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360- The Universal Page

2019-07-02 | 🔗

Reporter Andrew Leland has always loved to read. An early love of books in childhood eventually led to a job in publishing with McSweeney’s where Andrew edited essays and interviews, laid out articles, and was trained to take as much care with the look and feel of the words as he did with the expression of the ideas in the text. But as much as Andrew loves print, he has a condition that will eventually change his relationship to it pretty radically. He’s going blind. And this fact has made him deeply curious about how blind people experience literature and the long history of designing a tactile language that sometimes suffered from trying to be too universal.

The Universal Page

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible I'm roman Mars Gingerly wind has always love to read a bit greater. He was the kid who said, on a utility box during recess ringing the habit, while everyone else played kick ball in middle school healers the trade names of the book in that publish the DRC. The gay contemporary fiction that he was starting to get into. Two thousand three: he dropped out of college and moved to see Francisco to work for his favorite publisher. Mc Sweeneys it was my dream job and working are exacerbated. My already intense fetish footprint massing Andrew,
I got to live out my fantasy of being and extend wretch, even if that meant logging twelve hour days at an inn class computer? I edited essays and interviews laid out articles and took a weird amount of pleasure and type graphical minutiae, like I tell us eyes in commerce and rewriting headlines, so they fit the frame. Just so am Sweeneys books in magazines. Whenever just containers for words they were works of art unto themselves, train to take as much care with the look and feel of the print, as I did with the expression of the ideas in the text but as much is Andrew loved print, Priscilla was in fact here so has a condition that will eventually change his relationship to it. Pretty radically I'm going blind really really slowly right. Now, it's like I've got a foot in both worlds. Blue and an cited. I have a degenerative retinal disease. That's given me severe tunnel vision, so basically no peripheral vision. It's like I'm peering at the world through a toilet paper,
when it gets a little narrower every few months. Ten I'm going try to read this and then see. If I can we, My retinal specialist told me that I probably don't need to worry about losing the ability to read for another five years or so, but of already using a special digital programme to learn Braille, which is not easy, because what want to get a jump start before actually needed recur clearly. What over cycle can we recycle a metal? Can I know I still be able to experience books for the rest of my life. I'm like
it'd be going blind in the digital age and the golden age of audio. There is an abundance of well produced, audio books and technology that can read aloud almost anything that appears on the screen. Puzzles unicycle puzzles my niece can ride a unicycle or do puzzles Release can do no such thing, but, despite all that, there is still some mellow tragedy. The idea that in a few years are probably no longer be able to read Prynne after a life span, loving books. There is now a real urgency for me and the question of how blind people experience literature. I find myself deeply curious about what graphic design might mean to someone who can see, and so I started looking into the history of reading technologies for the blind
traditionally books are visual objects can for centuries. Now blind incited designers have been arguing over the most effective way to translate the visual ink print book into and, possible form for people without sight for as long as blind people have been reading, there's been this time. Between systems that try to stay close to the original form of a book and systems that dramatically depart from our ideas of what a book can be cited. Designers have made incredible breakthroughs: to create non visual forms of reading for blind people. It has one blind: critic pointed out cited designers have a bad habit of quote from talking to the fingers in the language of the eyes, so the three of blind reading is really the history of finding a new language for the fingers and for the ears when that captures the central elements of the ink print book, but in a new language, that's unbound! from the visual and that his
