Braille volunteers keep on learning

26 July 2017

Informal learning groups in Castleford, including a unique group that provides support to Braille users, will continue to function thanks to funding from Newground Together, part of the Together Housing Group.

The Braille Group, based at Castleford Community Learning Centre, has enabled volunteers to learn Braille and provide a free translation service to local groups, schools and children.  They say that learning the language, which was invented in 1824 to help visually impaired people read, is as important as ever despite advances in audio technology.  The volunteers also maintain a library at the Castleford based centre and say without Newground Together’s funding, the future of the library would be in doubt.
May Nock, who helped form the group in 1982, said the centre provides them with a place for volunteers to learn Braille and for the group to promote their services:

“Castleford Community Learning Centre provide learning for all sorts of people and, for the Braille group, the space they provide is essential.

“As volunteers, we don’t have a budget to pay for classrooms or somewhere to house our library but centres like Castleford provide a base right in the middle of the community where people can borrow books we’ve translated into Braille or, if they’re interested, join the group and learn Braille themselves.

“These days, many children with sight difficulties sit down with an audio book but, like sighted children, there’s something imaginative that only comes from reading for yourself and by learning Braille they can experience this.  However, resources can be expensive and we’ve put together books that help them in stages, as well as going out to schools, scout groups and other areas to talk about Braille.”

Natalie, who joined the group to find out more about the tactile language, says Braille has been important in her career: “I work in a place where multiple languages are important and I’ve lead on making sure Braille is included.  I’m proud of my work with the group, it’s central to my CV and I got asked about it when I interviewed for my job.  It’s a skill that sets you apart from other candidates.” 

Sue, another volunteer with the group, says she couldn’t make a difference without the Braille library: “Having learned how to produce Braille and, as someone interested in learning and history, I get children’s history books from charity shops, translate them into Braille and put them in the library.  Without the space at the centre, the group meeting place and the people involved, none of this would happen”.

Margaret Handforth, who founded the centre in the wake of the miner’s strike, said that the funding isn’t just important to the Braille group: “Informal learning groups like the Braille group are as important as the courses we provide to support people back into work, but we’re dependant on many pots of funding, most of which don’t cover costs as simple as rent. 

“Funding from Newground Together means that the centre, the learners and the groups we can provide space for can continue to exist.”

Peter Jordan, Communities Director at Newground Together, says their unique funding allows them make the difference: “By supporting simple things like rent, we help advance things as complex as education, skills and social welfare.”  He added that the charity, which is part of the Together Housing Group, provided support right across the North of England.

Anyone wanting to borrow anything from the Braille library or find out more about other courses on offer at the centre should call 01977 511581.

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