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Covering My Bases #WeRemember #JusJoJan

Okay, so I am nearing the end of this
Just Jot It January
2020 thing.

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This weekend, instead of writing for #JusJoJan, I was too
busy,
with the planning and the thinking and the dreaming.

Trying not to get too far ahead of myself on life, with recent developments, I zoned out a little here recently.

Thanks,
Saumya,
for this one.

I was making a starting, basic plan for an adventure I’m looking to have later this year. It was distracting, as I try not to get my hopes up too high. I want to make a statement with this one!

I wish to
dazzle
the world with this one.

I long to sparkle, to shine, but not me for my sake. I desire to take a chance, take the leap, assuming upcoming bloodwork doesn’t threaten to ruin everything I’m planning before it even has a chance of going ahead.

I want to be always a surprise and a voice for change. I may surprise in my methods of achieving all this, to some, but the main one I’m looking to surprise is myself…and spectacularly!

Thanks,
Debbie,
for this glittery prompt word.

This date always gets me down, in a way, to more of a melancholic level. I think if it, 2020 being seventy-five years since the freeing of Auschwitz concentration camps.

I know this is the day to celebrate, but it’s such a sombre date, I can’t help feeling a bit blah.

It reminds me of too many things, makes me think too many dark thoughts, though I know there’s a more positive tone to strike here too.

And, so since I am working with what I’ve got, what I’ve got is me. Nobody else can live my life for me, I should learn to count on me more because I’m here now and I’m grateful for that, and then to be gracious to all who agree to join in on the journey, somewhere along that way.

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More Than Less #JusJoJan

It’s one of the three main keys for the
podcast
I have with my brother: family,
humour,
and creativity

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and we try to bring it into the radio show we now record every Monday morning at eleven, even though Outlook is a show about accessibility, advocacy, and equality.

Life can be hard. A humourless personality is unfortunate. We gotta have something to break up some of the monotony of daily living.

A sense of it is high on a list of qualities for most online dating profiles.

Thanks,
Sadje,
for this prompt, especially on Blue Monday in the month of January.

I like this month for blue and in February I think red.

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I Am No Rarity #JusJoJan

I took yesterday off, from this
Just Jot It January #JusJoJan
challenge, but there remains a lot to do.

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I had an
experience
yesterday, a speaking invitation to something called
PROBUS.

This was a chance to be a guest speaker for a room of retired professional women. I wasn’t just there to speak about my life as a sideshow of what’s known as inspiration porn, meaning a story of my disability that does nothing to truly educate, challenges preconceived notions and to show them what has been kept too well a hidden secret up until now.

I wanted to talk to the ladies about my life, my blindness sure, but of some of the things I’ve accomplished. I made the theme fear and travel and they were amazed I traveled to Mexico alone, to attend a writing workshop in 2017. Sure, many sighted people are amazed I can dress myself let alone travel by myself.

The point is that there are ways to know what I’m wearing and how I get to my gate to fly somewhere. I don’t do it without practice and, sometimes, without assistance.

I talked about my fears and the fears my parents had when they first learned I was blind. I talked about my loss of sight over the years and how I faced my fear of rejection to start this blog and share more of my writing with the wider world. I talked about how to face the fears and push passed them, while they keep on coming.

I impressed them, all kinds of them coming up to me after to shake my hand and tell me to keep it all up.

I couldn’t hope to change every mind about the capabilities of blind people, but maybe I enlightened some of them so that they will realize that I am not such a rarity, that many blind people live happy and active lives.

There is much work to do, why I’ve become involved with the
Canadian Federation of the Blind
to, in many cases, fight back against society’s fears of blindness and what it’s really like to live with it.

I want to improve opportunities for my own life and for those born blind or who go blind later in life. It isn’t a black hole of hopelessness.

The government could be doing a lot more to help. If they listened more and realized it is a good investment to make into disability communities like that of the blind, that given the right kinds of opportunities and supports and training, we can give back to society like we want, like anyone else might do.

Our challenge is to make blind people, struggling to know their options and worth and opportunities, understand and believe that they can live the life they want.

I have been to a yearly convention for the CFB in Canada for the last two years and to one in the US in 2018. I wish I had more money for travel because it isn’t only a chance to do that, but it’s a chance to gather together and share with one another and boost each other in our lives all the rest of the year. I face my fears by traveling, again and again and again, and to put myself squarely in a situation where I am anxious and uncomfortable, a large crowd or group of people.

The experiences I’ve had since I realized my power to make changes through advocacy with like-minded blind people have been some of the best of my entire life and I’ve met people that inspire me for those times when I do feel like it’s all too much and I’d like to give up all together.

