January is Braille Awareness Month
January is National Braille Literacy Awareness Month in honor of Louis Braille, who originally developed the braille code nearly 200 years ago. Braille was born January 4, 1809, and developed the code of raised dots to make text readable for individuals, like himself, who were blind.
For many years, there has been a growing debate about the relevancy of braille in an age of computers and gadgets that talk and read text. Producing books in braille is costlier than producing the same book in printed text, and the professionals who traditionally teach braille, Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) and Vision Rehabilitation Therapists (VRTs) remain in short supply, or lose funding in school systems with shrinking budgets. What really is the difference between reading with touch, and reading by listening?
Imagine for a moment listening to some of the algebra or geometry equations you endured in school, as opposed to studying them a character at a time. Or consider trying to listen to one of Charles Dickens’ long, rambling sentences in Oliver Twit or reading a philosophy textbook without being able to reread and check the grammatical elements as needed, to make sense of it? It’s not the same is it?
Braille is increasingly being incorporated into the latest technology. For example, braille displays of varying sizes may be used with computers, tablets, and smart phones so that the emails, documents, or text appearing on the screen are also readable on the braille display attached, or connected wirelessly.
One thing is clear from the research fueling the debate of braille’s relevancy today, there remains a strong correlation between braille literacy and employment–of those who are blind, and employed, 90% are braille readers. With unemployment at 70% among this demographic, doesn’t that make Braille very relevant?