Learning Braille, Computers, and Technology:
Statistics show that ninety-three percent of employed blind people read and write Braille.
Braille has a wide range of practical uses for blind people. Braille can be used to read books, documents, or recipes. Braille can be used to label groceries, clothing, video tapes, file folders, and much more. Braille can be used to take notes or write down phone numbers and addresses.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions concerning Braille. Some people believe that Braille is obsolete, that the tape recorder, Digital recorder and computer have made it unnecessary. While they are useful tools, they may not always be the most flexible and efficient way of performing many tasks. Electronic devices are subject to technical difficulties and dependent upon power. When a sighted person’s hand held computer runs out of battery power, she or he can use pen and paper to write down a colleague’s phone number. Blind people need to have that same degree of flexibility. That is why we teach our students to write Braille with a slate and stylus. The slate and stylus are the Braille equivalent of the pen or pencil. They are lightweight and can easily be carried in a purse, briefcase, or backpack.
Some people think that Braille is slow and difficult to learn, but with instruction and concentrated practice, Braille can become an effective and efficient communication tool. Students as young as 9 years old and older than 80 years of age have learned to read and write Braille in our program and gone on to use Braille to enhance their personal and professional independence. That is why teaching Braille is an important part of our curriculum and the use of Braille is integrated into all of our classes.
>Computers and Technology:
Another portion of the Communications class gives students the tools they need to be a part of the ever-changing world of technology.
Many people believe that you cannot use a computer if you cannot see the monitor, but this just is not true. We teach our students to use screen-reading software that speaks the information that is printed on the screen. When a blind person knows how to use this software, she/he can use Microsoft Windows and any Windows-based application including: Internet Explorer, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and many more.
For those who use Apple products, including Mac computers, iPads and iPhones, we teach our students to use VoiceOver, a built-in screen reader, along with popular applications, including: Numbers, Safari, Pages and Keynote.
We teach our students how to use screen readers, refreshable Braille displays, Braille notetakers, accessible PDAs, and other access technology. While our students learn how to use the popular devices and applications listed above, our main objective is to teach our students how to teach themselves. Technology is always changing and new applications are constantly being developed. We want to produce graduates who can cope with this change. We teach people the fundamental concepts underlying what they are doing so that they can use this information to reason their way out of problems and figure out the new software they will encounter in the future.