WBU-AP(Senior group) Excellent Work
Braille - A Device For All Time
Philippines Mabel Soriano Gaerlan (36/ Female)

Technology - almost every vision-impaired person needs it today! Technology makes adaptive devices available to the blind. There is such a wide range - talking computers, talking cellular phones, talking clocks - indeed, so many assistive devices that enable us to carry out our day-to-day activities efficiently and independently. Such tools and equipment, therefore, have become a very important part of our lives.

However, there is one device that I believe will never get outdated with time in spite of all new technologies that may appear - this device is known as Braille. Indeed, Braille has become such a dependable tool for the blind ever since its invention over 200 years ago. In fact, I am among the many vision-impaired persons who use the computer for many purposes. With the computer I can write documents, send emails, chat with other people and even do research on the Internet. Nonetheless, no matter how helpful the computer may be, I continue to use the Slate and Stylus throughout the year for my writing and reading.

I learned Braille through a corresponence course from Resources for the Blind in the Philippines. Consequently, I am now knowledgeable both in Tagalog and in English Braille, including non-contracted Braille at the Grade 1 level and contracted Braille at the Grade 2 level. Since then, Braille has become an indispensable device for me.

With Braille, I am able to accomplish all my daily tasks. While I am a low-visioned person and I can read print materials, I find them to be very frustrating, especially when the printed letters are so small and blurred. Therefore, what I would usually do is to transcribe the print copy into Braille. Then I would take down in Braille what I consider to be the important points, such as an appealing quotation or a verse from the Holy Scriptures for me to memorise, or it could be the lyrics of a song. In this way, I no longer need to depend on the print copy but on the Braille version for my needs. I can read the Braille document or message again and again without much effort. The Braille copy is available to me even in the darkness of night when the print copy cannot be read at all.

I am a person who loves to read books but very few books are available in large print. Thus, Braille has opened up a new door to books for me. Indeed, Braille allows me to communicate with my friends who are blind. I love reading their letters and I enjoy replying to them in dots. Truly, with Braille, we can exchange correspondence without the need of a sighted reader. Thus, we can freely share confidences and secrets with one another.

Because of Braille, I became an instant transcriber and proof-reader for my sighted colleagues. I would read to them what was written on the Braille page and they would transcribe that into print. They found me to be especially helpful in the proof-reading of books and in checking whether the pages of Braille textbooks had been arranged in the correct order.

Indeed, Braille has given me the opportunity to help others. The most rewarding blessing I have received is the privilege of being able to teach Braille, especially to those blind persons who want to be able to read and write independently. For example, last year it was such a privilege for me to teach Braille to nine blind adults who were working as masseurs. Their eagerness to learn Braille filled me with great joy and enthusiasm.

In addition, I was also able to experience using Braille with an electronic device. The first time was in 2005 when I received a Braille note-taker from Japan known as the Braille Memo. When I saw the note-taker for the first time, I was amazed to discover that it could do so many things, such as transferring files from the note-taker to the computer and vice versa, opening and saving a file, selecting or deleting a text, and so on.

The second time I saw a similar gadget was in 2009 when I attended the ADOC 2.0 Training Workshop for the visually impaired in Taiwan. One of the tasks that we had to perform was to set up a Braille Display which could work with an NVDA (non-visual desktop access) screen-reader. This gave me a good experience in reading Braille on the computer screen through the Braille Display. What a thrilll!

Braille is indeed an indispensable device for me and for all blind persons. Whether it is the conventional Slate and Stylus, the Braille note-taker or the Braille Display, the Braille system has brought and will continue to bring much ease, independence, freedom and pleasure to all its users. Truly, Braille is and will always be the device that the blind can rely upon for all time.

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