NOTICE: VAT rates are based on UK VAT rates. VAT rates will update once a shipping address is provided at checkout.

National Braille Week: Braille for Beginners with The Braillists Foundation 

Graphic has two images of hands reading Braille in the top right and bottom left corners. Text: National Braille Week. Braille for Beginners with the Braillists Foundation.

During National Braille Week, we spoke to Matthew Horspool and Melanie Pritchard from The Braillists Foundation, a charity that promotes the value of Braille as a proven literacy tool that enriches the lives of blind people.  

Matthew and Mel told us about their online Braille for Beginners course, which has opened up Braille for hundreds of people over the last two years.  

“The Braillists has been around since 2014 but I think we really came into our own during the pandemic. We did quite a lot of social work in the early part of the pandemic. We set up a community call on a Friday immediately after the first lockdown was announced. It was a chance to see how people were doing and to see if we could help each other out. It started with shopping and social distancing and it built up a huge amount of goodwill within the community so that when we decided to run our Braille course, we had a large contact list we could reach out to,” explains Matthew.  

The Braillists Foundation runs regular master classes on zoom, we well as a book club, Braille question and answer sessions and the successful Braille for Beginners course, which has seen 80-100 people on each course. The course came about with the help of a Braille teacher called Jenny Langley. Jenny saw that people were learning lots of new skills in lockdown and that some people might want to learn Braille so they started Braille for Beginners on Zoom with around 20 people in the first year.   

Over the last two years, the course has evolved and grown and is now a popular online course with up to 100 beginners learning basic Braille skills, as Mel explains.  

“We made it clear that participants were going to be learning basic Braille – reading and writing in Grade 1. We’ve had quite a varied age group on the courses – some younger people but we also had a couple of people in their 80s and we have people with some useful vision, as well as people who are blind. I was a Braille teacher but had never taught remotely. I’d always done one-to-one so it was a real learning curve trying to teach without being able to put people’s hands on the page and teaching big groups too.” 

“Everybody’s needs are different, just as everybody reads print for different reasons. We encouraged people to have a try and to fit it into their own everyday lives. I have some feedback documents with all the lovely things they said at the end of the course. People were excited that they could read with their grandchildren, write a shopping list or do a bit of labelling. Someone was able to read their first greeting card in years. It was very touching to hear the difference it had made to people’s lives,” says Mel.  

Braille for Beginners runs once a year, so the Braillists are developing a package of pre-recorded lessons, which will be accompanied by hard copy materials and one-to-one support.  

“Each lesson is only 10-15 minutes long and people can work through in their own time. We will run surgeries with Mel so that people can ask questions. We hope that we’ll reach more people this way and people won’t have to wait months to start the next course. The advantage is that people can go at their own pace, they won’t miss a lesson and struggle to catch up. They’ll have an email address so that they can contact Mel directly and still have that 1-1 support,” according to Matthew.  

For more information on The Braillists Foundation or Braille for Beginners visit