Is Braille Relevant in 2017?

On January fourth, millions of blind people worldwide paid homage to Louis Braille on his 208th birthday. The braille system, which Louis began perfecting at the tender age of eleven, was adopted as the primary reading method of the blind by France in 1854, and started being used in the United States in 1860. Today, dynamic technological advances have caused the braille literacy rate of blind children to decline; According to National Braille Press, 12% of blind students learn braille. I wish to highlight how knowing braille impacts my daily life today, and will continue to help me in the future.

Using Braille in My First Job

In the summer of 1999, I was a freshman in high school, and held my first job as a receptionist at Collette Vacations in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Collette had over 500 employees to whom I needed to efficiently connect callers. I placed the extension list in braille, kept it in a binder, and referred to it to obtain proper contact information. As my responsibilities at Collette increased, I placed tour descriptions into braille so I could respond to customer inquiries on tour highlights.

The Value of Braille in the Workplace

Braille remains important in my employment today. I am employed by a utility company, and receive emergency calls reporting gas leaks or odors. Each call is potentially a life-threatening situation, and I read a list of safety precautions which are written in braille. Soon, I will be delivering an oral presentation as part of a promotional exam. I will have notes for my presentation in braille to help deliver the speech with ease.

The Gift of Braille Literacy

I know braille books are cumbersome, braille writers are heavy, and braille displays are expensive. However, without braille, it would have been impossible to learn proper spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Also without braille, I would not have been named to the Dean’s List at Fitchburg State University, or have recently received an award for exemplary customer service at work. As you consider whether braille is important, remember that of the 85,000 blind adults in the United States who are employed, 90% are braille literate. Louis Braille’s invention is one of the best gifts found under a Christmas tree; braille knowledge places people who are visually impaired on an equal pedestal with sighted relatives and friends.

Collage of braille literacy in workplace

Comments

Posted by Michelle RyanJan 05, 2017

That was so well written Tim. I am amazed ( but not surprised) at all of your accomplishments. I can't believe that is so difficult in this day and age to find things such as birthday cards in Braille. Keep up your writing Tim, I know it's making a difference.

Posted by becky vercolloneJan 06, 2017

Hi Tim,
Being a TVI for the past 35 years, I understand the value of braille. I am a firm believer that all VI students should have the opportunity to read and write. Braille literacy is critical to their success. We need to get this message out to all public schools who may be moving toward auditory/digital learning and disregarding the need for braille. Thanks for writing about this!

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