WBU-NAC (Junior Group) Excellent Work
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Kristen Steele (16, Female)
According to Dictionary.com, Braille is "a system of writing or printing, devised by L. Braille for use by the blind, in which combinations of tangible dots or points are used to represent letters, characters, etc., that are read by touch." For those who learn Braille at an early age, it becomes a second nature — the written word is thought of in the context of Braille. In contrast, people losing their vision later in life have always relied on print and face much more difficulty. They dread trying to learn a new means by which to communicate in writing. Others fear the many "sub-codes" it comprises, including the three grades, Nemeth, Braille music, and computer Braille. When you have more obstacles than the average student, success becomes more than just a goal for which to strive; it is a mission that I must and will achieve. As a high school junior who has read Braille since age three, I can proudly say that the benefits of literacy bring confidence and independence in many areas, as blind people struggle to become a part of the sighted population.
All aspects of my education are dependent upon reading and writing Braille. For one thing, it means accuracy. For example, I grasp concepts better when reading Nemeth out of a math textbook rather than having the equations verbalized to me. Proofreading an English paper is more accurate on a BrailleNote than by listening to it on a screen reader. Sighted people comprehend language visually better than audibly, and I am no different. Secondly, Braille is advantageous when it comes to remaining on target with the grade level of my peers, such as the ability to scroll through a PowerPoint slide by slide on my BrailleNote when the instructor is presenting a lecture or the confidence I feel when giving a presentation at the same pace as anyone else. (Picture descriptions can even be added, which appear hidden when viewed on the projector.) Additionally, I am learning grade three Braille — a system of shorthand that increases proficiency for note-taking and provides a flexible method for personal use. Knowledge of Braille eliminates the possibility of misinterpretations and allows me to feel my work firsthand at my fingertips.
Beyond the classroom, Braille displays aid visually impaired teens in keeping up with their friends socially and in a private manner. In contrast, other devices speak online communication aloud for everyone around to inevitably eavesdrop, which means such devices require me to wear headphones. From reading text messages independently to commenting on Facebook statuses to instant messaging a friend, I am never out of the loop. Wondering about a classmate's true perception of the guest speaker? Often, just by noticing the emoticons and elaborate punctuation used, it is easy to tell who wrote a particular message without looking. With e-mail, tone of voice is effaced. Braille does not exclude popular symbols of the generation, such as smiling and winking faces, hearts, and faces with a tongue protruding. Moreover, most states host a Braille Challenge, which is an exciting opportunity to polish your literary skills and compete with others your age to advance to the national level, while making new friends. Braille can be engaging and helps me make many lasting memories with friends, like passing notes back and forth with those who can read "the secret code" or making a Braille picture.
In a world of vision, blind students and professionals are almost always on a constant mission, discovering creative and inventive solutions to problems that arise, especially technology-related. This is exceptionally rewarding when the end result is being able to blend into a sighted society. Maybe it is locating an accessible Web site from that of the rest of the class to correctly format a bibliography or a template, a way to view Google Docs, or an alternative to Snapchat. Sometimes, I must find imaginative ways to set up a graph of multiple lines of points. Braille signs also help me double check my location in an unfamiliar building, but looking for them is the hardest part, as they are never found in the same, standardized place. Many social networking groups and mailing lists exist, giving visually impaired friends a place to discuss work-arounds and tips to achieve their full potential.
In short, Braille evens the score worldwide in people's everyday lives in more ways than one person can comprehend. Building independence in conjunction with literacy, blind individuals can expand their educational, social, and creative skills. No matter how experienced you are, there is always room to integrate improvement and pleasure, with the variety of codes and uses. Sure, it can grow frustrating at times when life seems to unravel, as if it were an arduous puzzle that cannot be put back together. However, everything must fall into place in the end. If life still leaves unsettled pieces, then the end has yet to come. A life without Braille is unimaginable, like a house with no foundation — it is the basis from which dreams, careers, and ambitions can flourish.
Works Cited
"Braille." Dictionary.com.FreeOnlineEnglishDictionary, 2013. "http://dictionary.com/definition/braille" 12 April 2014.


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