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The Right to Optimal Literacy

By Linda Bartram

I attended school during the late 50s and 60s and even though I was found to have significant vision loss at age 5, I received very little support during my elementary school years, beyond the provision of a large print reader and a desk at the front of the row. I learned to read print, but as the text size got smaller and the sentences longer, I soon fell behind my classmates. The option of learning Braille was never considered.

It was not much different for a partially sighted peer 20 years later except that Braille was discussed and then ruled out as she too was able to read print. In both of our situations, the fact that we could not read print well did not seem to matter even though we both had degenerative eye conditions which would eventually render us unable to read print at all.  We both have subsequently learned Braille as adults, but I at least, do not read Braille well either. 

This is why on this World Braille Day, I am concerned to see the merits of Braille still being debated. And that some educators may decide that a partially sighted student does not need to learn Braille given the advances in technology; that I am reading statements such as “braille support is provided to every child who needs it.”

I believe that braille support should be provided to every blind, deafblind and partially sighted child whether it is thought that they need it or not. How do those who make such a decision know what that child will need ten or twenty years down the road? Perhaps they will not need Braille to further their education or to find employment but they should have this basic blindness skill in case they do. Give them the option to have that choice. We owe them that.

Here are some resources that also make a case for Braille:


IMAGE ALT TEXT: image with the words Braille Alphabet and the alphabet A-Z showing braille symbols.


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