What a Difference a Braille Menu Makes

Last month I brailled the menus for Bremerton Bar and Grill. Here is what an enthusiastic diner had to say about her recent visit to the restaurant:

Just got home from our Peninsula Council of the Blind chapter social at Bremerton Bar and Grill. We received top notch service from Sarah, and enjoyed being able to peruse the complete menu in braille! Our steaks were delicious, and we just plain enjoyed a great time of visiting! Two thumbs up for our night out to Bremerton B&G!

Does your favorite restaurant have braille menus? If so, let us know so we can tell the world. If not, consider suggesting they contact Carolyn’s Braille Services. We’d love to help them out.

A Testimony for Braille

“As you notice braille on bathroom signage, ATM’s, elevators and such, consider how much you rely on print in your every day lives, and be assured that I, and others who cannot see to read print, are grateful to have its equivalent, braille, allowing us to read books, phone numbers, recipes, menus, directions and the like, and literally having it at our fingertips.”

–Cindy Van Winkle
President, Washington Council of the Blind (WCB)

January is National Braille Literacy Month in honor of Louis Braille’s birthday on January 4, 1809. Here is a brief sketch of his inspiring life and work.

Louis Braille was born January 4, 1809, in Coupvray, France. An injury to his eye at age three resulted in total loss of vision. When he was ten, he entered the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, the world’s first school for blind children. There he would live, study, and later teach.

When Louis was fifteen, he developed an ingenious system of reading and writing by means of raised dots. Two years later he adapted his method to musical notation.

Mr. Braille accepted a full-time teaching position at the Institute when he was nineteen. He was a kind, compassionate teacher and an accomplished musician. He gave his life in selfless service to his pupils, to his friends, and to the perfection of his raised dot method, which is known today as Braille.

Louis Braille died at age forty-three, confident that his mission on earth was completed.

Survival Braille

I have long wanted to prepare a little booklet called “Survival Braille.” It would contain practical, easy-to-do ideas for a person who is losing vision. Here are two examples of the hints such a booklet might contain.

A Little Braille Can Go a Long Way

My senior citizen student was making good but slow progress working her way through the braille alphabet. She was rapidly losing vision and had little useful sight remaining. She liked to cook. Her biggest challenge at the moment was identifying spices. She brought her spice bottles to our private tutoring session and expressed her frustration.

The Solution
Together we devised short abbreviations for each spice and brailled labels that we placed on the bottles. Because we planned and carried out this activity together, she could readily read the labels. Once again, she felt confident she used the right spices for her recipes.

This quick and practical use of a little bit of braille sparked her desire to learn more. Soon she was brailling short thank you notes and get well cards for others in her support group.

Don’t Eat the Fishing Worms

You don’t have to be an expert braille reader to label items around the house and make life a little easier. For some situations, you don’t need to use braille at all. Here is a story about another of my senior citizen students.

This student was doing well with her beginning braille lessons. Getting organized in the kitchen was taking a little longer. She bought cottage cheese, margarine and sour cream that came in similar-feeling containers; all resided in the refrigerator. To determine the contents, she opened the lid, dipped in her finger and scooped up a taste until she found the one she wanted.

One day as she was about to taste test, her senses of touch and of smell told her not to. The container she had selected held her husband’s fishing worms!

The Solution
We put a single rubber band around the cottage cheese, two rubber bands around the margarine, and three around the sour cream. Note that the items are arranged alphabetically as the number of rubber bands increases. From then on, if she found an unmarked container in the refrigerator, she moved it to her husband’s section of the refrigerator for him to discover. As her braille skills increased, we gradually moved to braille to help keep her kitchen in order.

Share Your Tips and Shortcuts

Do you have ideas that help smooth out the rough spots when vision is failing? Please share with us so others may benefit from your experiences. Use the comment section below, call Carolyn at 425-778-8428, or email carolyn@cmbrailleservices.com. Perhaps together we will write that “Survival Braille” booklet.

2012 Braille Calendars

Carolyn’s Braille Services has 2012 braille calendars for free distribution to braille readers. The calendars are provided by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, Tarzana, California.

The comb-bound calendar measures a handy 6 by 6 1/2 inches. There is a page for each month. Major holidays are listed at the bottom of the appropriate page.

Additional free services provided by the American Action Fund are a Children’s Lending Library, pre-school through high school, available in the U.S. and Canada and a Newspaper for Deaf-Blind Adults, sent internationally.

