How I Read as a Visually Impaired Person

Greetings readers,

Welcome back to the blog!

Learning doesn’t always have to happen in schools, or in the classrooms. Since the start of the pandemic, and since I’m no longer in school, or plan to return any time soon, I developed a habit (sometimes, a marathon) of reading. So I thought, this is a good opportunity to share with you—how I read, as a visually impaired person. Note here, I’m only one visually impaired person, sharing my own experiences. Since everyone’s different, and blindness/visual impairment is also a spectrum, keep this in mind as you read this blog.

First thing first, a common question I get asked the most is: Can you read in print or a physical book? The short answer is: yes. But, it’s a bit more complicated than that. So, the long answer is, as much as I can still read a physical book, it’s (usually) not my preferred (or only) way of reading. Since, it’d take me a lot longer to read a physical book, and often, reading in print also puts a lot of strain on my eyes and my neck (because I’d have to hold the book really close to my face and strain both my eyes and my neck to read it). As a self conscious person as I am, I also don’t want anyone seeing me like this in public, so if I do read a physical book, I usually read it at home, and when no one’s looking!

Then, the question becomes: Do you read in Braille? The answer to this is: no, I don’t. I did learn a bit of Braille in the past, but I don’t read in Braille. I can read Braille in words and in short sentences, but not in paragraphs and pages. So, I’m not a fluent Braille reader. I know many blind/visually impaired folks read fluently in Braille, but that’s not me.

Now, let us praise the invention of…audiobooks! Because, I listen to A LOT of them. And, I have also used what’s called alternative formats when I was a university student. (Alternative format is to transcribe a physical book into something like an eBook, or files like a Word or PDF document. Then, I could use my screen reader software or voice over, to have the materials read aloud to me).

Sometimes, people say audiobooks aren’t real books and aren’t real reading. I disagree. I think one can still learn the content of a book or a printed material just by listening to it. The only time I feel that listening to an audiobook might “hinder” learning is, in audiobook, you are listening the words, you probably have better listening skills. But, you aren’t learning the correct spelling of words. And for me, (and many others) whose English is not my first language, if I’m only listening, I might not learn the correct spelling of some words. This is why, actually, my most and personally preferred way of reading is, having the audiobook on at the same time holding a physical book, only to look at the book from time to time. But again, I know this is not feasible for everyone and for every book. Personally, I don’t have two copies (print and audio) of every book!

Now, I’m interested to know: How do you read? Do you read physical books? Do you listen to audiobooks? Do you read in Braille? Or perhaps, you are like me, you read in a combination of ways? Whichever way you choose, I hope you enjoy what you read!

By: The Invisible Vision Project

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