"Happy Valentine's Day!" chorused Sherry and Tom Hardy to the smiling couple that was inviting them into their home. The Hardys and Pam and Rich, the Andersons, were members of a support group for parents of blind children; the Anderson's were longtime members and the Hardy's were new.
"Hey, how was the lunch on this snowy Saturday?" Rich asked. He and Pam had picked up Tom and Sherry's daughter Kathy and their own daughter Cheryl to take both eight-year-old girls to a Valentine party, giving the Hardy's a chance to go out for a romantic lunch and movie. And now the Hardy's were over for a short visit to the Anderson's, then it would be Hardy's turn to pick up the girls, take them to their home, giving Pam and Rich their opportunity to go out for a special dinner and dancing.
"Wonderful." answered Sherry. "We took our time. It's great that Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday."
"You bet ya!" said Pam. "Come on in. I have a fresh pot of coffee on and a plate of Valentine cookies Cheryl made special for us."
Seated in the kitchen around the family table, the two couples dug into their coffee break. "These are fantastic cookies. Your Cheryl is a great little cook,” commented Sherry, raising a cookie for another bite.
"Knew I was smart to pass up the restaurant's dessert--love the pink frosting." added Tom.
"Oh, let me show you her card." Pam said, getting up and detaching a card from a clip on the refrigerator door.
"Whoo!" cooed Sherry, looking at and running her finger over the front surface of the card, opening it to see inside.
"Huh?" exclaimed Tom. "Braille … picture and all?"
"Yeah, she made it herself." said Rich, obviously proud of his daughter's handiwork.
"She used her Braille writer." said Pam, pointing. "The border has full cells down the sides, then dots 1-2-4-5's across the top, and 2-3-5-6's across the bottom, making an even two-dot border all the way around. And you can see the heart consists of full cells and parts of cells to get the right shape."
"And she colored the heart, too. So creative!" continued Sherry. "And this down here?" Tracing with a finger, "Words, I take it?"
Retrieving the card, closing her eyes, Pam began reading with her right index finger. "I Love You Mom, Be My Valentine."
"Whoo, I'm impressed! With your finger no less." Sherry said, her face showing a self-conscious mix of surprise and maybe guilt.
"Oh, Sherry … guess we've talked about this … parents learning Braille?" Pam gave her friend a concerned look.
"Well yeah, Tom and me, our life's are just so...busy. And, you know, with this electronic age, we have a computer in just about every room and there's voice mail."
Tom added, "my God, Kathy is a wiz on the computer, you should hear how fast she has that voice cranked! These kids today they've grown up with all these electronics."
"Rich." Sherry looked at Pam' s husband, her face showing that something was still eating at her. "Do you read Braille too?"
"Yeah, but I haven't gone so far to develop the tactual sense for reading it. I cheat, I read it with my eyes." Looking to his wife for any sign of guidance, or a warning perhaps. "With Cheryl's blindness, we feel supporting and encouraging her lifelong literacy is …" Beginning to think he was going too far with his pointed remarks. "Ah, anyway, it's fun!"
"Tom spoke up, obviously not offended. "Hey, so the card was for the Mom. How about the Dad?"
"Oh!" both Pam and Rich chorused with big grins on their faces.
"Grab your coats, ladies and gentlemen!" said Rich rising. "We need to step out into the back yard."
Outside. "Whoo, Whoo, Whoo!" hooted Sherry.
"How in the …?" Said Tom. "Did you guys get a picture of this?"
Before them the white-blanketed yard spread to the fence and at its very center lay a one-foot tall, six-foot across, very pink heart , with white geometrical rows of dots on its top surface. Walking up close, it was evident that the heart was constructed of compacted snow and the white dots were hand-formed snowballs arranged to create Braille letters.
"How did she get that snow painted pink?" Tom nearly stuttered.
Pam answered. "A spray bottle and one gallon of red Kool-Aid."
Standing near the broad part of the heart, Rich pointed. "This single dot is a capital sign, followed by the letters in the word. That makes her words here, cap L o v e, cap Y o u, cap D a d. Second line, cap I ' m, cap Y o u r, cap V a l e n t I n e."
e-mail responses to email@example.com
**1. I too, learned Braille just ahead of Winona. I've always felt it was important for me to show her that her reading medium is important and valuable. When giving her cards or letters I'll Braille them for her. And I transcribe things for her when she does things for others. She loves it when I can do it without asking her help.
Debby B. Blindkid Mailing List
**2. I think its very important that parents learn Braille. My Mother learned Braille at the same time that I did. She actually was a few words ahead of me so she could Braille my school books. The words in the first grade books were pretty simple, and after writing phrases like "Look Jerry Look.", "Look Alice see Jip run." she knew how to write "lookaa". My Father also learned Braille, but was never very proficient. Both parents read Braille visually, and I did come out a good Braille reader. It was handy for my Mother to know Braille, so she could write out a recipe for me, leave me instructions etc. My wife also learned Braille, and I have left her list of items I needed when she did shopping and I was at work.
