Future Reflections Winter/Spring 2006

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Canadian Children Learn that Braille Is Beautiful

by Barbara (Walker) Loos


Editor’s Note: We recently received the following press release. It speaks for itself:

Elizabeth Lalonde with her son, Reese, at the 2005 NFB Convention.Members of the Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB) are teaching grade four students in School District 61 about Braille and about blindness through the Braille Is Beautiful education and curriculum program.

“It was cool to learn about how blind people do things just like us,” says a grade four student at George Jay Elementary School.

“Braille is an essential form of literacy for blind people--just as print is an essential form of literacy for sighted people--and it should be a mandatory part of the education of blind and visually impaired children,” says Elizabeth Lalonde, CFB president. “I had a bit of sight when I was young and, because of this, was not taught Braille. This was a major mistake since print was next to impossible for me to read,” said Lalonde.

In the presentations blind CFB members teach children about the importance of Braille and provide a hands-on, interactive learning experience for the students. They also use the time to send a positive message about blindness and the abilities of blind people.

“It’s great for the kids because they get to be involved. They watch a video about a blind person and get a chance to try Brailling their names and the alphabet with a slate and stylus--equivalent to a pen and paper for sighted people,” says Lalonde.

The Canadian Federation of the Blind received a grant from the Times Colonist Book Drive Disbursement Fund as well as assistance from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), its sister organization in the United States. “The support from the Times Colonist and the National Federation of the Blind in the U.S. made it possible for us to provide this valuable program to schools,” said Lalonde. “It is also great that our own members who are blind are doing the teaching. We in the Federation believe the best way to give a positive message about blindness is for blind people themselves to give the message.”

The Braille Is Beautiful program provides resources to the schools that teachers can use now and in subsequent years. Every class gets a kit that includes a teacher’s guide, a video set, thirty sets of the student instruction book and workbook, a ream of Braille paper, twelve sets of slates and styli, forty-eight paperback books with real and fictional stories about Braille and living with blindness, thirty Braille alphabet cards, a teacher’s guide on teaching Braille writing with a slate and stylus, and materials and instructions for doing Braille service projects.

“It was a wonderful presentation. The children really enjoyed it and learned a lot. They just love the slate and stylus and love to make Braille messages for me to figure out, and all the resources the CFB provided are wonderful,” said Tracey Chrystal, grade four teacher at George Jay Elementary School.

The CFB has already taken the Braille Is Beautiful program to George Jay and Gordon Head elementary schools, and will visit James Bay, Northridge, Eagle View, Vickwest, and Frank Hobbs between now and the end of the school year. They will go to James Bay Elementary School on Tuesday, January 17.

The Canadian Federation of the Blind is a grassroots nonprofit organization made up of blind people committed to the equality and empowerment of blind Canadians. It is modeled after the National Federation of the Blind in the United States, the largest and most influential grassroots group of blind people in the world.

For more information about the Canadian Federation of the Blind, contact:

Elizabeth Lalonde, president, Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB), P.O. Box 8007, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8W 3R7. (250) 598-7154, fax (250) 595-4849, email <[email protected]>, Web site <www.CFB.ca>

For information about how to order the Braille Is Beautiful curriculum program, contact the NFB national office at (410) 659-9314, or go to <http://nfb.org/bibsite/lowprice.htm> for a description of the different components of the program and prices.

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