Special Prize (Japan)
“What does Braille mean to me”
Koki Iyama, 3rd Grade, Fukui Prefectural Junior High School for the Blind

I hate Braille. Using Braille has a big impact on my life. If I use it, I have to accept all those cold facts, that I am challenged and visually impaired.
I have weak eyesight and attend a school for the blind. I had a clear vision, or about 20-20 eyesight, until I was a kindergarten kid. I played with my friends and read books like everybody else. But my vision suddenly reduced as I entered elementary school. I couldn't see very well, found it very hard to read school textbooks and had to use a magnifying glass to read them. Since the third-year of elementary school, I came to use a CCTV when I studied. For sports, although I was a good physical education student, I became very poor particularly at ball sports. I was member of a volleyball club, but I often couldn't hit the ball well. I was never promoted to be a regular member in five years; I felt so chagrined.
After graduation from elementary school, I went to a school for the blind. The school had a lot of equipment that helped me study smoothly. I played a ball sport, and this time it is the type of ball sport I can fully enjoy. I learned Braille and found it wonderful to know that people can read those characters with their fingers. I thought I wouldn't have much to do with Braille, but at the end of my second year, I was suddenly told to switch to Braille in the Japanese class alone.
I am a bit afraid to accept my disability. I thought I was not much different from an ordinary person because I could see characters only with a minor difficulty. But if I use Braille, it sounds like I become totally different from an ordinary person; I become an "impaired person." I am also afraid that when I see the people who know me, know who I was in the past, they might see me not as who I used to be but as a full "impaired person." I'm also afraid that when I become good at Braille, I would be told to shift to Braille for other subjects than the Japanese in order to solve problems faster. Of course I intend to say no if such a day comes. But I don't know how my vision will be at that time. There is no telling what will happen down the road. Because it was found in the last vision check that my vision deteriorated unawares.
I worried a lot for a long time. I finally decided to daringly give it a positive. People leading a normal life cannot read Braille. If I try to learn it, I will be able to read the writing system normal people can't read. I thought that was something wonderful. Until now, I can't read the characters people can. Now people can't read the characters I can. It means the tables have been turned, and that idea pleases me.
In addition, I read Braille with fingers, which means I can talk to people while looking straight at them. I don't even need to close my face to it. Come to think of it, Braille is not that bad.
I use Braille. At this moment, there are less advantages for Braille from any angle. What sounds disadvantageous to me now may turn out different at the end. I may come to feel I was right about my decision to switch to Braille. I have a friend who has been learning Braille. He is a good friend who gives me good advice; he is my close role model. He gives me stimuli and motivation. I thought "the positive attitude = facing forward = moving forward." Nobody can move forward if they always look at drawbacks and think negatively.
This ordeal is the hardest one I ever encountered. But if I tide it over, I am sure I will grow much bigger. However hard it will be, I am determined to carry on.
I just started practicing the Braille slate. Although I am not yet good at it, it's fun when I can emboss rhythmically. I want to practice much more to catch up with my senior students who started it ahead of me and hope to overtake them someday.

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