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January is Braille Literacy Month; state offers services

Oklahoma Rehabilitation Services
Braille Literacy Month, celebrated in January, recognizes the connection between proficient use of braille and successful education, employment and quality of life.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Literacy -- the ability to read and write effectively -- is critical to successful education, employment and quality of life, whether a person is writing a report or emailing a friend. 

For those who are blind, learning to read and write in braille can provide access to the same opportunities. 

January is celebrated as Braille Literacy Month in Oklahoma and the United States.

“Braille is composed of raised dots designed to be read with the fingertips,” Rita Echelle, Oklahoma School for the Blind superintendent, explained. “The basic unit is an arrangement of six dots, two across and three down. It looks like the number six domino. Each dot or combination of dots represent letters of the print alphabet.”

OSB provides braille instruction as part of a specialized and accredited educational program that fully meets state requirements. Students, preschool-age through 12th grade, live on campus during the school week, commute from home or attend summer school programs. The school also offers outreach services for students attending other public schools, their families and educators.

Like OSB, Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a division of Oklahoma Rehabilitation Services.

SBVI’s comprehensive programs provide a range of braille training and related critical training for students transitioning to life after high school, adults seeking employment and those age 55 and older who need assistance adapting to visual disabilities.

“Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired employees recognize the importance of braille and advocate daily to support braille literacy,” Tracy Brigham, Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired administrator, said.

For those seeking independence or employment services, SBVI rehabilitation teachers provide instruction in reading and writing braille, while assistive technology specialists can conduct assessments and training on specialized equipment, such as a braille notetaking devices. 

The Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped provides free services to Oklahomans who are blind or visually impaired and those with reading disabilities or physical limitations that make it difficult to use standard print. In support of braille literacy, the library provides books and periodicals in braille formats to library patrons at no charge.

The library also provides textbooks and other instructional materials in braille and other formats, and loans specialized equipment for students in kindergarten through grade 12.

“Braille literacy IS literacy for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, and we know that literacy is vital to independence and successful academic and employment outcomes,” Brigham said.

Visit Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired at https://oklahoma.gov/okdrs/job-seekers/sbvi.html or phone 800-845-8476.

For more information about Oklahoma School for the Blind, visit http://osb.k12.ok.us/ or phone 877-229-7136.