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What Is I-M-ABLE? Understanding the Guiding Principles of this Method of Teaching Braille

I-M-ABLE guiding principles: Engagement, Success, Motivation, Individualization

This excerpt is from the AFB Press book, I-M-ABLE: Individualized Meaning-centered Approach to Braille Literacy Education by Diane P. Wormsley

I-M-ABLE, or the Individualized Meaning-Centered Approach to Braille Literacy Education, is an innovative, individualized, student-centered method for teaching braille and making it exciting for children who have difficulties learning braille. I-M-ABLE is different for every student with whom it is used because each students brings a different background and set of experiences to the school setting. Students who have been struggling to learn to read using traditional approaches need reading instruction that is tailored to their experiences and is as meaningful to them as possible. To accomplish this, teachers need to begin by getting to know these students well.

What is important to remember throughout the use of the approach is that I-M-ABLE is built on four important principles: motivation, engagement, individualization, and success. These four principles form the basis of everything I-M-ABLE teachers do.


Those who work with children who are struggling readers talk a lot about how to motivate them. Children who are good readers don’t need to be motivated to read. They have discovered what struggling readers aren’t able to discover-that reading is its own reward. Reading a book can provide excitement that equals that of winning a video game or watching a good television show or movie. But if a child can’t read well, he or she isn’t able to experience the rewards that reading can bring. The challenge facing teachers is motivating struggling readers to develop into readers who can experience the benefits of such rewards.


The key to motivation is engagement. Reading has to be something that involves the learner. The words and stories a student is learning to read need to be something so interesting that the child is immediately motivated to read that word or story.


The key to engagement is individualization, or personalization, and this is the core of I-M-ABLE. What motivates me may not motivate you. If teachers wish to engage students in reading, they need to get to know them-what their interests are, what “turns them on.” In I-M-ABLE, that is where reading instruction begins. If struggling readers can be motivated and engaged by carefully crafting reading instruction that relates to what engages those readers, then more than half the battle has been won in helping overcome reading difficulties.


Just as most adults do not enjoy failure, children don’t enjoy learning when they are not succeeding. Children who are blind and have additional cognitive disabilities may already have a history of failure in learning to read, and for them the reading experience may not be enjoyable. While creating a program that engages and motivates them to be important, it is equally important that these children experience success when learning to read and write. In order to assure success in reading, I-M-ABLE teachers don’t ask students to show how they can do something until it is certain they can do it. The time to test students in this approach is when teachers know they can pass the test! Students aren’t asked to tell teachers what a word or phrase is until it is certain they can do it.

Deciding to use I-M-ABLE with students is the beginning of an incredible journey. To guide you on this journey, the book I-M-ABLE: Individualized Meaning-Centered Approach to Braille Literacy Education, is an excellent resource and practice guide. To order, go to the AFB Store at

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