Why 90% of the Blind Can’t Read

Vera Cotturo

Vera Cotturo

I did some research on the internet, and this is part of what I found.

A generation ago 50 percent of blind schoolchildren used Braille, according to William M. Raeder, president of the National Braille Press in Boston. Now, he said, it’s less than 12 percent. Young blind students today are still instructed in Braille, but in the past few decades more students have been mainstreamed and no longer receive daily instruction. That is significant, because reading and writing Braille is a skill that needs maintenance. The less often a student uses it, the more likely it is those skills will diminish or even disappear.

The reduction in Braille literacy has been mollified by the fact that there are now more ways than ever for the blind to acquire information. Much of the world is moving away from words on a page and toward electronic/digital information. The proliferation of books on tape means blind people no longer have to wait to read the latest bestseller. Talking computers have brought the blind to the world and the world to the blind. These advances have placed a generation of blind young adults and children in an information paradox: they have more knowledge at their disposal, while their ability to read and write declines.

But proponents of Braille always fall back on the same argument: if reading and writing are important to the sighted, they are important to the blind. “If the literacy rate for sighted people was 10 percent, that would be a huge issue,” said Arielle Silverman, the President of the Arizona Association of Blind Students and also sightless. “I think kids aren’t being taught Braille, and they aren’t being given enough time to practice. 

You can argue that it does not matter how you read War and Peace, as long as you know the story and the genius of Leo Tolstoy. “There is no correlation between Braille literacy and educational achievement,” said Joanne Phillips, retired Deputy Associate Superintendent for Arizona Department of Education Exceptional Student Services.

Karen Wolfe of the American Foundation for the Blind strongly disagrees. “You can’t be literate just listening,” she said. “Literacy helps us think and communicate our thoughts. You will never be truly literate without Braille.”

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