[nfbwatlk] Braille Monitor
b.butterfly at comcast.net
Sun Mar 3 16:45:27 UTC 2013
Ok, I am a little behind reading my Braille monitor. "But boy howdy" A
phrase I shamelessly stoll from Buddy), look who is in the Braille Monitor.
[PHOTO CAPTION: Buddy Brannan]
Is Braille Still Relevant?
by Buddy Brannan
From the Editor: Buddy Brannan is a member of the National Federation
of the Blind and serves as the vice president of the Erie chapter of the
National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania.
Most of the articles printed in the Braille Monitor are written
specifically for our magazine; some we reprint from other publications.
Some items come to our attention through email posts and, though not
intended as articles, they articulate something so important that it should
be captured and shared with our readers.
The following email remarks by Buddy Brannan, which were circulated
in June 2012, reflect the frustration some of us feel acutely when a method
for reading and writing using the sense of touch is greeted with skepticism
while a method for getting information through the eyes is accepted without
question. Here is one blind man's reaction to the notion that audio devices
may be robbing the sighted of the ability to spell while simultaneously
being proposed as the way to free blind people from the need to learn
Perkins just asked in an email they sent out if Braille is still
relevant in a high tech world. They said the answer was a resounding yes,
as it certainly should be, but here is my response which I sent to Perkins
and posted to my blog:
First, do I love my Perkins Brailler? Of course I do. I don't really
want to talk about that, though. Rather I want to address the question you
posed: is Braille still relevant in a technological world? Of course you
got the answer, and in my view the correct one, but what disturbs me is
that the question was even asked in the first place. I think it is the
wrong question. In short, what happens if you replace the word "Braille"
with the word "print"? Does the question change? Does the relevance of the
question change with the medium? Does the answer change? What about the
perceptions of the question--do those change?
A couple of weeks ago, I was a fill-in host on the Serotek podcast,
where we discussed an article about the decline in spelling skills among
today's youth. However, I didn't take away what was probably the intended
message of the article. I took away a double standard. Now that it's
sighted children who use print and are losing the ability to spell, form
proper sentences, and so on, we have a tragedy, and our electronics-centric
lifestyle is to blame. Think of texting as the most often blamed culprit.
Yet where was this outcry for our blind kids twenty years ago, when as now
we were told that talking computers and recorded textbooks are good enough?
Double standard? Why is it, do you suppose, that learning to read print and
having access to print are essential to teach sighted children the
fundamentals of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but such skills are
adequately taught to our blind kids with talking computers and recorded
textbooks? Or is it that our blind kids and their skills and abilities in
these areas just aren't important enough to give the same amount of
attention or priority? Why is--pulling a number out of the air here--a 10
percent illiteracy rate among the sighted a national tragedy, yet a 10
percent literacy rate among the blind acceptable?
If you gather that I'm angry, you're right. I am absolutely livid.
This is only one example of this double standard where blind and sighted
people are concerned. The thing is, it's a huge example, and it doesn't
even seem as though we ourselves always recognize it for what it is,
because we still ask questions like "Is Braille still relevant?" As long as
literacy is relevant to gainful employment, career advancement, educational
opportunities, and all the other things life has to offer, the answer
should be obvious.
As I said, you're asking the wrong question. There are probably a lot
of right questions, but the one that comes to mind, setting aside the
obvious one, "Why is this double standard acceptable?" is, "How do we get
Braille into the hands of more kids and get more of our kids learning it,
and more of our teachers teaching it?" Let's start there; there's much,
much more that we should be asking as follow-ups to that.
Parenthetically, I note that the word "Brailler" was flagged by my
spell checker. Moreover, it was autocorrected to "broiler." That speaks
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