Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Share One Interesting Fact You Know

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Closeup of a pale person’s hand reading braille on a white page. While doing research for this post, I stumbled across a fact that I never would have guessed is true.

The majority of blind people in the U.S. Canada and the U.K. cannot read braille.

Statistically, less than 1% of British people and less than 10% of Americans and Canadians with sight impairments can read. (I couldn’t find the percentages for other countries. If you know any of them, please share!)

There are a few different reasons why this is true:

1) Braille is harder to learn as an adult,

2) there’s a social stigma to using it,

3) some kids who are blind or partially blind have other health problems like diabetes that can reduce sensation in their fingertips and make learning Braille difficult,

4) a lot of special education teachers are carrying heavy caseloads and may not have the time to teach much Braille, and

5) some schools prioritize auditory teaching methods to teaching braille or using large print books for students who have some sight.

Other sites said the rise of audiobooks and technology like text-to-speech apps that will read for you is making the use of Braille less necessary.

Isn’t this fascinating? I always assumed that the majority of people with a sight impairment would know Braille.



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16 Responses to Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Share One Interesting Fact You Know

  1. That is interesting. I’ve always been fascinated by braille, though the audio books and text to speech thing does make sense.

  2. I’m not surprised. I almost never see any braille resources. Did you see that preposterous PR thing some football team did, wearing braille ‘numbers’ on the backs of their jerseys? Talk about ignorance…

  3. That is actually really interesting. Any idea whether the percentage has changed over the years? I’d bet that someone, somewhere is studying this… or wishing they had grant money to do so.

    • It’s hard to find exact numbers.

      At the height of braille in the 1950s, a little over half of blind kids were taught to use it:

      The number of kids being taught braille went down sharply in the 1970s when schools for the blind were (mostly) shut down and the kids in them were integrated into their local school systems that didn’t have the funding or teachers to train them on this.

      Blind people who can read braille are employed at a much higher rather than those who can’t, so there is a recent resurgence of interest in teaching blind folks to use it.

      My fingers are crossed it will be successful.

      If you find any more information on this topic, I’d sure like to hear about it.

  4. That’s both fascinating and sad. Fascinating, because it goes against what I had always assumed—that blind people knew braille. Sad, because it speaks very poorly of our educational systems. Though I am glad there are more audio options available, I wish braille was made more common as well.

    At one point in college I learned the braille alphabet. As a sighted learner of braille, though, I suspect I had an easier time recognizing the letters than if I had been only using my fingertips to read them. It was surprisingly easy to remember the patterns, yet difficult to be able to recognize them in the real world.

    • I totally agree with you there.

      It’s cool you learned the braille alphabet. Yes, it must be a lot harder to learn if you can’t see the letters.

  5. That is an interesting fact, I was also surprised to learn that American Sign Language is not universal and there are actually 25 different kinds of sign language in the world.

  6. Interesting. I’m sure now there’s a perception that e-readers are making braille obsolete, but the Internet may not last long, so learning braille is probably still a good idea. (But I never really have learned it. I’m not good at reading raised letters by touch either. If I ever became completely blind I don’t know whether I’d survive.)

  7. My mother went blind when I was 12 and never learned Braille. As you say, learning it as an adult is more difficult and she just chose not to try.

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