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Starbucks and Braille

Starbucks gift card with braille on it

Louis Braille’s birthday is January 4th, and the month of January each year is Braille Awareness Month. There will, of course, be the usual discussions and articles about the relevancy of braille in the digital age–after all, what need is there for braille, when computers and other gadgets talk to us? Would those of us who regularly read print on paper, ask the same question? In the digital age, is print on paper relevant?

Starbucks is not having this discussion about the relevancy of braille. They recognized several years ago that some of their customers are braille readers and added braille to their gift card line up. I make a point of looking for the braille gift card whenever I’m in a Starbucks, and if one is not on display, asking if one is available. The Starbucks at the Maine Mall in South Portland had one on display the day I walked in with one of my clients. It was a great ice breaker. Please don’t tell Starbucks that braille is less relevant, because nothing seems as relevant and useful as identifying the name of a gift card, in braille, for braille readers!

A statistic I heard recently on a Ten Talk podcast, reminded me that this whole discussion of braille relevancy may be interesting academically, but totally absurd. In an interview with Ten Talk, Allison Hilliker, Customer Specialist with Bookshare mentioned that there were over half a million book titles, subscribers could download in electronic braille format. Think about it this way, instead of downloading and opening the electronic book on their Kindle a braille reader downloads the book and opens it on their device with an electronic refreshable braille display.

Half a million books is very relevant.

This year, I’m just going to smile when the subject of braille’s relevancy comes up and take the Starbuck’s approach–there are plenty of braille readers out there, and some of them are our customers. More of them will be our customers if we reach out to them in the reading medium they prefer, braille. Simple!

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