[Blindmath] LaTeX to braille

Michael Whapples mwhapples at aim.com
Fri Apr 16 22:57:27 UTC 2010

I think Susan raises an interesting question, one which I am unsure 
really what the answer is. The question of whether a student should 
learn a new system when they move on to university. I guess it really 
depends on the student (their background and how well they pick up new 

Using myself as an example, I had gone to specialist school from about 
the age of 11, so for school work I had really good support (no problems 
getting good quality Braille) and so I really was able to concentrate on 
studying and did very well. When I moved onto university I had a big 
step in getting support (the specialist knowledge wasn't there to check 
the Braille, even if the university had been prepared to proof read it), 
so how realistic was it to continue working as I had in the past. Well I 
personally came to the same conclusions as Susan has laid out, what 
worked for me in the past had served well, why put on extra load of 
having to learn a new way of working. Looking back now, I wonder whether 
that really was the right choice, I found the course hard to keep up 
with and while other things may have impacted on my final grade, I do 
feel that access to written material may have played a part. As my 
education up to university has been very good and most of the first year 
in my course had been focusing on bringing people all to the same level 
(so not introducing a huge amount of new stuff for me), I wonder whether 
I should have used that opportunity of the first year to really learn 
something like dotsplus which may have served me better in the following 

I can understand that this may not be such a possibility for others if 
there school education isn't so good and so need the first year to bring 
them up to the same standard, so removing that "easier" first year. I 
also generally feel that you only really effectively learn something 
like Braille when you start using it practically, so a student having a 
gap year to learn the new system might not really help (others give your 

Also yes I very much back up the idea of discuss things with the 
student, in a way they really are the expert here (they know what they 
use, they know what tends to work for them, etc, unfortunately 
disability services don't always have much knowledge in specialist areas 
such as maths).

Michael Whapples
On 04/16/2010 11:10 PM, Susan Jolly wrote:
> You've gotten some good information here but I do think it is 
> essential to contact the student and find out what he or she has been 
> using in the past. If the student has gotten into University one would 
> assume that they have already developed an effective means of learning 
> maths and are proficient in at least one method. This is not a simple 
> or straightforward question and there are actually a number of 
> possibilities. Michael is perfectly correct that the odds are that if 
> the student is from the UK, he or she is more familiar with the BAUK 
> braille maths than with the extremely different US Nemeth maths. 
> However there is always the possibility that the student uses spoken 
> maths rather than braille maths.  And in any case, there is the 
> separate issue of access to diagrams, graphs, etc.
> The visually-impaired students with whom I'm familiar who have 
> attempted to learn a new methodology simultaneously with starting 
> college have done quite poorly.  I would almost liken it to going to 
> college in a foreign country where one does not know the language and 
> attempts to learn the language at the same time as starting one's 
> studies.
> Sincerely,
> Susan Jolly
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