Blind literacy: Graduating grade 1 of Braille
I just returned from my little Braille graduation ceremony at the DARS office in the Heights where there is a Division for Blind Services. Thank you to Joanna for coming and being my one-woman fanfare as I ambled up to the front and received my certificate. Both my Braille teacher, Benigno, and my former counselor, Lori–two people whom I adore–were both there to congratulate me. After the little pomp and circumstance, the three of us took a picture together, and then I unfortunately had to leave before we got to dabble in the hot dogs, Doritos, and other post-ceremonial snacks.
Before the mini-ceremony, we went around the circle and introduced ourselves. There was definitely a camaraderie to be had in telling a potential group of strangers how you lost your vision and why you are learning Braille. Mostly there were people with diabetes or glaucoma, but there was the occasional brain tumor and other rarities. The fact that people were so candid about their problems was refreshing to me–Americans don’t normally say to someone they had just met, “My name is X, and I have so-and-so disorder.” It is often taboo to discuss someone’s health or medical history, and so to be sitting in that circle and telling the ten or so other graduates that I had an autoimmune disease was cathartic. It was a total support group mentality. Half of the graduating group come to the DARS office three times a month for Braille class, and I can see why that option could be more appealing than what I chose to do which is to have my teacher come to my house and do one-on-one lessons. Those that meet weekly seem to have become friends; I even heard some of them talking about going to the clubs to party together. Imagine a bunch of blind people dancing with their canes.
My certificate has Braille printed over it, and because I can read uncontracted Braille now, it says:
Texas Department of Assistive Rehabilitive Services
Division for Blind Services
Certificate of Completion
Is hereby granted to:
To certify that she has completed to satisfaction
Uncontracted Braille Training
Awarded September 21, 2010
Congratulations to me!