How to Write with a Slate

November 14, 2013

A slate and stylus is a simple, inexpensive tool you can use to write Braille. You might think of it as a blind person's paper and pencil.


The traditional Braille slate is a writing guide made of plastic or light aluminum. You will Notice that the slate opens up at one end, and is hinged at the other. This allows the slate to be opened so paper can be inserted between the metal guides.

You will notice rectangular openings on the top of the slate, and raised bumps on the bottom. These openings, called windows, will guide your stylus to form uniform Braille characters, or cells.

If you open the slate and look closely at the bottom, you will find 4 pins, one on each corner. These guide pins will hold your paper in place as you write.

You will also notice that your new slate came with a metal pricker, which is called a stylus. You will hold the stylus by the plastic or wooden handle, and use the metal tip to punch dots into your paper.

Insert Paper

To get started, position the slate on a table, with the windows facing up and the hinge on the left.

Open the slate, and line the paper up with the top edge. Insure the paper is covering all four guide pins.

Now close the slate, and push on the corners to press the four guide pins into the paper.

Paper is now properly secured in your slate, and you're ready to start writing.

Writing Backwards

Because you will be punching dots on the reverse side of the paper, it's important to write your letters backwards, from right to left. That way, when you turn over the paper to read your message, you will be able to read it correctly from left to right.

That's right. Braille is read from left to right, just like regular print. In order to produce correct Braille with a slate, however, Braille must be written from right to left.

Write a Braille Message

Now, pick up the stylus in your dominant hand. If you are blind, you can use your other hand to guide your stylus to the correct cell window, and ultimately the correct position in the cell for each dot you punch.

Start at the top-right cell window, and use your stylus to punch dots in the paper. Each dot you punch will make up part of a Braille letter. When you have written your first letter, move to the cell window to the left of the first one, and punch out your next letter.

Remember to write the letters in reverse. That is, if you want to write the letter K, which is dots 1 and 3, you should actually punch dots 4 and 6.

Filling a sheet with Braille

If you have a 4-line slate, you will probably need to move the paper up after you have written the first few lines of your message. Simply open the slate, and lift the paper off the guide pins. Slide the paper up until the bottom holes from the guide pins are lined up with the top guide pins. Then, just close the slate - and write another 4 lines of Braille.


Writing with a Braille Slate is not as difficult as it sounds. Try your hand at writing a few words, and you'll master it in no time. Please don't be scared off by this article - it really is easier than it sounds.

Happy writing!