It is my pleasure to have Hillary Kleck guest posting on this blog today! Hillary is an app developer and social media advocate for the needs of children with visual impairments on her Facebook Page, Sensory Sun Educational Technologies. Hillary is also the proud mother of Madilyn, who has inspired the development of the Exploring Braille App. While the Exploring Braille App is not yet available in the iOS Store, Hillary's story about the inspiration for the need for Exploring Braille is impressive, ambitious and functional for all tactile learners. Please read her story below:
How many times have you purchased an app hoping it would be something your visually
impaired child could effectively use? I've spent entirely too much on apps for my daughter that
didn't pan out to be even remotely accessible with VoiceOver or even something she could just
play around with for some enjoyment. The abundance of letters and phonics apps with her
favorite characters were (and still are) so enticing! "Maybe this one will encourage her
interests," I would say to myself, but none of them ever presented braille- her only method of
reading independently. I kept telling myself that eventually one of them would be everything I
wished for in an educational app.
As you may imagine, my dream app was never found. It had to be created! I ﬁnally put my mind
to work and started designing an app my daughter would love, and then maybe other potential
braille readers would, too. I felt so strongly about how much Madilyn could achieve if only she
had a product like I envisioned. She needed something that incorporated her senses- touch and
hearing- and visually appealing for me. It was possible. Too many times I talked myself out of it
thinking it wouldn't be good enough. There were no more excuses; it had to be done and I
decided it was up to me. I had experience in programming so all I needed to do was learn a
similar code and get to work.
I took the methods I used for teaching Madilyn without much technology and applied them to the
design of the app. I began with dreaming of the best way she would learn and went from there.
Simply enough I wanted it to teach her to read and write the braille alphabet. The iPad and
refreshable braille device would take my place as the teacher so she could learn more
independently, allowing me to be the guide only when necessary. It needed to be fun and
interactive, engaging her through sound and touch. I decided she would love it even more if it
included her as a character and her dog Ruff as the trusty sidekick. Hence, "Exploring Braille
with Madilyn and Ruff" was created.
I am not satisﬁed believing that the best way to teach and learn braille has already been
developed, or even realized already. The current app will be developed into a suite of apps to
create a full braille curriculum for young braille readers to use, learn and enjoy. New research,
technology and experiences will deﬁnitely shape the apps so the suite will appeal to students
with varying cognitive, ﬁne motor and vision levels. It is my hope that people will continue to be
intrigued by the way blind children perceive the world, and do their part in making it more
accessible. The best is yet to come!