Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Is Braille Still Relevant in a High Tech World?

Photo of Aubrey Webson

Students and professionals describe what braille means to them in this video from Perkins School for the Blind.

Transcript:

My name is Dr. Aubrey Webson, director of Perkins international at the Perkins School for the Blind.  Technology is everywhere.   It dominates our lives.  People are posting on Facebook, listening to audio books, typing their notes into smartphones.  So, does that mean that the basics of learning to read and write using braille, to take notes, to read papers, to write essays is irrelevant?   We decided to interview several students and working professionals in order to understand the role that braille and technology plays in their lives.

Our commentators include Paul, the assistant to the president of MIT;  Marisa, a 16-year-old high school student; Lindsay, a graduate from Brown University doing research at MIT; Chuck, a middle school student;  Timothy, a customer service representative.

Let us know your opinion on whether braille plays a role in your life by posting on our Facebook page.

Thank you.


Paul:
I am a braille reader and I believe that it is critical that both braille and audio are dramatically important in a personal and professional life. 
 
Lindsay:
It's kind of like asking a sighted person, you know, what's the value of print. I think with a lot of people and sort of you're just expected to know it.
 
Jack:
I mentally think that I get more out of reading braille than simply listening to audio without taking notes.
 
Tim:
I find that I'm a more active learner when I'm able to read the information with my fingertips. 
 
Marisa:
It's especially important for people to learn math and science in braille, due to the spatial concepts.
 
Lindsay:
You know if I'm trying to listen to everything once once I'm done hearing the first part of the equation, I can't just keep it in my head, you know, once I'm at the second part of the equation. So with braille you can just quickly flip back to it and what I feel like with auditory, you know, input it can just pretty much go in one ear and out the other.
 
Jack:
I need to see the format on paper. I need to see how things are set up.
 
Paul:
Mathematics is a must in braille and foreign languages.
 
Jack:
I do go to religious school where I read Hebrew braille.  If I only had audio, I would not be able to recite the prayers at services because I depend on the braille to help me sing along with the congregation.
 
Lindsay:
You know if you think about it, you know, for a sighted person, you get, you see writing all the time. I mean it's not just a matter of learning grammar and spelling at school. I mean it's through reading that you learn to write and, you know, if you're planning to be a professional adult you better know how to read and write.
 
Tim:
For the past three years I've worked as a customer service representative for InStyle Electric and Gas.  Braille is useful to me because I'm able to keep track of information.   Being able to read that information with my fingertips, as opposed to trying to listen to it being spoken to me through a synthetic voice while simultaneously listening to the caller, allows me the opportunity to clearly, concisely, and efficiently provide safety precautions to the customer.
 
Paul:
But if you have audit or financial planning responsibilities for a non-profit, as you do when you're a member the board of directors, then you want to be much more careful and actually look at the tables and the charts and the numbers, and for me that needs to be in braille.
 
Tim:
Braille allows me to be on an equal playing field with both sighted students in a classroom or sighted colleagues in a work environment.
 
Paul:
I would say to more than an addendum.  It's really a necessary part of the toolbox.
 
Lindsay:
And the only way to be literate as a blind person is to know braille. 
 
Jack:
I use braille and depend on braille for all or most things that I do in school and braille is really the key to my success.

 

Collage of relevance of braille literacy

Posted on June 20, 2012
Updated on: January 30, 2019