National Braille Week

#NationalBrailleWeek 2020 takes place from 5 -11 October, & aims to raise awareness of the importance of braille & other alternative formats that open up the written world to people with vision impairment.

Braille teaching and learning

Braille literacy training for specialist VI teachers and QTVIs – VIEW/NatSIP certificate course

Developed by RNIB, the online braille literacy course for specialist VI teachers and qualified teachers of children and young people with vision impairment (QTVIs) is for those who wish to refresh their braille teaching skills. Students need to be competent in contracted English braille before joining the course, and have regular access to at least one blind child or young person who is learning or using braille.

The online course follows a structured timetable and requires about 80 hours of study plus attendance at one training day at the start. All course materials are studied online using the Moodle virtual learning environment.

Assessment includes online discussion activities on key themes, written portfolios applying course content to students’ own situations and multiple choice tests of factual knowledge.

Course content covers:

  • fundamentals of braille literacy
  • emergent reading
  • early reading
  • fluent reading
  • implementing braille literacy.

Students also select two specialist options – can choose to become more expert in braille for maths, science or modern languages, braille for late beginners, or learners with additional needs, or English as an additional language.

Tutored by QTVIs who are specialists in braille literacy, successful completion leads to an VIEW/NatSIP certificate. 


The cost of the course is £850 per place (£710 for VIEW members).

Apply for the next available course which begins in January 2021.

The effective teaching of literacy through braille online training course – Application Form – and when completed email

Course Background

In 2010 RNIB commissioned a review of the literature into effective practice in the teaching of literacy through braille.  The subsequent report (McCall et al 2011) found that levels of support and expertise available to children who use braille in mainstream settings vary greatly and that many mainstream and specialist VI teachers lack confidence in applying their literacy teaching skills to the medium of braille. In 2013 RNIB and NatSIP submitted a successful bid as part of the NatSIP contract to DfE to develop a certificated advanced online training course to support the teaching of braille literacy by QTVIs. In 2017, The Professional Association of the VI Education Workforce (VIEW) took over the management and delivery of the course.

Free single unit braille literacy training for VIEW members

Current and new VIEW members can request free access to a single unit of online braille literacy training, giving you structured online learning materials and a blank portfolio to complete and take away at the end of the course. If you aren’t a member join now.

Choose from: Maths, Science, Foreign languages, braille music, late beginners, learners with additional needs, learners with an additional language. Individual unit descriptions are available in the application pack.

To apply, please complete the form in the application pack.

Training for teaching assistants

Learning braille

Teachers, teaching assistants and support workers, who support individuals using braille can learn to read and write braille by doing RNIB’s distance learning course. Parents are also welcome to take the course which leads to an RNIB Certificate in Contracted Braille.

The course provides tuition in how to read and write contracted Unified English braille. No prior knowledge of braille is required.

Students receive all the materials and tuition needed to complete the course, plus one opportunity to take a final examination. The course takes 12 months and starts in May and October each year.

RNIB Cymru run a reading and writing Welsh braille course. The course is also accessible to non Welsh speakers who want to learn Welsh braille. There is also a library of Welsh books in braille and a catalogue is available on request. For more information about Welsh braille, contact RNIB Cymru on telephone 029 2045 0440 or email

UEB update for your team

RNIB Unified English Braille training – delivered at your establishment

If you’re already familiar with Standard English Braille, but want to up your skills to UEB, this bespoke one-day course could be for you. RNIB offers the services of an experienced braille trainer who can visit your school or college to deliver a day of training in Unified English Braille (UEB) at a time that suits you. You’ll need to be proficient in SEB before enrolling and the course will include a practical element.

For further details, please email

Understanding visual impairment in children and young people course

The “Understanding visual impairment in children and young people course” is an opportunity to develop teaching assistants’ understanding of the issues affecting learners with a vision impairment. Helps professionals and parents to improve the quality of learning opportunities. You set your own pace. Delivered online. Includes assessment activities leading to an VIEW certificate. The course fee is £165 for VIEW members (£225 for non members).

Network with colleagues supporting braillists

RNIB/VIEW Braille Network days provide an important opportunity to keep yourself up to date with good practice. Come together to share teaching techniques and resources for blind learners and to meet other people with similar interests and concerns.

