WBU-NAC region(Junior Group) Excellent Work
Independence Through Braille
U.S.A. Zachary Sarbekian (17/Male)

My name is Zachary, and I have been completely blind since birth with a disease called Leber's Congenital Amaurosis. My parents found out when I was four months old and were vigilant in getting me all of the support and services that I needed as soon as possible. I use Braille on a daily basis in school and at home. I'm here to tell you how Braille has made my life successful and independent.

Some of the reasons are: travel becomes easier with Braille signs, I am able to join any form of music class such as band, orchestra, choir, etc. with Braille music, I am able to be up to date with classmates due to Braille documents and textbooks, and I can join any chosen contest by having the material translated into Braille.

To start it off, traveling is made easier because of the invention of "braille signs. These signs will tell individuals important information such as: their classroom number, which bathroom it is, and what numbers you're pushing on the elevator. Now that these important signs have been created, individuals do not require the assistance of their aides or parents at all times. They can now go to a place and know where they are by looking at the sign to help them find their way. Hopefully in the future they can put Braille on street signs so that they know what corner or intersection they are at without asking a stranger.

Along with that, the creation of Braille maps would be another great tool for independence. I for one, love checking out how streets are laid out. My mother used puffy paint to adapt maps of our town and neighboring towns so I could see how all of the streets intersect.

Braille Signs are only one aspect to a successful individual.Another great example is that I have had the opportunity to be able to join any form of music class with the creation of Braille music. This is important because I can follow my dreams without anyone stopping me because of my visual impairment. It's much easier to go to concerts and have a better and more professional performance due to the fact that I would not have to have an assistant next to me giving instructions on what to say or do next. I was in Chorus in 6th and 7th grade and had all of my music Brailled for me so that I was able to be amongst the other kids without standing out.

Another important advantage of having Braille is that I can keep up with my classmates. For example, in math I look at the tactile pictures and understand it more than having it explained to me. Also in math I use a Brailled ruler for measurements. Other adaptable materials are world maps with raised lines and Braille labels. These tools are important because I am able to get a better idea of what the sighted children are seeing. I also am able to help my friends with homework and know what they are doing without looking different than the other kids. This way I can show people that I have the same abilities to help others as well as sighted people do.

Additionally, I can join any contest I choose. For the past three years I have participated in the Illinois Braille Challenge. This is a contest to show abilities with Braille skills in many areas, such as speed and accuracy, proofreading and charts and graphs. I won second place the first year I participated. Also I was a contestant in a spelling bee for the visually impaired. They had sent me multiple lists of words in Braille to study. This was very helpful because I was able to study them on my own instead of someone reading them to me. I personally find it easier to comprehend by reading the words on my own instead of hearing them.

All of my examples have been the result of the wonderful invention of Louis Braille. Louis Braille's life was affected due to an accident when he was three. He was using a tool that had a long pointed spike that he had misused, leaving him blind in one eye. Later on, that eye got infected and the infection spread to the other eye and left him blind forever. He eventually was able to help not only himself but the other kids in his school by making a Braille coding system that used raised dots for each letter, number and symbol. When he was 15, he wrote a book which got published, and improved so many people's lives. The success of his invention let people know that he overcame his disability and when he died was left with a title "Hero". This has amazed me because he never had the Braille resources that I have today.

Braille has made an impact in my life by allowing me and also many others to be as independent as a sightedperson. Through the use of Braille in signs, music, and academic materials, I can keep up with my classmates, and participate in any contest I choose. I feel grateful that I can be as independent as I am, thanks to Louis Braille.


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