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Future of Braille (ZuBra)

Background and aims

Written language skills for Braille readers: Efficacy of education provision.

The tactile script for the blind developed in the 19th century is still proving to be a valuable and adaptable system, even though it faces growing competition from other options for accessing written communication. Computers, tablets and smart phones backed by assistive technologies like e-books grant broad audio-based access to written information. Since the 1990s, when 8-dot computer Braille (Eurobraille) was introduced, there have been predictions and fears that the use of raised-dot code would decline, and questions have been raised about the implications for literacy skills among the blind and severely visually impaired. The debate also reflects the influence of educational settings (integration or segregation), age of subject, and age of onset of the impairment. There is a considerable lack of robust recent empirical data.

The study aims to secure detailed insights into patterns of use and the literacy and technological skills of blind and severely visually impaired individuals.  This will provide a basis for assessing the efficacy of educational provision. Findings will serve to develop provision and to design appropriate learning contexts, suitable aids and the use of assistive technologies.


The research is primarily guided by the following questions:

  • How are Braille codes (shorthand, full transcription, Eurobraille) and assistive technologies used by the blind and severely visually impaired to access information?
  • What are the links between age of user, severity and onset of impairment, educational settings and patterns of use?
  • What skills and strategies do subjects have for reading, writing, auding and the use of assistive technologies?


During the quantitative phase of the research project, online interviews will be conducted throughout Switzerland and Germany. The target subjects are blind and severely visually impaired people of all ages who can be reached via the Internet. They will be asked about the ways they use Braille codes and assistive technologies and for a self-assessment of the skills described above.
The findings from the quantitative survey will then be expanded and differentiated during the qualitative phase. Research will address literacy and technological skills and strategies adopted by learners at the age of school and training. Perspectives are triangulated by additional surveys among experts in educational institutions.


Preliminary results will be available in early 2016.



Project Management

  • Pädagogik für Sehbehinderte und Blinde Interkantonale Hochschule für Heilpädagogik Zürich

  • Blinden- und Sehbehindertenpädagogik Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg Fakultät I Erziehungs- und Sozialwissenschaften Institut für Sonderpädagogik


Forschung und Entwicklung
Tel: +41 44 317 11 81

zfe[at] zfe