WBU-NAC(Senior Group) Fine Work
The Importance of Braille in Today’s Technological World
Canada Charmaine Co (26, Female)
In today’s technological world, it can be very easy for one to assume that braille is no longer an essential skill to be acquired by blind individuals. The reason is that the invention of screen reading programs has enabled them to read and write printed materials on either their computers, tablets, or mobile phones. However, I believe that braille is still an essential skill to be acquired in spite of these advancements in technology. In the essay that follows, I will state three reasons as to why I hold this belief.
The first reason is that the act of listening to text being read aloud does not prove to be an efficient method for acquiring literacy skills such as spelling. Even though screen readers are able to spell out individual words, it takes extra time for the blind to access this kind of information. The reason is that when they are simply listening to a document being spoken aloud, the screen reader will not automatically spell each individual word that is being read. Instead, it will only read through the document word by word unless it is asked to spell a word letter for letter. But if a blind person were to read the document in braille as opposed to listening to it, he or she would immediately be able to identify the spelling of each individual word. For example, consider the word “Fahrenheit”. If a blind person were learning how to spell this word for the very first time, it seems that he or she would not be able to efficiently learn its spelling by simply listening to the word being spoken aloud by a screen reader. Even though the screen reader would speak the word aloud, it would not clearly indicate the spelling of it because the word is spelled quite differently from the way it is spoken. However, suppose that this same person were to read the word “Fahrenheit” in braille. If this were the case, he or she would be able to immediately identify the letters that are used to spell it. Therefore, this example illustrates that braille must be learned in order for blind individuals to effectively develop their literacy skills.
In addition to fostering the acquisition of literacy skills, braille enables blind individuals to quickly detect changes in typeface that may occur in documents. For instance, it would enable them to quickly identify words or passages that have been either bolded or italicized. Although one could argue that they could just as easily obtain this information through a screen reader, this method does not seem to be the most efficient one for accomplishing this task. For example, suppose that a blind person was presented with a document that contained italicized passages. If this person were to use a screen reader to read this document, he or she would not immediately be aware of the fact that certain passages had been italicized. The reason is that the screen reader would read the document aloud without indicating any changes in typeface. If this person had the desire to obtain this information, he or she would require extra time in order to do so. But if this individual were given the same document in braille, the italicized passages would immediately be visible to him or her. Therefore, this example illustrates that braille is essential for detecting any changes in typeface that may occur in documents.
Finally, braille enables blind individuals to read documents while engaging with audio materials at the same time. If they were to read documents using screen readers, this task would be much more difficult to accomplish. In order to illustrate this notion, it seems that it would be relevant for me to cite one of my own personal experiences:
During the first four years of my undergraduate degree, I did not have access to a braille notetaking device that would enable me to take notes as the professor lectured. Therefore, I resorted to using my laptop and screen reader to take notes instead. At first, this method proved to be sufficient for me. But as I continued with my studies, I felt that it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to listen to both my professor and screen reader at the same time. The reason is that the act of listening to my screen reader was preventing me from being completely focused on my professor’s lecture. But in my fifth year of studies, I managed to obtain a portable braille notetaking device that would enable me to take notes anywhere I went. As a result, I was able to effectively take notes in braille while listening to the professor’s lecture at the same time. Needless to say, I was thrilled with this arrangement because it allowed me to be as fully functional as the other sighted students in my classes.
If I were to apply this personal experience to my belief in braille acquisition, I would argue that the invention of screen reading programs does not imply that braille is no longer a necessary skill to be acquired by blind individuals. As is evident from my personal example, it can enable such individuals to read documents while interacting with audio materials at the same time.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that screen reading programs cannot act as a replacement for a blind person’s ability to read and write in braille. The reason is that even the most advanced screen readers are very limited in their ability to foster the development of literacy skills. In addition, braille enables blind individuals to quickly identify changes in typeface that may occur in documents. Furthermore, screen readers do not provide an efficient method for reading documents while engaging with audio materials at the same time. Based on these reasons, I strongly believe that the ability to read and write in braille is just as important as the ability to read and write in print.
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