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Sunday, January 6, 2013

in touch with braille

Blurb: As a timid scribe, I dared to enter an international level
writing contest. With great shock, I discovered I won first prize
in the USA region of the Onkyo Braille Writing contest. What does
braille do to enhance my life?



In Touch With Braille



There was no warning nor time to prepare. I knew nothing of
the horrendous disease embedded in my DNA, or what it would do to
my body.
At the beginning of the month, I was free and happy,
enjoying life with my six-month-old son. By the end of that
month, the genetic time bomb had exploded. I was left as a mind
trapped in a useless body. I struggled to keep my sanity, despite
the great losses I suffered. At this lowest point, I was totally
blind, completely deaf and paralyzed in my feet, legs and hands.
I couldn't walk. I couldn't feel anything. I was unable to take
care of myself, much less my baby.
The worst part was the lack of access to information. I
didn't know what was going on around me or out in the world.
Sports, culture, business, politics and wars continued. As they
say, "Life goes on." I knew nothing about it. I existed in a
state in which I only knew what people deemed to tell me. Since
communication involved printing letters on my face with a
fingertip, that was very little. It was too much work for my
family to keep me informed.
I spent endless hours, days and months trying to entertain
myself with my own thoughts. I imagined I was watching my
favorite movies, tried to remember the lyrics to old songs and
recited books back to myself. I was so isolated, lonely and
miserable. I lost all contact with the outside world and so
desperately wanted to get back in touch.
After eight long months, I realized my hands were beginning
to heal. It took another three months before I regained normal
sensitivity in my fingers. I knew at once what I needed to do. I
had to learn braille.
I was another lost one who fell through the cracks in the
vocational rehabilitation system. They claimed I was too disabled
and therefore beyond their help. I received no services and had
no trainer. If I wanted to learn braille, I would have to do it
myself.
My husband bought a braille learning book online. I didn't
have much support at home, so I was literally teaching myself. I
carefully followed the lessons in the book. After I studied each
new letter, I worked on practice words and sentences. After one
month, I could read uncontracted braille. It was time to move
onto the next level.
The training series for contracted braille was longer and
harder. There were so many rules and so much to remember. I
struggled with short-form words, abbreviations and beginning and
ending contractions. I worked every day on reviewing information
and learning new skills. After three months, I could read
contracted braille, although my pace was quite slow.
I've been told it's impossible to learn braille that fast.
Yet, that's exactly what I did. I was so determined to return to
the real world. Braille was the only means to do so.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was the first book I
read in braille. As I diligently felt the dots, I became so
excited. Letters turned into words. Words became sentences. I
recognized the story. I was reading!
My next step was to find sources to news. I signed up for
"Hotline to Deaf-Blind," which sent weekly braille briefings
about headline news stories. From the national library, I ordered
"The New York Times Weekly" and "Parenting Magazine." Other
sources gave me access to "The Reader's Digest" and "Syndicated
Columnist Weekly."
Hope returned to my life as I read these magazines. I was
proud to talk politics with my husband or discuss a story he
hadn't heard about. I was back in touch, thanks to those
beautiful dots we call braille.
Now, 10 years later, I've had some training to refine my
braille skills. I read much faster now. That's essential, because
there's so much I want to know about. I spend most of my day
reading news and books. I could live forever and still never
finish everything I want to read.
The purchase of my first Braille Note device provided even
more access to information and social networking. I could email
my family, join deaf-blind mailing lists and meet new people who
faced similar challenges. I began surfing the web for the first
time in my life. I had never imagined so much information in one
tiny place. There was so much knowledge to be had, and it was all
at my fingertips.
I now have a Deaf-Blind Communicatory. This machine allows me
to talk with people who do not know sign language. They type on
my cell phone, and I read the message on my Braille Note. The
device also gave me access to a TTY. I'm finally able to make
phone calls by myself. My son and I celebrated the night I first
ordered a pizza for our dinner. Once again, I owe it to braille.
I'm connected to people through text messages, Instant
Messages and Facebook. It is amazing what technology can offer
these days. I love reading on a refreshable braille display. The
dots are like magic. At a push of a button, they change to say
something new. The possibilities are endless.
I'm still deaf-blind and physically impaired. However, I'm
no longer a prisoner in my own body. It was braille that allowed
me to escape. Now I'm a student, a writer, a leader and friend.
My online nick-name is "Dot." I'm an actual part of society
again. This never would have happened without braille.
I've been asked, "What does braille do to enhance your
life?" My answer is simple. "Everything." Braille keeps me in
touch.

http://www.jp.onkyo.com/braille_essay/2012/

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