The Backpacking SMART Brailler in the UK!
***Voting is now closed! Congratulations to Lily-Grace for winning a SMART Brailler!***
Check out the voting results and be sure to help the other kids buy a brailler by donating to their fundraiser!
Last year, Marty the SMART Brailler® traveled across the United States meeting families and showing kids all the neat things he can do. Abby was the lucky winner of our voting contest and Marty had settled into a nice routine in New Hampshire.
But Marty has been bitten by the traveling bug once again and this time he wants to visit the UK!
You’ve probably heard all about the Perkins SMART Brailler® by now. It’s kind of the biggest thing in braillers! The SMART Brailler is a new take on an old machine with an on-board computer that can save files, talk to the user and even test early literacy learners with interactive braille activities. One of the best things about this brailler is that it allows parents and teachers (who may not be familiar with braille) to follow along with a video screen that displays what’s being brailled in real time. Now you can help your child with his homework or learn along with your baby as she’s introduced to braille for the first time! This is groundbreaking!
But here’s the question: is this brailler right for your family? Would you like the brailler to come visit you so you can play with it and find out?
Marty the SMART Brailler® in the UK!
Perkins Products and WonderBaby.org are excited to announce that we are teaming up with RNIB to send one SMART Brailler out to six families in the United Kingdom! Each family will host the brailler in their home for two weeks so they can play with it and find out if it’s right for them and their child. When the two weeks are up they’ll send it off to the next family (in a postage paid box provided by RNIB).
Each family will have the chance to let the world know about the SMART Brailler and what they think of it. They’ll write about it on their blog, post videos and share their thoughts on Facebook (check out this blog post by Jessica about Typing Tommy for an example of a good post). They’ll also receive a fun backpack from RNIB full of awesome goodies (the backpack and goodies are theirs to keep).
At the end of the event, WonderBaby.org and RNIB followers will get the chance to VOTE for one of the six families to receive a SMART Brailler as a free gift! You can visit our Contest Rules Page for more information on voting.
***Voting is now closed! Congratulations to Lily-Grace for winning a SMART Brailler!***
Check out the voting results and be sure to help the other kids buy a brailler by donating to their fundraiser!
Do you want to be one of the families visited by Mr SMART Brailler® in the UK?
We’re going to choose six families to be a part of this program and we want YOU to apply to be one of them! In order to be eligible, you’ll have to:
- live in the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales)
- have a school-aged child who is learning braille or is expected to learn braille
- have a blog or website where you can post your ideas and comments about the brailler
- be prepared to shoot videos of your family using the brailler and post the videos to YouTube or Vimeo
- share a photo of your family and a short bio explaining who you are and why you want to try out the brailler
- sign a media release form allowing us to share your photos and videos
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Backpacking Brailler” to let us know that you’re interested!
Who’s Mr SMART Brailler Visiting Today?
- Ronan: Visited by SMART Brailler on September 7th
- Fynnley: Visited by SMART Brailler on October 3rd
- Leo: Visited by SMART Brailler on November 7th
- Lennie: Visited by SMART Brailler on December 8th!
- Anna: Visited by SMART Brailler on December 31st!
- Lily-Grace: Visited by SMART Brailler on January 19th!
Ronan: Visited by SMART Brailler on September 7th
Family Bio: Ronan is a happy, active inquisitive 19 month old toddler. With a mind of his own and penchant for sound, he keeps his parents and relatives constantly entertained — singing, talking, laughing, or doing something silly. He spends his days exploring the world through his hands and ears. His current favourite activity is discovering how different materials reverberate when dropped on the floor. He has a congenital eye condition, anophthalmia, that has led to underdeveloped eyes and no vision.
We are his doting parents, Cecily Morrison and Nikiforos Karamanis. When not playing with Ronan, we work for research institutions to build digital technologies. With this background, we are constantly scanning for new developments that we might be able to utilise to stimulate Ronan’s adventure in the world through touch and sound. We are looking forward to experimenting with the SMART Brailler. If he likes it as much as his piano, he may just move from singing to speaking.
