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Braille is a set of six dots that in different combinations are used to replicate letters, numbers, and symbols. The system was invented by Louis Braille in 1821, and was a means of opening the door to reading for the blind. While things like books were the first to be printed in Braille, there were soon thoughts of applying the system to other things that the visually impaired might need. One of these things was the Braille watch.
As early as the 20th century, savvy watchmakers began creating pocket watches with Braille on them. They had to be open faced instead of having a glass covering to protect the hands. Not only was it important for the person using one to feel the Braille numbers, but also they had to be able to feel the hands too in relationship to the numbers in order to tell the time.
However, an open-face watch could be problematic. Time could easily become inaccurate if the hands of the watch got caught on clothing or in the hair. To remedy this, watchmakers added an opening and closing glass lid, so the hands of the Braille watch were protected when the watch was being used to tell time.
A variety of companies now offer the Braille watch in varying sizes and styles. There are those suited primarily for women and men, but it’s hard to find a Braille watch for kids. Some suggest using a woman’s watch because it may fit the wrist of a child, but others feel that this may set kids apart, especially if they are educated in a mainstream environment with sighted children.
Styles of the Braille watch available for women and men can feature a variety of straps and colors. Some watches can be not only read but heard. A few Braille watches feature a “talking” function. These have voice responses that tell the time, which may be useful if a person doesn’t have time to be fumbling with the watch face cover to read the time.
For people with sight impairment that merely means they cannot read the small numbers on a watch, there are also low vision watches. These don’t feature Braille. Instead they have a large watch face with larger numbers that make it much easier to read a wristwatch. Talking watches might also prove useful for those with visual impairment late in life and who have never learned to read Braille.
@hamje32 - I think that any problem can be overcome. If there is any invention that has undergone so much refinement and precision over the period of thousands of years (if you include sun dials) it has to be the watch or timepiece.
Today’s watches are little engineering marvels. The inclusion of Braille products into the mix is an easy customization in my opinion, and in the end I believe that people who are visually impaired will have available to them the same range of options available in standard watches.
The only thing that is excluded is the digital watch, which of course doesn’t work with the Braille system. But who knows. Perhaps at some point in the future they’ll figure out a way to integrate digital technology as well. There is no end to the amount of engineering going on with modern watch making.
I think that the talking wrist watch is the most useful solution, personally. It requires less fumbling about and it prevents the possibility of an open faced design getting caught in hair or clothing.
There is only one problem that I see with a talking watch, and that is that it’s a “talking” watch. In other words, if you’re not in a private setting, everyone around you will hear it.
It might cause a disturbance, however slight. I would hope that the talking watch would have some sort of earpiece or other device to minimize the possibility of disturbing others.