Some people can't see how useful Braille continues to be

Olivia Bryce wants to help people.


The Millbrook Elementary School fourth-grader has already taught herself some sign language, and when she heard about Aiken County Public Library's program on Braille, she wanted to learn more.

"I read a book called Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, about a girl who lost her sight," said Olivia, explaining why she wanted to attend the Jan. 4 program.

That day marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, who designed the system many blind people use to read and write.

Some blind residents came to the library program to show people the aids that allow them to function. Frank Lazo has a talking dictionary, talking calculator and BrailleNotes, which has a Braille keyboard and a computer-generated voice output.

Computers and other technology are good, but Mr. Lazo and Liz Lewis, another presenter at the Jan. 4 program, said there is no substitute for Braille.

Some people think Braille is obsolete because of these advances, Ms. Lewis said.

"That's like telling a sighted person, 'You don't need paper and pencil,' " she said.

According to information from the National Federation for the Blind, only 10 percent of blind children are learning to read and write Braille. Among blind adults who are employed, 80 percent read and write Braille fluently.

Ryan Uhle, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Schofield Middle School, is among the 10 percent. The blind boy, who wants to go to college and become a nuclear engineer, read excerpts from a Braille version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Mr. Lazo and Ms. Lewis had an information table set up in the library with several Braille books, including a children's book about Louis Braille and his life. There were also pamphlets and other information, such as a card with the Braille alphabet on it from the National Federation of the Blind.

The federation has a Braille Readers Are Leaders literacy campaign. Its goals include doubling the number of school-age children learning Braille by 2015, the enactment of legislation requiring special education teachers of blind children to obtain and maintain national certification in literary Braille, making more Braille resources available and persuading the public that blind people have a right to Braille literacy, according to a brochure.

To learn more about Braille, visit