Braille Monitor February 1985
by Nancy Scott
(Note: The editors of Slate and Style (the official publication of the Writers Division of the NFB) are Loraine Stayer and Nancy Scott. The division is becoming increasingly active, and its meetings at national conventions are attracting interested participants. The following article appeared in the November, 1984, edition of Slate and Style):
In the realm of communication for blind people the current emphasis is on the spoken word: talking books, cassettes, radio reading services, computers with speech output. This emphasis has one major drawback: It promotes the attitude that Braille no longer fills an important role for blind people. As a writer and Braille user, I would like to dispel this notion.
Braille has provided benefits to me which I could not derive from verbal sources. It is the only method which gives me the exact information to be found in print sources. Braille allows for the physical act of reading and writing, which, for me at least, is different than listening to or speaking into a tape recorder. I have real interaction with the words. I can read passages at random and in any order. I determine emphasis on particular words as I, or the writer, wish (the difference between, "I like you," and I like you"). Editing is easier in Braille. Since the punctuation and paragraphing are there for me to read, no questions arise about them, as they often do in verbal formats, and no special notation need be made in explanation.
Reference materials are easier for me to handle in Braille. Have you ever read a disc magazine and wanted to write to someone, only to find you don't know how to spell the street name or the name of the person? Or have you perhaps listened to a poem and wondered how the lines were set forth and what punctuation was used? Are you often left wondering how words are spelled? These questions can't arise when you use Braille. All words are spelled, and all format and punctuation at your fingertips.
Certain other types of information, such as phone number and address files or recipes, are especially handy to have in Braille. There are also simple identification tasks: You can label almost anything in Braille (cans, pills, appliances, tapes, records, file folders, just to name a few). This use of Braille alone has kept my household from approaching total chaos.
If you still aren't convinced that Braille has a place in your life, let's talk technology. There are many computers and adaptive aids that can make Braille more accessible, less expensive, and in the case of paperless Braille, very easy to store. This technology has made large advances in just a few years and is bound to be even more innovative in the future.
Braille provides the same immediacy of information for the blind that print provides for the sighted, whether we are talking about books, or computer readouts. In short, Braille is the only way to gain the exact information in essentially the same way as a print user gains it. It is the only system that provides a physical interaction with the written word and allows for instant perception of format and letter by letter content. Braille is the closest you can get to the literal literacy that can be achieved with print, and this literacy--or the lack of it--will leave its mark in every area of your life.