I just Emailed the following to Perkins in response to their question: “Is braille still relevant in a high tech world”? I think it speaks for itself. Would love your comments, so keep those cards and letters coming.
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 ask: 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 thee first place. It is, I think, 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 medium change? Does the answer change? What about the perceptions of the question–do those change?
A couple weeks ago, I was a fill-in host on the Serotalk 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 20 years ago, when, as now, we are told that talking computers and recorded textbooks are good enough? Double standard much? Why is it, do you suppose, that learning to read print and having access to print is 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% illiteracy rate among the sighted a national tragedy, yet a 10% literacy rate among the blind acceptable?
If you get 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 ask things like, “Is braille still relevant”. So 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.
So, as I said, you’re asking the wrong question. There are probably a lot of “right” questions, but the one that comes to my mind, putting aside the “Why is this double standard acceptable” question, 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 volumes.