The trend is real and significant; nowadays fewer than 1 in 10 blind children learn Braille. Part of the problem is that Braille is intrinsically an inconvenient medium:
Braille books are expensive and cumbersome, requiring reams of thick, oversize paper. The National Braille Press, an 83-year-old publishing house in Boston, printed the Harry Potter series on its Heidelberg cylinder; the final product was 56 volumes, each nearly a foot tall.
The replacements for Braille are audiobooks, computer text-to-speech, and other auditory technologies. The upside for the visually impaired is a much more rapid acquisition of knowledge. The potential downside is a flawed understanding of language itself.
“What we’re finding are students who are very smart, very verbally able — and illiterate,” Jim Marks, a board member for the past five years of the Association on Higher Education and Disability, told me. "Now their writing is phonetic and butchered. They never got to learn the beauty and shape and structure of language.”
Horror stories circulating around the convention featured children who don’t know what a paragraph is or why we capitalize letters or that “happily ever after” is made up of three separate words.
The question extends well beyond obvious things like spelling words or distinguishing homonyms to the broader concept that the acquisition of the ability to read actually shapes the brain itself, and that people from literate societies actually think differently from members of oral societies.
Link. Image credit Tom Schierlitz.