When I posed the question, “Are we witnessing the demise of braille?” in last week’s blog post, I anticipated it would strike a nerve. After working at NBP for nearly 10 years, I know how passionate readers feel about braille and credit it for their educational and professional success. My NBP colleagues and I share in their assessment of braille as an essential means for literacy.
I am wondering, however, what the responses would be from parents, teachers, school administrators, and others who have the power to make decisions about braille learning for blind children. Do they feel as passionately as “Jeff” who posted, he would “hate to see a total shift away from the use of braille because in reality, it’ll lead to whole generation of illiterate people.”? Will the out-of-the box accessibility, via audio, of some of today’s technology change the way blind children will learn? There are many factors at play when you consider the education of blind children – limited public-school resources, the shortage of TVI’s, and a broad brush approach to serving kids with disabilities—I just hope that braille does not get lost in the shuffle.
Equally passionate were the responses concerning braille in the digital age. While opinions were varied, one sentiment is clear – technology does not replace braille. Instead, technology has unlimited potential to enhance and increase braille usage but the high cost of assistive technology remains a critical barrier that must be addressed. As one deaf/blind woman stated, “It’s sickening that braille is offered for premium pricing.”
I am thrilled that so many took the time to respond to this blog post. I want to dig deeper into this issue, and I am currently working with my colleagues to develop a short survey on how braille is used today—with and without technology. Stay tuned for more information on that survey. Thank you for your enthusiasm and let’s keep this dialogue going. I don’t know if the future of braille depends on it, but I don’t want to take any chances.