A Tribute to my Slate and Stylus

By Susie Stageberg
Contributing Writer

There is a Braille device that never crashes, never needs new batteries, and can be used anywhere. It fits into most purses and many pockets. It accepts all sorts of paper. It’s quiet when in use. It works when the power goes off. It costs a fraction of the price of that fancy Braille notetaker. You can use it to write the great American novel, your grocery list or your mother-in-law’s phone number.

What is this marvel? It’s the lowly slate and stylus. The slate has no firmware to upgrade, no warranty to buy. It can be used by anybody after minimal training and practice.

The design of the humble Braille slate has undergone few changes since the first one I had, in the 1960’s. That slate went with me through junior high, high school and college. It helped me take class notes independently. I used it to write letters to Braille-reading friends, pass notes in class, and label countless household items. I wrote Braille with it on cardboard, notebook paper and sticky tape. When it finally gave up the ghost, got bent beyond usability, I bought a replacement—heavier, but essentially the same.

The Braille slate has an undeservedly bad reputation. It is viewed with horror by new Braille students; and some not so new. “It’s hard to use. You have to write backwards! It’s hard on my arm.” I would argue that the learning curve is much less than any other Braille-writing device. Your arm gets stronger. Your mind automatically turns the Braille around so you can write it correctly. There is no substitute for the ease and portability of a slate when you want to write something on a Post-It note or copy your mother’s recipe for pumpkin pie.

Slate users of the world, rise up and be heard. Whip out your slates and take notes at a meeting or during the sermon. And the next time your Braille notetaker’s hard drive crashes, don’t forget your trusty slate.

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