Regards, Robert Jaquiss Blindkid Mailing list•
**3. I think children whose parents learn Braille have a definite advantage. My parents did not learn Braille but the parents of a couple of classmates had learned Braille and I think it really assisted the children. In today's world of computers and Braille embossers, it may not be as important as bc (before computers). And, I think it's great if sighted children of blind parents are taught Braille. I don't think I know any, though, who were, including my own.
**4. My Mother learned Braille in 1957, so she could help me with my homework when I attended the Denver Public Schools.Ken Chrane NFBtalk Mailing list
**5. I think the parents knowing Braille is great. The parents who chose not to learn shouldn't be made to feel inferior or that they are poor parents. (I know, in the story the Braille reading parents were non-judgmental) However, it is more important that the parents instill in their child the value of reading. Using Braille is the only way blind folks can tell the difference between their and there; your and you're and the list goes on. Knowing the correct word and the appropriate time to use it means the student is literate. Using speech on a computer or talking books doesn't give the reader a good basic understanding of the English language. That's my nickel's worth.
Kathy Ashley, MS, CRC
Program Director for Blind & VI Services
Vocational Rehabilitation Services
402 W. Washington W-453
Indianapolis, IN 46204
**6. Braille is so important, but often overlooked. I'm glad that the one set of parents were learning Braille and encouraging their daughter. Using computers, note takers, etc., have really become a necessity. Computers have also opened a world which was closed and difficult to access for blind people. But, computers are still not a replacement for knowing how to read and write. Spelling is one area which suffers, when blind people don't read Braille and see the spelling. Also, it's so much easier to carry a slate and stylus with you to jot down a phone number.
So, I think it's great that the parents were so proud of their daughter and her accomplishments with Braille. It should be encouraged.
Cindy Handel Willow Street, PA
**7. I remember reading my first book in Braille. It was incredible! Here I was a person with a visual impairment who had become legally blind. I was a young adult taking the bull by the horns "so to speak" and I was out to get the training I needed to carry on as a blind person in a visual world. I chose to learn Braille because reading has always been one of my favorite pass times. And all of a sudden I could no longer pick up a book and read it with my eyes. Oh yes of course I could listen to stories on audio tape, and I do this too, but when I learned to read Braille reading a book with my finger was just like when I read my books with my eyes. This was amazing to me! If I had a child who was blind I would have my child learn Braille just for this reason. And I as a parent would choose to learn it too as encouragement for my child and so that I could assist my child with homework, just as I would assist my sighted child with homework. I think that it would be a nice effort if more people would learn Braille, but realistically if you learn it and do not have many opportunities to use it then it will just find itself buried somewhere deep in the brain. This happens when we learn other languages such as sign language and foreign languages. "If you do not use it you lose it". There is definitely truth to this. So maybe it doesn't make the greatest sense for "everyone" to learn it. Braille is now used by me in a limited fashion. I am much more efficient with assistive technology that can keep me up to speed in this ever changing fast paced world. Angela Christle NFB Rehabilitation Professionals Mailing list
**8. A few years ago, I read that the Braille literacy rate hovers around ten percent. As the story points out, this is partly due to blind people being "spoiled" by electronic aids. Even sighted people have this problem: they tend to rely on Microsoft Word Spell Check (which is so inaccurate it's a joke). So they don't bother learning how to read or spell the old-fashioned way.
Another reason is that some agencies that offer Braille lessons are incredibly short-sighted about future implications. I've spoken to several people who had tried to get Braille lessons, but were denied because they "weren't blind enough." This is a lame excuse, because nobody can predict the progress of eye diseases from one person to the next. Why not start preparing now? It's one thing for sighted people to set a stumbling block before the blind; but it's quite another when the blind set a stumbling block before themselves and each other.
Furthermore, sighted people who have blind spouses, relatives or friends should also learn Braille, for just such an occasion as in this story. It would be very sweet (as well as encouraging) to write out any kind of Braille message to a blind spouse or child. They would feel much less isolated if a sighted person shares in that experience (within reason, of course).
Unfortunately, the agencies that supply Braille lessons are sometimes hostile to sighted people, refusing to give them lessons. They might come up with an arbitrary excuse like, "You must be working with a blind person within the next six months." But, even if you were working with a blind person, the agency would only dig up some other foolish "reason" not to help a sighted person learn it.
One other hindrance, not mentioned in this story, are the parents of the blind. I've read of numerous cases where the parents (or school) of a blind child refuse to offer any kind of training (Braille, mobility, etc.). Worse, if the child has some kind of disease (RP, Usher's, etc.), the parents refuse to level with their children, leaving them to figure out for themselves that they are, in fact, going blind, and missing out on the chance to prepare for it.
My girlfriend faced similar problems. But this story is just the kind of thing I'd like to do for her, if she ever gets the chance to learn Braille at all.
David Lafleche Rode Island
**9. um yeh this is probably why no one takes you too serious, because of thoughts like this. I think no one needs to learn Braille except for blind people. that who it was designed for. and maybe teachers but come on everyone????? this is a sighted world, learn to deal with it.
