As technology squeezes its way into every aspect of our daily lives, it’s easy to get a little complacent and even reliant on it.
This can be even more so if you are blind or visually impaired. With accessibility becoming (thankfully) more mainstream, we are now able to use more devices because of screen readers or magnification features. In fact, in a relatively short time period, it’s become nothing unusual to not only have a device talk to you, but also for you to be able to talk back to it.
Of course, this technology has made a huge difference to our lives in many different ways, but it may have also had an, if you’ll forgive the pun, unforeseen negative effect. It seems that the amount of blind or visually impaired people using braille has been declining for quite some time. We’re now able to access information in many different and accessible ways: products, services & devices such as screen readers, audio books, podcasts, smart phones & speakers etc are all available, in one form or another, to most of us and seem to be the easiest option. And maybe they are, in the sense that they have a relatively comfortable and short learning curve. However, even if we overlook the fact that most of these options become useless without a data connection or, of course, without power, there are still other reasons why braille is a skill that we should all have.
Why Use Braille?
No matter how fast you set your screen readers speech rate, or how quickly you can type on a touchscreen device, be assured you will always be slower than someone who is using braille. Not having to wait for spoken feedback or any other audio cue means that entering text using braille is not only faster but also feels more natural. Also, and more importantly, there simply is no better way to improve your literacy. I’ve been amazed just how quickly and drastically my spelling has declined since losing my ability to see printed text. Reading braille gives you back that literacy, the ability to ‘see’ how that word is formed or that sentence composed. Also, most braille users believe that it’s easier to retain the information you read through braille rather than listening to audio, which can quickly become tiring. Basically, literacy and independence are the major benefits of braille and we should not lose these essentials because talking technology seems like the easier option.
In episode 123 of Double Tap Canada, we were joined by Rhonda Underhill-Gray from the CNIB. As a person who is passionate about braille, Rhonda told us her feelings on the subject of teaching braille.
After my recent attempt to learn braille through the use of smart phone apps, it quickly became obvious to me that the best way to get started is by contacting your local blind support organisation. If you live in Canada, Rhonda explains what the CNIB can offer.
Co-host & audio producer on the Double Tap Canada radio show. Occasional contributor to Double Tap TV, full time shed resident.