Leveraging Technology to Achieve Greater Braille Literacy

Steve uses a Braille display at NFB Youth Slam.

Leveraging Technology to Achieve Greater Braille Literacy

I am fond of a blog post entitled Braille Is Not Dead (So Stop Trying to Kill It). The author articulately and systematically discusses the reasons why Braille remains critically important now and into the future and demonstrates that, while quite useful, audio alone should not be considered sufficient.

As a Braille instructor, I have encountered occasional resistance from students who believe Braille is becoming increasingly obsolete in the face of exponential technological advances. They will sometimes ask why they should work diligently to acquire a code which, in their minds, will soon be relegated to the past—being left in the metaphorical dust by an irrepressible digital juggernaut. Some of them are caught off-guard when they hear my reply.

Braille and technology are not mutually exclusive. In point of fact, thanks to KNFB Reader, NFB-NEWSLINE®, and countless other tools, Braille is more readily available than it has ever been through the interconnectedness of screen readers and electronic Braille displays. Consequently, students are able to cultivate Braille reading and writing acumen thanks to an endless supply of Braille-ready content.

Gone are the days when Braille production was so infrequent or problematic that reading material could be difficult to obtain and was, by necessity, closely guarded. Let us be mindful not to discount Braille’s efficacy given its availability. Active literacy is essential in today’s highly-competitive and ever-changing labor market and can go a long way toward dispelling long-held, stubbornly entrenched low expectations.

Once shown statistics regarding the correlation between Braille literacy and employment, many students redouble their efforts and are rewarded with markedly improved reading speeds and far greater written accuracy. Generally, as students realize increases in speed and proficiency through a combination of hardcopy and electronic Braille, and as they are able to apply the code in a variety of personal and professional contexts, they gain a much greater appreciation for its elegant and edifying influence.

Louis Braille and his intrepid students gave us a timeless gift. As we celebrate World Braille Day, let us never forget their courage and sacrifice. The ability to write in contracted Braille on Apple iDevices is testament to Braille’s enduring, life-altering power. In all its forms, Braille Rocks!