Scientia Small Conference: Interdisciplinary Research Perspectives on Braille Reading and Writing, Rice University

This amazing conference brought together leading international experts on braille research for 3 days of presentations. Between presenters, discussants, and little audience members like me, there were about fifty people gathered for the purpose of sharing current and possible interdisciplinary research ideas on braille.

Presenters included Robert Englebretson, Frances Mary D’Andrea, Georgina Kleege, Marina Bedny, Jeffrey Yau, Barry Hughes, Simon Fischer-Baum, Brenda Rapp, Kathy Rastle, Anneli Veispak, Ronan Reilly,  Tessa McCarthy, Mackenzie Savaiano, Natalie Martiniello, & Cay Holbrook. Perspectives represented included linguistics, art, aging, cognitive neuroscience, mechanics, vocabulary, spelling, word frequency & introduction, and morphology.

My notes:

Take-home thoughts for me:

“PowerPoint is assistive technology for sighted people” -Georgina Kleege

There is a BRF version of my favorite braille cheatsheet by Aroga on the BANA website now! (Thanks, Cay Holbrook!)

“Are the people who need to learn braille able to learn braille?” -Frances Mary D’Andrea

“How might braille be transformative of attitudes toward blindness/disability?” Robert Englebretson

Phonics instruction is necessary for beginning readers, while morphology and “massive text experience” are required to become a skilled or expert reader. -Kathy Rastle

Slide that shows words derived from the root "develop" along with the connection between sound/meaning/spelling

When teaching contractions, consider frequency to guide your focus. -Mackenzie Savaiano

Top 10 frequent contractions are the, of, and, in, that, it, was, for, you. Bottom ten: conceive, braille, declaring, deceive, perceive, perceiving, rejoice, thyself, deceiving, conceiving

Cool ways to measure what’s happening as people read braille:

Anneli Veispak’s presentation:

Infrared LEDs attached to fingers, camera (Wii-Mote), refreshable braille display, and laptop interface

Robert Englebretson’s presentation:

Image of hands reading braille with sensors on the 2 index fingers

Barry Hughes’ presentation:

Braille tracking system setup showing a laptop, a bluetooth receiver, a video camera, LEDs, and a refreshable braille display

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