This months VICTAR blog comes from Ryan Lardner-Cameron. Ryan is a sixth form student at Priestley Smith School and throughout 2018-19 he is spending a day a week with us in the centre. We asked Ryan to write his thoughts in response to this article on the relevance of braille today, which we published in The Conversation last year.
I started learning braille from the age of 10 years old. I did this because at the age of 9 I was losing my eye sight so the best solution was to learn braille. When I was in primary school I only learnt the alphabet but when I got to secondary school I started to learn the short cuts of braille (grade 2). With large print, it got to the point that it was too hard to see and read so I made the decision in Year 8 (age 13) to go to ‘full time braille’. When it first came to learning grade 1 braille I got introduced to braille by using an egg box and some marbles to represent the dots. Also I am now using a Braillenote (a bit like a laptop) and I am really independent using it. I can do most things from creating a document to going on the internet.
With my eye sight it quickly got worst so when it happened the teachers started getting me into braille. I don’t have any lessons from my braille teacher anymore – I have stopped having braille lessons about 3 years ago. Also when it comes doing my lessons and my work, I do all my work in braille or sometimes I use a computer with speech. But with writing and reading print I don’t do that anymore.
My feelings towards braille
I feel that braille is an important skill to have even if you are sighted – at least it’s important to understand what braille is. I feel that understanding is important for all people because it is very tricky to read and plus if you are in a mainstream school it is important for sighted people to know how blind people read and write. Also, I feel that it is very important to me because it is the way people can communicate with me when it comes to doing work and it is the way I do my work day to day. Furthermore, I have my Braillenote so that is another thing that is important. A Braillenote is a ‘braille laptop’ for braille users that has a braille display on it.
At the start of learning braille I hated it so much that I didn’t want to do at first, but now I enjoy it so much and I prefer using a Braillenote over a computer.
Another thing that I feel is that if a person is going to learn braille I feel that it is way easier to learn it as a child than an adult because when it comes to learning when you are older people say that it is trickier. Finally, another feelings towards braille is that for me it is quicker to type on a Braillenote than a computer because of the six keys on the Braillenote compared to the Qwerty keyboard on the computer. As well as this making it quicker for me, the braille shortcuts means that is can be quicker then typing a whole word.
My feelings towards braille and technology
With braille and technology I feel that it is still evolving and not dying. I think that braille is still evolving because, for example, they brought out the “Braillenote touch” and that is an improvement on the “Braillenote.” Also I feel that braille could still evolve in many ways like with groceries – because when you go shopping and you are a braille user it is very tricky to find the items because there is no braille on the groceries. Another thing how braille is evolving is that you can connect your phone to the “Braillenote” and that is another way how braille is useful to people. This is because they might prefer to use there Braillenote on their phone to go around it than using the screenreader (speech). Also with using a Braillenote on a phone I feel that there are advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that it is quicker to type than using a scream reader. But the disadvantage is that it is easier to listen to the screenreader than reading the braille. Furthermore, there is some braille around the public like on buses but the braille could be improved because there is no braille in some places where it would make a great difference to braille users. Another thing I feel about technology is that if braille with technology died it would make it tricky for braille users to write, read and go on the internet. So I mean that it would be better to keep the braille and technology going because it is a great skill to learn and it is helpful.
Finally I feel that people should not feel that braille is dead or dying. It is a great help to blind people and it is still evolving to help.