It’s often stressful because there’s more work to do than those of us willing to pitch in with our own unique talents and skills, but it’s a brand new year here and I know I’ll keep busy, whatever happens. Life is rarely ever boring for long.

Thanks,
Dan,
for this prompt that I had a lot to speak on. My life has been a rich tapestry of meaningful and impactful experiences for sure.

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Gloria In Handcuffs Signing The Constitution #JusJoJan

People are protesting, challenging their governments, and more.

And here I am.

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I can come here and I can
publish
my feelings and my fears for our world.

I am approaching my six year anniversary with this blog next month and I can speak my mind in Canada and share it with anyone who comes here. I am not protesting for the world to see on screen, like Gloria Steinem or Jane Fonda are doing, both these high profile women and both in their eighties now. Instead, I keep writing it all down and I don’t quit as times grow tough.

I have the freedom to write about climate change or disability rights as civil rights or about misogyny and the men who’ve run this world long enough and brought us to where we are today. I can say the things I’m drawn to say and publish without waiting for some mighty publisher to look my way.

I can’t control what the government does or what other governments around the world do, but I can write and speak my mind and for this I’m grateful.

Thank you,
Ritu,
for this prompt word, a favourite of mine.

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White and Blue and Cinnamon Too #Synaesthesia #BlueJanuary #SnowDays #JusJoJan

The mall was pleasantly less crowded on this early January day, I spent it out browsing its many stores with a friend visiting from Ireland, and the sun made an appearance; a win win of a day for me I gotta say.

David’s Tea, The Dollar Store (don’t know if it’s actually called that anymore), lunch at the foodcourt and all the while that pleasant scent of cinnamon buns in the air; that was my day – here’s what’s been on my mind.

There’s the
possibility
of a snow day, on any given week, most weeks here in Canada every January.

This brings children joy all around this country, while my friend’s daughter was dying to see the snow Canada promises. No snow days for her in her Irish home.

Canadian kids can sometimes get what feels like countless days off from school every winter. Others aren’t so thrilled about how January seems to stretch out, what seems like indefinitely, because they can’t seem to see beyond these somewhat blue thirty-one days, so soon after the champaign cork popped and the new year was rung in.

Once the memory of a snow day fades and adulthood overtakes, a snow day for schoolchildren is simply the snow the adult must go out super early before work to scrape from the car.

The things that seem hard at one age, school assignments and least favourite subjects, these are replaced with deadlines and annoying coworkers, but it’s more than work stress that’s getting to many at this time of the year and no day off or work perk is going to thrill like it might otherwise have done.

It’s all relative.

There are those usual headaches if you’ve grown up here, lived here, and some thrills too, depending on what age you are.

I try to look ahead, even as January drags on into February and the snow persists. It isn’t the snow that bothers me so much. I feel refreshed by it, invigorated by it almost, but the month of January (while still holding the thrill of unknown possibilities to come in the remaining months of the year, feels like a blue month to me.

My synaesthesia colours January as blue in my head. I see it, even if nothing else, but it hurts me to see how many feel that blueness deep inside. I love the colour blue, but it means depression to so many I know and love and have known and loved. I see it in lots of places I look.

While the future is likely to bring new periods of colour and feeling and hope, that isn’t so easy to notice whilst in the middle of the month of January.

I wish I could make it all better for those people. I wish I could hug them and reassure them everything will work out, but while I can predict a number of possible outcomes for anyone of us, I can’t make them believe anything in the first month of a new year, not when their environment tells them the darkest days of a wintery January might never ever lift the cares and worries from their shoulders.

I wish, for so many who deal with a blue January, every day could be like a first snowfall for a visiting Irish child: pure joy in all that white stuff falling from the sky to cover the ground in a blanket of delight.

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Thanks,
Jill,
for all the possibilities this prompt offers for things to jot down our thoughts on.

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A World On Fire, #JusJoJan #SoCS

A quiet Saturday night in Canada, but
Wow
to what’s going on on the other side of the world from here.

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And to the news between the US and Iran. Wow!

I say it as an exclamation a lot, to myself, because it feels super redundant to utter out loud to anyone within earshot.

I love this time of year in my country, snow or no snow, because I like being cozy inside and then, when I step out my door, to feel the fresh air, so cold. I love the stillest days of winter most of all, those still, silent nights those of which songs have been named.