ray centres around two main shapes lines and dots are story starts in the eighteenth century. Europe before Braille, was invented before blind people were even taught to read at all, first off when thinks that its possible for buying kids to learn- that's my cousin, museum director at the American Printing House for the blind in Louisville Kentucky, and if they could no one knows how to do it, without access to education, blind people were overwhelmingly poor in their employment prospects, were dim. Their families had enough money in time to support them. They usually lived at home like adult children sitting idly around the house, many others were forced to beg on the street. There a handful of institutions in Europe to support the poorest cases, but they pitied the blind and hid them away from public view but then this guy named Valentine away comes along a week was born into a family of weavers and France and he was a skilled linguist. He was first inspired
help the blind in seventeen seventy one we saw a group of Blind people being marked during a street festival in Paris. They had been then Duns caps and giant fake glasses and they were made to play fiscal instruments and pretend to read books. So He founded the first known school for the blind called the Royal Institute in Paris, but even he's getting the school going. How we kept aside gig and a week s side, GIG is as a translator for the king of France, and so we renown and you'll get these fancy embossed invitations to various events and one day, one of our students, a kid named France, Wireless sewer, touched one of them. In France, while a sore notices that he can feel thing on these. By on these limitations,
and that gives a weedy idea the idea to develop this idea of embossed printing in raised letters sew in one thousand, seven hundred and eighty six, how he makes the first machine embossed book for the blind treatise on blond education, it's written in print the CHI that cited readers would recognise, but the text as all raise so that blind students can, you're the shape of the letters and its. Adequate move matches the first for blind readers in history, but basically the beginning of the idea that blind people can be educated. But there are a few problems well first off, no one can afford to buy these books. Ok, that's because the books are massive and prohibitively expensive there also just really hard to read their filled with ornate eating century letter forms with their curly q. Some flourishes which are confusing to the fingertips
it's not until many years later near the end of our life in eighteen. Twenty one that are very different and reading system begins to develop when they use is done, instead of lines. It starts when a cap from Napoleon's army visits the school to share a system that he developed for french soldiers. The captain rhymes, how the system allowed his men to silently communicate with each other on battlefields at night. This is it With a brilliant idea, making signs You have my men could read in the dock, mealy my men could read in the dock mealy I touch, I called it nocturnal writing the director the school at the time when a group of students experiment with the embossed pages that the captain had left behind and in that group was, twelve year old, blind kid named Lou. Be a few years he began to adapt that military code for blind people as an alternative to raise
print Louie, you ve been working on for days. Your mother's worried tat, you take a break now. I am so cliffs. I've got it worked out. So that all the letters of the alphabet I represent. By re, starts in different combinations lugubrious, simplified the military code and maximized its efficiency. He substituted the twelve dot system developed by the captain into a six dot system, which allowed blind people to read faster by recognising a letter with a touch of a single finger, While this code was inscrutable, decided people, it was the sis the blind people need it designed by it by a person who understood intimately the needs of those reading by touch another advocate for the I would say of Braille, it bears the stamp of genius like the roman alphabet itself, but despite its effectiveness, rail didn't catch on right away. It would become the dominant system in France for another three
the ears and it be nearly a century before it became standard for blind readers and the? U s because it was effectively suppressed by away intentioned world, famous visionary of blind education. Around the same time. The Braille was quietly developing his new reading system, an american game Samuel greatly. How came to visit the Royal Institute in France, was doing research in anticipation of opening the first school for the blind and the? U s I can tell you that well in France, how discovered the wonders of Braille, but that's not I went down instead He saw the rays letter books and he was intrigues, but in true american fashion he found out fancy flourishes, impractical and typical of european access. So we decided to make his own system that improved on the Europeans work and he came back.
