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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Braille in ASL

I stared at the email from my ASL instructor with a mixture of
horror and disbelief. She was offering me extra credit if I
would do a presentation on how to read braille. I don't really
need the extra credit. I've got a solid A and I'm taking the
class pass/fail. But she asked me to do it. That's enough for

I've done braille awareness before. People seem to be
interested in the subject. It's something they've often never
seen before. Here I had a chance to educate twenty people about
something new. That's always a great opportunity.

My shock, however, was because I knew what this presentation
would involve. There is a silent rule in the ASL program. No
talking is allowed. I would have to do the presentation in ASL.

Braille in ASL? It's like a clash of two worlds. What a
challenge! As always, I was up to the task and determined to do
my best.

Whenever you do any kind of speech or lecture, the first rule is
to consider your audience. You need to base your presentation
on who your audience is and what they will best respond to.
Always know your audience.

For this presentation, the audience was my fellow ASL iii
students. ASL iii is still considered beginning level. I could
work with upper level students and Deaf mentor to prepare a very
sophisticated and advanced performance. But what good would it
be if the other students couldn't understand me?

I decided to keep it simple. I explained the very basics about
braille, cells and reading patterns. I had braille awareness
cards with the alphabet in both print and braille. I gave one to
each student and had them feel the cards as I went over each

My father helped me make an oversized braille cell to use for the
presentation. It's made of wood with magnetic tape where each
dot goes. We made six circles out of wood that had magnets on
the back. I could put the dots on the board "cell" and then
change them as needed. It was a great visual aid.

There was one problem, though. I had practiced my signing many
times before the presentation. The braille board was not ready
then so I just pretended to go through the actions of making each
new letter. It wasn't until I was in front of the class that I
realized I didn't have enough hands. I needed two hands for
signing and one to hold and manipulate the board. Whoops!

At least I learned this now instead of when doing a presentation
for a grade. I managed to fumble through that part. Next time I
need to consider how I can better display my board or any other
visual aid.

I don't know how well the students understood. They certainly
did ask many questions. I was answering questions for longer
than it took me to present the info of the lesson. That
surprised me.

The students asked good questions. I could tell they were very
interested an curious. I ended up talking about some more
advanced topics than I originally intended. I even took out my
slate and stylus and showed them how I write braille.

I always like to give my audience something to take with them.
Ahead of time, I made a card for each student with their name
in braille. I think they liked that.

Overall, I think it went well and I'm glad I agreed to do it.
I'm relived it's over, though. Now it's time to get ready for
finals. Uh oh!

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