Lost arc of language

Literacy purists bemoan ‘kids these days’ and their inability to
understand and appreciate the beauty and substance of written
language. What with instant-messaging and texting,
they just don’t want to learn grammar and syntax. But what about the
million-plus legally blind Americans who passed through our school
systems functionally illiterate? According to the National Federation of
the Blind, only 10 percent of visually-impaired Americans can read
Braille. Audio technology, argue some, has made Braille antiquated; as
e-books replace paperbacks, text-to-speech technologies replace
cumbersome Braille books. But others highlight the link between the form
and structure of words and sentences and brain activity and coherence
of thought. One study found that students who did not know that we
capitalize proper names, or how to use punctuation, for example, had
highly disorganized through processes--“as if all of their ideas are
crammed into a container, shaken and thrown randomly onto a sheet of
paper like dice onto a table.” Further, Braille literacy means you’re
twice as likely to be employed. (This is partially because audio-only
readers require expensive technologies to function in
intellectual/white-collar professions.) However this debate shakes
itself out, we’re pretty sure Gadfly wouldn’t be the same read aloud. 

Braille Illiteracy is a Growing Problem,” by Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 2, 2010

With New Technologies, Do Blind People Lose More Than They Gain?,” by Rachel Aviv, New York Times Magazine, December 30, 2009

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