Sunday, January 3, 2010

With New Technologies, Do Blind People Lose More Than They Gain? - NYTimes.com

With New Technologies, Do Blind People Lose More Than They Gain? - NYTimes.com



by: Karla Gilbride- guest blogger, my friend, & John W. Carson Fellowship Attorney at isability Rights Advocates

;I appreciated this mainstream coverage of an issue that is not well understood outside the blind community, but I thought the approach she took was too focused on culture and identity and didn't spend enough time investigating the real-life pros and cons of the different reading methods. Of course, those practical details probably aren't very interesting to the average sighted NYT reader, so in that respect I guess the focus makes sense. I thought the point about reading by listening being most feasible for high-ranking people like Paterson who can assign staff to read things to them was a particularly astute one, though of course a more tech-savvy person could locate and read relevant news stories on the Internet. Personally I feel very lucky to have learned to read braille from a young age because I believe that gave me a foundation in sentence structure, punctuation, spelling, etc. that I would not have gotten from listening alone. These days though, I do almost all of my pleasure reading and all of my reading of lengthy documents for work through listening because it's simply more efficient (and less callous-producing) than reading those kinds of quantities of braille. That being said, there are some tasks for which braille is either better than any other method (labeling of documents for filing, labeling spices for cooking, signage in elevators and hotels) or for which I can't think of any alternative to braille (reading notes during an oral presentation). In the final analysis, there are two reasons why I think every person, especially every child, who can't see well enough to read print should learn braille: (1) the literacy foundations discussed in this article; and (2) because it is an additional tool that has certain advantages over the other reading methods and should be available in everyone's toolkit to maximize the chances for success. That second reason about it being a tool in the toolkit is why I don't like the either-or logic used in this article and other discussions I've heard of this issue. I feel like I am a more functional blind person because I use both braille and electronic text than I would be if I relied on just one or the other, and I want to see all blind people given those same reading options.

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