The BlindTechs Network NFB Rehabilitation Professional Mailing List
**10. I know that my mom learned Braille but she learned it by looking at it. My dad never learned it though.
from Mich Verrier from New Brunzwick, Canada
11. I taught my children Brail and my daughter still remembers it to a degree although we haven't used it together for a couple decades now. I also taught her finger-spelling so she could talk to me when we were supposed to be quiet. Never thought about how it was teaching her to spell very young as this was when she was 3.
**12. My name is Chris Jones and I am a member of the Pierce County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind and formerly served as the Student Disability Specialist at Clover Park Technical College, located in Lakewood, near Tacoma, Washington. I was blind due to retinopathy of prematurity and have been a Braille user all of my life. My father was a soldier in the U.S. Army, retiring as a Colonel in 1968. I am the younger of four children, and the only one who was blind.
My father never learned Braille, but while I was in third grade in the San Francisco Public Schools, my mother learned it and the next year, when my father was transferred to Paris, France, she Brailled everything except my Math book for a year. I can remember even as a young person wishing that my father had been willing to take the time to learn Braille, but he didn't.
I now have adult children who are sighted and believe that it takes some additional dedication for parents of blind children, but I see it as an investment in their literacy. Thank you for your Thought Provoker.
**13. Hi. My mother learned Braille when she began working at the school for the blind. As a project she took on electively, she Brailled all the books my sisters had for me to read. I had them for years--Braille mistakes and all.
My sister also learned Braille. I taught her. It meant a great deal to me that they cared enough and were vested in me to learn Braille. I was able to write to them from camp just as other kids were. I was able to read letters and cards from them, not have others read things to me from them. My sister and I were able to exchange "secret" notes with each other just as close sisters do.
Do we use Braille now? No. Phone and computer has taken over. However, if we didn't have those things, I have no doubt we would indeed still be using Braille.
Do I recommend to sighted parents of blind children that they learn Braille? Absolutely. Learn it right along with your child. It is an investment in your life together with your child. You may think you will have the phone. You may think you'll have email. But nothing beats getting a card with a Brailled message inside just as others do and value from your parent or your child; blind people treasure giving and receiving them too, or, at least, I do.
Jessie ACB-L listserv**14. It is cool that the parents learned Braille, and wanted to support the daughter's literacy. Personally I find Braille to be archaic when we have computers and speech.
Toni & Lenore
**15. I have been following the provoker for a long time, and always interested in people's responses. This one I found very interesting. I have worked in the field of rehabilitation for over forty years, and the question of learning Braille has often come up in support groups. I have always felt that going the extra mile, is always another show of love, so if a parent of a blind child is willing to take the time and show the interest in learning Braille, it is another tangible sign of their love and interest in their child.
**16. Thanks for the valentines card view. I have been thinking lately whether I would want my sight back or not if it was possible. I don't know for sure, but I keep going back to a post on this list about how, if the person could see, they would be just another sighted person. Being blind I have developed a cause with in my community.
**17. I have tears in my eyes. A normal kid doing normal stuff. A kid communicating with her parents in the best way she knows how. the parents willing to put in the effort to learn how to receive that message. And, finally, the kid's true literacy for a lifetime. Braille is so critical to me as an adult. Although I havent read a Braille novel for several years, I use it every day at work for this or that. Phone numbers, to do lists, labeling of stuff. And now that I have started the art form of knitting, being able to have a Braille pattern that I can reference. trying to do that with speech boggles my mind.
Davey Hulse, CEO
Braille Plus, Inc.
P.O. Box 3686
2659 Commercial Street Southeast
Salem, Oregon 97302
**18. I suppose there are as many ways to deal with the issue of parents learning Braille as there are families with blind children. Some families really get into it and others find that the rest of life gets in the way. When I was little my mom joined a Braille class but right after the first lesson she became very ill and couldn't continue. Even after she recovered from her illness she found that she didn't have the energy to raise four daughters, do church work and learn Braille. She never led me to believe that her lack of Braille skills was because she didn't love me. She figured out enough of it to be of some help to me as I learned but she never learned and neither did my dad. Certainly if my family had learned Braille it would have been cool but I don't think any parent or sibling of a blind child needs to feel guilty if they don't learn it. It's enough, in my opinion if they encourage us to read and if they learn Braille too, that's just sweet frosting on the cake of our family life.
Chris Coulter ACB-L listserv
**19. This provoker goes both ways. I think it's imperative for parents of blind children to promote and encourage Braille, and the best example kids have to follow is their parents. On the flipside, I think blind parents need to teach their sighted children Braille. Lisa and I haven't quite hit this point yet, but our kids see us read Braille all the time, and I'm sure we'll start to teach it to them when the time comes, which will be soon.
