WBU-AP(Senior group) Fine Work
Braille in Contemporary Era
Indonesia Ramauli Angelica Butar--Butar (26, Female)

Since the beginning of my existence, I have faced various kinds of challenges and experiences. When I lost my sight, I felt my motion and distance had become frozen in time. Fortunately, my dream of discovering the wider world remained strong. I was able to keep up my high spirits through the inspiration of Louis Braille, whose name has been eternalised by his own invention, the Braille writing system.
With the knowledge of Braille which I had acquired in the early years of my schooling, I was able to "see" and to understand the reality of life. It gave me the confidence to sit together with the sighted pupils in the class-room. Using the Braille letters to read and write without sight supplied me with the ammunition to penetrate the darkness and it helped me to fulfill my ambition.
With Braille, I could visualise beauty and share my ideas through Braille books. Everything became real and transparent in my efforts to have my hopes and intentions realised.
One day, however, as I journeyed on into life, I began to feel that I was being left behind in the changing times. Braille, which I had solely relied upon in the past, no longer seemed to be flexible enough to carry me through the new era of changes. Now I discovered that the 6-4ot Braille system had its limitations in terms of space, time and energy because of its static size. Furthermore, the dots were very limited in their ability to help me in the formation of symbols and pictures.
Fortunately, I was able to keep pace with the modern revolution due to the rise of the promising and sophisticated technological advancements and inventions, especially the voice software. With the help of voice-assisted programmes such as Talks and JAWS installed in the computers and new electronic gadgets, I am now able to access the electronic media, operate different kinds of gadgets and recognise the various signages in public facilities.
My days have also become much more colourful. I no longer need to spend a lot of time transcribing print books into Braille. With the help of JAWS, I can get subject materials from the Internet, as well as E-files and E-books. I can complete the assignments given by my teachers and lecturers. I can even easily handle my presentations in Latin letters.
My scope of activities in public spaces have also become more uninhibited and less cumbersome. I feel so free as I no longer need to lug along with me some bulky Braille books. I do not have to worry if no one is available to read the books that I have to re-write, and I need not wait for someone to help read the SMS on my cellular phone. All these can be done easily with the help of software technology.
Thus, in the presence of advanced technology, I began to take Braille for granted. Then, one day, I entered a lift in a hotel and discovered the Braille letters on the buttons which acted as a guide for the blind guests. Likewise, I found that the keys of the ATM machine were equipped with Braille letters. This enabled me to identify very quickly the various functions and to follow the instructions given by the talking guide.
In fact, the accessible environment is not always synonymous with talking technology. For example, I feel that it would not be appropriate, proper or even ethical to bring along a talking gadget to the class-room, the meeting-room and, in particular, a place of worship. Indeed, when I have to appear formal in public, I would prefer to wear my Braille watch as this allows me to concentrate and focus attention on the audience without being bothered by the talking sound. Only by touching the Braille dots on my watch will make my presentation more normative before the audience.
Thus, Braille is still relevant in our contemporary era. Guide-books in Braille are provided on the plane. Maps, globes, packaging, and doors in public spaces are equipped with Braille. Such kinds of accessibility are very economical because they do not require electricity.
Moreover, the innovators of today have started developing electronic media gadgets that can be accessed through Braille, such as the Braille Memo and the Pin Disk Braille display. For electronic devices and facilities such as the elevators, escalators and ATM machines, both Braille and talking software complement rather than compete against one another. Braille functions as a quick guide while talking software provide the information details.
 
Indeed, the blind in contemporary communities and societies can have their needs and desires fulfilled through the complementary use of technology and Braille. While Braille is the basic tool for gaining functional literacy, it can work hand in hand with technology to facilitate the blind in living a normal and independent life with meaning and dignity.


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