[nfb-talk] FW: [nfbwatlk] Are smartphones killing Braille?, The Week, February 15 2012

Humberto Avila avila.bert.humberto2 at gmail.com
Fri Feb 17 00:27:17 UTC 2012


-----Original Message-----
From: nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
Behalf Of Nightingale, Noel
Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2012 4:24 PM
To: nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org
Subject: [nfbwatlk] Are smartphones killing Braille?, The Week,February 15


Are smartphones killing Braille?
A raft of fancy new gadgets let blind people listen to text. Is this
contributing to "Braille illiteracy"?
posted on February 15, 2012

For 200 years, Braille has helped people without eyesight to read and live
more independently. But some educators now fear that smartphones and other
new technologies have made it easier for young people to get by without
learning the system, leading to a surge in "Braille
raille-under-siege-as-blind-turn-to-smartphones?ft=1&f=1001>." How serious
is the problem? Here, a brief guide:

How was Braille invented?
Braille - an alphabet in which each letter is represented by a unique
pattern of raised dots that the blind can read by touch - was developed by
Louis Braille<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16984742> in France in
1821. Inspired by a failed military "night writing" code, his revolutionary
system allowed blind people to read independently for the first time in
history. Braille was widely adopted among blind people in the 19th and early
20th centuries. As governments encourage or require the system in more and
more public settings (especially in Europe), Braille letters can be found on
everything from elevator control panels to restaurant menus.

How many Americans use Braille?
These days, only about 10 percent of blind people can read it, a significant
drop from the early 1900s. The decline began years ago as recorded materials
became increasingly available. "When am I ever going to use Braille? I'm
never going to sit down and read a novel in Braille," Jackie Owellet, who
lost her sight as an adult, tells
under-siege-as-blind-turn-to-smartphones?ft=1&f=1001>. "You know, I'd rather
download an audio book from iTunes."

And smartphones are contributing to this decline?
Absolutely. With the rise in smartphones, which can be equipped with
screenreaders that turn text into spoken language, the decline in Braille
literacy is accelerating.

So will smartphones mean the end of Braille?
It's too early to say for sure. But there is a twist: iPhones and iPads also
have the potential to make Braille more accessible than ever. Compact
electronic "Braille Displays" (connected to a screen via Bluetooth) can
translate digital characters into Braille using grids of plastic nubs that
rise and fall as the text progresses (See a demonstration video
here<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gd10syL5RLY>.) "The iPhone is the
official phone of blindness," one blind woman tells Britain's

Sources: BBC News<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16984742>,

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