By: Martin Courcelles
If you would have met me in high school walking home on a typical day, I would have screamed: "yes, yes braille is bulky and heavy. Carry my bag for me, will you?" I typically carried 30 to 40 pounds of the stuff every day. Good thing I was stubborn. A typical braille book is divided in 4 to 5 volumes.
Braille is Bulky
Having to deal with five or six different subjects in school and then the accompanying braille notes I took, you can imagine how quickly my book bag filled itself up. I still cringe at the thought of exam time where I needed everything in order to review. Good thing I was walking distance from school. But now, we have electronic braille note takers for students that can hold over 1000 books and don't tax your back.
Electronic Braille Revolution (Well, sort of . . .)
Meanwhile, a new concept was emerging. Electronic braille. Wouldn't it be nice to have a display which would be able to show letters in braille representation?
Research on such a device was started as early as 1951. My first note taker was the VersaBraille; a tape-based note-taking device with a 20 braille cell display. It weighed more than 20 pounds, but it was a step in the right direction.
Nowadays, I use a smartphone with a pocket sized braille display. I'm all for portability and miniaturization. So is my back.
Presently, there are different organizations looking into making braille displays more affordable; under the 500 dollar mark. Once that happens, you can throw out the old "braille is too expensive" argument.
Braille over Audio?
Now, why even have that argument. I use both methods concurrently. For instance, I am using a braille display in order to proofread my blog entry and use the speech for review. And sometimes, when I'm lazy, I will listen to an audiobook. They do put me to sleep though. Both reading methods are viable, but I still think that braille is needed for acquiring true literacy.
Finally, let's get to the crux of the matter. For me, braille does indeed rule. It's part of my everyday experience. I use it at work, at home, even at play. Just as a sighted person would read and write, I can do the same and feel as an equal participant within society. Is using audio only, a bad thing? No, of course not. Many of my friends do not use braille and that's fine for them. I was given the opportunity, the choice in my life to be able to use braille and I'm glad my parents were able to fight for, what I deem for myself, an essential tool.
Thanks Louis for fighting adversity and making your braille code a reality.