Ron Brooks ACB-L listserv
**20. With the emphasis on the GUI, and iconographic symbology used in computer dialogs, on signs and billboards, etc., and with the rise in the use of the spoken interface with our machines, why is no one making the argument that sighted children don't need to learn to read letters and words from a printed page? It seems to me that part of the answer may lie in the fact that someone special has to be paid in order for a blind child to learn Braille, while a teacher can teach a class full of 30-50 sighted children to read print, all at the same time. I also wonder why the argument has been made that, "blind children don't need to learn Braille because of their talking computers and electronics," when it is quite obvious that reading uses and trains different regions of the brain than does studying by ear alone? It seems to me that this is just one more case of blind people being the first off the heap when it's time to toss stuff overboard. The bottom-line thinking seems to come down to, "Braille isn't *REAL* reading, therefore it is superfluous." or, alternatively put, "Anything that is not done with the eyes is just not the same." It sounds as if one more shortcut is being taken when blind children are not taught to read and to exercise those centers of the brain which interpret ordered stimulus, whether it be visual or tactual, into coherent information. I think Braille comes too close to a "visual learning," technique for sighted people to understand that the blind of eye are not blind of mind. That's corny, but you get the point. Admittedly, Braille is not a very efficient method of storing information; anyone who'd carried ten volumes of the latest best seller to the post office in the snow can attest to this. But, in crowded/noisy settings, a refreshable Braille display is essential. For quick notes to one's spouse, asking them to get beer on the way home, or telling them that Apple Records will be producing their next album, Braille can't be beat. The TP itself how learning Braille teaches visual learning and shape recognition; why not make erotic Braille for your special person?
Mark Burning Hawk
21. This is fabulous! Now--could you please elaborate a little more on precisely how to make the Braille Valentine card. I m totally blind and am doing my practicum at a school for the blind; the kids would love this!
Kimberly in KC
...FROM ME: I wrote her back with- (This concept also works well for making Christmas cards, especially Christmas trees and snowmen.)
And this can be done on a full size sheet (that you would not fold into a "card" type think, like cards you buy at the store and open them up to write something in side. But, you can make the "foldable type;" like I describe below.
What I have done is- take a sheet of Braille paper, 8 and 1 half by 11, turn the paper so the long 11 inches is running from left to right, fold it in half, make a good crease. And now put it in the Perkins length wise, the crease is vertical, the 11 inches is still running from left to right. Okay, On the right half of the sheet, note how much of the page is hidden off to the right under the ledge of the whatever it is that holds the paper; you want to know this so you can move in that same distance from the left, from the crease (this working on the right side of the sheet, it is the front of your card, after you take it out and fold the card again, this part is on top, right?). And keeping the cemitrey of the card in mind and its "2 dots" of a boarder around all for sides, you have to come down from the top and up from the bottom the same amount of distance as you have on the left and right sides to give your boarder that even look. (one thing I sort of don't like about the folding of the paper and all this, is that the space within the boarder is going to be smallish, you can't make much of a Braille art figure, nor put in much wording. The full size sheet gives a lot more room for art and wording.)
Doing the boarder, I set the margins of the Braille writer to put the Braille right where it needs to be; speaking of the left and right sides of the boarder. Then, across the top, you Braille the letter g (dots 1 2 4 5 across, joining the left and right vertical parts of your boarder. And across the bottom, you do the dropped letter g or dots 2 3 5 6 and join the left and right vertical boarders and there you have a nice boarder around for sides of the face of the card. (This boarder can also be colored if desired; it is easy for a blind kid to get use to following the dots, stay "on the line" we would tell the blind kid, where we tell sighted kids to "stay in the lines."
And so to make the art work, the heart or Christmas tree or what ever, that takes practice and some calculations. I start out using like computer paper to practice getting it right. Like for the heart, on your card, count the number of spaces you have between your left and right boarders, than decide, how close do you want your heart to come to that boarder? And so on your practice paper, think this way: your heart will have a mid point and the number of cells to the right and to the left will need to be the same and so for the widest part of the heart, using the maximum number of cells you can have your heart be, start out your practice heart with that number for its widest with. And so the next line down, knowing your heart is needing to get smaller, you have to see if putting in a line with two less cells, one less on the right and one less on the left and do that for the next line down again, two less full cells, and do this until you get to the last line and there try two cells, but in the left cell use only dots 4 5 6 and for the right cell use dots 1 2 3 (this helps get the point at the bottom of the heart. In fact, again depending upon how you like the looks of your heart, as you develop the hart, make it grow smaller or narrower (what ever you want to term it), the next line down may could use, instead of a totally missing cell to the right and left, put in dots 4 and 5 on the left side of the line and dots 1 2 at the right end of the line. (Again, trying to smooth out the sides, the scaling down of with as your figure tapers down to a point.
And for the top of the heart, the way it bulges up on the right and left, well, again, try working in dots up there to give that bulge that curving right and left lobe of how a cut out Valentine heart looks like.
Good luck, thanks for asking. Robert Leslie Newman
**22. I liked the story very much. It especially impressed me that parents of blind children worked together and shared experiences. The parents of these children can make them feel confident and able to cope with sightlessness or visual impairment. Parents recognize competence in their children whenever they see them apply their skills at such things as reading and writing Braille.
I regret that my parents did not have help with a support group when I lost vision from glaucoma. They found this hard to cope with.
**23. My parents never learned Braille, but they always encouraged me to read. They read to me, and worried if I wasn't reading at least one Braille book. I think it's nice if parents can learn Braille too. It's a family thing, a communications thing. It's good.
**24. To those of us who consider Braille as the reading medium of choice - in these days refreshable as well as permanent - it seems like a "no-brainer" that blind kids use Braille in all areas of literacy, and that the parents consider no option but to support this with their own efforts to learn and use Braille.