And the hee hee modified it a bit. That's king, Charles and the director of the library at the Perkins School which, how established in Massachusetts in eighteen, twenty nine, because They were using a more got textile fond than he felt was was a little. To ornamental and more difficult to read by touch So if one of our ways french books looked sort of like an ancient tome in a horror movie whose lead, rise up in fleshy protuberances. Then House system is similar, but it looks more runic talk. Any elfish house opened his letters curves into points to make them more distinct under the fingertips. The letter, oh, for example, is shaped like a diamond How calls this new system Boston line, Type Boston, type is, is really the beginning of literature as we know it as a movement for people who are blind in the United States. Unlike the older from
system. Boston line type was designed to be read both by blind an sighted people and, if you're what to see and look at one of these books. The letters are totally easily legible Boston line, allows blind people and cited people to sit down together and to read. There's no barrier between now and this idea was really important to how he didn't want blind people to use a system like Braille. There was separate from what sighted people he thought it would. I salute blind people and prevent them from integrating into the wider world and longer where the concept of universal design had been articulated. It was informing house thinking about how to design for people with disabilities, I know so. You can imagine the argument. While we want our kids that are blind and visually impaired to use the same system that are sided, kids use right. That sounds right, but it turns out raise letters are just not as good spurious so it's harder it just is
harder? Its? That's? Not intuitive to people who were cited, but those letter forms are just not unique enough from each other sighted people look it Browning on Alex saying, but under the finger those raised dots underneath your finger are just more tangible care they just and not only that you can write in Braille. Unlike print, it doesn't require a big heavy metal printing rest. All you need is a small, simple tool called a slate and stylus that fits in your pocket by eighteen sixties, some schools of the blind in the. U S had begun experimenting with brow and while many faculty members still resisted it as an arbitrary impenetrable system. The blind students who are exposed to Braille argued passionately for super superiority to raised letters at the Missouri
go for the blind students past each other notes and reportedly even love letters in Braille, since they knew their teachers would be able to read them if they got caught. But how oh had invested a massive amount of time and resources into developing, distributing and promoting Boston line type, and he began usually influential celebrity in the field of blind education. He was asked her fundraiser and key, A fund raising apparatus was the spectacle of a deaf blind girl named lore abridgment, who, how taught to read using Boston line type Bridgman, was the define person in history to get an education more than full generation before Helen Keller dead. This achievement made Laura Bridgman and how international stars which, how leverage to make Boston line type one of the dominant print mediums for the blind across the. U S like how many of the directors and faculty schools for the blind were cited and many and believe that day, new, which system was best well, it's
for me reading a print letter so can be easy for them. What their fingers she now and here I think it's failure of imagination or a failure of empathy or a failure of experience, Catherine Cuddling, Rex, the Pall k long more institute on disability at San Francisco state, where she's also a history. Professor and she doesn't even really by house argument that Boston line tape was universal. You might have thought it is universal bonds. Universal in that way that the colonise thinks things or universal. It's like you know these poor. Native peoples need educating and will try to bring them up to my level and make them like me. They didn't get the blind people to be. The experts is a crucial part is minutes ago, disability rights nothing about us without us, yeah the new way that people are starting to say it is nothing without US period I think I'll probably made a good faith effort to create a universal system, one that predict
universal design. When did he hoped but a race. The line dividing the blind from the cited. Paradoxically, committing so strongly to the universal page of Boston line time. How help delay the adoption of a much better system by close to a hundred years and the U S system, a blind person. Louie Braille was the expert but the early twentieth century, how had died. There the growing numbers of organisations dedicated to serving the blind and more more them or being led by blind people, in nineteen twenty one leaders from the most Influential of these groups gather in rule, I were to form the American Foundation, the blind, the F B. I quickly became the most powerful blindness organization in the: U S and we're there, These priorities was to make Braille the dominant system. Americans being Americans. The same thing happened that had happened with raised letters. We decided We can design things better than those pretentious Europeans could so a whole cod
industry arose with all sorts of competing systems: Braille Knockoffs, Sir oh now we're heading into what we call the war. The dots have you heard that spent an entire episode on the war of the dots with MIKE Hudson as our trusty narrator, but in a nutshell, before EL, truly one out in the: U S, there was another fifty years of competing title systems, this peer It drove many blind readers, bananas, because every library for the blind was filled with books printed in these multiple competing systems. New York Point Moon Type, American modified Braille. There are others by the way are not going to go into them by one point: the head of the Perkins School says You know anybody invents another code for the blind. We want to shoot him on the spot, but the sight The battle in the war of the dots finally came in nineteen o nine cities. Like New York, were rapidly growing. For the first time they had enough blind,
