Blind people

What are common traits of blind people? For instance, how do they navigate inside and outside? Do their other senses become more in tune as their condition worsens? Is it hard for older people to learn to read braille? Any little bit of info would be very helpful.

Blind people use a lot of memory power to navigate. As an example, if they can’t see the doorways along a hallway, they’ll have to remember that each door is so many paces along and which side it’s on.

In a new area they ask lots of questions, like “Is this the corner of First and Main?”

Some have been experimenting with a GPS unit hooked up to a voice synthesizer, but the technology is not quite mature yet.

If they have a dog to help them around the dog may well learn where certain things are. For instance, I once worked with a blind man who could, pretty much anywhere in the Chicago Loop, say to his dog “take me to work” and the dog would lead him back to his office. Of course, it did take the dog a little while to learn the location in the first place, and when he switched jobs the pooch took him back to the old office a couple times before he got it figured out.

The non-visual sense of the blind don’t become stronger, the difference is that the blind pay more attention to those senses. This is like a musician or wine taster closing their eyes to pay more attention to hearing or taste. Except, of course, blind people don’t have the option of going back to relying on sight.

Not all blind people are totally blind - quite a few of them have some visual sense. It may not be sufficient to read, but it might be enough to, for instance, tell direction from sunlight which can aid navigation. I worked for a blind woman once who still could see areas of color and movement, which allowed to notice the Wrigley Building (as an example) since it’s white and large and sits nexts to the large, dark buildings.

Reading braille is just like reading any other alphabet - just takes practice. Although blind folks read it with their fingers, most sighted people who read it do so by looking at the dots, not feeling them. When I worked with the aforementioned blind people I did pick up a little use of braille, but nowadays they have computer programs that translate it for you, lessening the need for sighted readers and speeding up transcription considerably.

Just to be complete, legally blind means vision that is uncorrectable to better than 20/200 in the better eye. So, some people who are legally blind and can get those handicap jobs, etc. can see fairly well, as 20/200 is bad but not all that bad. That’s just about two diopters.

Hey, this reminds me. How does braille work?

I remember trying to decipher some braille next to some elevator buttons. Of course, they say “1,2,3,etc” but there weren’t any patterns of dots that were consistent with the letters I thought they represented.

Is there an online braille dictionary or something somewhere?

This chart is fairly complete, if a little indistinct. There are links at the bottom if you’d like to find some other resources.

The elevator buttons have the “number” sign before the number, and numbers are made from the first ten letters. Thus the sixth floor will be labelled, in effect, “# F”, and the eleventh floor, “# A A”. The ground floor, however, may be labelled “cap cap M A IN” where the IN is a one-cell contraction, and the capital indicator is used twice to show that the word is written is all capital letters.

There are 63 different signs altogether, and most have several meanings. It’s easy enough to learn the alphabet, but getting the hang of the contractions and abbreviations takes a while.

"Is there an online braille dictionary or something somewhere?

There is a free braille font on the net if you search for it.