EBU(Junior Group) Fine Work
Life with Braille
Ireland
Aoife Watson (17, Female)

I’ve noticed the little bumps on elevator buttons. I’ve always wondered what the dots on the ‘stop’ button on the bus actually meant. I’ve always been curious. But to my knowledge, braille was only for completely blind people. And I wasn’t blind, I could see. Yes, I’ll admit it couldn’t see as much as everybody else. But I could read large print so I was fine.
I’ve always liked to learn. I’m good in school. I try really hard and I get good results. But then I got sick. And I got tired and the more I tried the harder it got. My sight was slowly going downhill; and with that so were my academic results. I began to feel like I wasn’t any good at anything anymore. Not to sound big headed or anything, but I’ve always felt like I had a special something about me, I’m not sure what exactly, but it made me stand out and it made me different (in a good way). And I was losing it. I felt less than ordinary.
Then I got given an opportunity. An opportunity that would quite literally change my life and give back the passion for learning I had lost. I learned that I didn’t have to be completely without sight to learn braille. And I was excited. Of course I wanted to start right away. I was completely dumbfounded at the fact that these combinations of six dots made up well, everything. I mean just six dots, that is insanely cool! At first glance it seemed impossible. I’d have to be a genius. And even so, it’s easier to learn new things at a younger age, right? I was way too old to start learning. But I have never been so wrong. I started around October 2013, a few letters at a time. I spent my breaks from school tapping away on the Perkins, going over and over the alphabet until my fingers got stiff. Then it was onto numbers. Soon enough I moved onto stories. They were about Bill and Jane. The stories were dreadfully boring and probably written for six year olds. But quick enough I learned to like them. I laughed when Bill got bitten by Jane’s dog or got annoyed when Jane called Bill lazy. I knew myself that when reading text I was fast. I was a well advanced text reader. But I had to constantly remind myself that braille was new for me. I basically had to learn the alphabet again. So I relented to the antics of Bill’s antics and Jane’s primness. Starting with these simple childish stories didn’t bother me in the slightest. It was exhilarating! Braille was something that was completely new in my life. Among friends and family I was the first to do it. And I was flying at it! The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.
Not only has braille given me a drive to learn, it has given me opportunities to teach and encourage others to learn. I have been learning some braille alongside an eleven year old girl. She has been at it for a while longer than me. She is quite good at it but since we have started to do it together she has gotten so much better, we have both gotten better. I think she just needed a bit of encouragement. She is in fifth class and it has also given her the opportunity to visit a secondary school and ask me lots of questions about it. It’s really nice doing braille together and helping each other. We really do learn a lot from one other.
Since I’ve started learning during school time, several girls in my class have chosen braille as their personal skill for their an Gaisce award. My craft class are making tactile books for visually impaired children who are learning braille. I will use the Perkins to write the captions for these books. This gives both my classmates and I a great opportunity to learn. They are learning about visual impairments and how much work is put into the making of these books. And I am being given an opportunity to practise my braille and share it with my class.
The fact that I’ve picked it up so quickly has given me back some confidence in my own abilities. I love it, not only for the practical reason that it gives my eyes a rest. But also that it is just really cool. It’s like a secret code. It’s something not all people know and although I do think it would benefit everybody if they had even the slightest knowledge of braille, I love being able to do something that not everybody can do. It makes me feel special. I have been told that at the rate I am learning braille, by Christmas time I should be able to read my English novel in Braille. This makes me so unbelievably happy.
I haven’t had a great past few years but learning braille has really turned things around for me. These days reading a line of braille without making mistakes, or learning a new sign is the only thing that can really make me smile. I will most defiantly carry on learning braille. And when there is no more to learn, I will practise until my fingers fall off (figuratively of course!). Because then I will put all of my hard work to good use and read as many novels in braille as possible, I will braille every label, every note and I will love each and every single minute of it.

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