Bumps on a Page
How do you make sense of all those bumps on the page? Do blind people have extra sensitive fingertips? How people who are blind can read and write Braille is a mystery to most folks. In this post, I will explain how it works, talk about the dying skill, and dispel some myths.
Let’s start with the myths. It is commonly believed that people who are blind have better hearing and a better sense of touch than those who can see. While this may be true in individual cases, the reality is that we who use our senses of touch and hearing to replace our lost sense of sight simply focus more keenly on those senses that do work.
Anyone can learn to read Braille. It is not a language, such as American Sign Language. It is simply a method of embossing letters and numbers so people who use the sense of touch can read.
Braille is not raised letters but a combination of raised dots within a six-dot cell. Imagine a domino. Now, imagine that all the dots are missing except the top left hand dot. That’s the letter A. Now imagine all the dots are missing except the two on the top. That’s the letter C. There is a pattern used to form all the letters of the alphabet, using only six dots. There are also certain combinations that represent such words as “this,” “and,” and “the,” in addition to alphabet words. The letter b, when standing alone, represents the word “but,” and the letter t, when standing alone, represents the word “that.”
I learned to read Braille when I was 18, as my vision loss became more severe through retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive eye disease. Learning that skill really changed my life. When I went to college, I took Braille notes, both from lectures and from text books. I labeled my records and tapes in Braille.Later, when I was a homemaker, I used Braille for shopping lists and labeling food items. Now, as a Toastmaster, I use Braille notes for my speeches, and as a member of my church choir, I Braille the words to the songs, so I don’t have to memorize them. When life was simpler, before I went to work full time, I took piano lessons and taught myself to read Braille music. While I have never used Braille to read for pleasure, it has allowed me to participate in situations that require having words at my fingertips.
As technology improves for people who are blind, Braille literacy seems to be on the decline. some restaurants have Braille menus, and it is possible to get brailled utility bills and documentation from government entities. A surprising number of people who are blind are not Braille readers. What is more disturbing to me is that blind children are using their high tech note-takers and cell phones instead of Braille. High tech gismos are great. I have a few of them myself, but sometimes you just need a pencil and paper. For me, that’s the same as having bumps on a page.
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Bumps on a Page