Through the use of Braille, persons who are visually impaired have the ability to both review and study the written word. They have the ability to become aware of various conventions to include spelling, punctuation, paragraphing, and footnotes. More than anything, persons who are visually impaired can access a wide-variety of reading materials, from educational and recreational written material, to practical manuals. They can access regulations, contracts, directories, insurance policies, cookbooks, and appliance instructions, for example - all of which are important parts of daily adult life. Through the use of Braille, visually impaired persons have the ability to pursue both cultural enrichment and hobbies through board and card games, hymnals, and musical scores.
As with any new language, learning Braille takes a certain amount of time and practice to learn.
Braille is commonly taught to persons who are visually impaired as part of a vision loss program. Braille is also taught through schools within communities. Sighted volunteers transcribe printed texts into Braille.
Volunteers pursue approximately eight months of training before becoming certified Braillists. The training they complete conforms to standards which are set in cooperation with the Braille Authority of North America. Additional training is required before a person can braille educational materials for students, or before they may specialize in transcription of music into braille. The average reading speed for a person using Braille is about one-hundred and twenty-five words per minute; although speeds of up to two-hundred words per minute are possible.
All around America, dedicated volunteers work in communities produce braille materials for persons with visual impairments.
Volunteers produce materials which serve to supplement both magazines and books that are produced in quantities by nonprofit organizations for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) of the Library of Congress. All of these volunteers have completed a lengthy and detailed course on Braille transcription that results in an award by the Library of Congress and a Certificate of Proficiency in the appropriate Braille code. The activities these volunteers pursue include transcription of printed material into Braille, binding Braille books, and duplication of copies. Volunteers provide persons with vision impairments in their communities with essential materials that might otherwise be unavailable.
The services these volunteers provide are used by local school systems, the NLS, state departments, and the nationwide network of cooperating libraries that distributes both magazines and books through the NLS program. The National Braille Association (NBA) is an organization of volunteers that provides both students and other people with Braille materials they request. Becoming a Braille volunteer requires intellectual curiosity, training, patience, meticulousness, and the ability to work under pressure. It also requires the ability to both understand and follow directions. The rewards of being a Braille volunteer include an immense sense of accomplishment, as well as learning a completely new system of both reading and writing.