What Braille Means to Me

page with braille

Compiled by Sharon Hughey 

Editor’s Note: In celebration of National Braille Literacy Month, we’ve compiled quotes, highlighting the personal impact of braille throughout people’s lives. 

Sharon Hughey—The Thrill of Braille 

In the fall of first grade, I grew jealous because other kids in my class were using a braille writer, and my teacher did not include me in their group. I’d hear them write: “all,” “ball,” “call,” “hail,” “tall.” 

I am competitive by nature and longed for the opportunity to not only read braille, but to also write it. I received a braille writer for Christmas, and was very excited when, at last, I was allowed to begin to write! I also remember the thrill of finally getting my first pack of vocabulary words, embossed in braille, to take home and learn! 

Liz Bottner—Braille in the Mail 

 One of my fondest memories related to braille was when I was a young child, and the boxes of books would come in the mail from the Library for the Blind. When I received a box, I could not wait to open it to see what sort of book they had sent me and discover what new world I would get lost in this time! To this day, I love getting braille in the mail! 

Alison Steven-Using Braille Notes 

I learned braille as an adult and was thrilled when I was able to make brief notes in braille for a presentation I had to give. It was so cool to be able to use these notes rather than trusting in my ability to remember. 

Having lost my sight later in life, one of my goals was to be able to read books with children at a speed that kept their attention. I am now able to do that, and it is such a thrill to share the joy of reading with young children. 

Blake Lindsay—I Think I Can 

The first day in the first grade classroom was my first opportunity to learn braille. I can still hear the assuring voice of my teacher, Mrs. Palmerlan, saying, “Blake, let’s learn some braille today.” For further encouragement, she told me the story, The Little Engine That Could, a favorite among children and educators. I recall my brand-new mentor telling me the best and most exciting part of the story, “I think I can, I think I can,” roared the engine as it successfully made its way up over the high mountains.  It was the first time I ever heard this confidence-boosting anecdote, and it certainly convinced me to exert my effort, as I desired to resemble that positive powerful little engine. Somewhere deep inside, I knew that I could, too. 

For the first few months, I was not a fan of Louis Braille, as braille was difficult to learn and extremely challenging. The letter S resembled the letter P, but with one less dot on the top left. The letter M felt like N, but with one less dot on the right middle side. I was still having difficulty when entering second grade, but Mrs. Davidson, my main homeroom teacher, was a genuine, caring encourager who had a true passion for braille.  She took time to find out specifically which braille letters were similar enough to frequently fool me. She would then put them side-by-side, so that I could clearly feel and understand the difference between them. Finally, this out-of-the-ordinary code called braille made sense!  Mrs. Davidson was successful in not only helping me to see her vision, but to also make her vision mine.  Braille increased my independence, just like she knew it would. 

 When people ask me who my heroes are, I quickly consider Louis Braille as a prime example. Today, I often wonder how I could have survived in the world without knowing this remarkable system of communication. Braille has been a major contributor to my independence, and I thank God for Louis Braille. He was not just an ordinary man; he was a visionary and quite simply… a genius!  

Donna Miller—Reading Numbers with my Fingers 

I’ve used braille since I learned it in first grade. It has also helped me tremendously with numbers, since I am dyslexic. Numbers have always been a problem for me and reading them with my fingers has made a difference in my work. I’m now 70 years old and still doing what I love so much, working with technology and teaching braille to help others learn to use so it can help them too. 

  

Lindsay Kerr- Reading Braille One-handed 

For me braille means not only literacy, but adaptability. With braille I have been able to read and write independently with both low vision and a mobility impairment. 

 Dayle Kane—The Magic of Braille 

As a child in the first grade, I was amazed that so much could be communicated by six dots in one cell. I had a hunger for learning this new language.  As I grew older, it again boggled my mind when I realized that some of these same symbols and more, could help me learn the magic of braille music. When I was in the third grade, I was told that our town’s Lions Club was giving me a braille writer: I cried.  What an amazing medium we are fortunate to have been given. 

  

Deanna Noriega–Reading Braille Out of Sight 

My great grandfather taught me to read print when I was three; by the time I was eight, my vision was no longer good enough to see even large print. I started first grade in San Antonio, Texas where my father was stationed as a Master Sergeant and started to learn to read braille. I was delighted when I figured out that I could read braille with my books safely out of sight under the covers after lights out. My little brothers also benefited from this new skill because I could read to them after our mother turned the lights out. It also was a hit with my sighted schoolmates when I taught it to them. We could then exchange notes in class that our sighted teachers couldn’t read!  

Elizabeth Sammons– Gratitude 

Memorable braille moments for me involve gratitude. I am grateful to my patient teachers and parents when I place my fingers over elevator buttons or door signs and find the right floor, room number, or independently find the restroom for my gender. The same applies when embossing and reading Dymo tape on credit cards so I know the card type and number with no need to ask a sighted person. Finally, I’m amused after reading aloud from my work when I give book talks when people think I’ve memorized my speech or literature, not seeing my hands darting left and right on the sloping podium. 

In Conclusion

Over the years, the VisionAware peer advisors have shared many thoughts about the importance of braille in their lives including a series exploring what a world without print or braille would be like.   

DeAnna Noriega, in her post on Survival Braille, sums it up nicely saying, “You don’t need to get proficient enough to read a novel, but you won’t panic if left alone in an elevator and have to push buttons. You won’t end up dropping brussels sprouts instead of frozen strawberries into your punch. You can play Scrabble or Uno with a grandchild, keep track of small bits of information such as your flight and seat number, or directions on the side of a cake mix box. Sure, there are high tech answers out there, but sometimes the reliability factor and low cost of using braille makes sense to use methods that have worked for centuries. Like most skills, the more you use them, the easier they get, too. If you are looking for ways to simplify and enhance your life after vision loss, then give braille a chance. It might surprise you how useful it is as a basic independent living skill.” 


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