Braille is dying out - does it matter?

For centuries, to be blind was to have an oral culture, with no other senses involved - not sight, of course, but also not touch. As the New York Times reported a while back, “Some tried to read letters carved in wood or wax, formed by wire or outlined in felt with pins. Dissatisfied with such makeshift methods, Louis Braille, a student at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, began studying a cipher language of bumps, called night writing, developed by a French Army officer so soldiers could send messages in the dark.”

But new technology like text-to-speech is reducing the number of blind people who can read Braille well. Fewer than 10 percent are now fluent in Braille.

Some blind folks are able to perform amazing feats that would seem out of reach of most sighted people as well, like one Wall Street executive who has “an assistant reads The Financial Times to her while she uses her computer’s text-to-speech system to play The Economist aloud. She devotes one ear to the paper and the other to the magazine.” Could you hear two magazines being read aloud simultaneously?

Read more about the blind and Braille.




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