[oregon-l] Another side of he Coin
John A. Fleming
blueskies.acb at gmail.com
Fri Feb 12 05:07:11 GMT 2010
----- Original Message -----
From: "Edwards, Paul" <pedwards at mdc.edu>
Another side of he Coin
Here is an article that appeared in the local paper in Daytona Beach Florida
which is a lot closer to what most of us believe than the NY Times piece.
Daytona Beach News-Journal 1/27/2010
BLIND STILL RELY ON BRAILLE
High-tech advances can't entirely replace system
By RAY WEISS, STAFF WRITER
DAYTONA BEACH - Two students sat across from a teacher in a darkened room.
Their fingertips rolled confidently across the bumpy text of the books
during the one-hour lesson.
''I love languages, so this is my opportunity to learn another,'' said
Berline Mercy, who lost her eyesight after surgery to remove a brain tumor
last year. ''It's the language of Braille.''
Mercy, a 30-year-old registered nurse, started learning how to read again
last November at the Division of Blind Services on Dunn Avenue.
Even with major technological advancements, Braille remains the foundation
of communication for the blind, although some studies indicate the use of
the traditional reading system is on the wane.
Amy Williams, a blind Braille instructor at the Daytona Beach facility, said
computers, voice activation and large print can make life easier, but it
will not replace the dotted code invented by Louis Braille almost 200 years
''What happens when the computer dies for people who can see? You go back to
pencil and paper,'' she said. ''When the computer goes out for us, it's
Williams lost her eyesight 30 years ago and remains a ''visual learner'' -
someone who finds it much easier to retain information by reading it on
paper rather than hearing it on an audio disk or tape.
''If you were a reader, your medium is Braille,'' she said. ''And with
high-tech you can't read things like labels on cans of food to determine
whether it's can of soup or peas.''
Without Braille, a home-cooked dinner often could turn into a ''mystery
But the National Federation of the Blind recently reported that only 10
percent of sightless people today read Braille, compared with about half in
the 1950s. That doesn't bode well for employment. The organization reported
that 80 percent of blind workers with good jobs are proficient in Braille.
Reasons attributed to the decline include advanced text-to-speech
technology, less emphasis on teaching Braille to blind school¬children and
the expense of producing Braille books. The American Printing House for the
Blind in 2007 also reported that less than 10 percent of the nation's 58,000
sightless youngsters use Braille as their primary method to read, compared
to with half in the 1960s.
''People talk about Braille dying and that it's outdated,'' said Ike
Presley, national project manager for the American Foundation of the Blind,
after a recent training session he held in Daytona Beach Shores. ''It's not
going to be outdated until print is outdated.''
For the sighted world, Presley rhetorically asks: ''Would you be willing
only to hear things?'' He said day-to-day living for a blind person still
requires Braille. Just reading a business card, or checking a phone number
or unusually spelled name, would otherwise be impossible out in public.
''Braille allows a person to have a reading and writing medium for both
information access and for personal use,'' he said. ''Technology is not
replacing Braille. It increases the availability to Braille, making it
easier to produce and less expensive.''
Presley, who has lived with low vision his 56 years, said that in many
places there's not enough classroom time dedicated to Braille, with children
receiving training once or twice a week. He said the parents of sighted
children would be out¬raged if their youngsters received such minimal time
learning to read and write.
He said the numbers regarding the use of Braille are deceiving since because
more babies are surviving difficult deliveries because of medical
advancements. Sometimes these children are blind, but many also suffer other
physical or cognitive impairments that leave them incapable of learning
''Twenty years ago, they might not have lived,'' he said. ''So the numbers
are skewed because many people who are blind cannot actually learn
Edward Hudson, 55, the center director at Daytona Beach facility, gradually
went blind as a child and didn't learn Braille until sixth grade.
''If you have a child with a vision problem, the earlier they start learning
Braille the better,'' he said. ''The repetition and practice to learn the
shapes and forms, the tactile feel, is important. It's a matter of
Hudson said a strong advocacy movement exists among educators and
professionals in the field to keep Braille a fundamental part of teaching
for the blind. ''Everything else is built upon it,'' he said, adding that
math is next to impossible to do without Braille.
Kay Ratzlaff is on the front lines of education, as the coordinator of
resources for the Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually
Impaired. She said Braille remains the foundation for learning.
''Just listening is not the same,'' she said. ''You've got to have the
foundation. It's like saying other (sighted) kids don't need print. Braille
is the same thing as print for our kids. They can't do without it. Listening
is so passive.''
Donna Ross teaches a Braille course to future teachers at Florida State
University. She said the state requires Braille to be taught in public
schools, ''unless you can prove something else is better'' for a student.
''We want our teachers to know it and teach it,'' Ross said. ''It's not
going anywhere. There's always going to be a need for Braille.''
ray.weiss at news-jrnl.com
Copyright © 2010 News-Journal Corporation 01/27/2010
[Caption for picture below]: Fredrick Royal, 31, works Monday on a Perkins
Brailler, which is like a typewriter, as Tasha Washington, 36, reads from a
book in the Braille library at the Division of Blind Services in Daytona
News-Journal photos/ SEAN McNEIL
[Caption for picture below]: Berline Mercy, 30, lost her eyesight last year
after brain tumor surgery. Above, she is learning to write Braille.
[Caption for photo below] Fedrick Royal, 31, works on a Perkins Brailler in
the Braille library at the Division of Blind Services on Monday.
News-Journal/ SEAN McNEIL
Paul Edwards, Director
North Campus Access Services
11380 Northwest 27 Avenue
Miami, FL 33167
Work Phone: (305) 237-1146
Work Fax (305) 237-1831
Home Phone: (305) 692-9206
Cell Phone: (305) 984-0909
Work Email: paul.edwards at mdc.edu
Home Email: edwpaul at bellsouth.net
Due to Florida's very broad public records law, most written communications
to or from College employees regarding College business are public records,
available to the public and media upon request. Therefore, this e-mail
communication may be subject to public disclosure."
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