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Discovering The Feel Of Words And Winning Awards



Giving blind or sight impaired people a chance to enjoy the 'feel' of words has been Raeleen Smith's forty-year commitment. In that time she has invented an 'easy to learn' system of Braille tuition, created groups of volunteers to prepare Brailled material and organised for children to have tactile reading. At its Annual Public Meeting the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind (RNZFB) acknowledged her work by awarding her the Chairman's Award 1999.

In presenting the award, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Foundation, Gordon Sanderson said Raeleen had made a major contribution, locally and internationally to increasing people's awareness of and access to Braille.

A Braille user herself, Raeleen has always been committed to giving others the opportunity to learn a skill that she herself has found invaluable. Recognising that some people found the prospect of learning Braille daunting she developed an easy to learn system based on repetition and geared towards making sure people succeeded.

The system, 'Keeping In touch' or Grade One Braille was trialled in the South Island a year ago. It was so popular it has now become a national programme with students learning Braille aged between 30 and 80 years of age.

Often they have enjoyed the experience so much they have gone on to learn the next level of Braille which is the Foundation's standard Braille Teaching Scheme.

Raeleen's contribution to Braille as a literacy tool has not been confined to New Zealand. Highly regarded overseas for her work she serves on the International Council for English Braille (IECB). Currently serving on the IECB's Rules Committee for the Unified Braille Code as New Zealand's representative, Raeleen is part of a project working to establish a Braille Code to unify Braille systems used in English speaking countries.

Raeleen has served as an executive member of IECB and is presently Chairperson of the New Zealand Braille Authority.

"She has been tireless in her commitment to giving people the ability to read Braille," says Gordon Sanderson. "And what better gift can anyone give another but that of literacy. She has given that gift to many."




There are over 12,500 members of the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind. The Foundation provides rehabilitation services, training, support services and special equipment. Services include Library Services that record and supply talking books delivered by New Zealand Post free of charge and Guide Dog Services. Other services include Rehabilitation Services like techniques of daily living training where people learn to live independently in their homes, recreation and sport and training in the use of and assistance with accessing special equipment.


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