Students Group - Fine Work (Japan)
Hyogo Prefectural School for Students with Special Visual Needs, Senior High School, ordinary course, 1st year
Chizuko Ishii (16; female)
“Touching Braille.” It is something natural to me, like reading and writing are natural to other people.
I was about six when I first touched Braille.
Once a week, I received educational counseling at the school for students with special visual needs.
There I learned Braille. At first, I didn’t realize the importance of Braille to me and I was just playing at it.
But gradually I started to understand that it is letters and I learned how to read it step by step.
First, I learned to read words. Next, I learned to read short sentences. And then, I became able to read short stories.
Little by little, I got used to reading Braille.
But being able to read wasn’t enough. Next I had to learn how to write. When writing in Braille, you have to create dots from the back of the page, opposite from reading.
Now this is natural to me, but I think I had trouble getting used to it at first. I remember practicing reading and writing Braille at home with my mother every day.
To read the letters I wrote, my mother also worked hard to learn it.
When I was in kindergarten, I had a chance to play Karuta (Japanese playing cards). There were dozens of cards but my mother labeled each and every card with Braille for me.
At that time, I just played without thinking much of it. But now I know that I was able to enjoy playing cards with everyone thanks to my mother.
My mother was the first person who tried to communicate with me using Braille.
My next connection through Braille was with my teacher in the class for weak-eyed in elementary school.
At my local school, they made a class for weak-eyed just for me.
In my six years in this elementary school, I met with countless people.
I was the only student in the class for weak-eyed. One-on-one class with my teacher began.
But since I was little, I enjoyed my time with teacher without questioning why I was the only student in the class.
Meanwhile, my teacher had started studying Braille intensively at the same time I entered school.
My teacher thought practicing reading and writing alphabets by oneself wasn't enough.
So when I became fourth grade, my teacher started a yearly lesson to give fourth grade class students a chance to learn about Braille.
At this lesson, I also participated as a Braille teacher.
At first, I was afraid if people would show interest in Braille and what they would think of me when they found out that I have a disability.
I wasn’t very positive about doing it.
But contrary to my worries, everyone showed great interest in Braille which was something they’ve never seen before. Everybody enjoyed touching it.
“Wow! So many little lumps!” “You can read this? Awesome!” said everyone impressed.
In this way, my teacher brought me and everyone closer together.
The gap between people who are interested in Braille and people who are disinterested widened as we entered the upper grades.
People who were interested came to me saying “Let me touch Braille” or “I’d like to try writing in it” and they actively touched it.
To these friends I gave them Braille syllabary table. Everyone looked at the table carefully and challenged to read and write in Braille.
As they got a little used to it, some of them started writing not only words but short sentences on paper and asked me to read them.
Among them, “A” who is my best friend now, got involved in the world of Braille quickly.
Her Braille reading and writing skills improved instantly. I was surprised that someone could improve so fast.
So I gave my best friend a portable Braille device. She really liked my present and always wrote with it during recess time.
She was the first person I’ve met who showed so much interest in Braille.
Since then, my best friend and I started something like an exchange diary in Braille and enjoyed writing to each other about everyday life.
When we graduated from elementary school, my best friend went on to the local junior high school. I went to the school for students with special visual needs. We went two different ways.
Because of this, we weren’t able to exchange diary every day, but we frequently wrote letters to each other. My best friend told me that she looked forward to checking her mail box when she got home.
I looked forward to it too. Because my best friend learned Braille, we were able to talk about a lot of things.
We are still connected by Braille.
Like I mentioned before, I was able to meet with many people through Braille. And I was able to share the fun and importance of Braille with them.
Because people around me actively learned Braille, I was able to communicate not just by speaking words but by writing using Braille.
I hope people who found interest in Braille will broaden communication by using it if they ever have a chance to meet someone with visual impairment.