WBU-NAC(Senior group) Fine Work
Besotted by the Dots:
Penny MacPherson (54, Female)

"Hi, I'm Penny and I'm a Braille and Adaptive Technology Addict."
From the moment I put my hands to paper and understood that the dots meant something, there was no turning back for me. I was addicted to reading and learning and no one or nothing could change that. I remember the thrill that shivered through my second-grade body when my first little article about Billy, my pet canary was published in "The Maple Seed," the junior version of our school's annual magazine at the New York State School for the Blind in Batavia. It seemed that this was only the beginning. Before I knew it, my third grade teacher was inviting me to participate in a game to demonstrate how Braille dots were arranged to spell people's names. Then, there were the requests for me to participate in research trials of an assortment of different kinds of Braille paper to see which materials suited Braille readers best. But the crowning moment of those young years came when I started taking books to bed to read under the covers. More often than not, I would be scolded when housemothers found the books on the floor by my bed when they came to wake me the next morning. As often as I was reprimanded, still I couldn't banish the books from my bed.
My obsession with reading and writing was no less present during daylight hours. I was always doing homework, or writing the next song--or the latest novella. It wasn't until I was mainstreamed in eighth grade that I realized that a Braille famine was possible. Before then, I took Braille for granted. It was there any time I needed to do math, write science essays, write a song, write the latest book chapter, learn a Beethoven or Chopin piece of piano music... Braille was my faithful suitor and I took him for granted...
Although Braille is my first love, nevertheless, I have enlarged my empowerment strategies to embrace adaptive technology and audio devices as well. But, there is no doubt that Braille still rules the roost. As a teacher of both Braille and adaptive technology, I pour my passions and energies into sharing the tools that have enabled and equipped me to: gain both a Bachelor's of Arts and a Master's degree; hold down a job that brings me much pleasure and joy; write more than a thousand poems; self-publish two books of poetry; and maintain both a book blog and a column on Facebook called "Today's Fresh Fruit."
Each time someone tells me that a piece of writing has moved them or touched their lives... Each time one of my newly-blinded students has an Epiphany moment with Braille or adaptive technology... Each time I step out and risk learning some new program or operating system like Word 2010 with Ribbons, PowerPoint, orWindows 8, I have Braille to thank for the assimilation and accommodation of such acquired knowledge. Because there's something about reading the new information with my fingertips that conducts it to my brain in a more meaningful way. If I can feel it ... then I can comprehend and perceive it...
The coupling of Braille with adaptive technology and audio devices has made me "filthy rich" in communicative abilities. There will never be a day when I don't owe them a huge debt. They have provided my "bread and butter" of existence—enabling me to provide a good life for my daughter. They have forged emotional connections between me and those I encounter on a regular basis. They have unraveled the stiches of isolation that could easily spring up into rows of misunderstanding and separating distance. They are the tools I use to gently educate and dismantle the barriers between the seeing and blind. Every time someone tells me they forget that I'm blind... another wall comes tumbling down. Every time someone connects with a piece of my poetry... another emotional barrier crashes and crumbles to earth. Every time I provide a Braille-reading student with a piece of embossed copy to drill the concepts home, I sense the surge of excitement that courses through them at being able to access a document with their own two hands. To access the information at the time of one's own choosing is a privilege that I try not to take for granted. It is a beautiful gift. To me, Braille, DAISY audio, and iOS devices are dances of freedom. They have the power to sweep me off my feet and whisk me to faraway lands that I could never visit without them. They enrich my life with fine music and good books. They empower me with various alternative points of view and enable me to make intelligent, well-reasoned decisions—whether it's discovering the merits of juicing, or learning new ways to teach a tricky computer concept. Whether it's coming up with an innovative way to teach a slippery Braille abstraction, or searching for the best chicken scampi recipe--it's about empowering connections to enhance life and interpersonal relationships. Braille, audio devices, and adaptive technology serve as my passport and currency in foreign lands. They are the marching armies that occupy the fallow fields of ignorance--only to plant and harvest crops of changed perceptions and attitudes.
When reflecting on the role that Braille, audio devices, and adaptive technology have played in my life, suddenly, it dawns on me that I have been graced with a gift of teaching others about disability without having to utter a single word. Even if I could, I would not trade these golden gems of teaching opportunities for all the sight in the world. They have shaped and molded me in countless ways. They have woven a unique texture into my life that couldn't have been there otherwise. In short, they have been the flesh and blood of romance in this—my glorious dance of life... So, with their embracing, comes the palpable question: How about another turn around this ballroom of Life...?


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