I can’t imagine what Australia is dealing with right now because I’ve never had to experience such a thing. I remember watching the news when western Canada was dealing with terrible wildfires, hearing people in California speaking of it on Facebook. I can’t imagine even having to deal with smoke clouding the air and choking my lungs and burning my eyes. Having to outrun flames sounds nightmarish.

Over twenty lives lost there now, millions of animals and wildlife perishing so far, and yet climate change denial is still rampant. Wow, really?

I “WOW” this more than anything because, even if you don’t believe things are as bad as all that, at least let situations like the one in Australia now help you see that we can and should do something. Even if we choose to not put the blame all on our shoulders, fine, but at least we can do something, in the smallest belief it could help dangerous and devastating situations like wildfires take less of a toll. Why not? What’s the harm?

We frame things as serious, as serious as it often is, in the hopes that people will, you know…take it seriously. Then, we’re crying wolf or portraying ourselves as Chicken Littles. The sky’s not falling, okay, but it is smoky in places. If we talk so serious all the time, people will tune the warnings out entirely we’re warned, but then what does that leave us all with in terms of options to address what’s making the news in the first place?

So we have to sit with the realization of all those poor creatures, not understanding what’s going on, unless somehow instinctively. I sit here, in the northern hemisphere and January cold, thinking of all those poor animals, my two animals safely here with me.

Canadian firefighters and those from other countries have gone to help. What are the politicians doing?

Are there not enough natural events occurring these days for our world to contend with that humans have to go and create more havoc with their own real life choices? What is it with clueless, greedy, selfish, brutal men running the world, making serious decisions that will impact so many, creating an environment of fear and anxiety? What if we let women run the world, just for a little while, to see if things might turn around? What’s the harm in giving it a try? All men, stand down!

I saw how serious news stories were handled on the ground and up close when they involved New Zealand recently, (mass shootings and volcano eruption) by their PM, a woman. I wish there were more of her.

I don’t generally like to generalize, but I’m tired of the anxieties. If it’s this way, this greatly weighing on my mind and heart, I shudder to think of what it’s like for anyone immediately, directly effected in in the path of destruction, whether natural weather and climate or manmade disasters in progress.

I say my wow’s and my huh’s? I say it till I grow weary of saying it. I long to be a child again, not to block out news by simply not seeking it out because that feels irresponsible, but to be a kid again and simply not grasping the significance of all these things going on.

Oh two-year-old Mya my dearest one, how I envy your child’s cluelessness, in great contrast to that cluelessness I spoke of above from adults who should know better.

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Viewfinder, #JusJoJan #Outlook

Here’s my view. It’s taking a while to find what that is, but this blog allows glimpses of some of the insights I seek.

Welcome to 2020 on this blog and off of it too. New decade and I overwhelm myself when I look back on the last one. So, instead, I try to live in this moment.

I do like having this first month designated for finding my direction for the year head. The blogging world has given me many tools, including this
Just Jot It January #JusJoJan
for jotting down thoughts to hopefully unscramble them.

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Day one of
Just Jot It January
because January 1st was a restful New Year’s Day and a Wednesday, which will be my break day throughout the rest of this month and this blogging exercise.

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Today’s prompt is about taking a photo and posting/sharing with any jot that might go along with the image.

This image is one taken on Monday, my day to travel a distance of less than an hour, to my brother’s town to record the half hour radio talk show on disability/blindness. I do this with my brother.

We have guests on occasionally, mostly we like to do interviews, but this time it was a friend and we had him in the background, as more of a guest host really, as we did a round-up of 2019 for Outlook.

After which we went out for lunch to celebrate the holidays. We’ve known him since before we can remember.

Thing is, I am blind and I still find managing the world of the sighted difficult, specifically when it comes to photos. They are an important part of life for most people, or at least a common enough occurrence. Hell, my brother is a photographer and a damn good one, but my memories of pictures that capture a particular moment in time fades as the years pass me by.

I wasn’t born unable to see photos at all. I am at that point now though.

I find many things about losing more sight frustrating, but then I try to tell myself it doesn’t really matter, to focus on the things that do make sense to me.

I don’t take the pictures housed on my iPhone currently. My mother took this one, one of four she ended up leaving, after she deleted some. She told me what they were, but I forgot the order of the four and am on my own today as I post this.

I usually like to include a caption in words, when I post a photo on my FB page or on the public pages I run. I do this for any other blind people, like me, who don’t see the photos and still want to know, to feel included as best we can.

This time, I don’t know if the photo I have chosen is just my brother and myself or if our friend is in this shot. We were at a restaurant that had a Christmas tree and some photos were taken in front of it. The other, at our table.

