Why Band-its Aren’t Braille

A common assumption regarding sight loss is that every visually impaired person can read braille. And this seems like a pretty reasonable assumption, too. Writing, in the modern day, is a fundamental form of communication, but without a sufficiently strong sense of sight an individual is cut-off from this communication channel. Reading braille, therefore, seems like a natural way for the visually impaired to re-engage with this important medium of communication. However, this assumption is in fact false. As it turns out, only a very low percentage of visually impaired people can read braille. In the UK, it’s around 1%. In America, it’s quite a bit higher at 10%, but that’s still pretty low. So, why can so few visually impaired people read braille?

There are two major reasons why more visually impaired people can’t read braille. Firstly, only 10% of visually impaired children in America are being taught to read braille, and similarly in the UK many visually impaired children are also not being taught braille, despite it being as accessible a means of reading as text is for sighted children. Secondly, even if this percentage were higher, it remains the case that most visually impaired people are not so from childhood, but rather lose their site as they grow older. Additionally, as people grow older they deteriorate generally, too - it is not uncommon for the elderly to have reduced mobility in their fingers, a development which can itself hinder one’s ability to read braille. All this means that braille remains a medium of communication inaccessible to the majority of the visually impaired.

This is why Band-it doesn’t use braille. Instead, Band-it relies on other, simpler, forms of communication to convey the information about what’s in that tin, bottle, spraycan, or whatever else. Instead of having small, complex, braille characters that the majority of the visually impaired can’t read anyway, Band-it uses relatively large shapes (1cm across) which are not only easy to identify in themselves, but are also easy to distinguish from one another (a benefit we learned of from one of our product testers). As a simple labelling system, these shapes make the product invaluable to older people who are more likely to experience some level of sight loss and reduced dexterity. The shape and colour combination make it easier to identify products that are similar to each other quickly without having to reach for the magnifier! This is the aim with Band-it; a simple, accessible, and easy to use product, regardless of age or dexterity.

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