Follow Ronan’s adventures on Through Scarlett’s Eyes, where Cecily is a regular contributor.
What is Ronan doing with the SMART Brailler?
- Entering the World of Braille: Cecily’s first post about Ronan and his new friend Marty the SMART Brailler makes an important point: Literacy is a family affair. When you have a child who is learning to read, the entire family is involved in that process. With print, that may seem fairly straight forward, but when you have a child who is blind and learning braille you as the parent may suddenly be in the position to teach literacy to a child in a form you don’t know how to read yourself! What do you do? Cecili and Niki are taking the all-in approach. How about you?
- Learning Braille from the Experts: Niki is using his time with the SMART Brailler to learn as much as he can about braille. The SMART Brailler is a great learning tool for sighted parents too! And what better teacher to turn to but a blind child who is also learning braille?
- Developing a Love for Reading: Cecily and Niki are big readers… so how about Ronan? How can sighted parents encourage literacy and instill a love of reading for their child when their child will read braille? Find out how Cecily and Niki are introducing books and braille to their child!
- Braille Here, There, and Everywhere: The SMART Brailler bridges the gap between sighted parents and a blind child learning braille. One way a parent can use the SMART Brailler is to easily (and accurately) create braille labels for their child’s toys and books. In this post, Cecily writes about all the things they’ve brailled while they’ve had the SMART Brailler. And watch the video below to see Ronan playing with his newly brailled Mozart Music Cube!
Why Should Ronan Win a SMART Brailler?
Participating in the SMART Brailler Program has been an eye-opening experience for us as a family. At the beginning of our braille adventure, we were not sure what we might do with this brailler when it arrived at our door. We found it useful for brailling Ronan’s books and labelling the toys and shelves. We also found in it an invitation into the braille word and a means to interact with other braillists. We are grateful for the experience we’ve had and look forward to getting a brailler when Ronan starts school in a few years.
Fynnley: Visited by SMART Brailler on October 3rd
Family Bio: Fynnley is a cheeky chappy in every sense of the word. Just days away from his 2nd Birthday, he has grown into a confident, cheerful and inquisitive little boy, with a truly insatiable appetite for music and a wicked sense of humor.
Fynnley was registered blind at 3 months of age with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and Septo Optic Dysplasia. From this day onwards, our little boy took us on a roller coaster ride into the endlessly awe-inspiring world of visual impairment. Something that, as a family, we feel honoured to be a part of.
Fynnley’s endless thirst for discovering the wide world around him, and his ability to conquer the challenges of his visual impairment with a million Dollar (or should we say Pound!) smile is a constant source of amazement to all he meets.
Taking after Mummy, he loves singing and mimicking every tune he hears. Similarly, he has Daddy’s passion for Football (particularly Manchester City!)
The world of Braille and adaptive play is something we, as a family, have devoted ourselves to. We’re proud to be self-taught Grade 2 Unified-Braillers (something that has lead his ever-exploring fingers being fascinated by), and have a family mantra that when it comes to normal childhood experiences, Fynnley will have them all.
“Old Faithful,” our dear old Perkins Standard Brailler, will be having a well earned rest while we show Marty the cultural and musical City of Manchester! You can follow Marty’s adventure on our blog Fynnley William Does it All.
What is Fynnley doing with the SMART Brailler?
- Disconnect the Dots: Fynnley’s mom goes back to basics in this post about early literacy. Yes, braille is an important part of literacy for a blind child, but before a sighted child learns print they are first mesmerized by picture books. So blind babies are naturally drawn to early tactile books with short braille descriptions. Natasha shows you how to make your own tactile picture book for your baby. It’s easier than you might think!
- I Should be so Lucky: Fynnley’s Old Faithful and rather elderly Perkins Standard Brailler is taking a break while Fynnley gets to play with Marty. How does the SMART Brailler compare to Old Faithful? Fynnley’s mom says Marty is “the George Clooney of Braillers!”