I fight with my frustrations, the sighted world being one of them, but I wanted some photos to choose from, to post on the FB page of the radio show we do. It’s called Outlook and past episodes can be found at our podcast archive page:

https://soundcloud.com/ketchuponpancakes

There are more and more forms of technology now, including photo recognition apps, but they are far from perfect. I often grow more frustrated when trying to use them than I would if I didn’t bother.

I will find a more upbeat and positive outlook for my 2020 and here, hopefully, as the month goes on. It’s there and coming.

I think it’s important to share and show the frustrating moments, as well as the times where a more optimistic tone can be struck. I have both inside. That’s what this first month is for, finding a balance, though I’ve been away from this blog for far too long and I need to warm up to it again.

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Serenity and the Frail Petunia

Dear Reader:

I am blind and getting more blind by the decade. It’s not all I am, not by a long shot, but it’s a core part of me that I wrestle with every day, some days more in a nuisance way and some days it brings me down.

I wrestle with how to balance that part of me with the rest, in my interactions with people: if I bring it up too much, I’m using it as a crutch; if I pretend it doesn’t have an influence, I won’t ever speak up for what I need or get those needs met in any way necessary.

Different blindness organizations have differing views, but as I grew and went along, I felt I had to get involved in something I felt represented me, without letting the activism and hard work of advocacy take over my life entirely either.

It’s hard enough to focus on ourselves, let alone having to work or worry on or about the issues someone else might be living with. Some prefer to get things squared away in their own lives and leave it at that.

I am like most in Canada and those living in North America in 2019 – I only recently heard of
the Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB)
recently, but I found people and projects there that did make me feel like I belonged and had something worthwhile to contribute.

Just a few of the things we are constantly fighting and working to improve:

The guide dog discrimination and misinformation issue just won’t go away. In fact, depending on who you happen to ask, it’s grown worse in recent years.

People get refused service from businesses and things like Lyft or by Uber drivers. Sometimes a cab will see the dog and then pull away, intending to pretend that they were never there, leaving the person waiting in vane for a ride.

Blind people are one of those groups of people who can’t simply get behind the wheel of a vehicle and get somewhere themselves. Public transportation and rides from helpful friends or family are our best bet if we want to leave our homes. PSST…we do.

Those who say: “no guide dog allowed” claim it’s an allergy issue or a cultural one. These do give the issue a two-sides-to-every-story feel for many people, but it matters to those who depend on their guide dog to give them back their independence.

Also, I am trying to get my local library to offer me as much access to literature as possible. People unable to read print have only about ten percent of the access to the written word and books as those who can see. A library should want to do all it can to get me access to books, as I can’t pick up any book on their shelves and read at will.

Being in my local library now makes me sad and resentful. I can deal with the fact that I’ll never see print again, like when I was a child reading large print, but I go to my library twice a month (to attend a local writing group) and I am surrounded by some of the things I love most in the world, yet they are just out of reach.

There are places to get more access to books:
National Network For Equitable Library Service
and
Centre for Equitable Library Access,
but they are not just duplicates of each other. If one has even one more book than the other, that the other does not, don’t I deserve access to both?

Libraries in Canada have always kind of passed the buck of literacy for the blind onto the
Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB),
but (in my opinion) they should care for every client and want to offer inclusivity and a welcoming atmosphere for all.

Instead, I am disregarded and left not wanting to even step foot into the building most times, even to see writer friends I love and to share stories with them, because the library has become a bittersweet and even painful place.

And finally, there’s this…

****

The antidotes to job-seeker deceptions presented here reduce but don’t eliminate employers’ risk of getting snookered. For example, I’ve had clients with a disability who withheld that information, knowing there now are laws that limit the interviewer’s ability to ask about them. And then as soon as hired, they disclose the disability because now they’re protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

****

Go ahead and read the
full article (for full context),
but many do not and so I’ve decided to paste in the above paragraph separately.

I really don’t want to give this article more views, but I also think people should be aware of where stigma like this persists from. I happen to believe the written word is a powerful thing.

I am not into shaming or attacking anyone/not without cause or reason, but I do believe we should do more calling people out on something if it is hurting a whole group of people.

I believe this writer disguised this attack by inserting this as one of his final points of proof of his main article’s point of view.

Most people won’t see this because attentions are short in 2019 and reading to the end of an article is often not practical for those on the go and with mile long to-do lists. I probably shouldn’t have even made this blog post this long and left this part for the end. This is not an accusation, as I understand people’s time is precious. I just wish people were more thoughtful about things )like this writer) and I hope someone does get this far in my post.

