by Helen Hahn (Braille & Written Language Instructor at Alphapointe)
“I would like to begin by stating that I am one of the lucky ones. I was fortunate enough to have earned the majority of my education prior to the development of adaptive technology for the blind. Although, the number or the amount of materials available at that time in braille was limited, I received a very strong foundation in braille. In other words, I learned to read, write, and spell at an early age. No one told my parents that I really didn’t need to learn braille because it was faster and less expensive to listen to books, listen to the voice on a screen reader, or to just dictate my words into a machine.
Today, adaptive technology offers a wide array of options for accessing information, and fortunately, technology has made braille not only more available, but more affordable. However, as a teacher of blind and visually impaired children and adults for more than twenty-five years, I constantly have to advocate for my students to have the opportunity to learn and receive materials in a braille format, especially when I am requesting refreshable braille.
A refreshable braille display relays the information that is currently displayed on the computer screen and smart phone, and it displays it in braille. This means, that I can use my keyboard to type at a rapid rate, then I can go back and locate my cursor, and read and edit my writing. It’s so efficient and accurate, but most importantly, the refreshable braille display is the single tool that enables me to compete at a professional level with my sighted peers.
The unemployment rate for blind and visually impaired adults is high. Some blind individuals cannot even get an interview because their applications are filled with formatting errors. A refreshable braille display user knows where the cursor is at all times; a person who relies solely on a screen reader often can only guess where he/she is within a document. An individual who uses a refreshable braille display can format an accurate application for employment. Once he/she obtains the job, the refreshable braille display is job security because it helps the individual maintain a high level of accuracy and independence.
Children who are going through school listening and depending on speech screen readers are missing out on learning spelling and the rules of punctuation. For example, “meat and meet”, or “there and their”, sound the same to a listener. You must be able to read the word in print or braille in order to discern the difference. When I compare students’ work, between speech only and refreshable braille, the results, without exception, favor the refreshable braille.
In essence, I am one of the lucky ones. Besides my excellent braille skills, I own and utilize several refreshable braille devices at work and at home. I also have experienced the feelings of joy when I have been able to teach Alphapointe clients Braille and refreshable braille. It is my sincerest wish to advocate to schools, companies, and agencies on behalf of Alphapointe by providing information regarding the use of refreshable braille devices. Braille displays truly serve as an important literacy component for children and adults who use braille for their reading and writing.”
Together, with your support, we can continue to provide Braille instruction, technology training
and employment services and empower those with vision loss.
Refreshable Braille displays are assistive technology devices people who are blind use to connect to the world.
Alphapointe helps maximize the independence of our clients by providing specialized training on these devices.