An open letter to the New York Times:
In the article
the question is asked: With New Technologies, Do Blind People Lose More Than They Gain? In my opinion, there is very much that we can gain, however, it should not be forgotten how much we have to lose. Technology is a great thing, I think that many of us can agree on that statement. Unfortunately, it is regularly being used as a substitute for Braille, which I cannot condone.
My Experience with Braille:
When I was five years old, I learned how to read Braille, the ingenious system of dots representing letters, numbers, music, and accents. To this day, my book shelves are still filled with volumes of Braille: Harry Potter, Shakespeare, cookbooks, and books filled with puzzles (yes, I am a crossword fan, and that book was written by New York Times’ Will Shortz, its current crossword creator). Not to be redundant, but Braille is my print, and I use it in my everyday life: a few examples include reading books, Braille notes, and public signs (I wouldn’t want to walk into the wrong bathroom). I don’t want this generation of children to grow up without knowing how to spell, with no knowledge of vocabulary, or even not understanding concepts like paragraphs, tabs, and margins. However, if it were up to Ms. Sloate, the first women interviewed in this disturbing yet interesting article written by Rachel Aviv, Braille would be “abolished”. Well this is very easy for her to say: she receives all of her news media in an audio format and she has a secretary to whom she can dictate, a luxury which most of us will never possess. I comprehend that Braille is expensive, but does that mean that this nation’s 1.3 million citizens who are blind should be deprived of knowing what a comma is?
From my experiences, I can tell you that I only personally use Braille for certain types of materials but not for others. For example, Braille is almost a necessity for foreign languages, mathematics, sciences, and music. I don’t intend to take a negative stance on technology, I really do enjoy it. In fact, I am a happy member of audible.com where I read two audio books every month, and I think that this site and many others which offer audio materials are excellent.
I am simply puzzled by one question: Do you use audio or Braille? OR? I’m sorry, but… really? Were we supposed to make a choice about that? Since when were audio and Braille mutually exclusive? For that matter, with the exponential increase in the use of technology among the blind, this does not indicate that we must eliminate the amazing Braille system. If this was a multiple choice question, I would circle all of the above. In other words, technology is excellent, but don’t let Braille die!