- Fynnley absolutely loves fiddling around with the brailler buttons and hearing the sounds they make, as well as mimicking the lady’s voice saying “Braille tracking on!”
Why Should Fynnley Win a SMART Brailler?
Firstly, I’d like to start by thanking WonderBaby for giving us the opportunity to have Marty for a couple of weeks; we’ve made some wonderful friends along the way, and Fynnley has come on in leaps and bounds in the weeks since; both verbally and in early braille skills.
I cannot stress enough how passionately we believe that Braille should be an essential part of a child’s daily life. Britain is a country that prides itself on diversity; supporting those with disabilities being at the core of this. Makaton is visible in nurseries, schools and on TV. “Hearing” children are taught this, baby sign is commonplace. So why are basic Braille skills not?
Braille classes are few and far between. As well as supporting our own dear boy in his own early literacy, we’d love to use the SMART Brailler to encourage “sighted” children and their families to learn basic Braille skills, who may possibly, in turn, be able to support other families affected by visual impairment; a bit like starting a chain reaction!
If you’d like to vote for us, we’d be so grateful, but good luck to all the other wonderful families who took part.
Vote for Fynnley to keep Marty!
Leo: Visited by SMART Brailler on November 7th
Family Bio: My gorgeous son, Leo was born 21st January 2008. 10 fingers and toes… perfect! Our dreams were somewhat shattered when 4 months later he was diagnosed with a condition called Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, the most severe cause of congenital blindness. The news was heart breaking, but as time went by and we watched Leo grow into the amazing, clever child who smiles all day and literally lights up my life, things got easier.
Then… when Leo failed to start walking within normal time limits even for a visuallly impaired child I started to worry again. At the time of Leo’s LCA diagnosis the gene that causes the problem was discovered, Cep290… and I knew that this gene can affect things other than just eyesight but I held on to hope that Leo would be an exception. Cep290 also causes a condition called Joubert Syndrome. Joubert Syndrome can affect the kidneys, liver, balance and breathing and can be life threatening. Following an MRI of Leo’s brain it was confirmed… another difficult day.
As for his vision at the moment no treatment is available, but wonderful things such as Gene therapy give us loads of hope. I set up the VisKid Foundation in 2012 to try to raise money for research. You can follow our VisKid Website or keep up with what we’re doing on Facebook.
Leo lives with me (Hannah aka his mummy), Jo and his step sisters Sarah and Michelle.
Leo is an inspiration and a little star, everyone who meets him cannot help but be taken in by his friendly loving nature. I am proud of him everyday.
We are so very excited about hosting the travelling smart brailler!
What is Leo doing with the SMART Brailler?
- Going on a Tour: Leo was so excited to get home to Marty the SMART Brailler, that he had to listen to the audio tour on the brailler as soon as he got home.
- Blast off: What happens when your homework is to braille lines of numbers and you’ve got a SMART Brailler? You can ask Marty to read a long line of fives and he’ll tell you exactly which number you’ve typed! Hint: It’ll be in the billions!
- Well Done Leo! Leo’s mom has noticed an improvement in his braille skills since he’s been using the SMART Brailler!
Why Should Leo Win a SMART Brailler?
During the two weeks that we had the traveling SMART Brailler to visit, Leo’s braille improved dramatically! Learning braille has been a difficult and tiresome process for Leo, but the SMART Brailler made it easier, different and fun! The audio feedback gave him the confidence to give words and sentences a go in a way that he hadn’t before. He took it to school, he chose to get it out on the weekend… he actually wanted to braille! When the SMART Brailler left to visit another family, he was happy that another child would get to have a go, but I was a little sad to wave goodbye to Marty as I knew how much it had helped Leo. If he were to come back to stay we would both be over the moon!
Lennie: Visited by SMART Brailler on December 8th!