ran to start building days. Schools for the blind, and so they have a nice big to day, knock down, drag. About meeting of the New York Board of Education to decide which code they're gonna use in the York City, so they bring in all the heavy hitters? Ok, I mean everybody's anybody in line is testifies before this body and at the end, take a big vote. Can they vote for break down Kay, it's the beginning of the end for the competing codes. By nineteen. Seventeen, the rest of the country follows New York's lead and the new Standardized English Braille becomes the main way plying children are taught to read in the U S and with them increasing self determination and literacy blind, people are more able to integrate into society than ever before. Blind children are starting to be mainstreamed into public schools and from first time, some blind people
organ in office, jobs using tech like Braille typewriters, so they can brook alongside sighted people as equals. It's what how had hoped Boston line type would help them do, but for all rails advantages over raised print, it didn't work for all blind people like that thousands of soldiers who are coming back from war with I injuries who handler Braille umbrellas kids, as you probably noticed listening to me, struggle to read that stupid sentence about my niece doing puzzles puzzles these can write a unicycle or to Learning Braille has an adult is really hard. My niece can write a unicycle or do puzzles. But his sound recording became easier and more affordable those people, become blind later in life, had new options options that would transform our ideas of what a book can be
translating ink print books into sound might seem more straightforward than building a textile regions system of a book were born out of a few thousand years of people telling each other stories, and we all are to read by having books read to us but early efforts, recordings of books for blind readers brought with them a new set of design challenges theme can foundation for the blind partnered. With the Carnegie Corporation to publish experimental books on phonographic records, they called them talking books they hired narrators impressed the recordings onto long playing records. Twenty five minutes aside, these books were sir later by blind people about a decade before LP became available to the wider public. The first audio books, and the first l were made for blind readers, but these Talking books raised big questions. What should a book sound like How do you translate the elements of a kodaks which is a fancy word for the thing that we usually call a book with paper pages ink and binding? How do you translate one of
those things into sound. The definition of the book basically implode ahead right after these talking book started to be developed because all sorts of producers ass started to come up with new ideas for things that they would call talking. Books that certainly had nothing to do with the Codex farm? That's my meals, she's professor, and why you who worked at the intersection of media and disability studies- and I promise you the last academic and may introduce you to. Let me just for a minute, then listen to his feet were like the coroner and followed. You lab, for instance, decided that they wanted to take some of their birdsong recordings and make a talking books, blind people out of them the finest of american and arrival, and perhaps When snow White came out as an early animated talking movie, the F B decided they wanted to make it talking book version of attacking movie
no Frank and the seven dwarfs recorded solely for the use of the blind it was new book origin. They called it a book and they circulated it as a talking But it was a audio description. Of the images in an enemy film, with some of the sound files and dumb dialogue from that film, closer and closer, and he was right behind snowflake, he drew his big night, then snow, white notices, shadow on the ground very quickly. All sorts of things begin to be called books that had a very marginal relationship to the book form and is talking Ex became more elaborate and theatrical more filled with effects and music. Some blind people grew frustrated more
blind readers wound a breaking their record players trying to speed up the voices of the narrators they weren't listening for sonic, aesthetic pleasure. They wanted to do information and the fancy pretty since move too slowly for how fast they wanted to read what you think also makes people listen to double doublespeak as Well his letter books, the ornamental flourishes of music and sound effects, got in the way of blind people's desire for speed and so talking books be to sound different, the nineteen fortys and fifties and. Read by Alexander slowly no nonsense. Narrators, like Alexander Score, became more power we learned the nineteen fortys and fifties and their voice became almost like fonts, standardized, legible and, most importantly, conveying information without getting in the way like the narrators of contemporary audio books,
in the beginning. God created the heaven and earth do without form and boy darkness, upon the face of the Spirit of God. On the face of a water God said let there be like- and there was like the book historian, Matthew Rubare, told me that if you bring up the name Alexander Score be with a blind person of a certain age, their eyes will fill with tears because of the associations they have with his voice. They grew up. Turning to him of the leading him. So perhaps this is my consolation as it become a blind reader. I can just Individual type base for a verbal one, the third element in the midst of the waters and lead to divide the waters from the water.
