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Spring 2004 Table of Contents
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Advantages of Uncontracted Braille
By Ann Adkins, Education Specialist, TSBVI Visually Impaired Outreach
Abstract: This article describes the advantages of teaching and using
uncontracted Braille to meet the literacy needs of visually impaired students.
Key Words: programming, literacy, reading, Braille, uncontracted Braille,
contracted Braille, Grade One Braille, Grade Two Braille, alphabetic Braille
In an effort to meet the needs of all visually impaired students, teachers
of the visually impaired (TVIs) must explore all forms of literacy and be able
to teach them to their students. In the "News and Views" section
of this edition of SEE/HEAR, Phil Hatlen encourages us to expand our
definitions of literacy to include a variety of types of literacy, including
print literacy, Braille literacy, tactile literacy, auditory literacy, and
media literacy. In our ongoing look at literacy, we encourage teachers, students,
and parents to consider all options, including a combination of approaches
to literacy. In this article, we would like to examine the use of uncontracted
Braille (also called Grade One Braille or alphabetic Braille).
For tactual learners, literacy should not be limited to the use of contracted
(or Grade Two) Braille. In the past, many TVIs in Texas have emphasized the
use of contracted Braille and, for some, Braille literacy has even been defined
as the ability to read and write in Grade Two Braille. This may have been because
most instructional materials used contracted Braille (such as the Patterns
program from the American Printing House for the Blind) and because most Braille
books were printed in contracted form. Other reasons for emphasizing the use
of contracted Braille were discussed in a previous SEE/HEAR article, “Reading
for Everyone: Expanding Literacy Options” by Cyral Miller and Ann Rash
(Summer 2001), which described the results of a survey of VI professionals.
The primary use of uncontracted Braille seems to have been with students who
had learning problems or additional disabilities, and the results of the survey
showed that uncontracted Braille can “increase literacy options for visually
impaired students with multiple disabilities.” (Miller and Rash, 2001).
One common belief seemed to be that uncontracted Braille was a good method
only for students who were not able to master the contractions of Grade Two
Braille. In the list below, we encourage you to consider why other students
might benefit from uncontracted Braille as well.
- Uncontracted Braille can provide increased opportunities for literacy.
Miller and Rash (2001) describe its use by a variety of VI professionals
to expand literacy options for all tactual learners.
- Uncontracted Braille works well with phonics-based reading programs,
which are found in many elementary classrooms. Uncontracted Braille provides
1-to-1 correspondence and promotes letter/sound associations, important components
of literacy instruction. The use of contractions does not reinforce basic
- When students use uncontracted Braille, they can participate in reading
lessons with their sighted classmates. They can use the same reading materials
as their peers, only in a Braille format.
- Teaching materials are now available to teach uncontracted Braille,
such as Un’s the
One: Uncontracted Braille FUNdamentals, from
TSBVI, and One
is Fun ,
by Marjorie Troughton. A greater variety of books are now available in uncontracted
form (see www.braillebookshare.com),
and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is currently working to provide textbooks
and assessments in uncontracted Braille. These changes help alleviate the
concerns of many TVIs about having adequate materials and curricula to support
instruction in uncontracted Braille.
- Because there is a letter-to-letter correspondence between uncontracted
Braille and print, it is easier for sighted peers, parents, siblings, and
teachers to learn to read uncontracted letters. Everyone in a Braille reader’s
life can be a participant in his literacy.
- Uncontracted Braille allows for immediate feedback from a classroom
teacher. She doesn’t have to wait for the VI teacher to transcribe
Braille once she learns the basic letters or consults a cheat sheet.
- Because the rules of spelling are the same in uncontracted Braille and
print, students can sound out and spell words at the same time and in the
same way as their classmates.
- 39 of the 50 most common words in English have contractions when written
in Grade Two Braille. Many also include lower cell signs. According to The
Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists (Prentice Hall, Fourth Edition, 2000),
these words make up about one third of all printed material and are the words
elementary teachers emphasize to their students as “instant words.” Examples
include many common words such as the, and, of, from, for, and it and lower
cell words such as be, to, in, was, were, and his. Common suffixes also appear
in early reading and involve the use of Braille contractions, such as –ing,
-ed, -er, -est. The use of contractions in these early words makes reading
more difficult for beginning Braille readers.
