This week is national braille week. Why is braille still so important in this age of computers and why does it arouse so much passion?
I am in love with braille. I use it every day, for most of the day.
For me, braille is my only effective way of reading. I cannot see print. I cannot hear audiobooks, people or synthetic speech reading to me. Braille opens up a world of information that I could otherwise never access.
Braille enables me to read and write for leisure, study and work, and to manage correspondence.
I love reading hardcopy braille but the sad reality is that very little information is available that way. Using a refreshable braille display and computer or smartphone opens up a whole new world of ebooks, websites and even scanned print. I don’t think I will ever get over the joy of being able to download an ebook and read it at the same time, and for the same price, as everyone else. I just wish that all ebooks were fully accessible but, sadly, some are not.
Braille enables me to communicate online and face-to-face. In meetings, an electronic notetaker types a précis of what is being said onto my laptop and I read it on the braille display.
Using a computer with braille display enables me to shop online, which is my only way of doing regular food shopping.
When I became deaf, it was friends communicating with me by writing braille, and brailling articles they had found online for me, that enabled me to begin crawling out of the very dismal place I was in and rebuild my life.
But, somehow, none of this quite captures what braille means to me.
Braille is more than simply an invaluable functional tool that has transformed my life and the lives of thousands of other blind and deafblind people, empowering us and enhancing educational achievement and employment prospects. Braille is an essential foundation for building a society where blind and deafblind people can be fully participating members. This makes it more than just a functional tool; it is a symbol of opportunity and freedom.
Braille is such an integral part of my life. It’s like a best friend – behind me, with me and ahead of me, there for me to turn to whenever I need.
It saddens me to see many blind and deafblind people who could benefit from braille not using it.
Often this is because of two misconceptions.
- ‘Audiobooks and talking computers can replace braille’. Wrong! This is not reading and lacks the flexibility of braille.
- ‘Braille is too complicated’. Maybe it is complicated at first but that complexity is lots of fun and the end result is absolutely worth it.
One of my greatest wishes is that all blind and deafblind people who could benefit from braille should have the opportunity to learn it, use it and come to love it as I do.