I’m finally literate

…in Braille.

Braille was created by Louis Braille, a blind Frenchman, in the 1820s. He originally designed it as a means to read music. Little did he know almost two centuries later, Braille would become a languaged used worldwide by blind people.

Louis Braille

Louis Braille: Creator of the alphabet for the blind

Ever since I attended a seminar at The Lighthouse a few years ago, I had put “learn to read Braille” on my “to do” list. A Freedom Scientific rep was there, and he emphasized the importance of learning Braille if you’re blind. He was blind himself, and he said you are not truly literate as a blind person unless you know Braille. When you “read” by audio books, it is not true reading because you are being fed the words by someone else; you are picking up subliminal interpretations via the reader’s tone and inflections. So Braille is the closest thing there is to reading with one’s own eyes.

When I began losing vision in both my eyes six years ago, I thought I’d be able to get by the rest of my life simply by using my ears–after all, I can get most books in audio format (see some of the links to the right), and even the ones that don’t exist, I can get them recorded by certain non-profit organizations such as Taping for the Blind (read my post about them here). It wasn’t until this FS rep got up on his soapbox and made me realize I might as well utilize what skills I do have and improve myself by learning Braille.

I started off learning Braille by correspondence courses through the Hadley School for the Blind. While I learned some valuable independent living skills from Hadley, it was difficult for me to get very far with their Braille courses. Hadley is definitely a wonderful resource for the blind–their courses are free–but if you’re like me and need some external discipline, then it might be a challenge to get through the lessons in a timely manner. (I’ll still blog about Hadley and all their perks later.) So I ended up going through DARS for my Braille class. It’s nice because in addition to offering classes at their office, you can also request a teacher to meet you either at your house or location of choice and teach you one-on-one. This is what I do since I try to avoid the MetroLift whenever possible.

The face-to-face class offers me more discipline–my teacher insists we meet at least three times a month. There are 18 lessons to learn the entire alphabet, numbers, and punctuation. I started in May soon after the wedding and semester were over, and I’m happy to say I should be done with all 18 lessons before the school starts again in a couple of weeks. Today I learned W, X, Y, and Z. I think I only have punctuation left before I can graduate to the second grade and learn contracted Braille, which is a whole other story.

My progress has been decent. The first half of the alphabet was relatively a breeze, but once I started hitting the letters that used up more dot positions in the Braille cell (which has a total of six dot positions), my learning curve definitely started flattening out. I’m determined, though, and hope to one day be able to read Braille almost as fast as I once could read print. Stay tuned for more Braille lesson updates.

4 Responses to I’m finally literate
  1. dark mark Reply

    sounds awesome. braile is pretty amazing when you see how quickly some can read. i'm sure you'll be there soon enough.

  2. [...] my previous post about Braille, I had just learned the letters X, Y, and Z, which marked the end of the ... theblindcook.com/2010/09/14/i-finished-the-first-grade
  3. Sparky Reply

    Simply amazing to read about your progress into this 'new world' that us sighted don't experience. I like to touch the Braille at ATMs/Elevators and see how it feels – but it definitely looks super tough !!

    I am going to volunteer for the Sight into Sound project – I LOVE reading and want to ensure the written word can be enjoyed by all.

    You are amazing, fantastic, witty and just so cool. LOVE your blog, ADORE YOU

    • Christine Ha Reply

      Thanks for stopping by my blog and your kind words. Also, a huge thanks for volunteering for Sight Into Sound; it's a great program, and I use their services. :)

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