WBU-NAC region(Senior group) Fine Work
Polka Dots In The Dark And Chipmunks Under My Pillow
U.S.A Tracy Lynn Bryant Bundy (38/Female)

"What are you doing Tracy?" said my three year old niece, Liza.

"I'm reading a book," I replied.

"Why you reading polka dots in that book?" was her next question.

This conversation took place one afternoon as I was reading a novel and babysitting. I was in high school at the time. I carefully explained to her that I could not see the letters in the books like she could, and my letters were made of dots so I could see them with my fingers. This explanation seemed to satisfy her and she went back to play. All of my family members who heard the story thought it funny and apt since the braille dots do indeed resemble polka dots. And, the name stuck. My whole family calls reading braille reading polka dots to this day.

So, gaining knowledge through the use of braille or polka dots is definitely what I do. I have been a braille reader all of my life, and through braille I've gained a wealth of knowledge. I used braille textbooks all through school. I use braille to take notes, read recipes, crochet patterns, jot down telephone numbers, label papers and folders for quick location in my job as a teacher of other blind and visually impaired students. I even convert print to braille so I can gain knowledge from print-outs, memos and other materials related to my job.

I believe an unquenchable thirst for knowledge is in the heart of every teacher. I know it was in mine from an early age. It also got me into a bit of trouble as well.

When Granny says go to bed, that is really what she means. She doesn't mean slip your braille book under your covers and read it when she leaves the room. I got yelled at many nights for doing just that. She would return to my bedroom for one reason or another and would notice that I had something under the covers. Yes, my braille book. But, I just couldn't help it. I was an avid reader then and it still continues today. Just two years ago, I read over ten thousand pages in the Braille Readers are Leaders contest, sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind.

But polka dots/braille is not my only means of acquiring knowledge. I'm also an avid user of audio devices for this purpose.

Chipmunks are your friends, or at least I think so! But chipmunks can get you in trouble too, especially when they are audio devices.

My grandmother got me signed up with the state library for the blind when I was about ten years old. And, I was totally thrilled! I had braille books and books on tape. And I didn't need the light on to make use of either.

It didn't take me long before I decided that the people reading the books on tape read to slow. I figured if I made them speed up when playing, I'd have time to read even more books. So that is what I did. Over time I trained myself to listen to all books at twice the normal speed. To my family it sounded like the chipmunks. And when they saw me with the cassette player they would say, "there is Tracy and her chipmunks, again". It is still the chipmunks today as I still increase the speed when I listen to a recorded book. Friends in my college dorm also often asked me why my books sounded like chipmunks. They would just laugh at me when I said I preferred to listen to the textbooks that fast. I think in some cases they envied me because I could get the boring readings done faster.

Now having chipmunks under your pillow can get you in trouble though. If Granny doesn't want you going to bed with a braille book, she certainly doesn't intend for you to go to bed and hide the cassette player under your pillow with the volume turned down low. Yes, she caught me doing that too, and I lost use of the player for a couple of days. But I couldn't help it, it was that thirst for knowledge again.

Today I still use the cassette player as well as other audio devices to obtain knowledge. These devices range from things like talking clocks, talking thermometers, a talking pedometer, a talking scale and blood pressure monitor to more advanced devices like the Victor Reader Stream, JAWS For Windows, my iPhone and digital talking books. In the words of my mom and grandmother, "everything in Tracy's house talks." And there is a lot of truth in that.
Knowledge is understanding! It is power! It is necessary! We, the blind, are not fortunate enough to be able to obtain knowledge through the use of sight, so we turn to our fingers and our ears. Braille and audio devices make our playing field, if not totally level, at least more level than it would be without their existence. So when I'm told my purse looks more like a suitcase, I just grin and say, "I know." Because in that suitcase sized purse I have my tools for obtaining even more knowledge, a netbook computer, braille display, iPhone, bluetooth keyboard, and a Victor Reader Stream! So, I am always ready for whatever knowledge happens to be out there for me to grab!


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