Over 90 percent of blind children are not Braille readers. There is a strong correlation between using Braille and educational attainment, employment and higher incomes for the blind. Shawn Callaway, Board Member of the National Federation of the Blind
discusses the Braille literacy crisis many children are facing today and exposing blind students to STEM fields. Click here
for part 1 of Braille and STEM Education for Blind Students.
Traynham: How do we raise that number, assuming that we want to raise that number, from 8% to 80% or 100%?
Callaway: Mm-hmm. Well, like I said, it all starts with the willingness of the school and the administrators and the special-education department, to understand that braille is needed in the school system, in regards to learning and reading comprehension. Oftentimes, Robert, if a person has a little bit of sight, they will work hard in regards to making sure they have what they call CCTVs and other technology that strain that student's eye to get as much as he can with the little sight that he has, instead of really putting the braille in front of the student and teaching that student braille, and he'll be prepared, once he leaves school, to be very successful in trying to attain a good career for himself.
Traynham: Sure. You mentioned, Shawn, CCTV. I assume that's closed-caption television?
Callaway: It's basically sort of like a device where it helps -- enlarges the print of what you're trying to read.
Traynham: The few moments we have left, Shawn, I want to move to STEM -- science, technology, engineering, and math. We keep hearing over and over again, that's where the economy is going, that's where a lot of social media as well as technology companies are saying, "Look, we need students, or graduates, that are very proficient in these categories." How does that work with individuals that perhaps may be blind?
Callaway: Well, with the STEM field -- Number one, the National Federation of the Blind has been working diligently in regards to children and students, young adults, learning STEM, okay? And with that, we implement assistive technology, which will help the students in the classroom in regards to science projects, technology, and things like that. So, you know, I think we have to kill the perception, and hopefully through our actions, that people need to understand that blind students can learn STEM.
Callaway: Yeah. And so that's what we've really, truly been working on -- to help not only teachers and instructors, but help children understand that they have the power and they have the capabilities to do STEM.
Traynham: I want to move on to talk about White Cane Awareness. What is that?
Callaway: White Can Awareness Day is -- Every October 15th, across the country, blind people celebrate White Cane Awareness Day. And it basically shows the symbolization of the white cane and what it means to our independence as blind people. So, we hold activities all across the country with blind organizations just to really highlight the importance of the white cane and how -- you know, this is the tool we use to be totally independent for ourselves.
Traynham: You know, Shawn, I want to end on that, because I think that's really, really important. And thank you so very much for raising the awareness, not only about students and STEM, but also students with braille, as well, and also the White Cane Awareness Day because there's a certain stigma out there -- I think there's a certain ignorance out there that many Americans have -- with persons that are visually impaired. So, thank you again for coming on and raising the awareness for all of us.
Callaway: Thank you for having me.
Traynham: And please keep up the great work.
Callaway: Appreciate it. Thank you.
Traynham: And thank you for joining us, as well.For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation,visit comcastnewsmakers.com.I?m Robert Traynham.