Relish the Silence: A Homage to Braille

Why I love braille, and believe fluency is invaluable.

Relish the Silence: An Homage to Braille

thanks for sharing!

Interesting, I've always wondered how hard it is to learn braille and clearly yes, very challenging!

Actually, learning the basics of braille - the alphabet, punctuation, and numbers - is really easy. I've taught my brother and some cousins to read and write braille in a day or two. Learning all the contractions (symbols that stand for more than one character or word, such as a symbol that stands for "and" or "the") takes a bit more time, but is still not too hard (it's definitely NOT as hard as learning an entirely new language). The part that really takes daily practice is becoming truly fluent at reading and writing. That's the part most people who lose vision these days seem to just give up on and never develop. I think a lot of people think it's just too hard and not worth the effort. I tell people it's no harder than learning to read print, or learning to play a musical instrument, or learning to become really good at a sport, or learnign a new skill like computer programming. You just need to see the value in it and put in the time, effort, and practice. :)

@RogerAlyn: I agree that technology has been a HUGE asset for people with visual impairments. But I'll have to disagree on the assertion that it may make braille obsolete - at least not unless technology also makes print obsolete, which it probably won't anytime soon. Audio is great, but there are so many things you just can't do with audio. (Plus, I'd argue that listening is not reading or literacy ...) Accessing grammar, spelling, formatting, accessing any kind of technical material like mathematics and sciences, using any type of tactile graphic ... these are possible but extremely difficult using speech alone. As an IT person you could perhaps try editing HTML/CSS or writing computer code while using audio alone. It is possible, but very tedious and slow without being able to use either a monitor or braille display (I've done it). Also things like giving a speech, teaching from notes or a lesson plan, taking notes during a meeting, and so on are much more difficult if you are relying on audio alone (and doubly so if you are trying to use speech recognition software like Dragon along with audio).

Incidentally, the rise of e-books like Kindle and others means that braille is more available than ever before. Buy an iPad and a refreshable braille display and you suddenly have access to millions of titles in braille. With OCR software, no need to wait months or even years for a book to be transcribed into braille. (In fact, I read 95% of my books by scanning them and reading in refreshable braille.) Dragon software is great, but most people who are blind have no problems typing, just like many sighted people can touch type without looking at the keyboard.

I love technology, but if anything I think it makes braille more easily accessible and more relevant than ever, rather than making it unnecessary. :) I could, indeed, see PAPER braille becoming unnecessary, just as paper in general may someday become unnecessary. But braille itself, as in the tactile reading code, is the equivalent to the visual code of print, and I don't think either one of those will become unnecessary any time soon.

Sorry for the rant, but every time I hear someone mention braille and obsolete/unnecessary in the same sentence it touches a nerve! :)

people who are blind and know braille have more success with getting employment. I would be lost if I could not make a list. I am low vision person but know basic braille alphabet.Nancy