Both audio boo and Facebook channels have stimulated some great debates and they’ve been great to read and listen to. It makes my job a little easier in terms of entries for this blog and to those responsible, you have my sincere thanksJ.
Now Braille is a bit of a hobby horse of mine. As a working medium/format, a skill, a resource and a means of communication, its value is immeasurable. Why is this so when there are other options available; especially with the availability of computers, tablets and other relevant technologies.
Braille shouldn’t be learned or used at the exclusion of any other method. For one, this narrows an individual’s potential to learn and also limits the number of skills that they can gain in life. However, Braille offers in terms of education, literacy and access what print does for those that can see. In terms of development, this is active learning because getting a clear picture of how words are formed, how sentences are constructed and how they sound in your mind rather than in the voice of a screen reader, can help positively with future learning. Bring in other methods such as audio and computer technology along the way to enhance this learning, but Braille must be seen as this most important element; especially in early years, in developing literacy and learning skills.
In addition to this, when you have the Braille skills, reading can be a lot of fun. Personally, I like reading Braille books, but also I listen to talking books and really like the kindle ap on my ipad; a huge step forward in enabling us to access as many books as possible. However, where Braille stands out against the other options is that to like a book, I don’t have to get used to voice reading it too. I’ve had a number of books from the national library on DAISY CD which have been ones I’ve looked forward to reading, but I’ve had to send back because I just couldn’t get used to the readers voice. A shame, but a big thumbs up for Braille.
Braille is not for everyone and as a Braille teacher I’ve seen this quite a bit. However, its relevance has been sadly underplayed by many in the last few years. I just hope that its benefits, qualities and relevance are realised for years to come and that at least in education, children are given the positive start in learning that Braille can bring. By taking away braille, it would literally be like taking away a pen, paper and printed book away from a sighted person.
For more discussion on Braille, feel free to visit the Braille support group on Facebook.