Blind people (see: visually impaired) read braille a lot slower than sighted people can read by scanning their eyes over text. This is not only because moving one's finger over paper to read the small dots of braille is slower than using one's eyes, but also because there aren't many words that can be instantly recognised. For example, in text:

The cat is orange.

. o   o o  o .  . o    . o  . o    o .  o .  o .  o o  o o  o . 
o .   . .  . .  o o    o .  o .    . o  o o  . .  . o  o o  . o 
o o   . .  . .  o .    . .  o .    o .  o .  . .  o .  o .  . .
When reading the former, one can easily recognise each word. Whereas in the latter, the only "instantly recognisable" word is "the" (first character, see braille node for more of such abbreviations). Thus, the general consensus between my blind friends is that braille sucks, not only because it's hard and tedious to read, but also because using braillers is a pain in the arse, and braille printers can't even be considered by most because of their price.

There is, however, respite for those blind people who dislike braille. This is, believe it or not, text-to-speech. This is not the abhorrable, unrecognisable text-to-speech you may recall from DOS; this is highly programmed, smooth software that integrates into the system and allows blind users full interface with their computers. The other advantage? These things read at horrible speeds of up to 150wpm+ (at least three times what a proficient braille-reader can read). Because of this, I know blind people who can read large, entire novels without any real effort in a couple of days, whereas this would take me at least a week.

So unless you are a super speed-reader, any blind person proficient at understanding JAWS or such software will read you under the library table any day.

2002.11.18@02:09 wick says re how fast can blind people read?: "horrible" speeds?

If you're not used to these text to speech programmes, the speed at which they blare you can not only be uncomfortable, but extremely disconcerting. I think "horrible" would be an apt adjective for one not used to such. Especially when they realise that some people use such to control all of their input and output. Once you get over this you can start to have large amounts of fun by pressing alt-tab over and over at very high speeds. ;)
This has been a one-line node rescue, of sorts. Please message me any additions or corrections; my braille has probably at least one mistake.

I'm a jaws user. Therefore, I can sort of give an insight into what it it's like to have novels being read at such a speed. Sometimes you miss things. A speed or two down is fine. Mine's at seventy percent of the max, and the rate will vary with what synth you use. You can choose from a variety, Eloquence being the default.

When I'm reading, people get upset. Especially fellow whiny high school students who don't understand that I hate hate hate hate hate being held down to the level of what feels like first grade. Yes I can read smoothly from a braille display. Give me paper and I cringe. I don't use braille with my computer. I don't need to. And not every program works with jaws, if the program is horribly graphic, good luck.

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