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The Importance and Creative Uses of Braille in My Life
Duong Thi Vui  Vietnam 29 female

When I was born, I had such sparkling bright eyes just like other normal children. Unfortunately, it was at the age of ten when I could no longer see the sunshine. I thought that the future had been permanently closed to me.

However, the rays of light gradually shone out of the endless darkness as a special friend gave me support and helped me to overcome my disability. That friend was Braille who came in the form of six tiny embossed dots - such magical things they were to me.

I still remember the day when I put my hands on the Braille dots for the first time. My heart felt hesitant as I tried to touch the countless tiny and fragile dots. When I just simply pressed my fingers down too strongly, the tiny dots would fade away or disappear. Several weeks later, the tactile sensitivity at my finger-tips had developed so that I could learn to read and write Braille and to identify the Braille symbols. It gave me such joy when I was able to write my own name in Braille as well as the names of my family members. I felt a sudden choke in my heart as I realised how the simple slate and stylus had helped me to leave behind my disadvantaged fate so that I could start a new life.

The following days were indeed memorable time in my life. With my ability to read and write Braille proficiently, I gained admission to the Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind in Hanoi, which was being run by the Bac Ninh Blind Association.

I was in an integrated programme where I studied alongside normal sighted children. I really felt so happy in spite of the many difficulties I had to face. I was like the trunk of a tree which was full of life.

Every day I would go to school with my Braille slate and stylus. With just six simple dots, the whole world had emerged around me from right under my finger-tips - from fragrant rice-fields to roads marked with the hardships borne by my parents. The six dots enabled me to appreciate the sweat and sacrifices that had been made by my parents in order to meet my physical needs. Indeed, the pictures that emerged from under my finger-tips were so strange and fantastic!

With encouragement from my parents, I was able to put in my own effort in order to gradually overcome my difficulties in education. My feelings of inferiority and fear of the future slowly evaporated away. Each school-year passed and I was proud to be able to bring back certificates of merit and awards back to my parents.

With Braille, I was able to learn not only how to sing but also to play musical instruments, how to use information technology, and how to master the English language. Although my parents said nothing, I knew that they must be very happy. In their hearts, they did share with me such feelings of thankfulness and gratitude for the strange miracle of Braille that had brought about great changes in the life of their unlucky daughter.

The day I began to learn English, I felt such great passion for the language which I knew was the common language in many countries around the world. besides learning from the class-room lessons, I also got help from the Streamline A Textbook. As the limited number of Braille textbooks had to be shared among so many blind students learning English, soon the Braille dots became flattened.

And so I decided to make a copy of the five-volume book for myself. Every day whenever I had the free time, I would braille every page of the book. Indeed, I spent days brailling until my fingers and back were so painful from sitting for too many hours. Nevertheless, the exercise was a great help to me in improving not only my reading and writing skills but also my English. After nearly a year, I managed to have my own set of Streamline A in Braille.

I still wonder how I had been able to overcome the challenges I faced. Perhaps when there is enough passion, the heart will be brave and strong enough in tackling the challenges. I feel certain that the passion must have been nurtured every day as a result of the emotions that had been brought forth through Braille passing under my finger-tips.

It is now more than ten years since the day I started learning Braille. I realise that no matter how big or small the hardships may be, determination is a very important factor. For instance, in overcoming the lack of textbooks and reference materials, I did not hesitate in using both Braille and audio materials for my learning.

Thus, through my own effort and perseverance and with help from my teachers during my 12-year stint in high school, I was able to be a good and excellent student and to be at the top of the class. I obtained a good-ranking high school diploma and, with this certificate, I could get myself admitted to the Faculty of English at Hanoi University.

Now I am a final-year student at the university. Difficulties still pile up upon difficulties but Braille is my constant companion to keep me going. My cheeks redden with embarrassment in the lecture-hall as my stylus clicks away on the slate as I am the only one using Braille to take down notes from the lectures. Sometimes I still do get somewhat discouraged because of the lack of Braille textbooks and the learning programmes are so complex. Then comes the moment when the touch of my Braille slate and stylus would make me feel confident and strong again in knowing that I can make it.

In 2015 I had the honour of participating in the English and Braille Writing Competition in Thailand. In the same year, I also won the third prize in the writing contest held by the Vietnamese Student Newspaper in collaboration with the EU delegation in Vietnam. There were more than one thousand competitors and I was the only disabled person among the ten young winners.

At present, I am using Braille for my translation studies in English and French. My dream is to be a good translator in the future. Therefore, I keep reminding myself to "Learn, learn more, and learn for ever".

Truly, Braille has been and will always remain as my friend of inspiration and learning. Deep in my heart, I do earnestly express my gratitude to Louis Braille, the blind man who invented the alphabet of dots for the blind. Because of you, Louis Braille, the way to the future for the blind has become much more spacious, open and bright.


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