You may have noticed that the buzz around braille is more prevalent these days. As I was asked this question during one of my presentations recently I thought I would muse about it on the blog and we can ponder it together.
Let me first say I have been a braille user for many years and I think of it as an option in my technology toolkit. When I learned braille it was hard copy or nothing. No digital devices, no electronic files. A very bulky business indeed as one print page is approximately 2-1/2 braille pages.
Braille enters the digital Age: the VersaBraille
In the mid-70s, a digital device was available that allowed the braille user to produce braille on first cassette tapes (anyone remember those?)And then on floppy disks, yes I know almost as archaic.
The point being that you could have a personal braille file created on a standalone device. Today these devices are called braille notetakers. Two popular options are the BrailleNote
And the Braille Sense.
iOS and Unified English Braille (UEB)
the real game changer for braille by far is the accessibility features built in to all Apple devices. Previously, making a mainstream product accessible meant purchasing either extra hardware or a software package that had to be installed on to the device. With Apple products this is no longer the case. You buy it, start it up, choose the accessibility option you need and you're on your way. This in itself was very cool, but using the touch screen was a slow process. Using a Bluetooth keyboard was great for input, but if you received a text message, you had to interrupt what you were doing to listen to the message. Attaching a braille device meant that you could write a text and read incoming messages in braille, with or without VoiceOver running. Apple's built in screen reader. It also simplifies the process of responding to email or participating in social media. Bonus!
Braille has undergone changes to keep pace with the digital age and the needs of educators. UEB has been adopted by the International Council On English Braille. Canada is a member and is represented by Braille Literacy Canada.
To put it simply, some changes were made to the basic braille code to more accurately reflect print, and to make learning braille that much easier for new readers. All in all, it's fun these days to be a braille geek and when you incorporate braille in to your digital life it's even better and more efficient, not to mention cool to watch.
That's it for now. Keep watching this space for my next post. Until next time, DG out.