Backin' a Sister Up...Can't Beat Braille!

Another great article on the importance of Braille...
Braille education key to success for visually impaired

By Megan Loiselle
Wausau Daily Herald

Whenever 16-year-old Abby Salber wants to listen to a CD, she grabs the disc and touches the label affixed to the front so she knows which one it is.

Salber of Mosinee is one of 16 visually impaired or blind students in the Wausau School District and one of two blind students using Braille at Wausau West High School.

Whether she is listening to music or cooking dinner, Salber depends on a form of written communication using a system of raised six-dotted cells created more than 180 years ago.

But some national advocates of Braille fear the growth in popularity of electronics using text-to-speech technology could threaten Braille literacy and hinder the academic success of thousands of blind children who otherwise would not have a command of written language.

Knowing Braille also equates to success in the work force. Only 30 percent of blind adults are gainfully employed, and of those, more than 80 percent work in careers where they use Braille every day, according to the National Federation of the Blind.

The federal government requires that Braille be considered the default option in every blind or visually impaired student's education as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. A group of educators and specialists work with the students' parents to develop an individual plan and could decide Braille is not appropriate for the student.

In the Wausau School District, six students in the special education program for the visually impaired read Braille and 10 others have adequate vision to read print.

"With assisted technology, someone who is reading Braille ... they're getting the input and seeing the words and improving their spelling," said Dan Wenzel, director of the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Janesville. "I know people who use the audio method, which is just like a book on tape. You're going to gain content and miss the spelling."

Karen Schultz, who teaches Salber and the other blind and visually impaired students in the Wausau School District, said audio software programs that translate text into speech should be used in addition to Braille, not instead of it.

"From a teacher's standpoint, I'm a firm believer in teaching students how to read," Schultz said.

Salber learned how to use Braille from Schultz when Salber was 5 years old, but she learned how to read alongside her sighted classmates. By the end of high school, most students like Salber read at the same proficiency as other students.

Technology also has helped students become more proficient in Braille. Salber uses a Braille notetaker to write papers, do math assignments and other tasks just like someone would use a laptop computer. She connects it to another computer to translate the Braille into print, so she can turn in the assignment to her teacher.

"I need it for everything to be independent," Salber said. "It's very necessary to get a better sense of what you're doing."

Armed with a college-level reading proficiency, Salber is preparing to major in vocal music education at Wheaton College in Illinois.

Link to Article Here


Daisy said...

I hope she also reads Braille music notation! My son is a senior in high school (also in Wisconsin!). He learned the Braille music system in middle school when he was studying cello. He now sings in choir, but the knowledge is priceless.

BlindRaver said...

Lol, 80 percent of employed blind people use braille? Where's the proof?

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