World Braille Day

Just a quick hit to say happy birthday to Louis Braille and the written system he pioneered. There are a number of articles out there lately focused on how e-readers are supplanting Braille. E-readers, Kindles and screenreaders for the web are all exciting and useful technologies, and from a universal design standpoint, they do a lot of good crossover work as both assistive devices for people with visual impairments and as enhancing technologies for those with vision.

But, as is pointed out in FWD’s link round-up, these technologies are only useful for visually impaired people with normal hearing abilities. Even more troubling, from some research I did on screenreader technology a few years ago, these audio technologies are difficult to learn, synthesized speech is still imperfect, and the temporal element of having written material read aurally means that progress and comprehension can be very slow. Thus, a number of people still prefer screenreaders that create Braille output – it can be skimmed, revisited, and stored much more easily than audio formats.

So, hooray for Braille and ongoing advances in making the written word available to all! Blogging will continue to be light around here, as I’m travelling more in January, so here’s a thematically appropriate web comic from XKCD to wrap things up!

A stick figure reads a sign in Braille - the Braille does not match the written text, but begins to say "Sighted People Suck"

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