Request a Free Braille Calendar

To request a calendar, you may use the comment feature at the end of this blog post, or call Carolyn’s Braille Services at 425-778-8428.

To protect your privacy, please don’t post your mailing address in the comment. Do remember check your email address for accuracy. I’ll email soon to ask for a mailing address.

Calendars will be sent FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND to those eligible for this mailing privilege.

Braille in Public Buildings

A few years ago I was asked to review the braille signage in a downtown office building. There had been complaints from visitors about errors in the braille, and the owners wanted to be sure everything was up to standard. The biggest challenge was the numerous elevator banks in this tall structure.

Most of the braille errors made sense if you considered the signs were done years ago by sign-makers who relied on specialized equipment to produce the signs, but did not read braille themselves. Braille has its nuances, exceptions and rules of usage.

One sign had me puzzled. It made no sense whatsoever. As I was driving home, I saw that braille sign clearly in my mind’s eye, and I burst out laughing. It had been installed upside down!

reading an ADA braille sign

A friend reads an ADA-mandated braille sign

With the advent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, special signage has improved in quality and quantity. The ADA addresses discrimination in employment situations and public accommodation for people with special needs.

Typically the sign includes internationally recognized tactile picture symbols, braille, easy-to-read large print tactile typeface, non-glare surfaces, and high light and dark contrast. There are guidelines for all of this, as well as for placement of the signs on the wall

Spot Public Braille and get a Free Braille Alphabet Card

Now that you are aware of these special signs, you will begin noticing them in many places: elevators, restrooms ATMs, tactile floor plans. Use the comment feature below this article to let us know what you find. Everyone who responds with a list of public places where he/she has spotted braille signage will receive a free braille alphabet card.

To protect your privacy, please don’t post your mailing address in the comment. Do remember check your email address for accuracy. I’ll email soon to ask for a mailing address.

Braille Bulletins for University Presbyterian Church

It started sixteen years ago when the mother of a blind 15-year-old felt her son would have more interest in attending Sunday church services if he had a braille version of the bulletin. Using braille, he could join in the recitation of printed prayers and responses, follow along with the Scripture reading, and sing the words of the hymns with the rest of the congregation.

University Presbyterian Church choir

Brailled Hymns Invite Braille Readers to Sing Along

Thus was born a new ministry for the University Presbyterian Church (UPC) which, although small in numbers of people who use the braille bulletins, renders immeasurable benefits.

I have brailled the Sunday bulletins for all of these sixteen years, and still I feel a joyful anticipation every Wednesday when the text for the morning and evening services arrives in my email box. It is a joyous interlude to the work of the day, and I find myself humming the tunes of the hymns as I braille the words.

In addition to the regular Sunday services, the church provides braille bulletins for special services such as Easter and Christmas.

UPC also ministers to those who are hearing impaired by providing signing for its morning and evening services.

University Presbyterian Church, a Christ-centered church founded in 1908, has more than 4500 members. Located in the heart of Seattle’s University District, UPC makes the big church welcoming through small groups and community ministries.

Image courtesy of www.upc.org

Braille Jewelry by “At First Sight”

Are you seeking a gift for someone special? You may find the perfect item among Leslie Ligon’s selection of fashion braille jewelry. Her company, At First Sight, enchants the viewer with photos and descriptions of necklaces, bracelets, earrings, key chains, bookmarks, and rings. The pieces range in price from $10 to $295. All are lovely. All artfully incorporate braille in the design.

Award-winning Design

braille alphabet bracelet

Beautiful Braille Alphabet Bracelets

Leslie’s braille alphabet bracelet, dubbed a “Braille Fashion Cheat Sheet,” was winner of the Smithsonian, Cooper-Hewitt People’s Choice 2010 Award. The bracelet has the braille alphabet on the outside with the corresponding print on the reverse. It is available in jeweler’s metal with a bright shiny or a brushed silver plate finish or in solid sterling silver with a gemstone clasp.

Dedication to Braille

braille alphabet bracelet

Braille Bracelet with Gemstone Clasp

Braille became important to Leslie when, in 1997, she learned her infant son was blind. She was completely involved in his early education program from the start, insisting on a lively and enriched reading readiness program that included braille long before the little boy was of school age. Leslie set out to learn all she could about braille.

