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.