Braille, Books and Barriers. Hmm, I must have a thing for alliteration :)

Hi reader,

I was going to take a break from blogging, however a situation today has prompted me to write this entry. I’ll start off by saying I love books. The crisp texture of fresh Braille, the feel of turning page after page, or the weight of a book on my lap as I read. Can you believe in the blindness community only 10% of people read Braille? I’m quite fortunate my parents pushed for me to learn Braille at a young age. After losing my usable vision, I truly realized how crucial reading those tiny dots have been throughout my life. Whether it’s reading hard-copy Braille for leisure or reading an electronic Braille textbook on my notetaker, Braille has been an imperative skill.

The purpose of this post is to share my opinions about blindness barriers and Braille access. I realize not everything can reasonably be Brailed, (it takes up a lot of space and is pricy to produce), however if the tables were turned sighted students would never be denied access to printed materials, so why is blindness so different? I see my blindness as a characteristic similar to my height or eye color. Just as being short doesn’t always afford me the opportunity to easily reach high places without assistance, being a person who happens to be blind presents its own insurmountable barriers. Despite the advent of accessible technology, which is wonderful, and the ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act), at times I prefer to not always rely on synthesized speech or use sighted assistance, however I value my alternative skills and options. Maybe in my lifetime the dream of true equality will not yet come to fruition, however I’m determined to do what I can to equal the playing field for those who will come after me. I’m learning being a social worker is about looking at challenges, finding ways to overcome them and making the situation better for the next person.

Even though I can’t drive, I’m thankful for the ability to pick up my long white cane and independently walk to class. Even though my eyes don’t work, I’m thankful for being able to function when the power goes out and the sighted people around me are scurrying for flashlights. 🙂 Even though being blind presents many challenges, it doesn’t mean we aren’t people with the same thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams and desires as our sighted counterparts. The only difference is we can’t see. Perceptions are the biggest barriers we face. I encourage my friends who are blind to keep on doing your part to change perceptions of those around you, and I urge my sighted friends to ask questions, do not be fearful of blindness (it’s not contagious) and just see the disability for what it is—a difference which presents minor inconveniences. What questions do you have about blindness?

Until next time,

Anjelina

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