All too often, however, Braille takes second place to the much more ubiquitous print; and, print will always be the more widespread. Just as with dominant cultures, cultural pursuits, and languages, the print medium will be viewed as superior, and Braille as inferior. While people often marvel at the ability to decode the dots on the page, their interest stops short of presuming that Braille is the medium in which literacy activities, whether academic, functional or leisure, should be pursued.
I once thought I had the answer to this dilemma. I felt it was important for me to get the message out there that Braille should be used as much as print, where blind kids were concerned. It seemed particularly crucial to convince school staff, families and children that use of Braille was essential to success. What a mixed message the kids get! While parents, paras and Braille teachers make it clear that Braille use is essential, classroom teachers, for their own ease of operation, persist in giving oral quizzes, oral practice, oral reports, oral exams.
I can't fault teachers all that much, knowing myself of the time crunch many face in overcrowded rooms with far too few resources, including Braille texts.
After many years, with more and more teaching strategies available, electronic media, and increasing numbers of places to use Braille, I'm remaining optimistic.
This "TP" illustrates some terrific examples of Braille use.
**25. Not that we Braille all our cards, but... David has now Brailled name cards for about a hundred children in classes we'll visit Tuesday. He printed out the names, and I taped them onto the cards for the children. Because I know enough Braille to check spelling, we caught two cards with misprints that the Duxbury Braille Translator had mangled. One thing you don't want to do is mangle children's names! I only hope others didn't slip by me because I started proofreading too late. Then with the last batch of twenty or so, I dropped them and they fell out of alphabetical order. So I had to read the Braille to figure out which cards were which. Yes, David could have done this for me, but I was glad I was able to do it.
Lori Stayer Merrick, NY
**26. Robert, I dug up a copy of a letter that I wrote and which was published in the Braille Forum back in 1995. It was written to our Superintendent of Public Instruction, after her office had squelched a bill calling for Braille instruction for blind children in public schools. Sadly, not much has changed in the ensuing years.
Carl Jarvis ACB-L
June 30, 1995
Judith Billings, Superintendent of Public Instruction
PO Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200
Dear Ms. Billings,
A retired Washington State employee, Don Crawford, sent you a letter from Salt Lake City dated April 26, 1995, in which he congratulated SPI(Superintendent of Public Instruction), on preventing the passage of the Braille Bill. A copy of this letter has just come to my attention.
I am also a retired state employee. I too, am blind. Unlike Mr. Crawford, I am a strong advocate of Braille instruction for blind and severely visually impaired children, and newly blinded adults. I do not believe Braille has outlived its usefulness, but, on the other hand, I'm not a fanatic worshiping at the feet of some Braille Idol. Braille is a communications tool, nothing more-nothing less. Just like print, Braille has its limitations. Both are extremely bulky and cumbersome compared to the storage and recovery capabilities of today's technology; both are limited in adapting to the fast changing communications needs of the modern world. Nonetheless both continue to be necessary tools. So long as sighted children are taught to read and write, blind children need a comparable skill. Perhaps a day will come when all children are handed some wonderful little box into which they speak their commands and the little box answers them in like manner. Until then, a scrap of paper and a stub of a pencil are the most convenient and cheapest means of storing information, unless you are blind. Then, the slate, stylus and a piece of Braille paper are your most inexpensive option.
The "Doom-and-Gloom" folks have been predicting the death of Braille for many years. When I became blind in 1965, I was told--by my Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor--not to worry about learning Braille. The modern tape recorder would soon make it a lost art. I chose to learn Braille, not an easy task at the age of thirty. It turned out to be a wise choice, the tape recorder did not replace Braille, nor will the computer. Certainly not in the lifetime of blind children entering school this Fall.
Here, in my office, I sit at a keyboard. My computer is speech adapted, and beside it is my Braille 'N' Speak. At the back of my desk is a Braille Writer and in the top drawer are a collection of slates and stylus' and note cards. What would I do without Braille. How would I label my computer disks and tapes? Just in case one of my marvelous gadgets crash, I keep backup files, such as telephone numbers and address', in Braille file boxes.
Imagine, Ms. Billings, you enter your office one morning and find you cannot read print. All pens, pencils and paper are gone. "Don't worry," someone tells you, "you don't need print any longer. Here, take this computer. It talks to you". But then you're handed a stack of computer disks and a bundle of audio tapes containing everything you've been working on this past year. How will you quickly identify them?
As a person who has retired from state employment but not from the world of work, I use every tool available to me. I need Braille as surely as I need the fax machine--which does not replace the Post Office. I need the computer, which does not replace the telephone. A scanner is very handy but it does not replace my wife's visual assistance. I wish I could afford some of the newer, more sophisticated equipment, but I can't. What does surprise me is that just because Mr. Crawford can afford such equipment and enjoys spending his days strolling to and from the Public Library, he now proclaims Braille to be a useless, archaic form of communication. It's certainly his right to declare this true for himself, but not for me--not for all the children who want the opportunity to earn the kind of life that Mr. Crawford earned for himself. But the playing field is not level for blind children. In order to achieve success. they need every tool available--especially one as basic as Braille.
