WBU-NAC region Otsuki Award
A VISIT WITH LOUIS
U.S.A. Jerry Glenn McKee (45/Male)
photo: Jerry Glenn McKee

If I could have a dream to dream and know it would come true, that a person from history could come to visit me and spend a day or two, the person that I would choose would be Louis Braille."Why Louis Braille?" you might ask.The answer is so simple; I would want him to understand howhis contribution impacts the world and more importantly one man, and that one man is me.I can hardly fathom where my life would be in regards to my independence without his extraordinary invention of Braille.

After an exchange of pleasantries he might ask, "How has my invention changed the world since I lived so many years ago? How do you use it personally? I would like to know!"

My reply would be, "Whoa there, Louis! You will be here only a day or two.I'll show you how I use Braille personally, and that should be enough to illustrate to you the importance of your invention."

First, I would show him my Braille watch which wakes me every morning with its crystal-clear alarm.Next, I would present my Braille Bible where my God, my wife, and I fellowship each day.Then we would be off to the kitchen, our breakfast to prepare using many Braille gadgets.I'd put my turkey bacon in the microwave, which has atouch screen labeled with Braille abbreviations.I'd set my Braille timer for the biscuits in the oven.I'd use my Braille measuring cup to pour oatmeal into the boiler on the stove.

With breakfast finished, off to work we would all go, to the E.H.Gentry Facility, where I work as Case Manager for the Blind serving blind adults, and my wife works as a Technical Assistant in the Blind Communications Department teaching Braille.As we traversed the hallways to my office, I would show him Braille signage on the walls beside each door defining the purpose of each space.Arriving at my office, he would learn of office automation, including a forty-cell refreshable Braille display, a Braille embosser, and the Duxbury Braille translation software program.He would also see my BrailleNote, which I use for note-taking in the meetings I attend.I would show him even more tools of my trade; among these would be my Braille labeler for putting names on my student files and my Braille business card engraver, which contains my name, phone number, and email address.I could imagine his stark surprise when I whisked out my iPhone 4S and allowed him to put his hands on my display screen as I activated the Braille Touch Application.This allows for the typing of Braille letters on the screen using the code he invented.This text can then be sent to others via email or text message.

I would then tell Mr.Braille that not all Braille products are so high-tech and expensive.I would produce my slate and stylus and show him how portable and accessible Braille writing can be.Then I would ask him to come with me for a short excursion to the Braille classroom where my wife works.

In the Braille classroom, Mr.Braille would see students learning to write Braille using both the Perkins Brailler and the slate and stylus.He would observe students learning to read both uncontracted and contracted Braille.My wife and I would explain to him that we learned Braille back in elementary school at the Alabama School for the Blind and have remained competent Braille users for over 35 years.I would explain with pride how my wife obtained her literary Braille transcription certificate from the Library of Congress in partnership with the National Federation for the Blind, scoring 96% on her 35-page Braille trial manuscript.While there, we would look at Braille graphics, the TeleBraille, and other products too numerous to mention.

After work, I would let Mr.Braille know our day was not done.Remembering that today was election day, we would stop by our polling place and let him observe as my wife and I did our civic duty by casting our ballots.We would do this utilizing the special voting machine equipped with a Braille keypad and speech output.This enables those with disabilities to vote independently and privately.

Back at home, we would explore how we use Braille to enjoy some of our leisure activities.We would travel to our room, which we call our library, stocked with an assortment of books covering a variety of topics.We would then move over to the area where we keep our games.We would play a game with Braille cards, and then we would play our Braille Monopoly game.

Before we knew it, the day would be gone, and our time together would draw to a close.Before he departed, I would sit down with Mr.Braille and my wife and read aloud a chapter of the book I am currently reading.The book is called TheShepherd'sVoice by Robin Lee Hatcher.I would let him know how much fun it had been showing him around my world of Braille products and invite him to come back in a year or two.But then I would think about it and suggest that he put off his next visit for ten years or so.By then, we might be able to take a spin in an automobile driven with a joystick and a Braille display.


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