Is braille less relevant now? I really hope not.
Posted by Kim Kilpatrick
I learned braille when I was six years old.
I could not wait to do that!
Having others read to me was interesting but not totally satisfying as I wanted to read for myself.
Braille was wonderful.
I could read and write by myself.
I could read in the dark and not get caught.
I could read in moving vehicles and not get sick.
But, braille was bulky.
Huge books, braille machines that were noisy and heavy to carry.
For GTT, I have been able to play with several braille displays.
I’d like to thank the people from Aroga Technologies and from canadialog who have been letting me play with braille displays.
I have tried out the focus displays, braille note from humanware, braille edge, and braille sense.
It is such a pleasure to be able to read and write braille any time with my I devices.
I prefer it to anything else.
I have also started playing with the braille screen input mode built into IOS 8.
I am getting more used to it.
If any of you are using it or other braille displays and products, I would love to hear all about it.
So, I was delighted to read this article.
it is from June 2014 and I share it with you.
Braille isn’t [quote] embattled–we’re on the cusp of a golden age for blind
Far from heralding the death of a great medium, technology may be ushering
in a new era of access and greater independence
Ian Macrae, The Guardian (UK)
Thursday, May 22, 2014.
[photo caption:] A cash machine keypad with Braille: ‘Braille has gone
Imagine a situation where you walk into your favourite restaurant and ask
for the menu, only to be told it isn’t available. Chances are it wouldn’t
stay your favourite for very long.
As a braillist–someone who uses braille–the dream for me is when the
opposite happens. A small number of chain restaurants offer menus in
braille; sometimes, they’re even up to date.
It is difficult to over-express the sense of liberation at being able to
browse and choose your preferred pizza independently. And in Co-op
supermarkets, where some of the own-brand labels feature braille, there is
pride in being able to identify a bottle of wine from a label that few if
any other people in the store are able to read.
All too often, though, finding anything in shops is a matter of random
selection, peering in earnest, or asking for help. And just when it seemed
the situation couldn’t get any worse for braillists, along come headlines
suggesting the end is nigh for braille, that this communication lifeline is
about to be cut off.
This week, Dr Matthew Rubery, curator of an exhibition on alternative
methods of reading for blind people, described braille as [quote] embattled.
He went on to say its biggest threat [quote] is computer technology, which
makes it much easier not to have to learn it. A lot of people fear braille
won’t survive because it will be read by so few people. The use has declined
and there are concerns about funding to keep it going.
This seems to me a rather glass-half-empty view, although there is some
evidence to support his argument. Anecdotally, it is claimed blind children
are no longer being taught braille. This is said to be owing to sighted
teachers who believe computer technology, and in particular synthesised
speech, has rendered it redundant. Therefore, the teachers don’t need to
learn braille either.
If this is true, and no other factors were to come into play, then the
outlook might really look bad. But, like print, braille has gone through a
process of evolution. It started out in classrooms as the equivalent of the
slate – my five-year-old hands punched out each dot individually through a
sheet of thick manilla paper. We learned to write it backwards and read it
Then Harold Wilson’s [quote] white heat age of technology ushered in the
mechanical era. Classrooms echoed to the deafening collective rattle of 15
or more braille machines – the Stainsby, the Perkins, the Lavender –
pounding away at dictation or composition.
And now, like print with its tablets, Kindles and touch screens, braille has
gone digital. And it is my belief that this could well mean it becomes more
widely available and infinitely more useful. This is important because it
means all children in future will be able to enjoy the same degree of
literacy, not to mention the same levels of liberation and pleasure, as I do
Think of this: I am writing and editing this piece on an Apple computer
using braille from an electronic display that drives pins into the correct
shapes to form a line of braille text. Once the piece is published I will be
able to go to the Guardian website on my iPhone or iPad, use Bluetooth to
connect up a portable braille device, and read it along with you. The main
problem currently is the cost of the braille-reading equipment: the cheapest
is 900 [pounds].
But, fellow reader, we are now in the age of the app and of haptic
technology, which communicates through vibration and touch. It is already
possible for me to download an app that will create on my touch screen a
virtual braille keyboard on which I can compose texts, emails, tweets and
Facebook updates in braille.
Meanwhile, the search is already on for the holy grail of braille–a means
of creating dots without using expensive mechanical cells that make the
shape of braille characters using pins. Then the world would truly be at our
What is needed is an app that would turn digital text on your device into
electronic impulses in the shape of braille characters, transmitted by the
screen of your iPad or other tablet, to be read by touch. To go back to my
restaurant quandary, all I would need to do would be to call up the menu
online, put it through my haptic braille app, and read it on my screen.
Add into that mix a scanning app, and I could point my device at what was on
the supermarket shelf and have the haptic braille app produce the package
And if you think this is hopelessly optimistic pie in the sky, it’s worth
remembering that less than five years ago 96% of all books produced would
never be turned into forms accessible to blind people. But with the advent
of e-books and existing technology, I am now able to read pretty much any
book I want to in electronic braille.
So rather than seeing the end of braille, we could be entering a golden age
of access and communication. Here’s to more pizza, more wine, and more