Family Bio: We’re a family of 4 – Kath, Ed, Zoe (7) and Lennie (3). We live in North London, where Zoe attends a local primary school and Lennie goes to mainstream nursery 3 days a week. Lennie has no vision – he lost his sight at the age of 9 months as a result of a tumour in his skull. He went through a year of cancer treatment, but came out the other end fighting – he’s now two years off treatment and going from strength to strength. Lennie is a happy, noisy and enthusiastic little boy, who is developing a very good understanding of his environment through sound and touch. He loves music, making noises and playing ‘copying’ games, and likes to identify objects by touch, before hurling them to the floor to see what sound they make when they land! He’ll be going to school next September, and we are working with his support team at nursery to prepare him for this big change. He has used a manual Brailler and enjoys pressing the buttons and feeling the ‘writing’ on the paper – he is just starting to identify a couple of letters (especially L for Lennie). He also loves stories, and has some favourite books with sounds and textures which he likes us to read with him.
We are very excited about trying the SMART Brailler. Lennie loves anything with buttons so we know he’s going to enjoy exploring it. We’d really like to use it to make labels for Lennie’s toys and things around the house, and to help him to develop the same love for reading as his sister. We would love Zoe to have a go too – she is keen to learn Braille along with Lennie and we hope this will give them the opportunity to play and learn together.
You can read more about Lennie at our blog, Looking After Lennie.
What is Lennie doing with the SMART Brailler?
- We Have a Visitor in the House: Marty has arrived at Lennie’s house and his mom admits that at first they were all a little nervous. “We found the Smart Brailler slightly daunting when it first arrived, to be honest – it sat in the corner looking accusingly at us for a couple of days as we rushed about, barely managing to get children fed, presentable and where they needed to be each day.” But once they turned on the brailler and watched a couple tutorial videos they were ready to go! They’re labeling things around the house and even brailling their Christmas cards.
- Lennie do it!: Lennie’s QTVI, Sharon, visits Lennie at home and helps him explore the SMART Brailler. His mom writes, “Bit by bit Lennie is learning to do things for himself, and (even more importantly) wanting to do things for himself. ‘Lennie do it’, he says crossly, as I try to help him to type ‘Lennie’ on the brailler. And he can’t quite do it yet, but I know that he will be able to – we just have to be patient like Sharon and support him to find his own way.” Watch Lennie and Sharon work together in the video below:
- Altogether now…: What’s the coolest new thing in Lennie’s nursery? Marty the SMART Brailler, of course! Lennie was able to show off his budding new brailling skills and include other kids in the activity. His parents were happy to see him socializing and being the leader: “Having recently been feeling anxious about whether he is making friends and interacting with his peers, to hear and see such a great instance of Lennie taking the lead, and introducing classmates to an aspect of his world, was really wonderful.”
- Goodbye to Marty (and some thoughts about accessibility): Marty got to hang out with Lennie and his extended family through Christmas and he was a big hit! The SMART Brailler is the perfect way to introduce braille to sighted family members. As Lennie’s family enjoyed being involved in his world, they also took more opportunities over the holiday to bring Lennie more into their world. Lennie attended his first movie in a movie theatre (with audio description) and even helped to bake cookies in the kitchen!
Lennie’s family has decided to not participate in voting. Please vote for one of the other deserving families!
Anna: Visited by SMART Brailler on December 31st!
Family Bio: Anna is now fifteen and a half. Joy brought her home from Thailand in 2007 when she was eight and a half. She may have some light perception in her left eye and has no wision in her right. When Joy brought her home, Anna had no English and very little Thai. She was very withdrawn.
Now, although she still has an expressive language difficulty and learning delay, Anna reads and writes Grade 2 Braille and has managed to learn most of the Braille code. Anna and Joy do a lot of Braille at home together as Joy is a Qualified Teacher of the Visually impaired (now retired). Anna also enjoys judo and is just starting to learn to play the trumpet!
You can read more about Anna on Joy’s blog, Life as the parent of a special Visually Impaired child.
