[AI] your thoughts on braille

Viraj Kafle vkafle at gmail.com
Wed Jun 4 23:14:18 EDT 2008


I think much has already been said regarding the relevance of Braille
despite the rapid spread of technology in the context of the accessibility
requirements of the visually challenged. The issue, I think, should not be
restricted merely within the question of its relevance. The problem is
that very little attention is being paid to promote this system. Yes, the
trainers do neglect it because, at least apparently, it appears less useful.
But the reason why the trainers cannot look beyond what appears on the
surface is precisely the fact that no attempt is being made to make Braille
materials easily and readily available for its users. Such attempts may
include simplifying the Braille system so that reading and writing through
it could become less time consuming and enjoyable. Portability of Braille
materials also could be increased this way. If we have journeyed from the
age of bulky supercomputers to today's palmtops, can't we have somewhat same
evolution in Braille as well? For instance, a contracted system of Braille
writing was invented a couple of decades back that contributed a lot to the
simplification of Braille reading and writing. To my knowledge, however,
such attempts seem to be at standstill today, whereas the need is to work
further on such inventions. And this is where, I think, technology can play
its role in promoting Braille instead of in virtually eliminating it. If
research and work towards the appropriation of Braille in accordance with
today's requirements do not move with proportional pace, the time when
Braille would become a subject of history may not be a distant nightmare.
But it shouldn't be. What we can do, on our individual capacities, is to use
it as much as possible along with, of course, other advanced means of
technology. Let the day come when each and every visually challenged person
has access to computers. It would be all the better if the same level of
accessibility can be facilitated for Braille as well by
modifying, simplifying and appropriating according to our
modern requirements. Braille restricts communication within the visually
challenged only, but that would only further legitimise our unique identity.

On 6/4/08, Subramani L <lsubramani at deccanherald.co.in> wrote:
> Folks:
> Appologies for the lengthy mail.
> A couple of weeks from now 'Sahana', a trust in Bangalore is holding its
> workshop to emphasise the importance of using Braille by the visually
> challenged, despite widespread availability of technology. I thought
> this could be a right occasion to write (in my newspaper) about how
> Braille teaching/learning and its wider use is fairing against the
> increasing number of accessible technology/devices. In this regard I
> would like you all to share your opinions or personal experience on
> Braille learning or use in your daily lives. Giving a few pointer below
> for you all to think. I request you to contribute to this topic with
> relevant and thought provoking messages, both for and against Braille.
> -The trustee Mr Varadarajan with whom I spoke, doesn't dismiss the
> prominent role technology is playing in making the VC employable and
> compete with others in the mainstream. But, he feels in the excitement
> created by computer/technology, promotion and retention of Braille as
> the primary medium of reading/writing for the VCs has been ignored or
> given second preference at best.  Who is responsible for this? Do you
> think trainers neglect Braille or do you think the urgency they need to
> show in getting employment for the VCs justifies any neglect they may
> show towards Braille?
> -Though people like Mr Varadarajan have been stressing the importance of
> learning Braille, the wide ranging application of technology has
> virtually eliminated the need for the VCs to go through the pains of
> learning, or, writing in Braille. This, in many ways, is comparable to
> the so-called art of letter writing which is almost extinct thanks to
> PCs, laptops and mobilephones. So, do you think it is pratcial for the
> VCs to adopt to technology at the expense of Braille?
> -Of course, the fact remains that Braille is still relevant for 90 or
> more percent of VCs who have virtually no access to computer. But, given
> that NGOs and training institutes have started to address the access
> problem and, hopefully, in a few years time almost all VCs will have
> access, do you think Braille can be consigned safely to the museum?
> -There are also attempts to incorporate Braille in technologies with the
> advent of refreshable Braille systems, Braille keyboards and output
> devices. Given that this would still restrict communication only between
> the VCs and will not fully help interaction with others in the
> mainstream, can we still look Braille as the most relevant medium for
> us? (Please feel free to contribute your own views independent of these
> points)
> Regards,
> Subramani
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