Student Group Excellent Work(Japan)
“Communicating Characters and Living Words”
Risa Kaji, 3rd Grade, General Course, Fukui Prefectural Senior High School for the Blind
"What is this?"
When I was a small kid, I asked my grandfather about small bumps on the operation buttons of a new washing machine. He said they were characters that have a certain meaning so that the blind people understand when they touch them. So I just closed my eyes and touched them. I felt dots on my fingers but they spoke nothing to me. I thought only the blind people had a special capability to read those dotted codes.
When I was a fourth grader of elementary school, those dots were mentioned in a textbook of "Kokugo" or the Japanese language. I learned they were a system of "characters" called "Braille," and that answered the riddle. I types names and addresses with a Braille slate my teacher borrowed. Reading and writing are opposite to each other, and it made a mess in my brain. I sweated blood and embossed every dot. I read those embossed dots with my eyes. I felt them with my fingers, but they remained just as dots. At that time, the idea of my using Braille in the future never occurred to me.
A condition was found in me when I was a six grader of elementary school, and I started attending a junior high school for the blind after graduation from the elementary school. Although I didn't need Braille, I took a lesson once a week. What perplexed me was I wasn't given a chance to read Braille for a long time. According to the teacher's instructions, I just repeatedly learn the same things, or how many cells there are between the cells of six dots with two columns of three (like the six on a dice) or whether laterally arranged dots are up or down. I gradually came to hate it.
After waiting for six months, I was finally allowed to learn Braille codes. All those dots were now converted to meaningful characters named Braille. After six months of training I underwent with perseverance, I had a feeling my fingertips gained some mysterious power. It was like a rhinoceros beetle coming out of the ground with a magnificent body and horn after a long time of preparatory stay underground.
Closer to the end of the first year of senior high schooling, I was told to switch to Braille. In a low-key attitude, my teacher told me a practical viewpoint. I wanted to immediately switch to Braille. It was not a start from scratch, and the Braille never tries my eyes. The future would look brighter for me with the capability of reading Braille than sticking to the printed writing I had come to need more and more time to read. I would have an advantage in taking exams and would be able to read books again. Braille is, after all, the system for the visually challenged. All those reasons sound very logical. In fact, it had been very hard for me to follow those printed words with my gradually disappearing eyesight. The world I see is blurring day by day. I am forced to gradually realize my losing vision. I couldn't stand it. I was totally overwhelmed by the fear of losing printed characters. I didn't tell my parents my true feelings, but they didn't say no, either. I heard my teacher was taken aback at my plain and flat answer.
Braille was, however, very hard to get. Only a few days of staying away from it got me to fall in the reading speed, but reading it everyday wouldn't get me any faster either. I got panic-stricken when I took the first Braille test. I was still very slow reading it, and couldn't properly learn the right way of answering the problems. I couldn't do time control for my exam. Am I embossing them right? I was so nervous that I couldn't stop checking it all the time. I got stuck going between the main text and questions. I felt a rush of blood to the head and sweat slowly oozing all over. The fear of my failing to prove myself in Braille haunted me.
But I get used to it as I continue. My reading speed began to rise. The more I tried, the faster I can read and the deeper I am drawn into the world of Braille. I once blamed my half impaired eyesight and those half-challenging characters, but such resentment was gone. Now I really wanted to try how much I can do and how far I can go.
Nonetheless, I often feel "I hate Braille!" But I also sometimes feel "I like it!" I am always torn between those two feelings. That's how I've gotten along with it. I feel irritated as it won't make me be a fast reader, but it sometimes gives heart-warming words straight to me. It makes me feel strong and live strong. Braille characters are arranged in strict order and look cold like a robot. But when I touch them, life is born there. They are alive. Although it's my fingers that are moving, Braille characters are moving and feeling warm and send live words to my heart.
Soon after the half period of the second year started, I finally stopped reading print. My sister, a four year elementary schooler, was just taking a lesson about Braille. She asked me many questions, and I gave her a Braille-typed story and a Braille sheet. She took them to the school. A few days later, I received thanks letters written in Braille from the students of all the same of my sister's. I found a lot of "typos." Some of them didn't make sense. I couldn't read names of some writers. For others, I made no heads or tails of what was written. But they showed signs of repeated re-typing. Those signs clearly tell all those students did their very best to emboss every and each dot so that I could read them. So I read every one of them.
When I was in the fourth year of elementary school, I never thought I would come to use Braille in the future. So did those children, I'm sure. If any of them were in a situation they had to use Braille, I would definitely recommend without hesitation they learn to use Braille. I will tell them, "There surely would be quite a lot of hardship, and you'd surely regret you ever thought of learning it. So you have to brace yourself and need full commitment, but once you learned Braille, it would surely broaden your potential. Like you and I got connected through Braille, you would surely get connected to somebody else. If you are patient and try harder, a new world would be sure to unfold in front you. Even if you can't see it, it's there. Words you get from your fingers tell you live meanings and broaden your horizon."