Should Dad learn braille?

2 answers | Last updated: Feb 08, 2011
A fellow caregiver asked...

Is braille difficult to learn? My father's vision is severely enough impaired that he can't read, even with the help of magnifiers. He says he's too old to learn braille, but I'd like to encourage him.

Expert Answers

Lylas Mogk, M.D. is an ophthalmologist and director of the Henry Ford Visual Rehabilitation and Research Center in Grosse Pointe and Livonia, Michigan, and the author of Macular Degeneration: The Complete Guide to Saving and Maximizing Your Sight.

First, I wouldn't assume your father can't read print if he hasn't already tried a CCTV (closed-circuit television), which magnifies much more than the strongest magnifier and provides a large area for viewing. Most people with age-related macular degeneration, for example, can at least read bills with a CCTV, and many can even read the newspaper.

If your father can't use a CCTV, then the question is what he wants to read. If it's books and magazines, for example, the Library of Congress National Library Service has an excellent -- and free -- audio book and magazine program that provides a user-friendly tape player and tapes by mail. Almost any book you can think of is included, and you can keep it for as long as you like, returning it postage-free in the provided mailing pouch. If your father wants to read other materials, some scanning devices read print out loud.

These strategies may be quicker and easier for your parent than learning braille, although some seniors do enjoy learning it. The Hadley School for the Blind offers a distance-learning course in braille.

Community Answers

Kathleen kappel answered...


I have come across some outdated information in the answer to this question that may be misleading to consumers using it.

Dr. Lylas Mogk, the expert quoted, is correct in describing the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped as a service providing free audio books and audio book players by mail to qualified readers with visual or physical disabilities. In her answer, she refers to cassette tapes and tape players.

However, the National Library Service is phasing out the audiocassette format in favor of digital audio books and digital book players. These players offer far better sound quality, are much easier to use, and offer features such as bookmarking in the advanced model.

As the Director of the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, which is part of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, I oversee this and other services to 10,000 Western Pennsylvanians in 36 counties. Our library is part of the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped -- a network of 128 libraries across the country providing this service nationwide and to U.S. citizens living abroad.

Our reader feedback on the new digital format has been overwhelmingly positive -- users love it! I am sure that consumers researching vision problems on your website would appreciate knowing about digital audio books and the many other services -- large print books, braille books and magazines, reference services, etc. -- offered by network libraries across the United States and its territories.

For more information about the service in the Western half of Pennsylvania, please call toll-free 800-242-0586, email us at, or visit For services elsewhere in the country, visit the National Library Service website at

Kathleen Kappel Director, Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh