braille, education, employment, language, literacy, perceptions
I don’t know who comes up with these, but many organizations dedicated to blindness celebrate January as National Braille month. Louis Braille was born on January 4 in 1809 and invented the alphabet that became the basis for the current system of dot combinations that enable blind people all over the world to read. He died tragically young, but his legacy has lived on for all of these years. In addition to Latin languages (English, French, etc.) there are braille systems for Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, as well as many other languages that enable blind children and adults to not only read and write for themselves, but contribute to society at large.
I learned how to read braille at the same time my schoolmates were learning to read print – perhaps even earlier. My vision was such that I could read very large print and see pictures in books or on TV, but using it for long periods gave me massive headaches. So at the age of four or five, I started learning braille, which allowed me to continue my schooling uninterrupted when I realized that one of my many eye operations robbed me of most of the sight I had left. I initially learned to write using a Perkins brailler, and then was forced to learn using a slate and stylus – something I hated at the time, but am eternally grateful for now.
As a child, I thought every other blind student learned to read and write braille in this way, but I have learned that many are not being taught braille at all, due to the prevalence of screen reading software. Many of those that are taught to read may not be taught to write braille, since typing on a computer is so commonplace. While audio feedback and learning has its place, I believe there is no substitute for learning proper spelling, grammar, and sentence structure, and for those with little or no usable vision, I believe braille is the only way to achieve this. In no way am I saying that everyone needs to be perfect at it (I’m sure Meagan and others can find six mistakes in my first few paragraphs), but even sighted learners using a tablet or a smart phone have a visual concept of spacial relation, grammatical correctness, and even spelling (with or without the aide of a spellchecker). I believe the lack of braille teaching (with hard copy paper or with an electronic braille display) will ultimately put blind children (and later adults) at a disadvantage, because it is extremely hard to learn basic language concepts without being able to “see” them. I should know; I have learned three languages in addition to English, and could never have succeeded as well as I did, particularly with French, had I not been able to “see” proper spelling of words (those silent “e”s would have killed me).
Braille has made me the person I am today. I am literate, articulate, and play a mean game of Scrabble. While I do listen to audio books and use a screen reader to access a computer, I am eternally grateful that at eight years old I was all but glued to a chair and forced to learn that slate and stylus; who wants to carry around the braille equivalent of a Smith Corona? From a practical standpoint, having a secondary way of processing information (a braille display) proved incredibly helpful on an occasion where my computer’s sound card was fried and I had no access to my screen reader at all for several days! Buildings with elevators that don’t have braille signage can send me to the wrong floor; now imagine that in every single elevator because no one took the time to teach you how to read numbers? Not everyone will agree with me, but I firmly believe that those little dot combinations are one of the few things that can help level the playing field. Look up “Braille Literacy” and many organizations will correlate braille literacy with academic achievement and employment. So maybe it’s not just me…
I plan on learning Braille (I am a oddity, being that I became blind as a adult, and want to learn it). Though I do have some vision, my vision fails me regularly.
My point is though when I mentioned this to voc rehab her answer was we have screen readers for that.
It shocked me to the core being that while I was wanting to learn it was written off as a novelty. Thankfully I found another option, even if it is only used rarely, though being that I love reading books I doubt it.
Sorry, my friend; looks like your comment wasn’t posted in its entirety 😦
let’s try that again shall we? I learnt braille early, before I even started school. I’ve always been told that if I don’t keep up my use of braille i’ll lose the technique and it will be gone forever. I learnt touch typing at kinda beginning with an old manual typewriter I use my braille display for reading braille these days as I dread getting out the perkins brailler now as it’s so old and has a predisposition of getting stuck that it wrecks the paper but I don’t tell too many people that I have the perkins brailler as if I lost it I’d never get another one but I keep saying I should get out a braille book and have a read of it but I never do although I did used to go through a phase of reading braille books. it’s hard to even organize to get your own braille books and if I wanted to do that I’d have to get them sent from Melbourne and even if it was for a fee but it could take a few days so I could just read the books I have in storage but as I say I should keep up my use of braille just having a braille writer that takes paper I think it would just be so awkward carrying one from place to place but I hated the slate and stylus too but I wasn’t exasctly glued to a chair or forced to learn it it was gently encouraged not forced upon me. and when you say you were glued to a chair to learn it were you talking metaphorically or were you literally glued to the chair? lol
Actually you started learning Braille when you were two. I put Braille dots, using brass brads, on a set of letter blocks. This was so you could associate the letters you could see, at that time, with the cell’s you could feel.
We gave those blocks to Children’s Hospital about the time you started school.
I also remember how exciting it was whenever your ‘Children’s Friend’, a Braille magazine, arrived in the mail.
I’m glad you still find Brailling a useful skill.
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I forgot all about those blocks! 🙂
And the Children’s Friend magazine… It was one of the few “subscription” magazines available at the time, and had nifty stories 🙂
Brailling is definitely still intensely useful.
so blindbeader, is that your dad or is that someone with the username dad on here lol by the sounds of it it is your dad just thought I’d ask.
Yeah, he’s really my dad… it’d be a weird hobby for him to call himself anyone else’s dad 🙂
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