I believe, in life, we should all pick our own battles, but I am getting tired of visible ablism and the perpetuation of stigma.

The reason I wanted to start a support and resource group, which we’ve called our Employment Mastermind Group or EMG, and through some Canadian Federation of the Blind members and others, we are doing it, is because of writers such as Nemko.

We can argue all day about the real unemployment rate for people with disabilities and who are blind, but either way it’s much too high still.

Of course, the ways in which we’re told we can reach people and change minds are things like social media, Twitter private messaging, but I don’t really think a tweet sent from me to him will get me anywhere. I came here, though I write here less often than I used to, because I have a place to speak openly and honestly about something that hurts, as much as I try not to take it to heart.

Do guys like this truly think he’s helping anyone, to warn unsuspecting employers? What was the editor of this article thinking, putting the Psychology Today name on this?

I may have thought, as a freelance writer, of writing for this publication at one time, but I don’t think I want to now. (One to cross of the list.)

The question of whether to disclose disability on a resume or application for a job is often asked in the blindness community. People only want to find meaningful employment like anybody else, to feel useful and for independence and self sufficiency.

We are honestly afraid we’ll be weeded out before we’re given a chance to prove our skills. We’re not saying we deserve special treatment, given a job even if we aren’t up to it, but employers are often afraid to hire someone with a disability because they think it’s not going to be worth their time/money/energies, that it will be too much of a hassle or a risk to them because not everyone understands that blind people aren’t helpless and don’t need to be watched over every minute.

Who would admit they do this? Doesn’t mean it isn’t exactly what some employers (not all) would do, hoping not to be caught doing it.

It’s like when you want a person to like you, on a date, so you hold back on something you think it may be too soon to share. You do have to take the risk sooner or later, but you have no idea how they will take it when they find out. This is where it can get tricky. Maybe…you think…if they get to know you a bit first, then when you do finally bring it up, you’ll have left such a wonderful impression that all will work itself out. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.

I happen to think being upfront, as soon as possible, is best (in all types of relationships/be they personal or professional), but I know it’s a nerve racking thing when you think you’d be good at a certain position and you don’t wish to be pitied for the rest of your life, wishing to carry your weight and support yourself, but fearing the injustices of the real world.

This writer is including people with disabilities as “the deceivers” of those poor employers. Aren’t we just so incredibly evil, pulling the wool over innocent eyes and those eyes must be warned that we’re coming?

Maniacal, aren’t we?

Inaccessibility is everywhere you look. I couldn’t and wouldn’t include everything it is here because I would be writing for days. Let’s just say that even the comment section for the article, when I went to share my thoughts, was no simple thing to tackle.

So if it sounds as though I’m complaining too much, you’re right because I do get tired of having to bring these things up all the time. Really, I do. I wish I didn’t have to and I could go back to staying quiet and saying nothing, just so I don’t rock the boat, but that doesn’t get us to a better place.

If you are on Twitter and you feel like helping this writer and career coach learn why what he said was so harmful, he can be found @MartyNemko and you can also try @PsychToday.

Thank you for listening/reading/considering.

Signed,

KKHerheadache/Kerry

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Two People and a Baby: On Accessibility and Literary Publishing

I’m glad to see this on Brevity and wanted to share it on my blog. This writer is correct. The literary community, though a community of words (which are written) are still a part of the artistic world, still writers come from a mostly visual place. I write to create a world with words, but inside my own head, I am seeing everything, as I am a visual person still too. The sight I once had just doesn’t vanish completely, but stays hidden somewhere in the recesses of my brain. As such, this goes on all while I am seeing nothing with my eyes and so I turned to words, words which are accessible with technology and braille. We just need to work together, with the sighted world of writing and everything else, to make things more equal and level for all.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

4293161316_4739d166fb_b Two People and a Baby

By Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter

My fingers manipulate keys, navigating Facebook. Arrowing down, the cursor lands on a picture, and I hear, “Two people and a Baby.” Great, I think, no context. I continue to arrow down, finding another picture. This time, the electronic buzz of my computer’s voice says, “Man in sunglasses.” Again, zero context for me.

Fifteen years ago, I became visually impaired. I transferred my visual understanding of the world into a non-visual medium. To use a computer, I now use a program called JAWS, which is a text-to-speech screenreader. It reads whatever the cursor highlights, allowing me to still do email, Google-search, write and, of course, shop! However, if pictures and graphics are not properly captioned, I have no clue what they are.

