Fine Work (Japan)
"Things I Can See Because I Cannot See"
Shingo Morii (27, Graduate student) Toyama
“Isn’t it hard not being able to see?”
Many people ask me this when we first meet. It would be a lie to say it is not hard, but I always answer, “There are many difficulties, but now I believe that not being able to see is a blessing”.
This answer surprises most people, but I really believe this.
Ever since I was in the first grade, I wanted to be a teacher. My homeroom teacher back then was my inspiration and I wanted to be just like him, but as I got older and my dream became more concrete, I began to realize how difficult the process would be. First, the prerequisite for becoming a teacher is to earn a teaching certificate. Obtaining a teaching certificate requires a college degree, so I decided I would begin my preparations to enter the local collage when I was in high school. It was then that I began to understand the difficulty of taking entrance exams in Braille...
In order to survive the so-called “exam hell,” a student needs to go through many exercise books. Naturally, Braille exercise books are not readily available in a normal bookstore, so I consulted with a Braille user who had been to college and he told me to look for a Braille transcriber. I was lucky to find many volunteers who were ready to help me prepare, but when I actually opened some transcribed exercise books, I was overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of material and lost my drive. It also took almost 6 months to transcribe one exercise book, and this was a huge issue for a student preparing for an entrance exam within a limited time. Moreover, it seemed it was easier to have subjects in the liberal arts transcribed than those in the field of science. Since my major was in a science field, it took a lot of time to receive the exercise books and my studies were delayed.
In the end, it took me three years from the time I graduated from high school to pass the entrance exam at the college of my choice. Simply saying, “It was hard” does not even begin to express how busy I was during this period in my life. However, I think that experience made me the person I am today.
Many, many people supported me while I prepared for the exam. My parents, Braille transcription volunteers, admission staff at my college, teachers at my preparatory school, my friends... I couldn’t possibly mention everyone. I learned many things from various people about the importance of kindness and strong will. They encouraged me when I was down. They scolded me when I got lazy. They gave me their full attention when I was in real trouble. Thanks to them, I can now study at graduate school. This experience was a gift that was granted to me because of my disability. If I were not blind, I wouldn’t have been able to meet so many people and feel their warmth.
I am now in my 2nd year at graduate school. I will finish my education next year (hopefully...). I now have a teaching certificate, so the next and final step toward realizing my childhood dream is to pass the employment test. Until recently, I had always thought that I must overcome my disability through college classes and on-the-job training, pursuing extra teaching practice to learn to manage the classroom like sighted teachers. But lately a different idea popped in my mind.
“Is there any way to take advantage of being blind?”
I served as a coordinator for a program that supported disabled students for 6 months while in college. There were two students with physical disabilities including myself, and there was a group of student volunteers who offered support. The job of the coordinator was to oversee the program. I decided to do the job because, as a disabled person myself, I thought I would understand the hardships and demands of someone in a similar situation. The advisory instructor later told me that, under my supervision, the program was able to offer better support than when a typical student served as the coordinator. This was because I understood both positions of the supporter and the supported. This experience was a revelation for me.
The percentage of Braille users who continue onto college is still low. The difficulty in learning in Braille is central to this issue. I experienced this firsthand when I was preparing for my entrance exams. If I could make it easier to read Braille, then our learning environment would improve. I wondered, could I offer some solution from my experience? Once this idea came to mind, my action was quick.
I major in mathematics and I find this subject to be most interesting. I would like to teach children the joy of math, but I also know well the difficulties of learning math in Braille. So using the programming skills I am learning at grad school, I decided to develop software that facilitates the learning of Braille. After finishing the Masters course, I will continue onto the Doctorate course to learn more about programming so that I can develop Braille transcription software, voice projection software, and math-learning software for the blind.
I see many things because I cannot see. This fact has enriched me a great deal as a person. In the future, I hope to discover more and more things I can see because I cannot see. When I think like this, I do indeed feel lucky for being blind. If possible, I would like to share this understanding with those who come after me. This fuels my passion to think and act on what I can do as an educator and researcher.