WBU-NAC region(Senior group) Fine Work
“RECEIVING INFORMATION THROUGH FINGER-TIPS FROM COMMUNITY”
Canada Penny Leclair(59/Female)

I have always been blind. Until 1997, I accessed Braille from the CNIB library. I could purchase subscriptions to magazines in Braille, or order them through the CNIB library. All my reading material was through CNIB library. I purchase Braille books now at a more reasonable price than 15 years ago. Today how I access Braille has changed. I still access Braille as I used to, but now I have added other techniques to acquire information in Braille. I am an independent woman who is Deaf-Blind.
Braille is the number one method of accessing information for me. I also receive information through a tactile method of communication called British Two-Hand Manual. I live alone so that having access to Braille is very important to me.
I can create Braille by using a slate and stylus, Perkins Brailler or Braille printer. By using software, a computer and Braille display I can also create Braille. I make labels for items of food, and clothing. I use Braille labels on appliances, various plastic banking cards and electronic devices.
Banks have had third party contractors producing information they provide to their customers in Braille. I request these services. Bell Canada now does the same thing.
I have devices that have Braille displays. One is a TTY, special device for the deaf, where you type back and forth and read information over the telephone line. Using this device I read Braille while others read the print on a screen. I interact with hearing people with this device and a third party service provider called Bell Relay Services. By using a third party that can hear what is spoken, and type the short message to me, I read this in Braille, and reply by typing my responses to the third party provider, who reads the information I type to the person with hearing. I also have a note-taker with a Braille display, a calendar, and a calculator, as well is the ability to function as a note-taker. I can put several books in plain text format into this note taker and read it anywhere.
I purchased a bar-code scanner which is connected to my computer and Braille display. A database of products and their bar-codes allows me to know what a product is, and read instructions related to each product. I can add bar-codes of new products into the database and type in information about the product.
I have discovered how to make use of this specialized equipment and a computer to increase accessible information in my community.
I am fortunate to live in a province of Canada, Ontario, that has government support so that I can own a Braille display and computer equipment. But these devices alone don't provide much useful information related to my personal independence. I rely on community services to e-mail information to me, so that I can file it on my computer and access the information using a Braille display. Often, if I explain my situation, a service provider will send me a Word file of information, ranging from menus, product manuals, materials from workshops or forums, and other documentation. Sometimes I ask volunteers to type printed information, which is not in an electronic format, into an e-mail message so that I can file this on my computer. In other situations, I scan information which then can be saved as a word document and accessed that way. When I receive exceptional services, I ask for their business card and get someone to read it to me; then, I can type it into my computer, by first having all the information relayed to me in my tactile language of British Two-Hand Manual.
When Web sites are accessible I can create my own files and copy information directly from a web site, and access the information using my Braille display.
Some of the businesses that provide information, via e-mail, for me to access directly are:
  1. Physical fitness trainer with instructions for names of suitable products
  2. Veterinarian instructions and names of medications
  3. Lawyer documentation such as real-estate and legal papers including will or power of authority
  4. City services such as bills for property taxes, water and hydro
  5. Local library with downloadable Electronic books
  6. Facilitator of workshops with hand-out material
These services are not always offered; Usually, I have to request this information be sent to me via e-mail. Each time I request information be sent in this way, I am educating the community about ways to make their information accessible to those who can't read print. Knowing I am acting for more than myself motivates me to ask for this accommodation as often as possible. I believe this is the best way to preserve the use of Braille. My life changed significantly once I had these options to receive information via computer. My circle of community services grew so that I am much more involved in the community today.


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