The role of braille literacy in the digital age

Q&A with John Price, who is bringing Perkins Solutions’ innovative technology to Africa Forum

John Price stands next to an African man who is learning how to use a Perkins SMART Brailler

Price works to ensure that people all over the globe have access to the Perkins Brailler – and to the power of braille literacy.

October 6, 2015

John Price travels the world promoting braille literacy.

In recent weeks, Price’s job with Perkins Solutions has taken him to Indonesia, China and now Uganda for the 6th Africa Forum – the continent’s premiere gathering of blindness educators, advocates and policymakers. Perkins International is a co-sponsor of the event.

As Perkins Solutions’ international manager of business development, Price works to ensure that people with visual impairment of all ages and from all over the globe have access to the Perkins Brailler®, the world’s leading braille-writing machine.

On Tuesday at Africa Forum, Price led a panel on the importance of braille literacy in the age of digital technology. He also shared his thoughts on the subject with the Perkins Vision blog.

How has digital technology shaped the way people who are blind communicate?

Digital technology has revolutionized the way all people communicate. For people who are blind and visually impaired, cellphone apps and screen-readers have had a very positive impact. But we all use literacy to better harness technology. And braille is the foundation of literacy for the blind. That’s why braille remains so relevant in today’s digital age.

Why has the Perkins Brailler withstood the test of time?

Perkins did a really great job the first time around. The man who invented the Perkins Brailler, David Abraham, was this fabulously brilliant man who started building braillers in his basement. When the machine was released to the public it was in high demand. It’s a very straight-forward device and it keeps working. You do need to clean and oil your Perkins Brailler, maybe replace a spring every now and then, but it’s extremely durable and made with parts that last for a very long time. That’s why it’s the go-to brailling machine worldwide.

What is Perkins doing to actively promote braille literacy around the world?

Perkins School for the Blind has always stood behind braille literacy. This started in the 1940s with the launch of the Perkins Brailler and continued when we used digital technology to improve on it. Our SMART Brailler® offers users visual, audio and tactile feedback. You can save files, log on as different users and even have the machine ask you test questions to help you learn. And in terms of innovation, I feel like we’re just getting started. Perkins has evolved throughout its history and we’ll continue to evolve by identifying new ways to support braille literacy. It’s our job at Perkins Solutions to make our innovations accessible to people around the world.

Why are events like Africa Forum important?

Africa Forum is one of the most wonderful events I’ve ever attended. It’s fantastic. There’s a smile on everyone’s face here. There’s so much need being expressed by the visually impaired community, but also so much hope. It’s all about networking and making connections. This conference continues to grow. There’s a long way to go but we’ve already come so far.