Between the 11th April and the 15th April, we got the opportunity to participate at an LTTA project (Learning teaching training activities) in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. It is a training for teachers, social workers and families of visually impaired and blind people to learn more about the braille alphabet. The activities that we took part included ways to teach and learn Braille and Braille related technologies.
We were four volunteers from VIEWS International. There were also people from Romania and Macedonia. Regardless of where we are from, we were all amazed and impressed by how much we discovered and learned in this project.
The training got to a fast start with a very knowledgeable person who has a lot of experience in non-formal education methods and we had the opportunity to benefit from his experiences. Following this informative session, we attended an extensive presentation on what is braille. In this presentation, we learned more about the history of Braille and reading and writing rules. People who were just introduced to Braille tried to read the Braille letters and realized how challenging it may be to read and write in Braille.
In the afternoon, we all went to visit a high-school for visually impaired people. There were tactile lines everywhere on the floor. All the rooms were very accessible with strong colors. There were even a multi-sensorial room to develop other senses such as tactility, balance and proprioception. On top of that, the school had a gym of Torball and a climbing wall where we got to attend a match demonstration and some of us tried to play. We also tried to climb. We didn’t know that the day would be filled with so many sports activities and we would get our daily exercise. We were very impressed by this adapted school in the center of Cluj.
After that, we were invited to have a drink in an unusual bar with a heavy metal concept. It was not the calmest and quietest place but nonetheless it was a once in a time experience.
The day after was more relaxed but no less busy or interesting. We explored various different gadgets such as Braille machines, braille watches and glasses with synthesis vocals. we got the chance to try some of those Braille tech gadgets. For instance, some of us wrote our names in braille, others tried to read and understand the braille writings of their groups but the most incredible technology was these talking glasses which describes the surroundings of visually impaired people. We also got to meet a blind radio animator who explained to us the significance of Braille in her daily work and life.
The afternoon was reserved for a visit of the university of psychology in Cluj, Disability Service. We met the director of the facility who presented us all the accessibility tools they have such as adapted computers with software’s like Jaws or ZoomText Fusion installed on. They even had 3D printer to print tactile objects. At the end of the presentation, the director invited those who continue their university education to Cluj for an Erasmus study. We now have his contact information and can give it to young visually impaired and blind students who are interested in having an Erasmus exchange in Cluj, Romania.
The last day, Diana, who is a teacher for visually impaired students in elementary school for blind people, showed us the different tactile tools which she uses with children with visual impairment. She demonstrated different objects with different textures and welcomed us to create an easter postal card in relief and with smell.
To conclude, these three intense days were very interesting and everyone learned a lot about braille and education. We are happy to have these experiences and feel more armed to teach visually impaired and blind students.