About two centuries ago, the blind had a true hero. Louis Braille was his name.
Edwin is a musician, blind, and blogs for Digital Accessible to show the world how he lives with his disability.
Braille had gone blind in a bit of a goofy way. He stabbed himself in the eye with an awl. That became an infection which spread to his other eye, causing him to become blind in both eyes.
You would think after such an action: he is not too bright. But you are wrong about that. This man has invented a notebook for the blind: Braille. This has enabled many blind people to gain knowledge and even study. I’m not going to explain Braille here, but if you want to know more about it, there’s plenty on the internet about it.
Thick pile of paper
From the age of six until the age of nineteen, I went to the Institute for the Blind. Like you, I learned to read in the first class. Of course, not letters like you, but Braille. I used Braille for a very long time. Braille has one big disadvantage, however. It takes up a lot of space, and because the letters are punched into the paper with a kind of pin, you need thick, heavy paper.
To give you an example, the children’s book ‘Kruistocht in spijkerbroek’ consisted of 24 volumes in Braille. The postman who always brought me the Braille books from the library for the blind had to retire ten years earlier due to back problems. But through Louis, I was able to do my education and read many beautiful books.
Reading aloud goes faster
But when at the beginning of this century the computer also became accessible to the blind, a lot changed. Almost everything became speech-driven. We still have a Braille display that allows you to feel what is on the screen, but we use it much less because it is much faster when the computer reads aloud. Besides, a book on your hard disk takes up a little less space than those big Braille books.
The word picture is missing
It worked exactly the same for me. I started doing less and less with Braille. For example, I used to get all my bank statements sent to me in Braille. Nowadays, I just use the banking app. There are many more examples of my PC replacing Braille. And I didn’t regret it until now. But I am now painfully confronted with the fact that I don’t read enough ‘real’ books and let my computer read it to me. For my new job, I have to follow a training course. Amongst other things, I am taught Dutch. And it may sound stupid coming from a blind person, but I miss the word picture. When text is read out loud, you miss whether words are written with an ‘s’, ‘z’ or perhaps a ‘c’. And where there is a full stop or a comma. In short, my laziness is being punished again.
Many blind people have already declared Braille almost dead, but I have resolved to have my PC read to me a little less, and to grab my Braille line more often.