Recently, a writer friend spoke about the aesthetic appeal of a literary journal she stumbled upon. It occurred to me…

View original post 838 more words

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IF BRAILLE WERE PRINT #Braille #Literacy #Equality

If Braille Were Print by Erin Jepsen

Abi Jepsen uses a BrailleNote Apex.From the Editor: Erin Jepsen is a low-vision homeschooling mother of four elementary-age children, one blind, one low vision, and two sighted. She is passionate about education for all kids and about teaching Braille. She and her family live in Idaho.

Chatting with a friend today about a refreshable Braille display got me thinking again about the absurdities that I’ve seen firsthand in my daughter’s classes. I’ve seen a silly attitude about Braille in both a local public school and in a state virtual academy. I’ve also heard about it from friends around the country who support one another online.

This problem comes, I think, from society’s general perception that Braille is complicated, difficult, and specialized. My daughter’s TVIs work endlessly to provide peer enrichment, to normalize Braille, to minimize errors, and to add Braille in spaces within the school. I have tried to do the same at home. Still, in spite of our best efforts, misperceptions remain in attitudes about Braille and print.

To address some of these misperceptions for the non-Braille-reading public, I want to try an experiment. I want to reframe some of the things that students commonly hear when they are being taught Braille by imagining that they are being said to a sighted print reader. I’d like to say these things about the reading method that nearly everyone in my area uses: English print.

The Challenges of Print

Imagine a typical first- or second-grader of average intelligence who is learning to read. Keep in mind the material this learner will need to read in eighth grade. In twelfth grade. In college. On the job. Running a household.

1. It makes sense that you’re having a hard time with this. It is hard to learn print.

As your hypothetical classroom teacher, I don’t actually read this print stuff. Your aide took a two-week training course, and we have a reference chart here, but I really don’t know how print works. It just looks like a bunch of squiggles on the paper. It uses a round symbol for both a zero and the letter o, and I’m not sure how to tell you which one is which. There is also special shorthand stuff, like spelling with as w/, and I don’t know how to teach you all that.

Reading a book with writing on both sides of the page is hard for me. It doesn’t matter that it’s normal for you; I say it’s hard, because for me, it is.

You have a special print teacher, and you’ll see her for an hour or two per week. Surely that’s all the extra help you’ll need.

2. I’m not aware of any techniques for reading print at a usable speed.

As far as I know, print readers only read one letter at a time. I don’t know any adults who read printed books. I saw someone do it once on TV, and it looked like magic. I’ve heard that people who read print well are either geniuses or flukes.

3. I’m sorry, but your book is loaded with typos.

The books we’re giving you were transcribed by unqualified volunteers, so there are at least two typos or misprints or misspelled words for every thirty words. Just remember you’re lucky to have print books at all.

Every other kid in your class gets information from illustrations, but we’re going to skip those for you. They’re cute, but probably they’re not important.

4. Technology, schmechnology!

First of all, nobody like you uses computers or knows how to type at your age. You have plenty of time to learn that stuff later. Your job someday probably won’t require a computer. If it does, someone can give you a quick training course. For now, we’re going to print your books using a dot-matrix printer. The school bought it in 1989 for our last print reader, and they don’t want to buy anything new.

We’re going to get you a special display screen, though. It hooks up to an iPad. It displays three words per screen. To get to the next screen, you just press this little button over here. Cool, right?

5. Reading is overrated.

Nobody these days needs to read print or write with a pencil anyway. You can just listen to audiobooks. It’s a lot less work than reading, and you can dictate anything you want to write. Technology is amazing these days for people like you.

6. Nobody else reads the way you read.

In your school, no one besides you reads print. The teachers don’t read it. Your friends don’t read it. There is no print displayed around the halls, on the classroom walls, or in the lunchroom. Everybody reads, but nobody reads English print. Nobody here can read what you write, and nobody can write to you. Well, one of your friends learned to write to you. He thinks print is a cool secret code.

There’s a sign in print by the bathroom. You say it actually says “Aathroox?”

We keep reminding you to be grateful for your printed books. The other students have thousands of books in whatever they read, and no one tells them to be grateful. But you should be grateful for the twelve books that you have. Don’t forget, people went to a lot of trouble to get them for you.

You didn’t do very well on the reading test last week. Your special print teacher says it was written like this: %Bgoat %Bpig %Bhorse %Bduck. I don’t read print, so I don’t know how it looks to you. I just grade your test the best I can.

