Friday, May 9, 2014

Exploring Braille App: An Up and Coming App for all Tactile Learners

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!


  1. This is very exciting. I am looking forward to trying it out. My daughter has low vision but I don't think her vision is good enough to use large print all the time, and I understand that for reading longer texts, braille has some advantages over very very large print. Her fine and gross motor skills are delayed also due to CP so the flexibility to be used by users with varying levels of fine motor skills will be a help for her. Kudos to you for taking this on.