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Bosma continues work expanding braille literacy through technology, programming

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The blind community is seeing growth in technological advancements, but when it comes to braille basics, there are fewer teachers. Advocates say it’s important to expand braille literacy because it helps open up a world of possibilities.

National Braille Literacy month wrapped at the end of January, and Bosma Center for Visionary Solutions representatives say they are pushing for better literacy all year. They say only 10% of people who are legally blind can read braille. And while it has been around since the 1800s, it’s still a valuable skill to learn.

Braille literacy means freedom if you ask Bill Powell, the director of assisted technology braille and education. The lifelong lessons he’s learned as a person who is blind, he’s passing on to people of all ages at Bosma — an agency focused on providing services for people who are blind.

“We’ve had people come through here as grown-ups who were shut-ins for a year or two. They thought life was over with those eyes wins. Now they’re back working. So, there are resources that weren’t even there when I was young,” Powell said.

Braille’s six-dot code was developed in the 1800s. The raised dots allows people to feel the words rather than see them.

“There are six dots three going down the left side, three dots going down the right,” Powell said.

Before that, Powell said people who were blind were cast out. But as the skill grew more popular, people could climb up the ranks and hold better jobs. And now, assisted technology is helping people lead more independent lives. But knowing the basics won’t ever get old.

“This also works with my iPhone,” said Powell while showing off a piece of equipment. “So, when I am out and about. To the airport or wherever I can sync up my iPhone and this links up to it. And I can read books emails or whatever.”

However, while technology grows, old-school methods are winding down, with only 10% of the legally blind population able to read it. So, there’s a search to bring in more braille educators. Bosma is taking steps through its virtual learning and in-person programs.

“We’re ordinary people who do extraordinary things,” Powell said.

Bosma representatives say they want a variety of resources available if you’re interested in finding out more about resources for the blind.