- There are 180 rules to learn in uncontracted Braille compared to 450
rules for contracted Braille.
- Uncontracted Braille can promote greater speed and fluency in reading
(Troughton ,1992. Miller and Rash, 2001).
- Uncontracted Braille can promote more interaction with peers. Sally
Mangold reported in the Braille Monitor (October 2000) that Minnesota students
showed greater interaction and participation with sighted students, both
academically and socially. Marjorie Troughton’s research also showed
greater peer interaction when students used uncontracted Braille.
- The Minnesota teachers (Mangold, 2000) and the teachers involved in
Troughton’s study also reported higher academic achievement scores,
in both reading rate and accuracy, with uncontracted Braille than with contracted
- In One is Fun, Troughton described how motivation and interest
in reading improves with the use of uncontracted Braille. Although difficult
to measure, teachers in her study noted that it encouraged thinking rather
than memorization, allowed their students to help their sighted classmates,
and was “great fun.” Miller and Rash also cite Instructional
Strategies for Braille Literacy (AFB, Wormsley and D’Andrea, 1997),
which showed that uncontracted Braille can promote self-esteem.
- Uncontracted Braille facilitates a quick transition from print to Braille
for adults and adventitiously blind students (Mangold, 2000). Uncontracted
Braille offers early successes with the mechanical challenges of Braille
reading (Miller and Rash, 2001), and these successes can be easily recognized
- Uncontracted Braille can be a successful approach to reading for students
who later transition to the use of contracted Braille (Miller and Rash, 2001).
- Fewer reversal errors have been reported when using uncontracted Braille,
especially for those students who use uncontracted Braille for a longer period
of time before they transition to contracted Braille (Troughton, 1992).
- Uncontracted Braille works well with a linguistic approach to reading.
- Uncontracted Braille works well with ESL students and foreign languages.
- Uncontracted Braille works well for students using dual media for literacy,
such as those students who use print but need Braille as well.
- Uncontracted Braille can work well with deafblind students because
finger-spelling does not correlate with Braille contractions.
- Because it matches print letter for letter, students can use uncontracted
Braille in a variety of board games (Monopoly, Scrabble), card games (Uno),
and leisure activities with sighted friends and family members.
- Troughton found that because it is easier to write in uncontracted
Braille, children can write their own compositions sooner and can write more
- Marjorie Troughton found that books written in contracted Braille do
NOT take up significantly less space than the same books written in uncontracted
Braille. Research presented at the CEC National Convention in 1999 showed
that contracted Braille only saved 20% (Ross, Scheira, & Urick).
- Uncontracted Braille can make production of Braille materials easier
and helps with computer-assisted Braille (Troughton).
Many of the ideas in this article were generated as part of a Braille Study
Group to improve the Braille and literacy skills of visually impaired students
in Texas. We hope that you will discover other advantages as you explore the
uses of uncontracted Braille, and we encourage VI teachers, students, and parents
to examine all literacy options. We also encourage you to contact the VI Outreach
team with information about your experiences with uncontracted Braille (Ann
Adkins at 512-206-9301 or firstname.lastname@example.org) . Ann Rash, Education
Specialist with TSBVI Visually Impaired Outreach, is currently collecting data
on the use of uncontracted Braille in Texas and invites those who are interested
in trying uncontracted Braille to contact her (at 512-206-9269 or email@example.com)
to participate in the collection of this data.
Mangold, S. "Trends in the Use of Braille Contractions in the United
States: Implications for UBC Decisions." Braille Monitor.
October 2000. The National Federation of the Blind.
Miller, C. & Rash, A. "Reading
for Everyone: Expanding Literacy Options." See/Hear.
Summer 2001. Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Austin, Texas.
The Reading Teacher's Book of Lists. (2000). 4th Edition.
The Learning Network, Prentice Hall, p. 47.
Ross, D., Scheira, J. & Urick, M.J. "Print Materials in Grade 1 and
Grade 2: Physical Comparison for Space Usage." CEC National Convention,
Charlotte, NC, April 16, 1999.
Troughton, M. (1992). One is Fun: Guidelines for Better Braille Literacy.
Wormsley, D.P. & D'Andrea, F.M., eds. (1997). Instructional Strategies
for Braille Literacy. American Foundation for the Blind, New York.
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