I am a strong supporter of public education. It is one of the basic building blocks that has made us such a strong, free nation. When I was a child, we were committed to ending illiteracy in the United States. Is this still a goal of ours? How can SPI support penmanship and reading for sighted children, while denying such a fundamental skill for blind children? Is it the cost? The price for not educating blind children to be competitive adults is far greater than the dollars required to provide proper training. During my years with the Department of Services for the Blind, I worked with scores of adults, blind since childhood, whose basic education had been neglected. Ms. Billings, it is so very hard, trying to put dreams and hopes and self-belief back into someone who had all traces of them smothered. We educate our children by word and deed. Please explain to me the message SPI is sending to blind children by denying them the same education expected for sighted children.
Carl Jarvis, Director
Peninsula Rehabilitation Services
**27. I don't feel parents should learn how to do the Braille if they don't want to. That they don't have to feel guilty. But if they do learn it more for the parents. I am pleased that the child has a computer, would have loved that growing up. I enjoyed learning Braille and didn't have to read anything to my parents of the letter I would receive in the mail. There are times when I feel privacy is needed.
Dar NFBtalk Mailing List
**28. I always thought others should learn Braille, not just the family. If we have to learn to live in their sighted world, they should learn to live in ours.
Linda Miller NFB Rehab Professionals Mailing List
**29. Most interesting. Thanks for sharing.
Richie Gardenhire Anchorage, Alaska
**30. I have been blind Since I was a child. I have dealt very well in the sighted world. I am a retired social worker who is now enjoying the fruits of my labor. I my add, I have done it with out all the advantages that we have now.
Linda Miller NFB Rehabilitation Professionals Mailing List
**31. I think it would be great if all parents of blind children learned Braille. My mother learned it visually.
**32. I love the story about the Braille valentines. That was wonderful.
**33. I read the story below and was deeply touched at the relationship that Pam and Rich share with their daughter Cheryl. Braille has brought this family together. I use Braille all the time, and I also use a computer as an author of 3 books now. I don't know what I would do without Braille and my keyboard too.
I live in Modesto California and those wishing to write me may do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's a brief description of my books too:
"Revelation Revisited," is a very dramatic and easy guide through the book of "Revelation," explaining John's beautiful, terrifying, and
complex visions of the end of the world as he saw it through its historical and Biblical context.
"Secret of the Psalms," features the prophecies in the Psalms of Israel that were recorded up to a thousand years before Jesus was born.
"Grandfather's Journal," is a touching and humorous children's book that explains why the resurrection of Jesus at Easter provides
www.xlibris.com or 1-888-795-4274 or local bookstores.
**34. Perhaps the greatest injustice still being done to the blind these days, has nothing to do with learning Braille, but rather with the blind being deprived of the ability to learn standard alpha-numeric characters, the very ones the rest of society uses to read and write.
The blind are never taught what the standard alphabet and numbers look and feel like. Indeed, the blind are deliberately deprived of this information in order to ensure that they are trapped by, and limited to Braille only, a long outdated and inefficient mode of communication, just as the now-extinct Morse Code was.
To imagine that the world is going to learn Braille in order to accommodate the Blind, is both absurd and ludicrous. It simply is never going to happen, particularly today with the plethora of electronic devices that already enable communication among everyone, blind and sighted alike.
Whatever limited tactile information being made available to the public today, utilizes standard print, either embossed or engraved on it's surface, not Braille. For instance, in addition to the standard symbols (a circle for women and a triangle for men), , the words "women" and "men" are tactilely imprinted, using standard alpha-numeric characters, on these symbols for rest rooms. And while there is no guaranty that the blind can even differentiate between a circle and a triangle these days, they have absolutely no idea what letters they are feeling on those surfaces, if indeed they have any idea that letters are being represented at all.
The latest THOUGHT PROVOKER questions whether parents of a blind child should learn Braille to support their child as they learn it and begin to implement it into their lives.
As demonstrated in this latest scenario, only one set of parents even bothered to learn Braille. But to what avail? The only ones who were able to understand this seemingly random spattering of dots were the one set of parents and their daughter. How does that enhance their daughter's ability to communicate with the rest of the six billion plus people on this planet? It doesn't. But it will enable their blind daughter to communicate, to a limited extent, with less than ten percent of those who are themselves already blind, and who can read Braille to any extent. So what, and for what?
The sooner Braille is tossed on the scrap heap of no-longer-useful human inventions, the sooner the blind can begin to effectively and efficiently incorporate themselves into society.
George Cassell RPlist
**35. Hello George,
I whole heartedly agree with you on the functionality of Braille. I cannot believe that blind children aren't taught printed letters at all!...
You are right about many items that have tactile printed text on them. Not only signs, but products one can buy from the super market.
Here in the UK, certain items like bleach have the type of product printed in Braille on them as well as the normal text.
As my vision is getting worse, I have been looking for some way of labelling things for my business as well as for things in the kitchen etc. There are various high tech machines available, I haven't decided which to buy yet!... However, I am going to try a product I have discovered. It is a special type of translucent paper-film which one can draw and write on with a pen or something like that and the text becomes raised. I am hoping to write on to this paper and label things in my office.
