Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Profile of the retired president of the National Braille Press

The Boston Globe wrote an in-depth profile March 2 of the newly retired president of the National Braille Press, William M. Raeder. The Boston-based Press has been printing Braille books since 1927.

Raeder was lauded for numerous accomplishments while president for 32 years: "Raeder has expanded the nonprofit's budget, defended Braille amid nationwide drops in literacy rates among the blind, and been at the front of a battle to improve societal attitudes about the blind."

Raeder discussed the continuing importance of Braille to the blind community: "When you listen to recordings, the machine actively emits sound, and you passively take in the information. But when you read, whether with your eyes or your fingers, you actively seek the information. The pages don't turn themselves. It's a different cognitive process. There's nothing like reading."

Ironically, Raeder could never master Braille himself because the explosion that blinded him left him with only two fingers.

Blindness experts say Braille is an extremely important skill that helps with employment for blind people. Steven M. Rothstein, president of Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass., says in The Globe article: "National studies show that 80 percent of blind people literate in Braille are employed, compared with only 20 percent of those who are illiterate. Braille literacy is the single most important fact in determining a blind person's independence, productivity, and employment."