Literacy and Braille Resources

Literacy at its simplest means the ability to read and write. However, it starts with comprehension and encompasses many media and formats, including listening, speaking, and object communication. Most children aim for basic or academic literacy, which is the ability to use reading as a tool to gain more knowledge. Others will strive to attain functional literacy, which supports the activities of daily life. This section offers an introduction to the forms of literacy for children who are blind and visually impaired, ranging from tactile symbols and calendar boxes to print and braille.

This NLS Factsheet describes the braille system and its history, introduces the alphabet, and includes a brief biography of Louis Braille.

Source: National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled

Martha Majors, of the Perkins Deafblind Program, defines literacy for students with blindness, deafblindness, or additional disabilities. and explores alignment of the curriculum with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Source: In Touch, 2008, New England Consortium of Deafblind Projects

These activities integrate literacy into a preschooler's play, storytime, and daily activities.

Source: American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

This site's state-by-state menu makes it easy to locate, in one place, agency contact information for Accessible Information Materials and National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard(NIMAS) for your U.S. state or territory.

Source: National Center on Accessible Educational Materials

The history and structure of braille, with attention to the issues of learning braille as an adult; includes a discussion of finger sensitivity, and alternatives to braille.

Source: VisionAware

Ann Gelles shares a series of animal stories designed to teach contractions to beginning braille readers. "Students are introduced to … whole word contractions and short form words as they learn and practice the alphabet."

Source: California School for the Blind

For itinerant TVIs who are adapting chemistry for a braille student, these guidelines will be invaluable.   The 20-page document includes:

  • Basic Guidance on When to Switch
  • UEB Rule for Use of Opening and Closing Nemeth Indicators
  • Additional Guidelines
  • Formatting

The guidelines are available for free download in PDF or BRF format on the BANA (Braille Authority of North America) website.


A video presentation by braille expert Frances Mary D'Andrea, from the PA Low Incidence Institute 2013. This video is presented in two 1-hour parts. Transcript and slide downloadables are available for both parts.

Part 2 link is here.

Source: Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network

Nearly 400,000 books in accessible format for people of all ages all over the world. If you have a print disability, learn about eligibility and signing up here.

Source: Bookshare

Bookshare provides accessible books without a fee for students with print disabiities. Students with visual impairment can access both textbooks and books for personal reading through Bookshare. 

The following description is from the Bookshare website: 

Bookshare® is the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities. More than 425,000 people in 70 countries have access to Bookshare's collection of over 460,000 titles. More than 820 U.S. and international publishers contribute to our social mission by donating their digital files, making it possible for Bookshare to serve users around the world and ensuring that content is available to people with print disabilities at the same time as their peers. 

Bookshare® opens up the world of reading for people with print disabilities.

If you cannot read traditional print books because of a visual impairment, physical disability or severe learning disability, Bookshare can help!

Our books are “accessible,” which means you can read our books many different ways.

Bookshare offers the world’s largest collection of accessible titles. As a result, people of all ages, as well as schools and many organizations around the globe can access the books they need for school, work, career advancement, skill development and the simple love of reading in formats that work for them.

How can you read Bookshare books?

  • Listen to books with high quality text-to-speech voices
  • Hear and see highlighted words on screen
  • Read with digital braille or enlarged fonts
  • Create physical braille or large print
  • Read directly from your Internet browser


Textbooks for Science 

The following are steps to download a science textbook from Bookshare for a student. Only the teacher sponsor (TVI) is able to asssign a textbook. The student can't assign it to himself.

Please see the Bookshare website for more detailed info:

Basic Steps for Bookshare:

  1. The TVI becomes a sponsor for Bookshare
  2. The TVI adds the student to a roster on Bookshare
  3. The TVI assigns the NIMAC book (textbook) to the student's account.
  4. The student searches for the book.  It will appear on his account once assigned by the teacher.
  5. Either the TVI or the student can download the book. If the student has his/ her own electronic device, it is usually preferable for him to download the book.  If not, the teacher can download it for him and save it to a thumbdrive for the student. The student is then able to read the material on a braillenote or other device with a braille display.

This section of the AFB website includes resources for teachers of braille, resources for parents, a link to DOTS, the newsletter for braille literacy, and a listing of sources of braille materials.

Source: American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

Find answers to common questions about the law regarding braille and learning media assessments in this three-page document; included are numerous resources for more information.

Source: Colorado Department of Education

"BANA's purpose is to promote and to facilitate the use, teaching and production of braille." It publishes codes, rules, interpretations, and opinions about braille, most of which can be downloaded from the site.

Source: Braille Authority of North America (BANA)

Our own Braille Awareness Kit is designed to provide an understanding of the braille system and how braille makes a difference in the lives of people who are blind; available on loan.

Source: Perkins School for the Blind

At APH's Braille Bug site, students who are sighted can learn about braille and its history, play games, and practice their new skills with games and riddles; a section for parents and teachers includes classroom activities and a reading club.

Source: The American Printing House for the Blind (APH)

This is an overview of the braille alphabet in Spanish.

Source: APH Braille Bug

For those who want to become braille transcribers, NFB's Jernigan Institute administers the Braille Transcriber Certification Training Program for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Details about the program are at this site.

Source: National Federation of the Blind (NFB)

Reproduced by Duxbury, Inc., world leader in software for braille and braille translation. These are print resources for students and teachers of braille.

Source: Duxbury Systems, Inc

Browse braille designs, some of which have step-by-step-instructions to create your own braille drawing, and some of which are files ready to be embossed.  Includes guidelines to create your own braille design from scratch.

Source: Paths to Literacy