Blind literacy: Learning to read uncontracted Braille
In my previous post about Braille, I had just learned the letters X, Y, and Z, which marked the end of the alphabet and consequently, the first grade. As a follow-up, my teacher assigned me two reading passages accompanied by comprehension questions. My first reading assignment was about Al Capone (did you know he died of syphilis?), and the second was about Michelle Obama (did you know her father had MS?). That’s right, and I learned all that in Braille.
At first, it took me over an hour to read a page (which consisted only of two or three paragraphs each). But my reading speed improved with practice, as with most things in life. Eventually, it even became sort of fun. I would read while listening to the television, read while eating, even read in bed at night with all the lights turned out. It felt nice to be able to simply read again.
The other part of the homework, on the other hand, was more difficult. I use a slate and stylus (comparable to paper and pencil) to write my answers and often find myself forgetting where in my sentence I am or accidentally overlapping one line over the other, resulting in a blob of illegible dots.
Regardless, I’ve officially graduated from the first grade and have moved on to the second grade. Now I am learning contracted Braille where certain letters represent entire words, e.g. B is for “but”, C is for “can”, and so on. My teacher said it’s a lot of memorization, but isn’t that Braille in the first place? Contracted Braille is important to learn, though, because that’s the Braille they use in public on restroom doors, etc.
On Tuesday, September 21, there will be a mini-graduation celebration at the Division for Blind Services for those of us who have completed some milestone in our Braille education. It won’t be anything special, but it’ll be nice to meet others who share in some of the same frustrations and rewards that come with learning to read again, this time, through touch and not sight.