Gil­lian Har­vey in­ves­ti­gates the Braille read­ing sys­tem

Gil­lian Har­vey dis­cov­ers how this unique read­ing sys­tem can trans­form lives . . .

The People's Friend - - Contents -

YOU’VE prob­a­bly heard of Braille – a tac­tile read­ing sys­tem for the blind or vis­ually im­paired – but have you ever con­sid­ered its im­por­tance in to­day’s world?

Al­though there have been in­cred­i­ble ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy, of­fer­ing the op­por­tu­nity for blind and vis­ually im­paired peo­ple to ac­cess texts in dif­fer­ent ways, Braille re­mains a unique and es­sen­tial tool for mil­lions of peo­ple world­wide, of­fer­ing a level of in­de­pen­dence that they would oth­er­wise miss.

Sally Pater­son is Learn­ing Hub Man­ager at Royal Blind.

“Al­though there are some re­ally help­ful tech­nolo­gies out there, Braille is hugely im­por­tant. Peo­ple can have their bills and of­fi­cial cor­re­spon­dence printed in Braille, for ex­am­ple.

“If a blind or vis­ually im­paired per­son can­not ac­cess Braille, then they have to rely on oth­ers to read in­for­ma­tion for them.”

In these mod­ern times the Braille sys­tem may seem an­ti­quated, but in fact it re­mains an ex­tremely im­por­tant method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion for mil­lions around the world.

The medium is the only one that en­ables users to read and pro­duce their own writ­ten text in­de­pen­dently, mean­ing that chil­dren with sight prob­lems get to learn in class­rooms along­side their sighted peers.

Be­ing able to com­mit words to pa­per is a cru­cial part of lit­er­acy and ac­cord­ing to Royal Blind, tud­ies show stu­dents who an read Braille tend to ac­quire a higher lit­er­acy rates on o av­er­age.

One of the prob­lems with le earning Braille for pupils is th hat ac­quir­ing the skill to r ead this univer­sal code goes be­yond sim­ply learn­ing he h let­ters.

“There are two kinds of Braille: un­con­tracted, where ev­ery­thing’s spelled by the le etters of the al­pha­bet, and con­tracted Braille, which is a kind of short­hand,” Sally Pater­son ex­plains. “Pupils have to learn these short­cuts and it can be frus­trat­ing, but once they get it and are able to be more flu­ent, it makes a big dif­fer­ence.”

Most peo­ple have heard of Braille, so why is rais­ing aware­ness so im­por­tant?

“One of the prob­lems we still have is the lack of avail­abil­ity of texts in Braille for­mat. Vis­ual im­pair­ment is a lowin­stance dis­abil­ity with only around three per cent of peo­ple af­fected, so it’s not re­ally in pub­lish­ers’ in­ter­ests to cre­ate Braille copies of texts.”

With­out re­ally con­sid­er­ing Braille’s use in to­day’s world, it could be easy for those of us with­out vis­ual im­pair­ment to un­der­es­ti­mate its im­por­tance.

How­ever, 15 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide use this method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and Na­tional Braille Week is de­signed to raise aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing of its use.

Of course, the fact that there are now

Pro­duc­ing Braille text on type­writ­ers.

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