As yet I have not received it, I will let you know how I get on.
**36. I think Braille is a matter of personal choice. The choice to learn Braille is there. You can choose to learn it or you can choose not to learn it for whatever reason. I don't think that someone should be able to dictate to someone what their CHOICE should be. I'm guessing that people who have seen before think Braille is a very "blind" thing and tend not to want to use it or attempt to use it, but those who were blind from birth surely have a different outlook on it. I work with and for blind people, mostly those who went to a school for the blind and who have been blind since birth. Their lives are not complete without Braille. How dare we advocate to take that bit of independence away from them!
My husband learned Braille in 3 months in his 30's (over 10 years ago). Since then, he's learned to love Braille. He's a slow reader, but he gets a great amount of enjoyment from reading his Braille books. He listens to plenty of books on tape too. He went back to school recently to learn massage therapy and was so grateful to be able to learn Braille so that he could get the correct spelling of things on his PAC Mate during the classes.
His enthusiasm for it, spurred me on to learn Braille too. I am a sighted wife and have completed Braille, levels 1 and 2 through the Hadley School for the Blind, and because of that, I'm able to do simple things that help him. He runs his own business and labels everything he needs in Braille and I'm able to assist with that too.
Valentine's Day is coming up and I can Braille him a personal message in his musical card without having to read it to him. Someone may want to email him and remind him about Valentine's Day though... LOl
**37. George, I think I am going to wade into this. I once had some vision. Now I don't. I went to a school for the blind that did not force me to learn Braille but I chose to learn at least grade 1 because of the guy I dated in school.
Now that I don't have vision, I will say, that I love my talking computer but I have made a point in re-learning Braille. There is just times that you can't take electronics with you. And the next best thing is Braille.
Rhonda Hutson RPlist
**38. Very nice. I must confess I've not read these before. My mom learned Braille she used to leave me notes on the refrigerator, and she also would put Braille on her holiday cards.
Shelley Alongi NFB Writers' Division Mailling List
**39. COOL STORY! It is exciting to learn about parents who treat their blind child's techniques as equal to visual techniques and as a learning opportunity for the whole family. I think being able to read Braille visually is better than not at all, but when we are teaching children, we have to remember that actions speak louder than words. To read Braille visually insinuates "I can see it. You can't." Although it is NEVER said, the implication is that "it is easier for me to use my vision than it is to feel the Braille". This makes using Braille tactually appear more "different" and "abnormal" than it needs to be. By a parent's willingness to learn to read Braille tactually, he demonstrates the same positive attitude about alternative techniques that he/she expects out of the child. I also can't stress the importance enough that Braille is a tactual method, not a visual one.
Nancy Coffman Lincoln, NE
**40. Hi everybody. My mom started to learn Braille several years ago but gave it up due to time constraints. But she would often send us Braille notes in our school lunchboxes, and the Braille readers in the family--myself included--would have to proofread her writing. She didn't fair too badly! A sister of mine recently enrolled in one of Hadley's Braille courses, and she and her husband sent me a CD for my birthday this year which has Braille on the front. She claims that there's a mistake somewhere in there but I didn't find any. I have shown friends and neighbors of mine what Braille looks like, but I've never taught a whole session due to time constraints.
Jake Joehl Illinois
**41. It seems like a lot of the responses to this thought provoker so far are concerned with separating Braille from computers as two separate mediums. This is really not reality. Although I realize that it is not a common opportunity, some of us do prefer to use Braille displays with our computers over speech output because we want to see our work and not have it broadcast to the entire room, whether it be a business meeting or a classroom. I also like to be able to chat online and be able to listen to music at the same time, and that's a lot easier to do when you use Braille access technology. Braille and computers are one medium for those of us lucky enough to have the equipment and skill to use them.
I also feel that parents of blind children who do not at least attempt to learn Braille must either not be interested in their child, be in denial that their child is in fact blind, or be rejecting that kid as a shame or a burden. No matter what your kid uses to read and write, don’t you want to know how they're doing in their studies? This may be a harsh opinion but I believe it to be true.
Mike Sivill Corvallis, Oregon
**42. Some has been mentioned here about people counting on computers rather than Braille. As a Technology Specialist for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, I don't know how I would be as proficient on the computer as I am if I couldn't take notes and read reference materials such as manuals, class materials and reference cards in Braille. I am a tactual learner meaning that what I read in Braille is more likely to be comprehended and retained than what I hear. I am glad I had the opportunity to figure that out as a young person so that I am able to seek out materials in a format that works for me.
Nancy Coffman Lincoln, Nebraska
**43. First, Robert, I liked your illustration of how to draw a heart in Braille. The trials and errors of getting the heart just right is exactly what John does when he does his beading designs. I, too, used to make Braille cards, or I would design a print card by using the Braille dots as my borders to cut out and then run the card through the typewriter. Unfortunately, I cannot find anywhere that might repair Braillers cheap, and I also don't have a typewriter to be able to do print cards. Even though I use speech on the computer, I use Braille for notes to myself, appointments, in my address book, and to do bookkeeping of our bank accounts. I don't rely on computers to do any of those things in case the computer crashes or finally bites the dust. I've had enough of my share of losing lecture notes on the computer to have learned such hard lessons. I also read Braille books when they're not available on cassette.
