Thursday, April 16, 2015

I am Going to Learn Braille

Since losing my sight I have often  been asked by people, "Do you read Braille?" It is as if they think blind people instantly know how to read Braille as a sort of gift in return for having no sight.

I have until now only been able to answer , "No. I have never been taught to read Braille."

Well next week I begin to take official lessons in  how to read using Braille texts.

For those who do not know, Braille is named after  Louis Braille a blind man who lived in France at the turn of the Eighteenth Century. He came across messaging system used in the French Napoleonic Army of the day which allowed officers to receive and send reports in the field to be read at night using a system of raised dots on hard paper. The millitary system was complex and cumbersome, but  Louis worked to simplify and adapt it to make it usable for blind people. The current system uses a series of six dots placed in a grid to denote various letters, numbers and identifying symbols.

While many people may say reading Braille is less important today as we have all the adaptive technology that helps us read and transmit our ideas, I have felt that there is always a need to learn older technologies too. After all I learned to write with pen and paper and still it is often the easiest way to pass on an idea, rather than whipping out a phone to dictate an e-mail or voicemail.

Braille will be a useful extra tool, after all some stores like Starbucks have Braille on their gift cards, no need in future for me to pull out a handful of cards and hand them to an embarassed barista asking him or her to pick out the correct card for me. Restaurants also still have Braille Menu's no need to ask my wife to use her choosing time to help me, when I can help myself.

And that is what all this is all about. Finding a way to help ourselves, be independent and live a fuller life for ourselves and allow those around us to live their lives to the fullest too.

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