cool. How neat would it be to give somebody a braille, edible braille greeting? So that would be so cool. So with that being said, we return to normal paper braille. And if you would like a longer message sent to the person that you’d like to communicate with or whatnot, especially good for sighted people. The braille bookstore can send a braille letter for $13.95. It has a 5000 character limit, which that’s kind of fiddly about how to figure that out. But it’s about 1100 words and the message can be produced on 8.5 by eleven inch cardstock in UEB contracted braille. So that is what I know about braille greeting cards. And so maybe one of those ways of sending cards will strike a chord with you and you can make someone’s day. Now for the then and in the past sort of segment for our braille at your fingertips podcast, I thought you might be interested to know about grade three braille. And I can hear some of you saying, oh man, I’m barely mastering grade two braille. It makes my head spin. Grade three braille. Well, no need to learn it. It’s okay, but I think it’s really cool to know about. So I’ll tell you the story of my situation. I was a pretty forward thinking high schooler, and this was back in the late 70s, early eighty s, and I was excited to learn that there was grade three braille because I was anticipating taking notes on my slate and stylus in a notebook for college classes, because, no, there really weren’t braille displays. No, there really weren’t computers. There weren’t laptops. There wasn’t a whole lot happening yet in that arena, so I really needed to take quick notes. So I wanted to know about grade three braille. So I enrolled in the Hadley. It was the Hadley school for the blind. Now I believe it’s the Hadley Institute, and they offered a grade three braille course. And so I signed up and got my materials, got my book, and set to work learning it. And basically it retains all of the signs and symbols from the grade two, and it adds in a bunch of rules for eliminating vowels and other contractions that exist. And so what I found in doing some research was the earliest book I found was from NLS bard, and it was called the key to grade three Braille by L. W. Roddenberg, and he was the director of printing at the Illinois School for the Blind. There was a revision of that called alphabetical key to grade three braille, and that was based on a text from 19 eight published in print and braille by the National Institute for the Blind. So, really some old books were based in the early 19 hundreds and were used to compile this book that he put together. So basically, Aph also produced book, and this was guide to grade three for the first year high school student. And this is by Ruth Hayden. And there were a couple editions of that. And so what I found when learning it, it was a real time and space saver. You basically eliminated most vowels, except if it was a long vowel or covered a diphthong. And also there were additional signs for vowel combinations, like a vowel combination beginning with a would be dot four. So if I was going to write the word pale, like P-A-I-L I’d write p and then dot four, and then l. And then if I wanted a combination with a vowel like e, like in the word steep, I might write the st sign a dot five, that would stand for both of the e’s, and then the letter p. If I wanted to write a combination with I, it would be dot six, and then a combination with o, like the word loop would be dots 45. So the word loop would be l, dots 45 and the letter p. Then finally, a combination with a vowel starting with u. Two vowels starting with u, would be dots five and six. And I’m really sorry if any heads are spinning now, but I’m just going to share one more thing. It also incorporated a lot of lettered combinations with dots that we really didn’t use. You know how all the dot five words, like 5d is day and dot five e is ever. Well, they also used a lot of the other dots on the right hand side of the braille cell. So, for instance, a 4g is going, a 5g is the word God 45. G is goes, and four, five, six is gone. And it kind of follows, like, going, goes, gone, kind of those present participle, present tense, past tense sort of functionality with these things. There are some books available if anybody did want to learn it. It can be read later if you still remember your grade three. Because even though there are rules about the vowels to leave out, the rules aren’t so nebulous as to leave room for, hey, I wonder what that word was. And so I definitely loved using it. And now, since I teach braille and have gotten out of the habit of using it, I was looking over the list of all the special signs and different combinations, and I was like, oh, yeah, that’s right. So it was very handy for me, because as you’re punching away on your slate and stylus or frame, I guess you would say in UK, you need to increase the speed to get in all of the notes that you want to write. And so having a shorthand is great. And so I found it very, very useful. There are very few books produced in it, and it never really took hold as any kind of a mainstream reading medium, as far as I know. But it has been very, very valuable to a lot of us. So if you have enjoyed using grade three braille or you want to know more and you want to refresh your braille code knowledge of grade three, if you are able to access NLS books, you can go and type in grade three braille. And there will be these two books that I mentioned, the one by Roddenberg and the one by Hayden, and they’re a good review. Well, thanks so much for joining me on at your fingertips, the website and email are still under construction. A bit of life happened and I wasn’t able to get those in place yet. But I bet that if you ping the unmute folks or if you ping me on mastodon. I’m at creative, Chris. You can give me comments or feedback, but I really appreciate you listening and downloading, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode of at your fingertips braille then and now. We’ll see you next month.