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Blind trainee journalist passes 100wpm shorthand in Braille

A trainee journalist who has been blind from birth has been hailed as “inspirational” by her tutors after passing her 100wpm shorthand in Braille.

Kate Pounds, below, started on the part-time NCTJ course at News Associates in October 2019 and has passed all exams to date on her first attempt.

Kate, who was awarded the Thomas Read bursary, associated with the Journalism Diversity Fund, last year, is now on track to achieve the gold-standard qualification.

She used a Braille shorthand code from 1959 combined with her Teeline lessons to learn the skill and also purchased a Braille note-taking device using bursary money from the JDF.


Six keys on the notetaker each correspond to a dot in the six-dot Braille cell, and combinations of these dots form letters and symbols.

Kate uses the letters of the alphabet to stand for short-form words, and symbols for common letter combinations within words, such as -tion and -less, and also for prefixes such as auto and tele.

Explained Kate: “I’ve modified the code really. As an example, the same symbol stands for -less, -ness, -press, and -ess, and I use the context to work out which it is each time.

“It’s complicated, but I love codes.”

“I am tremendously proud and relieved to have passed my 100wpm exam. When I joined the course, we weren’t even sure it would be possible for me to take the shorthand module.

“I feel great about it, it’s a ground-breaking achievement. I hope that other visually-impaired journalists will be inspired.”

While studying with News Associates Kate has interviewed Annemarie Plas, the mum who started #ClapForOurCarers in the UK, wrote an article for the BBC about being blind in a pandemic, covered the Putney count in the General Election and attended the Society of Editors’ conference.

A tweet from News Associates announcing her exam success said simply: “Kate, you are an inspiration.”

Kate added: “I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone at News Associates. I feel really fortunate that the team is so open-minded. No one has ever said ‘that’s too difficult’.

“All I need is someone to give me opportunities and to understand that I can achieve as highly as a sighted person. Just I might sometimes approach things differently but that can be a real positive as I am a good problem solver.

“I want to work in a big newsroom. What I need is someone to recognise I am a good journalist.

“Being blind, I always fear I won’t get the employment to match the qualification I have. That’s often the reality for disabled people, but I think it can change.”