Second, my mother learned a little bit of Braille, so she was able to read some of it with her eyes. Unfortunately, she used her Braille-reading skill for the negative by secretly reading my journals or private letters my other blind friends wrote me. Still, I'm not against parents of blind children and spouses of blind people learning Braille. I've taught some Braille to John, but he has great difficulty with it. However, he recognizes a few letters here and there by sight to know whether he's putting my Braille labels upside-down or what the item is at a glance without staring at the print label.
I do have one hilarious story, though, that pertains to this. One day, John and I were cleaning our house in preparation for a friend of ours to come over. When we clean, we also spray air freshener throughout the house since we smoke. He went into the kitchen to grab a can that was the same shape and size as the air freshener can and started spraying it. Suddenly, we noticed that the air freshener smelled unusually different. When he stopped spraying and looked at the can, his mouth dropped to the floor. He handed me the can and said, "Linda, take a look at this!" What he was spraying was Ant And Roach Spray. When he grabbed the can, he hadn't stopped to see what can he had grabbed. He just assumed that he had grabbed the air freshener. Of course, all we could do was laugh about the whole ordeal and correct his error. Now, we keep the air freshener in the bathroom and the different bug sprays in the basement or kitchen.
Third and finally, like many of us blind people who do read Braille, I, too, was utterly shocked to learn that only ten percent of blind people are Braille literate. I think that the best way to conquer this problem as well as the problem with sighted people being denied Braille-reading classes by agencies is for us blind folks to seek out those needing and wanting to learn Braille, and teaching it to them. People do not necessarily have to be taught Braille by an agency or certified teacher unless the person wanting to learn Braille prefers it.
**44. I learned to read print at age three, but lost my vision before my ninth birthday. Learning braille gave me back the joy and wonder of reading to myself. I was the only one of us five kids who could read books after the lights were out without getting caught. Sometimes I joke that if it doesn't move, it gets brailed around my home. I will make braille notations on important documents, put them into brailed file folders, use french embroidery knots to braille letters on clothing labels so I can tell similar blouses or slacks apart. I use technology to the extent that I can afford it, but a slate and stylus is in the pocket of my PacMate, the flap pocket of my brief case in a compartment of my purse. I can quickly give a blind friend my phone number, compose a shopping list, play cards and scrabble and read a magazine in the waiting room of my doctor's office. I can give a speech with notes on file cards or from the braille display of my note taker. I can quickly determine which button to push to get to the floor I want in elevators and of course I can still read the raised print letters on the flip panel of a trash receptacle, but print has to be pretty plain and of a sufficient size to be easily read by touch. So, I am afraid I don't agree with Mr. Castle. I did teach one of my children to read braille as a summer project, taught friends throughout my school years braille so we could pass notes in class that even if intercepted, were private. My sighted husband and one of the young men I dated also learned braille and I still have some old love letters to treasure. As far as I am concerned, all of the tools to make life easier and more accessible have merit. It is the getting on with living to the best of our ability that counts, so for me, I will use braille and enjoy it. If you choose not too, then I think you are missing out, but that is your choice.
DeAnna Quietwater Noriega, Missouri
**45. I was fascinated by all the different responses to this one. I think sighted parents should know that it's perfectly acceptable to use their vision to read Braille. They can simply tell their children that just like the reading part of the child's brain is connected to his or her fingers, the reading part of the parent's brain is connected to his or her eyes. Different people are different; that's life.
My main question is why is learning Braille made to seem like such a big deal for a sighted person? A sighted person can learn to recognize the Braille alphabet visually in 10 minutes if they use an appropriate memory trick such as this one I described on my website years ago: http://www.dotlessbraille.org/Five.htm#memtrick
...FROM ME: I went to the above suggested webpage and it is called- "Five-Minute Introduction to Braille" and it looked good!"
**46. I remember reading my first book in Braille. It was incredible! Here I was a person with a visual impairment who had become legally blind. I was a young adult taking the bull by the horns "so to speak" and I was out to get the training I needed to carry on as a blind person in a visual world. I chose to learn Braille because reading has always been one of my favorite pass times. And all of a sudden I could no longer pick up a book and read it with my eyes. Oh yes of course I could listen to stories on audio tape, and I do this too, but when I learned to read Braille reading a book with my finger was just like when I read my books with my eyes. This was amazing to me! If I had a child who was blind I would have my child learn Braille just for this reason. And I as a parent would choose to learn it too as encouragement for my child and so that I could assist my child with homework, just as I would assist my sighted child with homework. I think that it would be a nice effort if more people would learn Braille, but realistically if you learn it and do not have many opportunities to use it then it will just find itself buried somewhere deep in the brain. This happens when we learn other languages such as sign language and foreign languages. "If you do not use it you lose it". There is definitely truth to this. So maybe it doesn't make the greatest sense for "everyone" to learn it. Braille is now used by me in a limited fashion. I am much more efficient with assistive technology that can keep me up to speed in this ever changing fast paced world.
Angela Christle NFB Rehabilitation professionals Mailing List
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