In some ways. My fears about losing my visual relationship to books resembles the anxieties that sighted people have about. The demise of print in the digital age has more and more people read on screens, there's an old guard who bemoans these new forms of reading as inferior these critics. Either. The trusty old technology of the book will always be the superior vehicle for ideas. You can hear this conservatism and condescension not only in those people whom align the e book, but also in the voices of people who say that you haven't really read a book. Listen to it. They contend that real reading only happens with the eyes, but this Ray of blindness in reading shows that the way we read has always been in flux. The meat scholars and book historians. I talk to all told me the same thing. Reading too, happen and eyes or the ears of the fingers. Tat happens in the brain, and this is a I think that here, if you're going blind, it makes- I feel like forget my stupid eyes. I still have my brain. That's where other goods happens anyway, but this aid
doesn't really soften or mask the fact that blindness is inescapably. Alas, no and of historical researcher conceptual refraining, can hide the simple equation at work here. I love books in print books. With margin alien type faces and dingbat, and going blind Take that away from me, but I can't let them be my only conclusion that blindness equals as full. Stop more a millstone me about some when she met who store We could offer me an example of a different way to approach my life ass. A blind reader his name is Harvey Lauer, he's a blind guy Where did the vizier testing all kinds of? analogy for the visually impaired, eternal machine. You hear all sounds and cheerful. And when you do this is how using an up the phone, a kind of scanner that would look at text, turn it into a series of tones representing the shapes of the letters it's another.
Spin on universal design. For blind readers with an octave phone, you wouldn't need to create special books for the blind and all with training. Line. Person can read in ink print but using one of these devices, the outer phone was first developed in one twelve, but this recording from nineteen. Seventy one readings like this a fine line and then we agree in credit. Some blind people actually learned how to read this way after a lot of pressure. They could hear these sounds and decode the words they represent. It really entire novels using what came to be called musical print. The necessary functions using the devices he tested for the vizier Harvey could read by vibration through musical print
Braille and super sped up talking books. He deeds using more of his body more of his senses, the perhaps anyone else on the planet, his. Colleagues called him a cyborg. He walked round these devices dangling around his neck. Wherever he went emitting vibrations, synthetic musical tones Gotta go to the turn up the threshold after empirical mark told me that is sometimes lead to funny incidents of confusion, the time Harvey, walked into a seven eleven and heard all these electronic tones coming out of the various machines in the store he tried decoding them because it seemed to him like they should be alphabetic and then he realized dope. There's just elect on a tones: it's just the cash register Her. This mistake in the seven eleven suggests to me away that my future is a blind. Reader might actually signal something other than a total loss blind This could add something to my life, even as it takes something else away
Learning to read in new ways through new senses could increase my appreciation for the world around me have you told me that he finds the electronic tones and chords of the active phone beautiful? He said they remind him of debut sees music, which gives me hope
that, whichever way I end up reading through sped up synthetic speech or braille, or maybe some high tech postal defining cyborg system that she had to be invented, that I'll find a beauty in that kind of reading to, I really should use the other, like the other speakers policies in place in the universe. But this is not
Like the wily, coming up. Our composer shall Rio gives us a short lesson any remaining with the up the phone and breaks down the music they composed for this episode, using up the Veronica letters after this
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not only like make music out of you know like the sounds, but like to actually expel something out like make a message. Just like taken with howling musical, oh as and I was like, this would be really cool thing to users your man, and so then I asked Andrew reduce peace. If Pham, there was away get samples of the alphabet, basically to not only like make music out of you know like the sounds, but liked actually like spell something out in like make a message: have a funeral lyrics to this Secondly, I found out that its very hard it actually right with with Opto phone samples Bell Tunnel, a bit more about that later than wanna play you some this because, when I was listening to the type of like these different letters. I was really struck actually with how intuitive it is. Oh coup. Ok, let's hear pressing Amana, dooms gonna play you and oh so. Here's now
