Reading Blind: Technology and 21st Century Literacy

As the digital realm and the age of information grows from its infancy, a point is often made that the increasing proliferation of technology / digital media has lead to the subsequent decrease of book readership.

While this is a perspective that we as bookworms have become accustomed to out of sheer repetition, it doesn't necessarily make it true. Yes, a downturn in the past decade or so has been palpable in terms of the sheer numbers of volumes being printed, shipped and purchased from brick and mortar shops, but correlation does not equate to causation. The story of 21st century literacy is not told entirely by the metric of sales and profit.

A story that is spun nowhere near as often but is just as important is this: the democratisation of technology has enabled more people to read than ever before. Don't believe us? Just watch this inspiring TED talk given by the charming lawyer and academic Ron McCallum, who describes himself as a voracious reader and also happens to be entirely blind. 

Amongst the list of things that most able-bodied people take for granted, sight would have to be at the top. If books are gateways to other worlds, then those worlds historically would have been completely locked to the millions of blind and disabled people who didn't have the means, monetary or technological, to access them. 

In 2015, with the popularity of alternative formats such as audiobooks increasing, this is no longer the case. It's not that we're reading less, it's just that we're finding different ways to read.