ABU(Junior Group) Excellent Work
“Which do I prefer more — Books in Braille or Recorded Books—Why?”
Sri Lanka T. G. Janitha Rukmal(22/Male)
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."
Once said Sir Francis Bacon who marked his name in the history of mankind with his world-famous nearly-clichéd saying “Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” Besides this elegant categorization of books, students are supposed or rather entitled to dedicate more time for reading books regardless of the subjects they learn. No matter what the purpose that reading serves in relation to different kinds of persons, books obviously enrich the knowledge of the readers. Reading books in general is considered a productive hobby and in the past it is said to have been considered in western countries as a creditable accomplishment of young ladies in their marriageable age.
However as Mortimer Adler very precisely mentions:
"In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but how many can get through to you.” This remark possesses a greater significance concerning the visually impaired persons particularly because reading books is one of the affordable and reliable means of effective communication that asserts their right to access information especially in the current information society where the whole world is considered a global village.
As a visually disable person from a third world country, I prefer recorded books to Braille books. Yet I personally observe several advantages of using Braille books as opposed to the usage of audio books. Among those advantages:
*Simplicity and versatility in usage
*Ability to grasp the entire contents as they are, even sans missing spelling elements etc.
*Convenience in referencing literary work, provided that the reader is familiar with the particular book / set of books,
Can be mentioned as the most important ones.
And yet there are several disadvantages of Braille books that urge people to choose audio books rather than fussing with Braille books. The bulkiness of Braille books which sometimes consist of several volumes, makes it a comparatively difficult task to carry them around with the readers. Apart from that, the monotony that one might feel when reading a Braille book is usually not felt when one listens to an audio book mainly because of the voice variations the professional readers use when they read and act out the conversations included in the books.
In addition, audio books become more appealing for those who have lost their sight later in life. They save them from the difficulty of learning Braille contractions for reading and engaging them in the tedious attempt to read Braille as quickly as they used to read when they could see.
There is another key disadvantage of Braille books that turns out to be a huge advantage which contributes to the popularity of recorded books. More time and more special resources are required to produce Braille books even with the latest technology whereas any person can just record an audio book using the ordinary recording equipment which is available almost anywhere any time. The few things one needs to record an audio book are mainly the will to do it, a book to record and simple recording equipment, which, perhaps, may be a computer.
The new technologies such as DAISY talking books, have enabled visually impaired people to reach more and more audio books than they used to read when there were only Braille books. Above all, the audio books are so versatile that one can carry a whole lot of books even in one’s modern mobile phone and listen to them whenever and wherever one wishes. At present, audio books are gradually becoming more affordable than the Braille books.
Moreover, the modern technology has made the compilation of audio books a much easier task by allowing even visually impaired persons themselves to either locate their desired books via Internet or scan the ordinary reading material using user-friendly devices and convert them to audio books within seconds using the software associated with text-to-speech synthesizers. Since the text-to-speech synthesizers also have been developed to such a higher level that one hardly can distinguish the difference between a natural human voice and a synthesized voice, in contrast to those times where synthesized voices were ridiculed, people don’t feel bored or uncomfortable to listen to the audio books produced using the aforementioned methodology. When looking at the Braille book readers and the audio book readers from a sociological point of view, one may observe that Braille book readers enjoy a rather reserved sort of a pleasure of reading which sets them apart from their sighted family members whereas the audio book readers have the option of enjoying the contents of those books together with the sighted people who would enjoy them in a way they enjoy some kind of a radio drama. Therefore, it’s possible to conclude that unlike Braille books, audio books tend to strengthen the social relationships of visually impaired persons with the sighted persons around them without concerning the blind with their own world that has been built around the Braille dots.
By any means this doesn’t mean that visually impaired people should deviate from Braille system or they should give up Braille because of the convenience that the new technology and the audio books provide them. In fact, all the modern equipment become useless when there’s no electricity to power them up. In that case the six magical dots, our old friends, become our best companions again.
However, the personal preferences of each and every visually disabled individual, the purposes and ways they wish to do their reading, become the decisive factors which determine their means of reading. In my opinion, books must be accessible as a whole to the visually disable persons regardless of the medium they are familiar with.