The 4th January was World Braille Day which takes place on Louis Braille’s birthday. He invented braille, so it felt like a good time to write a blog post on the topic.
My name is Holly, I’m the author of the blog Life of a Blind Girl. I’m really excited to be a regular blogger for the VICTA Parent Portal. I hope that sharing my experiences of living with a vision impairment helps you wonderful parents in some way.
Some people think braille is outdated and others think it is an essential skill to have. I personally feel that it is an important skill and can be extremely useful today, even with the wide range of assistive technology available. Additionally, there are many pieces of assistive tech that encompass braille and technology, giving blind and visually impaired people even more flexibility, choice and independence.
Even though I use assistive technology, I still use braille all the time. I use it to read information on medication, important letters and documents, meeting notes and presentations. It can also be useful when out and about as some restaurants and cafes have braille menus. Braille is found in many public places, such as on doors and buttons in lifts. Braille may help enhance literacy skills such as spelling, which is extremely important as literacy plays a vital part in a person’s life, especially in regards to academia.
For me, braille is something that still plays a part in my life even though I use technology. I have the best of both worlds. Granted, I don’t use it as much as I used to, but it is a skill that I couldn’t imagine my life without.
Braille is a convenient way of reading and writing. With braille notetakers and braille displays widely available on the market, some may argue it is even more convenient today than ever before.
How braille has impacted my life
I started to learn braille when I started primary school, around 4 or 5 years old. I thought that was the norm for blind and visually impaired people, until I got older and realised that in fact it wasn’t, and I was lucky to have the education I had. Many people don’t learn braille and rely solely on other methods such as assistive technology. Throughout school I used a combination of braille and a laptop. For certain lessons, such as maths, I just used braille whilst in the majority of lessons, I used a combination of both. I also learned to touch-type at primary school, something that I now know is a skill that many people don’t have.
There were times when I didn’t see the benefits of using braille. During my A-levels I used various methods of revising and often felt overwhelmed with the amount of braille I had in folders (it literally filled my bedroom). However, I do think this could have been prevented if I’d had access to assistive technology such as a braille display or a braille notetaker.
When I first got to University, I didn’t use braille as much. However in my second year I got a braille display which transformed braille for me. I was then able to proofread assignments and read journal articles, as well as lecture slides. This piece of tech has been invaluable for me ever since and really showed that I still needed braille.
Do I still use braille today?
I’ve been in my job for just over 2 years and still use braille. Through Access To Work I got a braille display and use it for reading materials, I also use it in presentations and workshops. From time to time I do find myself needing hard copies of braille.
I work in the field of assistive tech and have a real passion for technology, but I still feel like there is a need for braille.
I believe braille is a unique skill to have. It makes you stand out but is something that you can use all your life. I’m also able to read braille in French and German as well as music, and I think these are achievements that I should be extremely proud of.
Braille may not be the best way for everything, such as reading for example. Large books can be a huge number of volumes so audiobooks and eBooks may be a good alternative. I use audiobooks and eBooks and love that way of reading so I don’t think that braille is the right format for everything. But there are so many advantages and I don’t think that it should be forgotten about or dismissed.
Braille plays an important role in my life and I know that it does for others as well. People should be given the choice whether to learn braille or not. Braille isn’t the right option for everyone, but we shouldn’t discourage people from learning it if they want to.
I’ve always had a choice whether I want to use braille or a laptop and that still stands today. I can decide which method works for me, just like sighted people can choose printed material or a laptop. I would encourage parents to fight for their child’s rights if they think braille would be beneficial to them. Be strong and stand up for what you believe in. It can make a huge difference to their lives; it has had a huge impact on mine.
Braille is a skill that I’m proud of and something that I want others to be proud of too.
The VICTA Parent Portal has a wealth of information for parents raising a visually impaired child. For more information on:
Assistive Technology: Visit our technology page
Online Blogs: Visit our support pages