There is some debate as to whether braille will eventually be replaced by new technology such as screen and print reading devices, which convert text into spoken words.

Braille v audio

Developments in technology mean it is now often cheaper to read through a computer using screen readers or audio files rather than braille. However, this doesn't replace the need for braille, in the same way as using computers hasn't replaced the need for us to learn to write by hand.

It is sometimes said that speech is for speed and braille is for accuracy. Braille can provide layout information more efficiently than audio. It's also easier to spot things like spelling mistakes when reading braille than it is to hear mispronunciations amongst a lot of speech.

There are also times when a simple solution is the best:
"The immediacy of braille is still very important. I might not nowadays want to read a ten volume braille book but I'd still want to use braille for labelling or jotting something down quickly."  Paul

New technology

Technological developments have made braille far more usable for blind people. Apart from making it easier to convert, it also makes braille far more portable. A whole braille book can now be stored on a small disk or memory stick, rather than taking up reams of paper and shelves of storage space.

It's clear that technology will continue to make huge breakthroughs in enabling blind and partially sighted people to communicate in new ways in the future. But for almost two centuries little has equalled the practicality and simplicity of braille.

It is possible that many of the new technologies now available to blind people will in fact increase the use of braille as a way to interact with people and computers and will mean better access to information than ever before.

The arrival of portable wireless devices that scan text and translate it to soft (refreshable) braille will mean greater access to written information in a range of new environments. Likewise the emergence of portable electronic books may make it easier to access information in braille and other accessible formats.

No one knows what the future holds and undoubtedly some technological advances will replace braille. But in the same way the invention of the printing press reduced but didn't replace the use of pen, so braille is likely to remain useful for a huge range of everyday uses.

"Braille is your paper and pencil in life. It does not rely on battery and mains adapters, and its system never crashes! It should be used in conjunction with modern technology to enable you to take full advantage of what life has to offer." Jenny

Campaigning for a fairer future

Everyone has the right to have access to information in their preferred format whether that is large print, audio, daisy or Braille. However, many blind and partially sighted people do not have access to information that sighted people rely on everyday.

We're campaigning to make access to information more than an afterthought. Join in with our campaigns now, and help us make a lasting difference to the lives of blind and partially sighted people.

What do you think?

It's certainly a subject people feel passionate about. Here's what some braille users think about the future of braille.