News from LINC

Braille Sees A Resurgence Among Students

By Erin Jepsen
   For years the rumor has circulated that Braille was going the way of the dinosaur, made obsolete by technology. In reality, Braille is alive and well, seeing new growth among the younger blind population.
   According to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), Braille is necessary for literacy within the blind population, it’s estimated that 85% of employed blind people are Braille readers. Students too require it for literacy if they are not ave to read print comfortably. “Audio books can’t teach spelling or punctuation in a sentence,” says Alana Leonhardy, secretary of the Palouse Empire Chapter of NFB in Idaho. “Braille provides the same information for the blind that print provides for the sighted, whether we are talking books or computer readouts,” adds Nancy Scott, co-editor of Slate and Style. “Braille is the only way to gain the exact information in the same way as a print user gains it.”
   Technology is actually helping Braille reach more readers. Hardware such as refreshable Braille displays allow reader to access web pages and ebooks. Bluetooth allows smartphones to interface with Braille displays, and there are even portable options for note takers.  Facebook and other social media provide quick communication between transcribers and Braille users, as well as allowing for “hand-me-down” books to pass around the Braille community. Transcribers have access to powerful software and embossers, allowing for faster and more accurate transcription of books than at any other time in history.
   Braille, the dot-code of embossed writing for tactile reading as been embraced by blind readers and disliked by many sighted teachers since its invention in 1820. Today, it has spread into a worldwide use in every major language. Dedicated users can read and write literature, music, math, languages, maps and science, as well as practical uses like labeling medication, jotting notes, coordinating clothing color and more.
   Educators realize the benefit of dual-media learning: Simultaneous print and Braille instruction for students with low vision. Terri Rupp, a tireless advocate for dual-media instruction due to the fact she herself was not taught Braille until she was adult, says “I’ve shoved a part of myself aside for too long. Making sure that her daughter is Braille literate is a big step toward a successful life as a blind person.”
  Students who are blind or low vision should be afforded the same rights as their peers. “Poverty in the blind community is preventable by education. Literacy is the key to equality and providing people who are blind their civil rights.” –
   While it’s true that Braille use has dipped to 8.5% the last decade, many people in the blind community see that changing in the near future. With efforts of advocacy groups and better knowledge and education, Braille literacy is again on the rise.

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