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    Why Braille is Important to Me - A Perspective on Braille Literacy from Someone Who Lost Her Sight Later in life

    Why Braille is Important to Me - A Perspective on Braille Literacy from Someone Who Lost Her Sight Later in life

    Guest authored by: Karen Santiago, Founder & Editor of The Blind Perspective.

    Why is Braille important to me, especially as a person who lost the majority of my sight later in life? This is a question that many people may ask themselves. But for me, the answer was clear; it was for independence.

    Just like learning to read and write in your native language, Braille is a new language that takes time to learn. Yes, it may seem difficult, and frustrating while learning, but by sticking with it and practicing, it is possible.

    It took me about a year to learn Braille, and that's including contracted Braille. I remember getting children’s Braille books from the library and reading them to my girls. I then moved onto Braille novels and read them as well. It was great to be able to read again  and on my own.

    I use Braille to write letters to my Braille pen pals. I make Braille pictures which are called Braillables. Another great thing about knowing Braille is that I can Braille all my computer passwords another important numbers in a document that only I will know.

    I have always been a very organized person. I label everything I can so I know what it is. I purchased the 6dot Braille Label Maker, and I absolutely love it. The Braille that comes out of this little portable machine is so crisp and defined, it’s wonderful. Some of the many things I label include; appliances, files, mail, spices, food, and CD’s, to name a few.

    So by me learning how to read and write in Braille, I do not have to constantly rely on a sighted person for help. I am able to grab whatever ingredients I need to make my delicious pumpkin bread. I can do the laundry on my own since the knobs are all labeled. I can go through my CB’s to play the music I want to listen to. I can get a Braille book to read for pleasure, or to learn something new. It was learning Braille that allowed me to continue to be an independent person, just as I was as a sighted person.

    About the Author: Karen Santiago was diagnosed with Glaucoma at the young age of five and never let her low vision slow her down. She did everything a “normal” kid would do from driving a car to downhill skiing. She went to college and received a BS in Early Childhood Education. Then, worked for Head Start, ran a home daycare, and opened and was the director of a neighborhood preschool. Karen's vision deteriorated later in life, but after receiving mobility training, several courses with the Hadley school, and learning Braille she landed a job coordinating special fundraising events for Easter Seals of Massachusetts. In her "free time" Karen is the editor of The Blind Perspective, an online newsletter written and produced by a very passionate group of blind and visually impaired writers and techies. The Blind Perspective is in its third year of publication with an ever-growing group of followers.  

    Winter-themed Sensory Play Ideas

    Winter-themed Sensory Play Ideas

    When you think back to your childhood winters, what textures, scents and sounds evoke your most vivid memories? If you grew up in an area with four seasons, these probably include the smell of fresh sap that had hardened in the cold but quickly became sticky when you made contact with the warmth of your finger, or the smell of wood burning in your fireplace. In other areas of the world, memories could be fueled by the sights and sounds of fireworks on New Year's Eve or the smell of a home-baked cookies. 

    Foaming SnowmanWe've collected some of our favorite ideas for winter-themed sensory play that your kids and students will love. These projects and ideas will delight the senses of people young and old!

    Magic Foaming Snowman

    Edible Pretend Snow

    Scented Paper Gingerbread Men

    Golden Cinnamon Sensory BinCandyLand Village Bin

    Golden Cinnamon Sensory Tub

    Dry Peppermint Oatmeal

    Ice-block Toy Bin

    Ice Block Sensory Play"Icy" Salt Paint

    Slippery Sledding Sensory Bin

    Snowy Sparkle Cloud Dough

    Sparkling Ice Blocks/Shapes

    Sledding Sensory BinSnowflake Slime

    Melted Snowman Slime

    Wintry Search and Find Bin

    Winter Sensory Shaker Bottle 

    Water-free Snow Globes

    Snowy Sparkle Cloud Dough

    What sensory play activities have your children or students enjoyed?

    Leave a comment to share your own ideas!

    Activity & Travel Tips for Happier, More Inclusive Holidays (Webinar)

    Activity & Travel Tips for Happier, More Inclusive Holidays (Webinar)

    We hosted a webinar entitled "Activity & Travel Tips for Happier, More Inclusive Holidays" this month, and it was a lot of fun. We gathered tips and activity ideas from teachers, parents and friends of people with disabilities and shared them during a live presentation on November 17th. 

    We shared ideas for holiday and winter-themed sensory play, activities for long trips, and ways to use assistive technology to allow children with disabilities to help out more with meal prep and cookie making. Then, we talked about new technology that makes it easier for people who are blind or visually impaired travel and locate luggage on a baggage carousel without assistance from fellow travelers or airline workers, and ways to bring multiple generations together using thoughtful iPad apps and interview books. 

    We invite you to watch the recorded webinar online (requires registration) and download the corresponding PowerPoint presentation. 

    How do you ensure everyone is equally involved in holiday fun and preparations? Do you have a go-to sensory play kit that you make up every year, or a special recipe that's easy for kids and adults with disabilities to help out with?

    We'd love to know what you do to make your holidays merry and bright for your friends and family with disabilities. Please comment below!