National Braille Week
To celebrate national Braille week, we spoke with a number of people about their relationship with Braille and the impact that it's had on their lives.
When I called Dave to talk about his relationship with braille he was busy negotiating through a throng of people, battling uncooperative automatic doors, before he finally managed to find a strong, constant phone signal. It was only after we’d spent a few minutes laughing at how awkward this had become that I remembered that Dave had total sight loss.
“I’m just very confident”, Dave explained. “I know what I’m doing and just go for it.” It’s a philosophy that has worked for Dave for decades and is holding him in very good stead. It’s something that he thinks is linked to his use of braille.
Dave has been using braille since he was “a very young kid”, and used to plough through the National Library, reading anything he could. “It’s incredibly fast. It really opens up whole worlds of literacy for those who can’t see.”
He used braille all the way throughout university but occasionally found that it could be frustrating. “I did a computer science degree. But sometimes the braille books they had in the library were overly simple. It was like going from reading Tolstoy to Humpty Dumpty.” However, he’s knows things have changed and there is a far wider reading list available in braille.
Dave has known and been assisted by Vista for a while, especially as he now is far more reliant upon technology to increase accessibility, supplying him with accessible clocks and watches. “I rarely use braille at work, I have speaking software on my computer instead. The least different you look at work the better”. Though never an issue, he knows that if he needs specialist equipment “you’ll be the first to go if times get tough.”
But at home he uses braille easily and as second nature, with some unexpected upsides. “It’s great for privacy. All my bank statements come in braille. Hardly anyone else can read them!”
Braille, like every language, is constantly evolving, sometimes for the better and sometimes it makes things more awkward. “I don’t like the new contractions they use. It slows things down, [they’re] too similar to some of the old single symbol words.” He dislikes the changes but understands the reasoning behind them all, ‘Give me a couple years, I’ll be fine.”
“If you’re a child [with sight loss], you should learn braille. Braille education is a necessity. Modern Braille is fast, very fast, and relatively simple to learn.”
“I wouldn’t be the person I am without braille.”
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