The Louis Braille Bulletin Volume 4

The Louis Braille Bulletin

No 4

February 2009

Compiled and distributed by
The South African Library for
the Blind
in collaboration with
Braille SA

Letter from the Editor

Dear Readers

As I write this issue of the Louis Braille Bulletin, I reflect on braille activities of the previous year. Much has been accomplished. Highlights on the braille calendar of 2008 included braille training workshops and the expansion of strategies for implementation of the Unified Braille Code. Furthermore, the year 2008 saw the planning of the bicentenary celebrations of the birth of Louis Braille.
However festive the events are, the conference “Braille 1809-2009 – Writing with 6 dots and its future”, held in Paris in January of this year, highlighted the importance of braille as a key component of literacy. Much work needs to be done to ensure that the basic human right of literacy and intellectual freedom, a legacy bequeathed to us by Louis Braille, continues to be enjoyed by persons who are blind.

In South Africa we need to continue to advocate for correct braille standards, a best practice document for teaching braille and adequate provision of textbooks in braille.

The Louis Braille Bicentenary celebrations taking place this year present an excellent opportunity for addressing the abovementioned matters, as they provide the platform for raising greater awareness of the role of braille in the lives of persons who are blind.

This issue of The Louis Braille Bulletin will have a more celebratory note, as we acknowledge the contribution of Louis Braille, give tips on caring for your braille books, inform readers of plans for the Louis Braille bicentenary celebrations and deal with braille queries.

Direct comments and queries to:

Pasha Alden (National Braille Consultant)
The South African Library for the Blind
PO Box 115
Tel: 046 622 7226


Hazel Marshall, braille promotor and past president of Blind SA reflects on the legacy of Louis Braille, as she recalls the joys of teaching braille as a volunteer

Although teaching braille is pretty hard work, there is an enormous reward in guiding another person to independence through literacy. The most important lesson I learnt while teaching 40 to 50 individual students over a period of some four decades, is that it is not so much a matter of teaching but rather a process of enabling the student to learn. This process is greatly enhanced when the student is motivated by some specific goal such as obtaining a career or study opportunity.

To me, each student has been someone special, but space does not allow mention of more than three.

Patrick’s ambition to serve the church was devastated in his sixth year of theological studies by an illness which robbed him of his vision and three short years later of his life. But in the course of those three years mastering braille in three months allowed him to be ordained and to make a profound impact on the lives of many in his short term as a parish priest.

Then there was Robert, a medical laboratory technician, whose failing sight caused him to switch to physiotherapy. Braille was compulsory for entry to the training course and, amazing as it may seem, he learnt the entire English grade 2 system in a week, set off to study in London shortly afterwards, qualified in due course and became a well known practitioner in England. The actual implementation of what he had absorbed in a week would, of course, take much longer.

A more recent star has been Ntombozuko, a young partially sighted woman who chose to learn English and Xhosa braille because of her progressive eye condition. After four months, she was already starting to borrow library books and reading them with pleasure and satisfaction.

The list could go on and on, with many students achieving remarkable personal success and some passing on their braille skills to others.


The South African Library for the Blind and Blind SA supported by the SA National Council for the Blind have launched a national braille writing competition for persons who are blind, or use braille. The competition will coincide with the international bicentenary celebration of Louis Braille’s birthday during 2009.

The competition will officially start on the 1st of November 2008 and the closing date will be the 30th of April 2009.

The theme of the competition is “My Brailleant Life / My Braillejante Lewe / Ubomi bam be Braille obuyismangaliso” and focuses on the significant role of braille in the lives of persons who are blind.

The competition will be divided into four categories; primary school learners (grades 1-7), secondary school learners (Grades 8-12), and an open category for adults, and professional persons in the field of braille, such as teachers, braillists and proofreaders.

Contestants will have to submit an essay of between 200 and 500 words. The winner for the primary school category will receive R1,000, R2,000 for the secondary school category and R5,000 for the Open and Professional categories. Each contestant will receive a framed certificate for their participation in the competition.

Entries for the competition will only be allowed in braille – either produced on a Perkins brailler or using a slate and stylus.
Entries will be accepted in either the Unified Braille Code, or Non-Unified braille code and in any of the eleven official languages. Entries for primary school learners may be submitted in contracted, or uncontracted braille. All submissions in the other categories should be submitted in contracted braille only.

The adjudication of the essay will focus on the quality of written braille.

For further information, please contact:

Christo de Klerk (Chairperson Braille SA)
Tel.: 011 350 8132
Mark Sunners
South African Library for the Blind
Tel.: 046 622 7226


Did you know that there are ways to prolong the life of your favourite braille book? In this article we shall give some handy hints to teachers and readers to ensure that dictionaries, much loved classics and educational material are preserved for the next two hundred years.

Firstly, learners should be taught the value of books and that braille production is costly.

Learners of a young age should be taught that braille books are always handled with clean, dry hands.

Readers should “stroke” the page when turning it. Doing so will prevent tearing of the page.

When packing books, be sure that there is sufficient space to fit the book into a bookshelf or bag, as forcing the thick volume into a tiny space may cause damage to the cover, spine and braille dots.

Braille books are stored in a clean, dry place. When storing braille books, ensure that the bookshelf has a book stand. This will ensure that the books stay in the upright position and prevent damage to the book.


Q.: May I contract “deur” in Afrikaans?

A.: The contraction for “deur” may be used as a word or at the beginning of a word, e.g. “deurknop”. However, it may not be used in, or at the end of a word as it could be confused with a full stop.

Q.: When can I contract “was” in Afrikaans?

A.: The contraction for “was” may be used as a word, or as part of a word. e.g. “kwas”, “waspop” or “volwasse”. However, when writing words such as “wasig” or “wasem” “was” should not be contracted.


Stakeholders are advised that the next meeting of Braille SA will take place on 11-12 May at the Willowpark Conference Centre and resort.
We wish to encourage Principals and heads of stakeholder organisations to send braille experts.

For further information please contact:

Susan van Wyk (Secretary Braille SA)
Tel.: 011 839 1793