what the other one is doing its work we scanning text, and so it's basically making an auditory. Shape of the letter. So the o reading of like the left You gonna have kind of like to mid tones like very close to the middle and then, as the circle opens up, you're gonna have a tone that is I am a term that is low, and then they're gonna closed back up back up. Ok, so you have to tones the middle and then expands, high and low and then goes back down to being in the middle, and that creates the shape of an hour so you're too scanning across a letter as if it's just printed type yeah, so here is it here's that same o again but slowed down and see, can really hear it. Ok, ok, good, the vehicle. Google. Ok, I think I got it will these they got that one
Another letter that I thought was the best letter actually is Zahm as a w and followed this one. I think you'll really be able to hear this one, because, unlike the or actually most of the letters in the alphabet, the w doesn't have any lake vertical stacking. So it's really just take a really you really do like red. It left her like. There is one point at times and, like you, don't hear too tone simultaneously, so you should be able to trace the w, is it goes high low, high low high. Exactly so, here's the double then here it is doing to slow down here to slow down this again. Yeah. Well, I really love is that lake you can tell
but the mid point of the w is lower than the other two points from the outside right, an omelet so interesting, so their choosing a certain type of w. It doesn't go all the way it is an interview with a middle goes all the way to the top line between workers, the middle. I interesting, ok, guys it's I'd, say extremely specific to whatever, whatever font you have. Whatever page you're reading, makes sense here so don't make me I was listening to a lot of red tape, Harvey Lauer, just playing with his up the phone and kind of like being odd it in the same way that we were in so that was so. That was just like Sony and so they heard there's like this tape of him. Just reading numbers with that, and just like really get a kick out of, it is an open forum. By Golly up is it good, for these are nice number
for those aren't those are he numbers the outer phone, so like he's, probably the person most fluid and up to phone ease in the world yeah but, like you said like this, is a scanner that goes across any print. There is. So it's like he's reading a certain disk. Because there sometimes you know, like I make us seven with across hatched through it break sample, and so that would sound differ then a normal seven without across hatch across the middle of it. So even though you know he knows the if I'm better than anybody every time, It scans, a new fought a new type face you get something even something new from. It is a really enjoying reading that is so cool. Ok, that's so great yeah! So inspired by the up to phone, you composed a cup of song and one of them was at the end and it had a message in sign of it. That was a of true
The phone message inside of the song, so what did it say if very true up to foreign message, it said opting out ensure that augurs that's great as the oaths which you can kind of the figure out and stuff like that, somalia- and that's it that's exactly like leading to my next point, like try out a lot of like different messages, because I they thought like. Oh, I could like have like a whole sentence is something, but I notice that, because the sounds are coming just, one letter at a time it was actually really like Mama ethically a port- and I found have multiple letters that that repeat: o you helped a phone. Actually and it has a pattern to it. It's o p, tee, o p h, oh and, and so it's I again so actually every three letters as an oh and so it takes on characteristic the yet that ok, so as to remind people of
little section music. Where are you spell out? The word on the phone yeah. That sounds so good Could I hear the letters I told I mean you have to tell me what it was before I heard it, but you know I missed at least a little bit. So amazing, thank you so much, and I am so pleased that you create music inspired by the optimum, was so much fun to do. I really yeah. I really like appreciated being inspired
to do this through. Ok, let's hear less onion forgot
don't take says ninety nine percent
ninety nine percent invisible was produced this week by Andrew Leland and edited by Delaney Hall mixed intact production by refusing Muse by showing Rio, guinea mingle is seeing a cruiser critical stance is the digital director throws. The team is a regional Vivian Lee Joe Rosenberg emitted, shrilled Sophia Cluster and me roman Mars. Many thanks this week to sorry out, Schuller and David. Why must we found out about the story of bottom line? Type from an exhibition they put together called touch this page. The exhibition is also on line at touch. This paved dot com, where you can see examples of Boston line, type and other precursors to Braille Social.
Also to Jan Hail and Jennifer, are not at the park in School, Matthew, robbery of Queen Mary University of London, whose book about the history of talking books is awesome and while led Molly's from North Eastern College of Engineering, we are a project of ninety one point: seven k a w in San Francisco him produced on radio row in beautiful, downtown, Oakland. California, nine percent, a visible is a member of Radio Tokyo from Pierre acts are fiercely independent, collective of the most innovative shows in all a pot casting find them all every utopia that event, you can run the show enjoying discussions about the show on Facebook. You can treated me at Roman Mars and the show at ninety nine p. I work on Instagram and read it to, but you need to run to our website and see video of the spectrum of the octave own letters that shown composed is so cool. That's Edna happy! I'm done,
radio do.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.