Tag Archives: youth

The importance of braille.

With this blog I’ve said and put in to words a lot of different experiences that I’ve had. I want to talk about something important that a lot of people ask about, but I really haven’t put in to words. Is braille still relevant today?
 
I first got in to this conversation when I went to Ball State. Ethan and Whitney asked me about it after reading an article that someone wrote questioning if braille should still be taught. My opinion has gone back and forth on this, but with my new job especially where I am working with the first ever low-cost display my opinion has changed again.
I would start here would you want your kid to only learn by speech? If your child is sighted I am going to guess your answer would be no. Why are we trying to dictate that blind children would be illiterate? I hear things every day when I sit down with my IPhone or my computer, but being able to read what I wrote is life changing. I want you to take what I am about to say and think about it. I’m 31 years old, and for the first time writing this on my couch I can view my writing. I can see commas, question marks, periods, quotations, and etc. I’ve never had this access before.
 
The reason being is cost. The IPhone came out in 2009 and mainstreamed accessibility by putting Voiceover on every device. As a blind consumer I can go by a phone and turn on speech and use it with no additional cost. I had access to a braille display in college, but it eventually broke and a new one was $3000 and that wasn’t in the budget. Imagine just to be able to read what you wrote if they charged you $3000 for paper and a pencil, so that left me with speech. A lot of my childhood I had speech in everything, but braille really hadn’t become electronic yet so I missed a lot because it wasn’t available.
 
The fact that in a month or so that schools and parents will be able to buy a braille display for around $500 is huge. That is still a lot, but it puts braille in more children’s hands. My dad and mom used to joke but were serious when I went to school in Kindergarten that I had the most expensive backpack. I had a Braille N Speak 640 which was $1500, but it only talked there was no braille output. I went and observed some kids playing with these braille displays and it was amazing. My niece and nephews all have access to IPads or Kindles, but if your blind and a child you don’t really get exposed to braille until your school aged. My 2-year-old Nephew can point at a Netflix logo and say Thomas the Train, but a blind child doesn’t have that ability.
At work in the mornings I usually spend some time talking with Ken. He reminds me of an older version of myself, but smarter. Well maybe I’ll get there. We talk a lot about parents with blind children, and how they try and do too much limiting the things that child could learn. I get the privilege to work with Larry who created one of the first screen readers for Windows, but he cuts his own grass. Ken works on a lot of things in his house. I never learned these things. My parents were really good about letting me experience things, but on some things they still say to me I will help you.
 
One thing I’ve found challenging is doctors’ visits. When I was a kid my mom would fill out the paperwork, and I’d see the doctor. The other day I went in for a toe surgery, and the lady hands me a card with an appointment time and says you can give this to whoever drives you. Really? Again people make me feel like I can’t possibly do something unless I have a sighted person managing things. Maybe that’s an extreme view, but it’s frustrating. My parents doing that when I was little sheltered me from these types of attitudes. Let your kid try things, make mistakes, and then help them learn how to correct it. Being a helicopter parent does nothing useful for your child. One day you will die then what?
 
Sorry back to braille. As an adult I really haven’t had the opportunity to read a lot of braille books, because of convenience. With this display I can pair it to my IPhone and read a book from Amazon or Bookshare. I have things at my finger tips that I’ve never been able to have before. It highly offends me when sighted people discuss the merits of braille and it’s use. Should I do the same for print? After all you can get your newspaper on any device why do you prefer getting an actual copy? I don’t think people stop and think about how much reading helps you with spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and etc.
 
The other thing is graphics are coming a long way also. Ken is in charge of a display that refreshes graphics. Imagine being able to feel long division on a graphical braille display! It’s coming. We’re going to be seeing in the not too far future huge advancements in teaching math to blind children which opens the door to a lot of things. I’m excited to test that display when it’s done. The other thing is you can draw on it. I can make a shape or even draw what I think something looks like then someone sighted can draw me what something actually looks like. That display for now will be out of my price range, but as the Orbit braille display is doing to price maybe in a few versions the graphical displays can also come down. I think as a braille reader were entering an exciting time period for being a braille user.
 
I am doing okay. I am getting better with the cane I don’t feel like a novice anymore. A lot of it is coming back. I think about Robin every day probably always will. I really enjoy the on this day feature on Facebook, because I would write in things and include her so whenever I see one it helps. I still can’t believe how fast her health declined.
 
My friend Denny came in to town last weekend and we had a lot of fun. Abby, Denny, and I all went to the Bats game Friday against the Reds. They did not have the game on the radio, but we just talked the entire time so it was still a lot of fun. Cold, but fun. Sunday we went to Abby’s and she made us lunch it was great. We also sat outside for the first time this year for a few hours. It’s funny we listened to baseball and played Dice World on the IPhone.
 
Abby and I are doing well. It’s hard to believe with each month that passes were nearing 2 years together. Her dog Bancroft has really gotten to be closer to me now that Robin is gone. Not that she wouldn’t allow it, but they both are really close to their owners. I’ll never forget the last weekend with Robin she followed me everywhere she wanted to be in the same place as me all of the time I think she knew. The MLB season has started, so I’m pretty excited to see where teams end up.