IS BRAILLE STILL USEFUL? Understanding braille on International Braille Day, 2022

Understanding braille on International Braille Day, 2022

We have all heard or read about the inventor of the Braille script, Louis Braille. Louis was born on January 4 in 1809 in France and became blind after a childhood accident at the age of 3. But, he quickly mastered his new way of living. When Louis was only 15 years old, he created the Braille reading and writing system based on Charles Barbier’s night writing system (a note-taking system he invented of embossed dots to represent sounds).

The tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols using six dots has not only been essential for people with visual impairment to read and learn but it is essential in the context of education, freedom of expression and opinion, as well as social inclusion. Learning braille means that blind and partially sighted people can enjoy reading for life. But the question is in this era where computer technology has replaced all the traditional forms of learning, is braille still important?

While there is no doubt that computers have transformed the way of living for the better, not just for sighted people but also for people with visual impairments, but one might be shocked to know that it has not been able to reduce the importance of braille literacy.

Nibin Mathew, one of the research associates of IITB and a recipient of the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ICT) Scholarship shares his views on braille. As a person with visual impairment, Nibin shares that “being braille literate plays a crucial role in the life of a person with visual impairment”. Nibin shares that while assistive technology like screen readers are helpful, people using those are passive listeners as they only hear what the screen reader speaks. When it comes to reading and writing braille, one is actively involved in the process by using the senses of touch, thinking and reading.

Nibin further shares that as a braille user as well as a screen reader user, he feels learning is better when done through braille as one registers the information better while being quick to recall and remember what has been read using braille script.

Though we have come far in technological advancements, there is no doubt about the role braille literacy plays in the life of a person with visual impairment.