Future Reflections          Fall 2007

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TOY REVIEW
Magnetic Braille Set from Greggo Magnets, Inc.

by Jon and Kathy Gabry

Editorís Note: Kathy Gabry is a parent leader in the New Jersey affiliate of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, and Jon is her teenage son. Jon was featured in the Summer 2006 issue of Future Reflections (volume 25, number 2) in an article about the technology he uses as a deaf-blind high school student. In planning for this issue, I sent out a request for volunteer toy reviewers, and Kathy and Jon took on the challenge. Here are their reviews of the following educational Braille toy product:

Greggo Magnets, Inc.
8 West 43rd Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55409
Phone: (612) 824-1782, Fax: (612) 824-1794
<GreggoMagnets.com>
Item #GM-23 Magnetic Braille, Retail: $12.50

One set includes sixty-three one-inch brightly colored squares--lime green, purple, red, blue, aqua, yellow, among others--with both jumbo Braille and colorful print letters. One set includes two full alphabets, punctuation, the number symbol, and the capital letter symbol.

Jonís review:
I like the Braille magnets a lot because they are very clear, big, and easy to read and feel. I used the Braille rather than the letters to make words because it was too hard for me to see the print letters. I made messages in both contracted and uncontracted Braille. I think the magnets were a little weak, but they were okay.

I think I liked this toy so much because it is the first time that I ever saw big Braille on a toy. I think children in preschool through third grade would probably enjoy these magnets a lot. The set would also be a good toy for sisters, brothers, and friends because they could learn Braille and make fun messages too. I think every young blind child should get these magnets for Christmas or as a birthday gift.

Kathyís review:
Jon and I have had a good time playing with the Greggo Magnets for a couple of months. Theyíve been a colorful and fun addition to our refrigerator.

As a sighted person, I would rather have seen more vowels and commonly used consonants like r, s, t, l, n, e, and a than two each of x, q, and z. I also would have liked to have seen commonly used contractions like and and the, and I was a bit miffed that when I opened the box, I didnít see any contractions. Yet, when I mentioned this to Jon, he quickly told me that I was mistaken; that there were contractions. He pointed out the b for but, the c for can, and a rotated y for and. Then he quickly found the Brailled letters to spell my name. In Braille it was just fine, but in print it was: k,tjy.

What? Does that really read kathy? It sure does. He used a k, he rotated the comma to make an a, he used a t, he rotated a j to make an h, and he used a y. He then wrote his friend Meganís name, and in print it read: meg(blank)z (m--e--g--rotated symbol for caps--rotated z to make an n).

For a sighted person, looking at Braille messages that in print absolutely doesnít make sense--like those above--could prove rather confusing, but it also presents--as Jon says--an opportunity to really begin learning Braille. Using the magnets as a communication tool in school could definitely send some confusing messages to a sighted child, but an understanding, thoughtful teacher could provide feedback and insight when the kids were making messages.

Jon mentioned that the magnets were a little weak, and I agree. We werenít able to use them on the front of our refrigerator, which has a textured surface; we had to use them on the side, which has a flat surface.

My other complaint about the magnets is that on some of the squares there is very little contrast between the background color and the color of the print letter. For example, there is a green letter on an aqua square, a red letter on a purple square, and a brown letter on a red square.

All in all, weíve had a lot of fun with the magnets. The price is right, and my son enjoys them. As long as youíre comfortable with rotating the print letters to find a Braille letter or contraction, youíll have loads of fun making short messages on your family refrigerator.

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