From the Heart

Coming home with an envelope full of candy hearts and a heap of Valentine’s Day cards is one of my favourite memories from my junior school days. You would be given a class list in order to prep your beautifully crafted cards, which would be distributed the next day. However, I will discuss the divide that was present between my classmates and I, and how teachers can incorporate different ideas into their classrooms to encourage inclusivity and universal design.

Image of two hearts overlapping each other, brailled from braille characters.Although the chocolate hearts and red lollipops were quite delicious to snack on, I was never able to read the little cards paired with them. Most often, I would have someone read them to me, but now if I go back and look at the memories I saved from my younger days, there is no way I can remember what I was given, as candy is temporary and cards are permanent. This can go the other way as well, as I would either have someone else write cards on my behalf or simply braille them out. This too is not feasible as my sighted counterparts were unable to read what I had created for them.

Thus, here are just a few tips on bridging the gap between your students:

  • Encourage your students to be as tactile as possible. This not only allows for their card to be more accessible, but encourages creativity. Perhaps they can outline a heart with a hot-glue-gun, or use different textured materials on the card. When writing, students could use items such as puff paint to outline their print letters. This can go both ways, as a student who is blind is able to create a more accessible design for their classmates while maintaining their own style.
  • Colour contrast is another way to ensure those who are partially sighted are able to read Valentine’s Day cards. If someone writes in a dark colour on a dark background it can be quite challenging to read, especially if you are partially sighted. Therefore allowing students to use bold colours not only adds to a fun design, but can make their messages easier to read.
  • And finally, braille drawings! Although there is a misconception that those who are blind or partially sighted are unable to draw, brailling drawings have become more known over time. Braille drawings are created using different braille dot combinations that, when spaced out properly, can create different pieces. There are many resources on this, one being Paths to Literacy which contain instructions on different braille drawings including hearts. This idea, though may take longer, is a creative one when getting blind children involved in creating cards while practicing their braille skills. This exposes their classmates to braille and its involvement in everyday life, while the card is customized from its sender. Students can also incorporate funny sayings on their cards such as “you touch my heart.”

These are just a few quick ways children can strengthen their creativity while being encouraged to build a foundation for inclusivity throughout their lives. Chances are that children will come across other children with different needs than their own, and encouraging these inclusive practices in a safe and fun environment will make them see adaptations as the norm, rather than an intimidating aspect. If we are truly teaching children to do things from the heart, then this is the way to raising empathetic and mindful children.

by Harjinder Saran (Jinnie)