She started making fashion jewelry in 2001. By then her son was immersed in braille, and she got the idea of including braille in her jewelry. She wanted to do something different, something that “combined the aesthetics of design and the functionality of braille.” The result was her popular line of fashion jewelry sold through her online website, At First Sight.

pewter heart pendant with braille

Pewter Heart Pendant

Leslie currently is hand- casting a line of antiqued pewter jewelry. The first of these new pieces is a heart pendant with the braille word “love” on one side and the print word “love” on the other. This is a necklace that will go with just about anything. Leslie’s very first piece was the same design in sterling silver.

Images courtesy of At First Sight Braille Jewelry – Jewelry you’ll fall in love with.

Holland America Line offers Braille Menus

cruise ship at sea

The Holland America ms Eurodam

Just ask! Holland America contracts with me to transcribe restaurant menus into braille. The braille is a standard offering. Because each cruise is a little different and has its own lunch and dinner menus, creating braille menus for a cruise line is an ongoing process. At the beginning of that process there may be a question: “do you have braille menus?” In the case of Holland America, the answer will be “of course.”

As I braille, I imagine what I would chose were I aboard ship perusing the menu in the lovely dining room. There are Appetizers, Soup and Salads, Entrees, Desserts, Beverages, and Wine selections, with many choices in each category.

Dishes range from elegant and exotic to familiar and down home; some may reflect the cuisine of the area in which the ship is cruising. HAL understands special diets. Although I am a vegetarian, I would have ample options for each course.

I bind the braille menus for a cruise into books with the lunch menus in one book, dinner in another, and a table of contents in the front listing the menus by cruise day. Dinner menus I recently brailled for a 17-day cruise required 113 pages of braille. Even considering that braille takes more space than print, about three braille pages to one print page, that is a lot of tantalizing dishes from which to choose.

A friend took her granddaughter on a cruise. The teenager, enchanted by the array of desserts, ordered several each meal, taking some back to her room for a midnight snack. By the end of the cruise, she had enjoyed every dessert on the menu.

ms Eurodam Rembrandt Dining Room

Holland America ms Eurodam Rembrandt Dining Room

A few years ago when my place of work was in a large office building, I was concerned about how my noisy braille embosser sounded to the office on the other side of the wall. The nice lady smiled and said, “It is no problem at all. The sound of your braille printer reminds me of the relaxing thrum of the engines on the wonderful Holland America cruise I took.”

I was transcribing braille menus for Holland America Line then, and I continue to do so today. When I braille the cruise ships’ menus, I, too, have a feeling of being on a cruise, but through the stories the menus tell, not the sound of the braille embosser.

If you are contemplating a Holland America Line cruise and need braille, let your agent know in advance. HAL will be glad to oblige.

images courtesy of Holland America

Braille Menu Memories

I like to braille restaurant menus!

One of the pleasures of eating out begins before the food is served. For many diners, the first course is a thorough reading of the menu mixed with discussion among dining companions as to the options. Braille readers are denied this camaraderie if a print menu is all that is available.

closeup of a fingertip on interpoint braille

Embossed Interpoint Braille on Paper

The first menu I brailled was for a popular Seattle restaurant. This was in the days when braille menus in restaurants were a rarity. In this restaurant, the braille menus were prominently displayed on a table in the spacious entry way where they drew attention from all diners.

When the restaurant manager offered the very first braille menu to a customer who was blind, the woman burst into tears. It was the first time in her life she had been given a menu she could read for herself. She placed her order and then read the menu from cover to cover while she enjoyed her meal.

The enthusiastic manager kept me well supplied with free lunch coupons, which I shared with my braille reading guests who eagerly used the braille menus. Although the restaurant is no longer open, the good will over the braille menus lingers.

A True Story

This was told to me by one of my braille students.

A lady was eating in a restaurant. Her guide dog was lying under the table with his head facing out, just as she had placed him. Some bacon fell from a plate carried by a passing waitress and landed right in front of the dog’s nose. The dog quickly crossed both front paws over his muzzle, as if to resist the temptation, and remained in that position until the bacon was removed. All guide dogs receive specialized training in staying on task when working, but isn’t that exceptional discipline?

Perkins the Braille Dog would have snatched that falling piece of bacon before it hit the ground. Then again, Perkins is not a guide dog. He’s a family pet.

image by kainita