Braille Usage: Perspectives of Legally Blind Adults and Policy Implications for School Administrators

by Frederic K. Schroeder

The purpose of this study was to determine whether a Braille problem exists from the perspective of legally blind adults. While American Printing House for the Blind statistics document a decline in the number of Braille readers over the past thirty years, there is no empirical evidence to show whether this decline constitutes a problem.

The researcher employed the qualitative research method of in-depth case study interviews. Through intensive interviewing of eight legally blind adults, the investigator found that for some legally blind adults, Braille represents competence, independence and equality. For these legally blind adults, it appeared the mastery and use of Braille played a central role in the development of self-identity. All individuals who expressed strong positive views about Braille described themselves as blind people. This included one subject who had a considerable amount of remaining vision and who identified herself as a non-Braille reader. All of these subjects appear to have moved beyond the social "stigma" associated with blindness and learned to regard themselves as competent, capable blind persons.

The data also revealed that legally blind individuals who reported neutral attitudes about Braille had several characteristics in common. All had some remaining vision; all described themselves as sighted individual with a vision problem, rather than as blind persons; and all to some extent avoided visual tasks. Issues of self-identity and the desire not to be associated with blindness may have as much to do with whether a legally blind individual uses Braille as does the assertion that he or she does not need Braille.

Thus, this study found that the issue is not just whether a particular individual needs Braille or does not need Braille. Identity and self-esteem have implications for the policy issue of whether the decline in Braille usage constitutes a problem.

The above paragraphs are taken from Frederic K. Schroeder's doctoral dissertation.

Following is a list of the parts of the dissertation which may be viewed on the screen: