I’ve been reading different articles on eliminating braille and educating with just speech software. I want to look back at my experiences, and state why I feel braille is still relevant for children and adults to learn today.
I never went to a blind school, and was fortunate to have had the proper technology from the start. A man who was dying of cancer wanted to donate some money for a cause and he had heard about me overcoming cancer. He contacted my family and asked if I could use anything. At the time I’m guessing in 1990 there was a braille note taker out called the Braille N Speak. It cost $2000, but it allowed me to write notes, have a calendar, and perform a lot of school functions. He purchased it for me, so my first day of school when I was 5 I carried a $2000 product in my backpack. I learned how to write braille on a braille writer which weighed about 6 pounds. I remember having to do my math homework on that a lot, because on the Braille N Speak it couldn’t print off math correctly. The computer was nice to have because it was so small. I could hook it to a printer and just print off my homework rather than have to have my as it’s called my visually impaired teacher translate my braille to print for me.
One braille page is equivalent to 2 print pages, and depending on the print size maybe 3. To give you an idea I would have a social studies book in braille and it would be 30 volumes or more. My school had an office where I could go grab the volume I needed for the day. If I had homework it was pretty normal I may have to carry 2 volumes of a book home in braille, because in most cases a volume would only cover 20 pages. Needless to say when I went to college I didn’t use braille.
I’ve never been a real fast braille reader. I used speech to read a lot, and just never gained the skills to read like my classmates in print. I know some real good braille readers who when listening to them you’d never know they were reading braille, but most people I know use speech. I think speech is great, but it doesn’t teach you how words form or look. I know for me personally braille helped me learn the basics. I also feel it’s important in elevators, identifying doors, and games. I do not use braille on a regular basis, and in my house I rarely use it. The most I use it for is when I’m playing cards.
When I went to Ball State I ruffled some feathers, because in particular two buildings didn’t have braille on the doors of the rooms. They would have a sign in print but even for people in wheelchairs it was hard to see, because it was above the door frame. I proposed to the student council to make it an initiative to braille the two buildings and oh my god did it set off a backlash for me. The head of Disability services contacted me and was like Joe why didn’t you come to me with this concern? Seriously he was more upset I didn’t follow the protocol rather than fix the problem. He sent me this email that claimed they were going to renovate the two buildings in question and after the remodeling they’d put braille up. I went back about a year ago after the renovations, and guess what no braille still.
The place in which I’d like to see more braille growth is in restaurants. I went out to eat last night, and they had no braille menu and while I could view a menu online it was not up to date. That’s a frustrating issue, because we often cannot see new products or any nutritional value. I’m trying to be healthy, and researching what I’m eating would take me years, so honestly I just guess. Yes I could go to websites and maybe stumble upon information, but who has time to seek out everything they’re eating. If a restaurant doesn’t have a braille menu I will usually find one using my IPhone. I would like to see more done for blind people being able to obtain nutritional information and up to date menus.
One source I thought I would share real quickly is a project designed to deliver directions on preparing store bought foods. Again if I buy a can of soup I can’t see the directions on how to fix the product, but this helpful website has bailed me out a few times as I learn to cook. http://www.directionsforme.org