Teachbraillists is a UK-based email discussion group. It is for discussing all issues relating to the teaching of learners who have the most severe vision impairment and are, or are going to be, braille users. Join the Teachbraillists list to become part of this practical information-sharing forum. TheTeachBraillists forum is managed by RNIB.

Resources to support your teaching

RNIB’s resources for learning and teaching braille include braille reading schemes, teachers’ handbooks, braille primer and guides to using UEB for maths, science and music. You’ll also find braillers, braille stationery, brailon and labelling materials.

You’ll find links to lots of classroom resources and information about sourcing reading materials on the curriculum resources page of RNIB’s web pages for education professionals. These are handy links to share with school staff.

Read a review from VIEW member Alison Arnold of an American resource called Read naturally, which aims to increase the reading fluency of children who read braille.

VIEW member, Julie Plant, recommends the raised line drawing board, which enables learners to produce raised line diagrams with a normal pen or pencil and paper, that is without having to use embossing film. The raised line drawing board is available for approximately 15 US dollars from The Braille Superstore, a family-owned business supplying products for people who are blind.

Lego Braille Bricks – a fantastic tool that can help teach Blind and Visually Impaired children Braille in schools.

Newly launched, the toolkit comprises of LEGO bricks that have been adjusted to correspond to the Unified English Braille alphabet. Each LEGO brick also has a printed letter or character to ensure the tool is inclusive allowing sighted teachers, students and family members to play on equal terms with a child with vision impairment.

RNIB worked with the LEGO Foundation in the UK to develop and test the bricks, which it will distribute to educators of children and young people with vision impairment across the UK from September 2020.

The toolkits, or sets of bricks, are not on general sale and can only be ordered by heads of service from local sensory services, or they can nominate an education professional from schools for children with vision impairments, or a QTVI (qualified teachers for vision impairment), to place an order on behalf of their area. They’ll also need to complete some online training about teaching with the LEGO Braille Bricks.

Talking to families and young people about learning braille

Encouraging early literacy

This “Braille and your baby” interview with Debbie Siegel from Hadley School for the Blind, USA answers lots of the questions commonly asked by parents with babies and toddlers. Published by it is packed with practical steps families can take to encourage babies and toddlers to develop early literacy skills.

Paths to literacy

The Paths to literacy website, a joint project between Perkins School for the Blind and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired offers lots of literacy strategies for students who are blind.

Perkins School for the Blind – Guide for Parents

Download their guide for parents of children with VI which would be useful to educators. This includes current and readily available resources for parents of young children with blindness, visual impairment, or visual impairment with multiple disabilities, and lots of literacy information.

American Foundation for the Blind – Resources for teachers of braille

AFB’s Resources for teachers of braille webpages are packed with teaching strategies and resources.

Books from American Foundation for the Blind

burnsBurns Braille Guide A Quick Reference to Unified English Braille, Second Edition MARY F. BURNS (AFB, 2015)

The Burns Braille Transcription Dictionary has been revamped as the Burns Braille Guide to usher in the new era of Unified English Braille (UEB). This easy-to-use reference guide includes common braille to print and print to braille conversions, as well as punctuation, new UEB contractions, and general rules and terminology. Available in paperback, e-book, and online subscription.

brailleBeginning with Braille Firsthand Experiences with a Balanced Approach to Literacy Second Edition ANNA M. SWENSON (AFB, 2016)

This resource for educators teaching braille has been updated for using UEB. It includes new sections on general education literacy instruction, teaching the dual-media learner, adapting materials, and addressing diverse needs. Beginning with Braille also features new teaching materials, record forms, and braille activities. Available in paperback, e-book, and online subscription.

connectionsReading Connections Strategies for Teaching Students with Visual Impairments CHERYL KAMEI-HANNAN and LEILA ANSARI RICCI (AFB, 2015)

A teacher’s guide for addressing the needs of students who read print and/ or braille with a focus on supporting those who have, or who are at risk for developing reading disabilities. Includes strategies and classroom activities. Available in paperback, e-book, and online subscription

Order from or call 00 1 800-232-3044.


A first-of-its-kind study at Rice University will seek to improve braille literacy by exploring questions about how it’s taught. Some teachers see braille as a code representing print, while others consider it a writing system serving as a direct path to literacy. The research will examine how an instructor’s view of the system affects students.