7. You will get your books late. Always.

The school ordered the wrong reading book from the supplier, so your book is the first-grade version, not the second-grade version. It’s double-spaced and uses easy vocabulary, but that’s okay for you. Your life is challenging enough already, just learning to read print. You have to learn all those curves and squiggles. The capital letters are different shapes, and there are different fonts, too. You have to learn five different shapes just for the letter A. That’s hard! You don’t need challenging vocabulary, too.

You’re falling behind your class? Don’t worry. You have a lot on your plate.

Your math book is still at the translator’s shop. They say it will be here in seven months. Everyone else is going to use a math book during the next seven months, but I’ll just read your math out loud to you.

Don’t worry about learning to read numbers! When you get your math book, you can read the numbers all you want! Be grateful you’re getting a math book in print.

8. Of course you’re behind.

Kids like you, print readers of average intelligence, are always behind.

Always.

In fact, you’ll likely graduate from high school with about a fourth-grade reading level. It can’t be helped. It’s okay, though, because kids like you don’t usually want to have a career. People who read print usually get jobs sorting stuff at places like Goodwill. They pay you about $2 an hour, but you won’t notice that because of the math thing.

9. Print is just so cool!!

Print looks cool! I see it here and there, like on elevators, and it’s just so neat. It’s all swoopy and round, and I like to look at it. People like you must be really special to read it. I can’t believe you can just walk up to a sign with words printed on it and boom! read what it says.

Kids who read print are so beautiful and special. They open their printed books and just go for it. Unbelievable!

10. I love the way you write print, too.

I’ve watched you write print. You make these marks on paper, and you actually know what they say. That special tool you use, what’s it called? A pencil? It’s so neat! It writes print, just like that!

I’ve seen you type on a special keyboard. It makes print, too, but it disturbs the class with the clicking noise, so I wish you wouldn’t use it. You can use it someday when you’re grown up, but not in class, okay? Just tell one of the adults what you want to write, and we’ll do it for you. We’ll even spell it right for you. You can practice spelling words on your special spelling tests in your special writing room on Fridays.

The Print Reader’s Experience

Dear Reader, what do you think? Do you think a kid is going to learn to read in that atmosphere, with those expectations and that sort of encouragement? With that amount of support and practice?

Any TVI or homeschool mom who has tried to even things out for a Braille reader knows exactly what I’m talking about.

What do print-reading kids typically experience in school? Let’s take a look.

1. Your teacher knows English.

If you are an English speaker, your teacher knows the language in which you’re reading and writing. She or he may even know Spanish or Chinese or Dutch. She can use all the tools you are expected to use. If she can’t, she is not deemed qualified to teach.

2. Your teacher has books.

Books in print arrive in the classroom on time before the school year begins. In nearly every school in the country, there are books for every kid in the class. The books don’t come late. The teacher reads them and shows you how to read them. You have your own copy of each book you need. The teacher sends books home with you for practice. If your parents know English, they can read with you.

If there is a quote you want to read at the school assembly, you don’t have to write it out for yourself first because nobody else knows how.

Your mom can read the story you wrote.

There might be one typo in your whole book. Maybe. And everyone complains about that one.

3. Everyone around you reads.

Your parents read. Your teacher reads. Your lunch lady reads. Your big sister reads. They read the same way you read.

You are expected to learn to read.

You’re told that it’s normal to learn to read.

4. You get help when you need it.

If you’re having trouble reading, adults act as if this is a problem. You are expected to take extra classes, to practice, and to get help until you can read well.

If you can’t read, you are called illiterate. You are not given audiobooks. You are taught to read (one hopes). If you don’t know how to write, you are expected to practice and learn to write correctly.

To get a good job that pays a decent wage, you have to be able to read well, write well, and use computers. None of that is considered weird.

5. You learn current technology.

Your school has computers, and you learn to use them. You are taught to type, and you are taught to read on a screen that displays thousands of words at a time. You learn to scan for information, because your class moves quickly.

6. You don’t get a pass.

You are expected to keep up with the class. You don’t get a free pass not to keep up. You don’t get to be lazy just because you’re a print reader. After all, reading print is normal. Everyone knows it’s completely doable, so why should you get to slough off?

You have all the materials you need and all the tools you need. You can’t make excuses, because you have the book you need for the assignment and the pencil or the keyboard you need for your work. The teacher loaded and set up the software your class uses, and he knows how to use it.

7. You know you’ll use print all your life.

You fully expect that you will grow up, get a job, pay bills, and become a contributing member of society. You know you will read and write print as you do all of these things.

8. You read math.

If your teachers did not teach you to read and write the language of printed math in school, your parents would throw a holy, hell-raising, fire-breathing, sue-the-school-for-a-zillion-dollars tantrum. And the community would support them. The school would be put up for review by the state.

