Braille Awareness Month–The Starbucks Example of Relevance

Louis Braille’s birthday was January 4th, and the month of January each year is Braille Awareness Month. There have been the usual discussions and articles about the relevancy of braille in the digital age. After all, what need is there for braille, when computers and other gadgets talk to us? Would those of us who regularly read print on paper, ask the same question? In the digital age, is print on paper relevant?

A teacher leans over her student to check his work on the braille embosser

Caption: Student Learning to Write Braille

Starbucks is not having this discussion about the relevancy of braille. They recognized several years ago that some of their customers are braille readers and added braille to their gift card line up. I make a point of looking for the braille gift card whenever I’m in a Starbucks. If one is not on display, I ask if one is available. The Starbucks at the Maine Mall in South Portland had one on display the day I walked in with one of my clients. It was a great ice breaker. Please don’t tell Starbucks that braille is less relevant, because nothing seems as relevant and useful as identifying the name of a gift card, in braille, for braille readers!

A statistic I heard recently on a Tek Talk podcast, reminded me that this whole discussion of braille relevancy may be interesting academically, but totally absurd. In an interview with Tek Talk, Allison Hilliker, Customer Specialist with Bookshare mentioned that there are over half a million book titles for subscribers to download in electronic braille format. Think about it this way, instead of downloading and opening the electronic book on their Kindle, a braille reader can download the book and open it on their device with an electronic refreshable braille display.

Half a million books is very relevant.

This year, I’m just going to smile when the subject of braille’s relevancy comes up and take the Starbuck’s approach–there are plenty of braille readers out there, and some of them are our customers. More of them will be our customers if we reach out to them in the reading medium they prefer, braille and if we offer braille training to people who are losing vision and can benefit from learning it. Simple!

I love you in braille

Caption: I Love You in Braille

More About Braille and Braille Relevancy

Stay tuned for our next article on the relevance of braille in a post-Louis Braille era and be sure to read the other parts in this series:

Finding Braille in Everyday Places

Braille Gift Items

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