ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – It is well known that literacy is a critical life skill. For the visually-impaired, reading and understanding Braille offers that key to success.
But now, concerns are being raised that there aren’t enough teachers available to teach this crucial skill. Jeanne Prickett is president for St. Augustine’s Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB), and says the shortage is the result of cuts to teacher training programs.
“Since the day I started, there has been a chronic shortage of teachers who are able to teach reading and Braille,” Prickett said.
Prickett said this is an issue nationwide, one that has been going on for decades. FSDB has around 540 enrolled students. Roughly 200 or so are visually-impaired.
She’s afraid this could eventually have an impact on student success in the long run nationwide. Braille brings the world of math right to these students’ fingertips. Addison Burgess said Braille makes understanding math simple.
“I have to line up the linear equations, that needs Braille. I can’t picture that if it were given to me in audio. If everything went to technology, I would have a far less understanding of math than I do now".
Taylore Sherman knows she would be significantly limited without this ability.
“Honestly, without Braille... I wouldn’t know how to read, unless I read humongous print letters. I can see really large print. But I would not know how to read,” she said.
Pricket said while audio technology is amazing, Braille is what ensures student literacy.
“My fear is not that people won’t have jobs... My fear is that children won’t get the skills they need and they’ll end up not being as competitive as they could be if they could read and write for themselves.”
With her Braille computer in tow, Taylore Sherman is already working toward her goal of making a difference for students just like her.
“I want to help design technology for the blind,” Sherman said. “I think it will be helpful. But I also still think Braille is a really important part of learning.”
Pricket said roughly 1 in 1,000 children are blind or visually-impaired. While that number seems low, she stresses the importance of still adequately addressing the needs of these individuals. Anyone who is interested in teaching Braille as a career path can find more information here.