The Braille Monitor                                                                                         June, 2002

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Braille Is Beautiful

The following little review was published in the magazine NEA Today and is reprinted with permission.

Looking for ways to help your students understand the perspectives of those with disabilities? Braille Is Beautiful, a new program from the National Federation of the Blind, could be just the ticket.

Braille Is Beautiful is a flexible, hands-on program that comes complete with a Braille stylus and slate for kids to learn with. It aims to help sighted students in grades four through six understand not only Braille but also the many capabilities and achievements of blind people.

Marc Maurer, the Federation's president and himself blind, created the program to make blindness "less weird" to kids.

"I've used few materials that generate as much excitement," says Claudia Bosworth, who last year introduced Braille Is Beautiful to her thirty-two fifth graders at Fort Smallwood Elementary in Pasadena, Maryland. "My students all wanted their own slate and stylus. Several of the kids contacted the National Federation of the Blind on their own."

Bosworth especially appreciated the program's classroom video, Jake and the Secret Code. In the video ten-year-old Jake becomes separated from his mother while visiting the National Federation of the Blind. He wanders into the office of Mr. Chong, who puzzles him by doing lots of things Jake didn't think blind people could do.

Mr. Chong gives Jake a crash course in the "secret code" of Braille. He also clues Jake in on how to help his mother become more comfortable around blind people.

"Nothing is more fun than a secret code," says Bosworth. She adds, "After using Braille Is Beautiful, I saw my students become more understanding of children in other areas as well, whether it was a disability or just a kid who wasn't as quick at a given subject."

Braille Is Beautiful includes five instructional units with a variety of learning formats including group discussions, interactive games, and applied projects. Parts of the program can be used together or alone.

"To me blindness is not unusual," Maurer says. "It isn't that I forget it, but it's not a thing I think about much. But to many people it's weird."

"Children can be cruel. If there is a noticeable difference in another child, it will be used against that kid--unless the difference has charm," says Maurer. "With Braille Is Beautiful, we're trying to take an isolating difference and make it into a charming difference."

For information, visit <www.nfb.org> or call (410) 659-9314.

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