If the teachers did not write math code, they would be fired. Period, the end.

And no one would be surprised.

9. Nobody gushes over your reading ability.

Nobody tells you they saw some print on a box of Band-Aids and how cool that is. Nobody tells you that you literally deserve a medal for learning how to read.

Because everybody reads!

You don’t give yourself pats on the back for using a computer at the age of seventeen.

Everyone uses a computer at age seventeen!

Technology is normal for you.

10. You get all the information in class if you bother to pay attention.

A print reader of typical ability and average intelligence can get all the information presented in the classroom. All the stuff on the overhead. All the stuff in every book. All the stuff on the wall. All the lunch menus. All the recess schedules. All the toy names.

And for all that, nobody thinks to be grateful.

A Few Last Comments about Braille

1. Reading Braille is normal for blind kids.

For blind and low-vision kids, Braille is the normal way to read. The tools they use are normal. Reading is normal.

Having Braille on the elevator is normal.

2. Reading Braille is not hard.

Reading Braille by touch is not hard.

READING BRAILLE BY TOUCH IS NOT HARD.

Reading Braille is NOT HARD.

NOT HARD.

Many Braille readers are slow because of all the things listed above that happened when they were learning it.

BRAILLE IS NOT HARD.

3. You can read Braille fast.

Good Braille readers can match print readers for speed.

(Not many do … see above.)

A good Braille reader can read ten thousand pages in a couple of weeks. (Not many do … see above.)

4. Braille is not becoming obsolete.

There are Braille displays for computers. There are Braille embossers. There are Braille transcribers looking for work. There are more Braille books than ever before. There are computers that transcribe books more accurately than ever before.

There are blind people who need to be able to read.

There are people who need to read pill bottles. And bills. And recipes. And blog posts. And books. And textbooks. And math books. And elevator signs. And hallway signs. And foreign languages. And CD covers. And they need to see how names are spelled.

There are deaf-blind people who use Braille to communicate everything!

Since the early 1800s when Louis Braille brought the idea of a quick, dot-based tactile method of reading and writing to his school in France, there have been naysayers. In the beginning people said that Braille wouldn’t work. A separate code that sighted people couldn’t read would never be widely used.

Blind people used Braille anyway, because for the first time, they could write for themselves. Braille gave them voices. They could read what they wrote.

When Braille came to America, it had naysayers. People said it was too expensive to produce. They said there would never be enough books.

Blind people used Braille anyway. They made their own books. They hired people to learn Braille and transcribe it. They raised funds.

As Braille enters the modern century, it has its naysayers. They say it’s becoming obsolete because of technology. They say it’s clunky and outdated.

Blind people keep using it anyway. We use Braille with technology. We use it to learn to spell, and we use it to jot notes. We delight in the thrill of opening a real, paper book and feeling the magical constellations under our fingers as words and stories come to life.

5. Then what is the problem?

See if you can figure it out.

I can hear what you’re thinking: “But Braille is different from print.”

Obviously Braille and print aren’t the same, but they’re not as different as they seem to non-Braille readers. I read both. I read Braille by touch. I read print (sometimes, under the right conditions).

“But I’m a blind person, and I don’t read Braille well. I hardly read it at all.”

Why not? Is it lack of desire, lack of support, lack of encouragement? (I’m not talking about people with multiple disabilities, cognitive impairments, or nerve damage in their fingers.) If it’s lack of desire, I accept that. You may prefer to use audio, magnification, or other reading methods. But if you dig deep into your reasons, and it’s due only to shame or lack of good instruction, I feel that those reasons should not exist. We shouldn’t be ashamed to read! We should not be left unsupported when the rest of our peers have a way to read that fits their needs and frees them for a life full of options.

“But I teach Braille, and what you describe is impossible.”

Is it?

See if you can do something about it.

Please.

Because if blind and low-vision kids got the support their average sighted counterparts get in learning to read, they would not face a 70 percent unemployment rate. There might still be workplace discrimination, but I’d be willing to bet there would be more employed blind folks than there are today!

I wanted to write “That would be amazing,” but I realized that isn’t quite accurate. Amazing implies something above and beyond the norm. It implies something unexpected. It implies something to be marveled at. Reading isn’t something to be marveled at; it’s something that should be expected, that should be normal. It’s basic, like adequate clothing or nutrition. It’s the foundation of every other form of education.

So, instead of “amazing,” I write: “It would finally be what kids deserve. It would be just. It wouldn’t level the playing field, but it would be a start.”

***Reprinted From Facebook

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