In a high-tech world, some people may wonder if braille is still relevant. Why would a person who is blind read a large braille book when there are audiobooks?
Do we still need braille? We say yes.
We’d never tell a sighted six-year-old they don’t need to learn to read because there’s TV and audiobooks. Why is it any different for kids who are blind?
Braille literacy is as crucial as ever. While listening to a screen reader is a great help for many people impacted by blindness, there are times when it isn't an appropriate or available option. The independence of reading a braille agenda in a meeting, floors on elevator buttons, signs, menus — even a letter in privacy — shows how relevant braille remains today.
Think about all the things that reading does for our kids:
- Stimulates the brain
- Encourages children to use their imagination and to develop their creative skills
- Teaches grammar
- Freedom to choose your own reading material and read at your own pace
- Braille and technology can go hand and hand. Teaching braille can be done in the classic dots-on-paper way, or with cutting-edge technology.
Braille = Equality
For children who are blind, being able to read and write braille is the key to literacy, successful employment and independence.
Children need to be literate, to be able to read, write, and count. These skills bring intellectual freedom, personal security and equal opportunities when they grow up.
Braille will open the door to independence for them, both at home and at work and remains an essential tool to independence for people impacted by blindness.
Braille = Print
Braille is a code that presents written information. The alphabet, numbers, music notation and any other symbol that appears in print can be replicated in braille by arranging combinations of the six dots of the braille "cell."
When children with sight loss are learning to read, braille is the best way for them to develop skills in spelling, grammar and punctuation. Audiobooks and technology that "speak" a text through a voice synthesizer program don’t give new readers the tools that they need to read and write for themselves.
Braille = Employment
Several studies have shown that people with sight loss who know braille are more likely to be employed than those who rely on voice synthesizers.
Braille enables a person to make notes on documents, read a chart or a spreadsheet, take minutes at a meeting, file materials and do tasks efficiently and independently.
Braille = Independence
Braille is a building block of literacy and a foundation of independence.
Learning to read and write is challenging for most children, whether or not they have sight loss. It takes the support and encouragement of family and teachers.
Braille isn’t that hard, especially for young learners. Children usually become quick and competent braille readers. It’s never too soon to teach braille to a child who is impacted by blindness. If they have eye conditions that may worsen over time, learning braille early gives them more options.
Beyond literacy, braille uses include:
- Labelling clothes, medication, appliances, kitchen items and more
- Card and board games
- Student notetaking using a slate and stylus, ability to scan a text to find passages to study and check homework
- Looking things up and ability to go back and forth in the text more easily
- Writing messages and notes
- Easily read by sighted people with some braille training.
- Computer programs can transcribe braille to print, or vice versa.