WBU-NAC region(Junior Group) Fine Work
“Braille Empowers”
U.S.A. Brittany Stovall(22/Female)

Have you ever taken a moment to think back in history, to a time before Braille existed? I personally cn>2t imagine such a crises. Without Braille, visually impaired individuals could not even attempt to master the simple task of reading or writing. As you can inagine, one's independence would be significantly affected and lelying on others would be a must. When it comes to my life, Braille is what enables my independence.
I started learning Braille around the age of seven and today, it is an integral part of my life. I am currently a senior at Missouri Southern State University majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology. My typical course load not only requres me to read several chapters in many books but I also have to read extensive journal articles.As one can imagine, listening to page after page of psychological analysis is very difficult to understand and even harder to comprehend. Inorder for me to read and retain the necessary information needed for exams, I have got to see it, or in my case, have it in Braille.
Through out most of my high school career I attended a school for the blind. Not only were the staff educated in accommodating my disability, they also had the adaptive resources necessary for teaching an individual with a visual impairment like myself.Having everything in Braille made me a very successful mudent, however once I entered into post secondary education, things were extremely different.
Through the many experiences in my life, I have come to the understanding that everybody has the own way of learning. Some people learn better reading something with their eyes while others learn more when they can listen to someone read it to them.
Most sighted individuals learn better reading something compared to listening. This is even true for me, even though I do not read with my eyes. As I stated above, in order for me to read and retain educational materials, I have to read it first hand. Since my first day of college I have been the only student on campus with a visual impairment and currently still am. One of my biggest struggles as the only blind student at my university is obtaining my academic materials in Braille.
I have faced several problems when trying to get such materials into an alternative format from print. A few of my many struggles involves the length of time it takes to get a Braille book produced and the preparation necessary in order to be done.
Inthe state of Missouri it takes on average approximately twelve months to have a Braille book completed. I have experienced great difficulty in achieving such in my past. One of the biggest problems is that at the university level, textbooks are interchanged so frequently that it is nearly impossible to Braille a book significantly ahead of time and guarantee it will still be used when a student like myself takes the course. It also requires alot of effort from many people to gather the materials a year in advance in order to get the book to the embossing company. Just like those who buy their books at local bookstores, I wish students with visual impairments had better access to such materials.
As one can assume, individuals with disabilities do not get the opportunity to participate in as many extracurricular activities compared to others. However, due to my visual impairment and my excellent Braille skills; I was able to take part in a few contests that non-Braille readers could have not. Two of my many achievements in high school were my outstanding success in Braille Readers are Leaders as well as the Braille Challenge. Braille Readers are Leaders was a contest that students through out my school participated in. This contest was designed to reward Braille readers for taking part in as many pages of Braille as possible for an extended period of time.I really enjoyed this program because not only did it motivate people to read Braille as much as possible, but through increased reading my Braille accuracy levels increased making me more confident and successful in my academic work.
Even though I only got the opportunity to participate in it once, I really enjoyed the Braille challenge. This contest takes place nation wide and is designed to test students on their Braille reading and writing skills and accuracies in many areas. Even though I am very confident in my Braille reading abilities I did not make it to a national level. However I did manage to place third inthe state and was the only person to place in my school.
In closing, we as society can see how advancements in technology are aiding blind individuals in coping with their disabilities, assisting in learning, as well as in mundane activities. However, Braille is not advancing any further. Therefore, blind individuals are venturing away from using Braille and are becoming more dependent on computers and more specifically screen reading software such as Job Access With Speech (Jaws). Hence, we need to continue to fully implement Braille in our daily routines even if it requires perchasing costly adaptive equipment, before Braille becomes a thing of the past.


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