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