WBU-AP(Senior group) Fine Work
What It Means To Be Blind With Braille And Mobility Aids
Australia N. L. Mules (47/ Female )

In September 2007, I was suddenly struck by a devastating and potentially deadly disease. I was very lucky to have survived it, after spending three and a half weeks in intensive care and four and a half months in hospital. After being discharged from hospital, my world had been totally turned upside down. The disease had severely damaged the stem cell nerves in my head and most of my body. The result was that I was barely able to walk and I had lost my sight and hearing. I was completely deaf and blind.

At the age of forty-three years, I now had to learn to live a completely different life. But I did not let this daunt me; I was and I still am very determined to live with my wonderful mother and stepfather.

Where to start on this road back to independence? I decided that the first thing to do was to regain my health and strength. As I live in an isolated small farming community in far North Queensland, Australia, there are no rehabilitation facilities within two hours' drive and so I had to create my own fitness routine.

After about eighteen months, I was making good recovery. But what about my sight and hearing? My only form of communication was someone writing on my hand in regular letters, and I still had the ability to speak normally. This meant that for me there was no TV, no radio, no news, no sports, no books and no way to communicate with someone who did not write on my hand. I was starting to feel very isolated.

So I made the decision to learn Braille. There were no facilities in my area for learning Braille, not even a Braille teacher. So I decided to do a correspondence course and I hired a retired primary school teacher to assist and tutor me. She had never had anything to do with Braille before but she took up the challenge. Fourteen months later I finished my course and I could read Braille - yahoo!

I purchased a Braille computer, started emailing friends and family, reading the news on the Internet and enjoying books. This was great! Now I had time to look at the independence plan again. Now that I was a Braille reader, how could this help me?

I did some research into technology that could assist me in leading an independent life. I discovered many Braille items for the home such as a scanner which could help me to read correspondence, and a TTY Phone handset that would enable me to receive and make phone calls using a Braille screen to read what the other party was saying. But it was mobile Braille technology that made the biggest difference.

I obtained a very popular and well-known brand of mobile phone with screen technology that was compatible with a Braille screen-reader. With this phone, I could connect via bluetooth to the Braille computer which was in my possession. I had purchased a small folding bluetooth keyboard that can be connected to the phone with those who were not comfortable typing on a mobile phone screen. This meant that if I wished to have a conversation with someone, they would type what they wanted to say on the phone and I would be able to read it on my computer. This equipment was all portable and therefore very mobile. Things got even better - I purchased a Braille Pen with a 12-inch screen-reader. Indeed, this was really mobile Braille communication! The Pen screen-reader will connect with the mobile phone for communication in the same way as the computer. As the equipment was so small and portable, it gave me real mobility. I could socialise more easily as I was now able to converse

with a person who was not sitting next to me to write on my hand. I could communicate with shop assistants, waiters, doctors, bus drivers and so on. I could ask directions or for assistance when I went out walking by myself with my cane in my local community.

Now I have dreams of going to university. A support person could help type the lecture notes for me on the phone. Best of all, I believe I can get a job again. With mobile Braille communication, I can communicate and interact with fellow workmates in an office situation. I could even be a motivational speaker, which is my goal; I could communicate with the organisers of events and with my audience.

If I use two small notepad computers, made by the same well-known company as the phone, I can connect one to my screen-reader and pass the second to the audience so that they could type in their questions and instantly message them to the notepad I am holding and I can read them on my screen-reader. Wow! I love Braille and mobile technology!

Truly, my search for Braille technology that can help improve my life will never cease, and particularly technology that would give me mobility and community participation. And so if you ask me what does Braille and mobility mean to me, my answer is simple - "independence".


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