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...Overview of the Braille Bug Site...

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Six tiny raised dots, ingeniously arranged by a fifteen-year-old boy nearly two hundred years ago, have brought literacy to thousands of people with visual disabilities worldwide. Louis Braille, the inventor of the braille code, was born on January 4, 1809, so January is celebrated as Braille Literacy Month. The Braille Bug web site for children was launched in January 2002 to commemorate the achievements of this remarkable young inventor.


The information, activities, and games found on the Braille Bug web site are designed to teach children in grades 3 through 6 about braille. As they explore the site, children will be able to:


  • develop an appreciation for the efficiency and versatility of braille;
  • learn why and how Louis Braille invented the literary braille code;
  • understand the importance of braille for another famous blind person, Helen Keller;
  • learn to recognize braille letters and numbers;
  • describe different ways to read and write braille, including the use of technology;
  • use suggested resources to learn more about braille, blindness, and related topics.


About Braille Literacy


Braille enables people who are blind or visually impaired to develop literacy skills comparable to those of sighted people who read print. Those who know braille can perform tasks as varied as jotting down a phone number, writing a shopping list, solving a long division problem, reading a musical score, or composing a doctoral thesis. Sighted elementary students initially are fascinated by braille as a kind of "secret code." However, as they learn more about braille and its many uses, they expand their knowledge of people with disabilities and the accommodations they use to lead full and successful lives.


Accessibility


Children who are blind or visually impaired can enjoy the activities on the Braille Bug website right along with their sighted classmates. However, they will need special software and/or hardware on their computers.


• Those with low vision have the option of changing the color of the site to increase contrast and make the text easier to see. They also may use screen magnification software to enlarge the text and pictures on the screen.


• Those who do not learn visually may access information and participate in the games & activities by listening. To do this, they need to have a screen reader installed on their computer that will read everything that appears on the screen, including text, menus, icons, and alt tags. All the games and activities are designed to be completely accessible. However, the objectives for children who participate by listening are somewhat different from those for children who access the site visually. Although they will not be learning to recognize simulated braille letters and numbers, they will benefit from practice using their screen readers as they select menu items, listen to information, and play the games. Children with screen readers may access the games that have simulated braille characters by listening to the alt tags that give the dot numbers for each one. In this way, a player who is blind can work on the same questions with a classmate or friend who is sighted. This arrangement can promote the development of social interaction skills for both children. Children who would like more practice using their screen readers may also select the "Jumble Puzzle" game that provides clues in regular print letters and words, rather than in simulated braille.


• Those who read braille may access the screen by using a refreshable braille display or by downloading and printing out a hard copy of the file on a braille embosser. Directions for creating a hard copy of any part of this website are found in another submenu item under "Parents and Teachers" entitled "How to Download Braille Files."


The Home Page


The Braille Bug, a ladybug with the six dots of the braille cell on her back, welcomes children to the website on the home page. There are four menu items for them to choose from, in addition to the "Parents and Teachers" item:


Change the Colors of the Site: Children have the option to change the color of the text and background based on their personal preferences for comfortable viewing.


What is Braille? Five submenu items provide children with information about the Braille Code, tools used to read and write braille, and the life of Louis Braille. It is recommended that children read "Braille: Deciphering the Code" before attempting any of the games or activities under the next main menu item.


  • Braille: Deciphering the Code—An introduction to Louis Braille's systematic arrangement of dots in the braille cell to form letters, punctuation marks, and numbers. In this section children also learn about braille contractions and short-form words. These are special symbols or spellings that reduce the amount of space needed for writing words in braille.

  • Trivia—Interesting facts about braille

  • Braille Technology—A description of low- and high-tech tools used to read and write braille.

  • Printable Braille Alphabet—A copy of the braille alphabet that students can print out and use as a reference while playing the games, writing their own simulated braille messages, or decoding braille words and numbers they find in the environment.

  • Louis Braille—The story of Louis Braille's life told in a lively style.


Games and Secret Messages: Children can explore a variety of interactive activities that challenge them to decode simulated braille letters, words, and numbers on the screen. All of the activities except the first one include a copy of the braille alphabet and numbers for reference.


  • See Your Name in Braille!—Type in any name or other word, and watch it appear on the screen in braille.

  • Trivia Mania—Decode braille words related to a specific category, such as "Insects." After a practice round, players earn points for correct answers.

  • Riddles—Read a riddle in print and decode the braille answer.

  • Braille Jumble—A more difficult version of Trivia Mania. The braille letters for each word in a specific category are scrambled. Players decode the letters, rearrange them, and type their response. After a practice round, points are awarded for each correct answer.

  • Jumble Puzzle—Games designed for use with a screen reader or refreshable braille display.

  • Countdown!—Decode the braille numbers, figure out the pattern (such as 2, 4, 6, 8), and type the next number in the sequence. After a practice level, players earn points for correct answers.

  • Secret Message—Send a coded message to a friend by clicking on the letters of the braille alphabet or typing in the text. When the message is sent via e-mail, the friend will receive instructions on how to see it in braille and decode the words.


Louis Braille: The story of Louis Braille's life, told in a lively style.


Helen Keller Kids Museum Online: A fascinating timeline of Helen Keller's life and achievements. Includes photos, videos, letters, and more!


We hope that the children who use this site will enjoy learning about braille and begin to understand its significance for people who are blind and visually impaired. During the coming year, the Braille Bug website will expand to include a Reading Club and Friends area. We welcome your comments and suggestions, which may be sent to braillebug@afb.net.

Would you like to help support the Braille Bug site? Learn more about AFB's
efforts to support literacy.



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