There has been some debate in recent years as to whether Braille will eventually be replaced by new technology such as screen and print reading devices, which convert text into spoken words. We caught up with IT Trainer Brian Manning who highlights that technology is here to enhance the Braille reading experience, and not replace it.
While screen reading and other assistive technology solutions have hugely impacted on almost every aspect of the lives of blind and vision impaired people, the simple reality is that we as a community do very much need the teaching of and proliferation of Braille.
Children who are born blind, for example still very much need to be thought literacy and numeracy and the best medium for this learning is very definitely Braille. People with dual sensory loss require refreshable braille as a basic tool of communication to promote their greater independence and for their inclusion in their communities and in their broader everyday lives.
Blind professionals find Braille invaluable when making presentations or delivering on reports or other professional
findings. Blind graduates for example were encouraged to learn Braille by the UCC disability support office up to recently. Again there is a very strong argument made by Braille users that they prefer the tactile feel of a book they are reading over its electronic alternative; somewhat similar to the same argument in the sighted community between a hard copy book over a kindle.
The above are just some examples as to why Braille still very much has its place in a world totally consumed by assistive technology and it can be argued that Braille has now in fact embraced the aforementioned technology. I speak of course of the digital braille note takers and braille displays which a lot of us are using to huge effect in our professional and personal lives. To say nothing of the dot watch.
So, in short, my contention is that both mediums Braille and assistive technology do not work to each other’s exclusion, but conversely very much complement each other. I stand before you as the personification of someone that uses assistive technology and teaches it on a daily basis, but as anyone that knows me will attest, I am still quite dotty.
For more on this discussion, check out the NCBI podcast where June Tinsley interviews Brian Manning about how Braille complements advances in technology. It is available on Spotify, itunes or wherever you get your podcasts.