EBU (Senior Group) Fine Work
Life is reading – reading is life
Annemarie Vít-Meister (69, Female)
Have you ever been stuck alone in a lift? Yes? In that case, you will know the feeling that robs you, trapped in the dark, of every sensible thought, and turns the most intelligent person into a frightened animal. Once your breathing has calmed down somewhat, tentative thoughtsof all the things that you will miss on account of this unexpected incident enter your mind. And finally, you want to fight back against them. You fumble around, encounter at best some Braille lettering and think: “Oh no, not that! – But there must also be a red button somewhere!” Of course. You press on it: Once, powerfully, twice, violently. And after what seems like an eternity, a voice from somewhere floats through the cabin: “Please – stay – calm – Help – is – on – its – way – Please – stay – calm – Help – is – on – its – way –”
A similar scene played out before me a little more than three years ago when visiting the eye specialist, when I received the diagnosis of visual impairment, and possible blindness. What I had dismissed with a shrug of the shoulder 20 years ago, had caught up with me: suddenly, quite close before my inner eye, stood the line of my blind forebears. What would I, such a keen reader, miss out on, all because of this misfortune? My whole life was reading, I was still publishing book tips and reviews for a newspaper editorial office. An eternity seemed to pass before I found the “emergency button” and asked quietly: “What will I do when I can no longer read?” “There are other ways to read than with the eyes”, I heard the doctor’s voice say. “If you don’t want to switch to audio books, then simply learn Braille.”
Many an “emergency button” was still to be pressed, many a voice promising help was still to be heard. And not only promises, no, I was offered real help at the Zurich section of the SBV: After a trial lesson, I was allowed to start the beginner’s course in Braille. Dot by dot, letter by letter, word by word – a battle, and not at all “simple” as the voice had asserted at that time. Nevertheless, there were frequent highlights along the way, too.
And then the culmination: the first literary book by a well-known Swiss author, a heavy weight on account of being printed in uncontracted Braille and lettered on both sides. Would I be able to cope amid this sea of dots? A battle. Word by word, line by line, page by page – a battle won! Now that I explored them by touch, stories and descriptions that I had once scanned effortlessly in black type with my eyes, now came to me as a totally new reading experience, richly coloured, three-dimensional, gently unfolding their full beauty! To this day, I still sometimes ask myself, “Does an author have any idea of what he gives us, the visually impaired, when his book is published in Braille?”
Could anyone be surprised that at the age of 69, I have also learnt the contracted form? After all, the books are then a little lighter to hold. – And I can now enter the lift without a second thought. Because I now know how to penetrate the darkness and how to deal with Braille type and emergency buttons.