Two stories of people learning to Transcribe Braille


In September 2015 I saw an item on our church news-sheet asking if anyone was interested in learning braille to help with the work of the Guild of Church Braillists. I immediately thought it was something I might consider, and when my husband said “that sounds like your sort of thing” I decided to follow it up.

I had never had anything to do with braille before and knew nothing about it. I met up with Fred from the Guild and he gave me a Perkins Brailler, which I found easy to use,and the UEB Primer. My mind is very logical and I enjoyed working through the exercises. My brain sees this sort of thing as a game, and I loved the idea of playing a game that would produce something useful in the end. I worked through the exercises quite quickly and easily, sending them to Fred for checking. There were always some mistakes, (and there still are!) but each time something is pointed out it helps me to remember how to do it next time. Eventually, after I had worked through the test papers Fred said he thought I was ready to move on to transcribing and so I started on my first proper task.

The Primer is an excellent resource for learning braille but it does not cover layout so now there was much more to learn, about title pages, contents lists, notes etc. Now, at the end of May 2016, I am working on the last of five volumes of my first proper book. I am still learning and still making mistakes, but I am remembering more and having to refer to my Braille Chart sheet less as time goes on. There are times when I have to go back to the Primer to check things out and times when I have to phone Fred or Barry because I can’t find an answer. I am really enjoying ‘playing’ at Braille. I do not see it as a chore or work. It is something fun that I am happy to use my time on; with the added bonus that someone will actually read what I have transcribed and get pleasure from it themselves.

Gillian Stephenson -- Braille transcriber


I came to know of the Guild in 2000 when I responded to an advertisement, in the Church Times, for trainee transcribers. Having recently retired I wanted a new challenge --- something useful that I could do from home at my own pace. At the time I had no experience of braille or of blind readers. The secretary arranged for me to have a brailling machine (something like a typewriter) and other necessary materials. The very experienced Trainer guided me through the exercises in the Braille Primer and I sent these to her by freepost for checking. It took several months (but less than a year) until she confirmed that I was proficient enough to undertake my first book. I found that concentration and regular practice is essential.

Since then, with the help of my proof reader who checks each volume, I have completed many books, nearly all for the National Library. These books covered a variety of areas and styles --- biographies, novels, history, practical guides, worship books and various books of a religious or devotional nature. In compliance with the stated aims of the Guild these books fill in gaps in the library catalogue, gaps which would remain unfilled if we had not filled them. Sometimes, something has attracted my fancy from the booklist compliled by the Book Choice Committee but more often I have let the Secretary send whatever she, or he, felt needed doing next.

Braille coding is subject to revision from time to time and, after many years using Standard English Braille, I am now enjoying a new challenge, that of adapting to the use of Unified English Braille.

The Guild meets annually, in London, for its General Meeting and by attending these I have made a number of warm and supportive friends.