WBU-NAC(Senior group) Fine Work
Thinking Outside the Box: Putting Braille and Audio Devices to Creative Uses
U.S.A. Carolyn Jewel Fish (29/Female)

I began using Braille at the age of three, and I have used a variety of Braille and audio devices throughout my life as they became available to me. However, I am a creative person. I have never been a technologically advanced or inclined person. Therefore, I choose to use technology in a creative manner to accomplish different things in my life that I previously could not have independently as a blind person. Here are some of the creative and functional ways I have discovered to utilize Braille and audio devices in order to gain the knowledge and information that I need.

In both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I used Braille and audio devices to obtain the knowledge I needed for each class. I read my textbooks, took exams, and wrote countless papers in this fashion. However, in my creative way, I absorbed this knowledge from these devices in ways that suited my learning style. For example, I cannot sit still and read without falling asleep. I must be doing other tasks. Therefore, I started walking around with my BrailleNote Apex, reading the Braille display. I also used my Book Sense or my Victor Reader Stream while exercising, cooking, cleaning, etc. This helped me gain the knowledge I needed to obtain both degrees. I succeeded because of my creative use of Braille and these devices.

My undergraduate degree is in piano performance. In college, I quickly realized the frustrations of being unable to read my own music, even though I was highly accomplished at playing by ear. Up until my junior year in college, I had never been exposed to Braille music, much less had the opportunity to learn it. It is quite difficult to take a massive layered work such as a piano concerto and learn it entirely by ear. I decided that I needed to teach myself Braille music in order to learn pieces more efficiently. That summer, I spent countless hours sitting at the piano teaching myself Braille music and learning a new piece. I had my Braille piece in my lap and my Braille music how-to book on the stand in front of me. I read the music with one hand, simultaneously playing what I read with the other. Then, after memorizing what I had played, I switched hands and repeated the process. Afterward, I put the two parts together, memorized it, and continued in the same manner until the entire piece was learned. I did not tell my professor that I was undertaking this task. You can imagine his shock when, at my first lesson that fall, I sat down and played the entire piece for him. What an accomplishment for me!

My husband and I own a barcode scanner called the i.d. mate Summit. We use it very frequently to identify items such as canned goods, boxed and bottled products, and DVD’s. One night, the i.d. mate Summit came to a different use. It saved my son's life. I was awakened by the terrible screams and tears of my first-born at 2 A.M. He had a fever of 104.5 degrees and rising. I called the emergency line at his doctor’s office and was told to alternate Advil and Tylenol to help break his fever. There was one problem, though.  We had a visitor spend the previous weekend with us, and all of our child’s medicine bottles were mixed up. Which two were the right ones? I ran to the kitchen, grabbed the barcode scanner, and brought it upstairs. I scanned the bottles and soon identified the Advil and the Tylenol, read the doses and successfully administered the medications to my son. It took about eight hours, but his fever broke, saving us from a trip to the Emergency Room. He was fully recovered within two days.

My husband and I also have an audio device known as a color identifier. We can hold it to any item, and it announces the color of that item. It works wonderfully for matching clothes and picking out accessories. One afternoon, this device served a different purpose. I had just returned from the doctor’s office with my six-week-old son, my second child. He received several vaccinations that morning. Afterward, he slept for about four hours but then awoke screaming at the top of his lungs. He was inconsolable, no matter what I tried. I noticed that his thigh was swollen around one of the shot sites. I wanted to know how severe the reaction was, but there was no one sighted around to ask. Then, an idea blossomed in the midst of my adrenalin rush. I dashed to our bedroom and grabbed the color identifier. I placed it against his skin where the swelling was, and the voice announced, “Red.” I moved it all around his thigh and discovered that the red swollen area covered the top and sides all the way to his knee. I related this to the emergency nurse on the phone when I called, and she gave me instructions to treat the area. Since then, the color identifier has helped me recognize injuries, rashes, and blood, which had previously been impossible for me to do without sighted assistance. Needless to say, I never imagined just how practical this device would be when I purchased it.

Not only have I enjoyed finding creative ways to use Braille and audio devices to meet my needs, but I have been able to open the door to a world that was previously locked away from me. The knowledge and information I have gained through these and other experiences has dramatically changed my life. I have become more confident and independent as a blind person. My life is full of newfound freedom and possibilities.


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