What is Anna doing with the SMART Brailler?
- SMART Brailler: Joy takes the SMART Brailler out of the box and gets right to taking the audio and video tour. Easy! Even Anna gets to brailling right away!
- Holiday News: Anna is moving along with the SMART Brailler at a brisk pace. She uses Marty to help her craft her “Holiday News” for school. Joy even uploads the file directly to her blog so you can read Anna’s news too! Sounds like they had a wonderful holiday!
- We Can Choose! Joy and Anna are really enjoying their time with Marty the SMART Brailler. Sharing files with school is easier and Anna is becoming more independent with her brailling. Her mom says, “She is really enjoying the speech and it is motivating her with her spelling as it tells her what she has just written so she is beginning to think what will come next. It means she can be more independent and I am prompting less and less!”
- Back to School: Joy and Anna are settling back into their normal routine after the holidays and Anna continues to brailler her News from Home homework assignment. Joy has uploaded Anna’s work straight from the brailler so you can read what they’ve been up to in Anna’s own words!
- Mistakes Don’t Matter: Because we can learn from our mistakes and because, with the voice output of the SMART Brailler, Anna can hear and then correct her mistakes quickly too!
- Thank you Marty! Anna gets a gift from RNIB and Marty the SMART Brailler in the mail… a monster backpack!
Anna’s family has decided to not participate in voting. Please vote for one of the other deserving families!
Lily-Grace: Visited by SMART Brailler on January 19th
Family Bio: Lily-Grace was born 4 weeks premature. She failed to thrive and had a hypoglycemic episode on day four of her life leading to cerebral damage to her parietal and occipital lobes. She also has optic nerve atrophy. Squints and nystagmus.
We live in Bristol in a cottage in a beautiful rural village. Lily-Grace is now in Year One at our local mainstream school with 1:1 TA where she is thriving. She was first introduced to the beginning of Braille last Sept. She is enjoying her lessons and progressing well. She is also having cane training by her mobility officer and is very excited for more independence when she gets her cane in the Spring.
Lily-Grace is ALWAYS happy! She smiles all the time. She is a bright light, articulate and confident. She is our youngest child. Her older brother Charlie (13) is patient and caring they have a very close bond. We are very lucky parents.
Read more about Lily-Grace and family on their blog, Our life with a wonderful, inspiring little lady.
What is Lily-Grace doing with the SMART Brailler?
- Marty has Arrived! Who knew a brailler would be the cause of such excitement!?
- Braille Lesson with Mrs Kay: Another video of Lily-Grace learning to use her brailler in the classroom with her teacher.
- She was a Brailler Girl: “She was a brailler girl, I said see ya later text, wasn’t big enough for her. She had a pretty face, her name was Lily-Grace, she needed a different way to learn!” You’ve GOT to watch this video of Lily-Grace and her mom below singing their own lyrics to Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi.
- Learning Together: What does it look like when sighted mom and blind daughter learn braille together? With the SMART Brailler, it’s easy!
Why Should Lily-Grace Win a SMART Brailler?
Our beautiful smiling daughter Lily-Grace (6) started learning braille last September. No one was sure because of the nature of her Cerebral damage that she would be capable of this. We have always had faith in her, but it is not always easy to convince others of this. She NEEDS a Smart Brailler to help her further. It would provide us a source to teach her at home and support her lessons with her VI teacher.
To win Marty would be absolutely amazing for her as she is hungry to learn. The benefits to Marty for her are immense. She likes the audio feedback and the easy to use keys are more suitable than the standard Brailler for her little fingers. She has a limited use of her right hand and is working with her Physiotherapist, TAs and us to strengthen the muscles. She is a delight to teach! She uses her middle finger on her left hand to read braille and is becoming increasingly familiar with the letters in her name.
Please, please help us, help this determined little girl win this Smart Brailler.
You rock Lily-Grace! VOTE LG!!
Vote for Lily-Grace to keep Marty!
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