Is Braille Still Useful Today?
Recently, we have seen a significant decline in Braille literacy among blind people in the U.S, and also in some other countries. At the same time, we have seen instances wherein blind people attain success in education and employment. This led to the belief that blind persons can now do without Braille.
Let us find out if Braille is indeed something which the blind can live without.
Audio Information and Assistive Technology
Two of the main reasons for the decline in Braille literacy are audio formats of books and assistive technology. People who support these technologies believe that blind people can learn the same skills by using screen readers and listening to audio books instead of reading information in Braille.
Also, these people believe that the use of audio and assistive technologies lessens the need for Braille equipment and production. A book, for instance, can simply be stored in a small mobile device with a screen reader rather than being produced in Braille in large volumes.
Braille as a Life-Changing System
On the other hand, advocates of Braille still believe that it is an essential system which every blind person should learn. Below are some of the reasons why Braille is still useful today.
Braille Defines Literacy
A sighted person that can read and write printed text is considered literate. The same can be said with blind people. Braille has been internationally accepted as the official communications system for the blind. So a blind person that can read and write Braille is deemed literate. Conversely, one who can not use Braille is considered illiterate, even though that person can use assistive technology to read and write.
Braille Upholds the Rights of the Blind
Braille supports the right to information of blind people. When there is a global or local event which everyone needs to know, blind people should be informed and should have the same details regarding that news. When there are new laws or changes to existing laws, they need to be in the loop as to what the additions or modifications are.
Among its other functions, Braille aims to provide these things to the blind. It enables people who cannot read printed text to read for themselves what is going on in their city, country, and even around the world.
Braille in Education
Before blind children can use assistive technology, they must first learn how to manually read and write. And this is where Braille is very essential. Braille provides the fundamentals of reading and writing for the blind: letters and words, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structures.
Simply put, a blind person has to learn Braille before using a computer, as a sighted individual needs to learn to read and write printed text before using this machine.
Braille in Employment
Moving on, a blind person who learns manual reading and writing has a better foundation of knowledge when starting to use more advanced technology. Such skills and knowledge are very important in finding a suitable job. And even when one has already found employment, Braille is still useful in almost all types of tasks in the workplace.
Braille in Culture and Entertainment
Braille gives blind people the best option to read books and publications. Virtually any type of reading materials both old and new can be transcribed in Braille.
It can be argued though that assistive technologies such as screen readers can give the same information in a relatively easier manner. However, screen readers require the use of hearing, and this is very different from actually reading text.
Braille Gives a Sense of Privacy and Independence
Braille lets blind people to freely express their thoughts on paper without being concerned that other people may read personal things about them. It also lets blind persons read for themselves, label their own belongings, and compensate for things they cannot do because of their disability.
Braille is Still Irreplaceable
Ultimately, the tangible feeling provided by Braille is still very important to blind persons as human beings. Nothing beats the actual experience of holding and feeling a book, turning its pages, reading its text, and even smelling its paper. These things can never be replaced by any kind of assistive technology.