Zoom Colloquium: Braille Literacy Rates in the U.S.: Knowing What We Don’t Know

Zoom Colloquium: Braille Literacy Rates in the U.S.: Knowing What We Don’t Know

Event Date

Thursday, August 18th, 2022 – 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Rebecca M. Sheffield, Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments, Advocate, Researcher at the U.S. Department of Education as an Education Program Specialist in the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)


James Coughlan Senior Scientist - Coughlan Lab Director Degrees: Ph.D.



For almost as long as braille has existed, researchers, advocates, educators, and innovators have been influenced by assumptions or beliefs about rates of braille readership. However, despite repeated claims in the media and in advocacy materials, U.S. braille literacy statistics have proven difficult to substantiate and clarify. In this session, authors Rebecca Sheffield, Frances Mary D’Andrea, and Sarah Chatfield will discuss their systematic literature review, which began in 2015 in collaboration with Smith-Kettlewell scientist Valerie Morash. The research findings raise numerous questions, including: In the absence of current, reliable data on braille literacy, what evidence is there about the demand for braille-related innovations and research? What lessons should we take from the proliferation of unsupported claims about braille literacy rates? How has the nature of being a “braille reader" changed with the advent of technology? How might researchers approach agreeing on definitions and gathering useful data on braille readership rates?

Sheffield, R. M., D’Andrea, F. M., Morash, V., & Chatfield, S. (2022). How many braille readers? Policy, politics, and perception. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 116(1), 14–25. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145482X211071125

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