The Philadelphia Inquirer
Andrew Godwin teaches technology chic in Associated Service for the Aphotic and Visually Broken in Center City Philadelphia, Pa. (Scarlett Kuang/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)
At the Associated Services for the Aphotic (ASB), bodies who are aphotic and visually broken can apprentice the abilities they charge to survive and advance in today’s digital-first society.
The nonprofit additionally offers classes to advise bodies with low eyes how to apprehend braille. For decades, ASB has been one of the better producers of braille in the United States, creating versions of aggregate from books for the Library of Congress, to manuals for Comcast articles such as your cable box or wireless internet router.
But the cardinal of braille readers has decreased decidedly in the aftermost 50 years.
In 1960, bisected of all accurately aphotic accouchement in the U.S. were able to apprehend braille, according to a address by the American Foundation for the Blind. Today, beneath than 1 in 10 aphotic bodies possesses the skill.
The cardinal of chatty readers has plummeted for a array of reasons: a curtailment of teachers, decreased accent on teaching braille to low-vision individuals, and the acceleration of advantageous technology.
“Technology offers the befalling for those that are aphotic or visually broken to alive independently,” said Godwin, 46.
To demonstrate, Godwin opened an app, SeeingAI, on his iPhone 5S and angry the camera to face himself.
The buzz declared aloud what it saw: “56-year-old macho with aphotic hair, attractive happy.”
Godwin laughed. “56?!” he said.
The app isn’t absolute — but it is helpful. Users can diplomacy it to admit faces — artlessly by captivation up the camera, they can acquisition out who is in the allowance after accepting to ask.
Godwin, who is aphotic due to a attenuate affiliated eye ache that affects the retinas, began teaching at ASB two years ago. He hosts accumulation classes on cellphone acceptance as able-bodied as one-on-one computer lessons. He tailors the courses to the specific needs of his students, such as a afresh addled columnist who wishes to abide his career application advantageous technology.
Audiobooks and awning readers — programs that catechumen on-screen argument into aural accent — accomplish account added accelerated for individuals such as Godwin, who are acclimated to relying on audition and can accept accent at a acceleration that far exceeds a accustomed speaking pace.
Not accepted by all
But the new technology is not accepted by all.
For Lavera Diggins, 87, who absent her afterimage at 18 and says the accident was “like death,” account braille accustomed her to acquisition independence. After acquirements to apprehend braille at ASB, she became a advance teacher.
She creates braille labels for her clothing, cans, and cassettes at home to be able to analyze the articles on her own.
Without the adeptness to apprehend braille, visually broken bodies charge booty in all advice by listening. But with the raised-dot braille arrangement acquainted by the fingertips, they can action abstracts at their own pace.
“It’s one affair to accept advice irenic as you’re listening, but back you’re bringing it in and interpreting it, it’s abundant added of an alive way of engagement,” said Tony Stephens, administrator of advancement and authoritative diplomacy of the American Council of the Blind.
Stephens was built-in with low eyes and became absolutely aphotic at age 15. It took him two years to apprentice to apprehend braille. In contempo years, he’s been application braille more.
Technology, afar from alms an another to braille, additionally makes admission to braille easier.
Refreshable braille displays, tablets that can be programmed with altered braille texts, are acceptable added affordable and widespread. Bodies who shied abroad from braille in the accomplished because of aggravation — a Harry Potter atypical in braille would ample an absolute bookshelf — can now backpack a atypical in one hand.
“Technology has fabricated huge accomplishment in admission to information, but at the amount there is still the axiological charge for literacy,” Stephens said.
Monica Heap, a sighted braille adviser who retired a few months ago, accomplished hundreds of acceptance over her 34 years at ASB and believes the accomplishment is acute for visually broken people.
“Braille is like a cardboard and a pencil,” said Heap, 65, of Lindenwold. “What do you do back all of a abrupt you don’t accept admission to the internet?”
Godwin doesn’t apprehend braille added than on abbreviate labels and addendum about his abode and, as a result, he “can’t spell for beans.”
But his son, Andrew, who was built-in with the aforementioned eye disease, is an ardent braille clairvoyant and would be devastated if braille books were no best produced. As an ambitious engineer, the 9-year-old finds it important to be able to apprehend architecture affairs and diagrams independently.
“Braille will never go away,” Godwin said. “It will always be relevant, I believe, aloof for arcane purposes.”
Still, in Godwin’s classes, a approaching after braille doesn’t assume impossible.
On that accurate morning, cellphones batten quiet commands to their users as they navigated them easily. Godwin beatific a argument to his wife application Apple’s talk-to-text feature, listened as his emails were dictated, and acclimated an app to apprehend aloud a printed certificate in advanced of him.
Together, Godwin and his acceptance formed through the abstruse hang-ups the chic encountered back they aftermost saw anniversary other.
“I adulation acquirements with you guys,” Godwin said. “There’s never a chic of acceptance that doesn’t accomplish my academician assignment hard.”
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