The Future of Braille and Advancing Technology

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For some time, there has been an ongoing discussion on whether or not braille will eventually be replaced by newer technology that can serve the same purpose. Technology like screen and print reading devices, which convert text into spoken words. There are several technologies out there, but are any of them the future of this age old method that many visually impaired people still rely on?

Developments in technology mean it is now often cheaper to read through a computer using screen readers or audio files rather than braille. However, this doesn’t replace the need for braille, in the same way using computers hasn’t replaced the need for us to write by hand.

It is sometimes said that speech is for speed and braille is for accuracy. Braille can provide layout information more efficiently than audio. It’s also easier to spot things like spelling mistakes when reading braille than it is to hear mispronunciations amongst a lot of speech.

There are also times when a simple solution is the best. Many believe that the immediacy of braille is still very much important to visually impaired people. Most people nowadays probably wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to read a multi volume braille book, but will more than likely still continue to use braille for labeling or jotting down notes quickly.

Technological advancements have made braille far more usable for blind people. Apart from making it easier to convert, it also makes braille far more portable. A whole braille book can now be stored on a small disk or memory stick, rather than taking up reams of paper and shelves of storage space.

It’s clear that technology will continue to make huge breakthroughs in enabling blind and partially sighted people to communicate in new ways in the future. But for almost two centuries little has equalled the practicality and simplicity of braille.

The arrival of portable wireless devices that scan text and translate it to soft (refreshable) braille will mean greater access to written information in a range of new environments. Likewise, the emergence of portable electronic books may make it easier to access information in braille and other accessible formats.

No one knows what the future holds and undoubtedly some technological advances will replace braille. But in the same way the invention of the printing press reduced but didn’t replace the use of a pen, so braille is likely to remain useful for a huge range of everyday uses.