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The Braille Highway

For your reading convenients below you will find all the Braille Highway published in 2018

January 2018

Happy new year and may 2018 be filled with happiness, health, and prosperity. This month is National Braille Literacy Awareness Month, as well as the birthdate of Louis Braille (Jan. 4). So read a book in braille, write a letter in braille, or send an A B C braille card to someone interested in learning braille.

As The Blind Perspective and the segment, The Braille Highway enters its 4th year of publication, I am going to tell you all about an amazing young woman.
Remember to send Emails with topic suggestions and general comments to the address mentioned above.

Bree Brown was born and raised in West Virginia. She is totally blind and attended public school for all her k to 12 education. Bree learned braille at the age of 3 using her trusted friend, the Perkins braille writer. At the age of 5, she learned the slate and stylus. In middle school, Bree began using her PacMate which allowed her to gain even more independents. Therefore, she only needed her vision teacher to transcribe a minimal amount of her work prior to submitting it to the teacher for grading.

Bree used braille throughout her years in the public school system. She not only used braille for education, but also for her love of music. Bree took part in any school activity that allowed her to play the trumpet, and once again, used braille music to participate.

Ms. Brown attended Texas State University where she earned a Bachelor’s in General Studies; specializing in Family and Child Development, Psychology, and Special Education. In her post-secondary education, while still using her braille writer and the slate and stylus, she began using a Braille note Apex and has not looked back since. Bree won a few scholarships while attending college, including the prestigious NFB (National Federation of the Blind) Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship in 2015.

In January 2017 Bree was working at the Louisiana Centre for the blind on a contractual basis. She also was involved with the BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning) Academy along with many other programs. As of September 2017, Bree was hired as a braille instructor for the Louisiana Center for the Blind. She received her National Certification in Unified English Braille through the National Blindness Professional Certification Board.

As a braille instructor, she makes notes and reminders in braille. She feels strongly that braille should be taught to all young blind students. It teaches them how to spell correctly, use proper punctuation, and form complete sentences.

As a youngster, Bree did not think she could become a teacher. With encouragement and guidance from her family, friends, and mentors, she persevered and made her dreams a reality. While in college, Bree continued her love for music and joined an acapella singing group, which she really enjoys. Using braille, Bree can write down the lyrics along with reminders where to breathe, and other singing pointers.

Bree also directed the Christmas play at the Louisiana Centre for the Blind this last Christmas. While conducting my interview with Bree, she mentioned how Jerry Whittle her former braille instructor, had suddenly passed away in November. He was truly a big influence and guiding light for Bree, both as a student and as an instructor. He will be dearly missed by both Bree and the rest of the people at the Louisiana Centre for the Blind.

With all the above achievements, one would think that she is in her early to mid-thirties, but at the writing of this article, Ms. Brown has not even reached a quarter of a century yet. Braille has been a significant tool in Ms. Brown’s toolbox. As already mentioned, the braille writer, the slate and stylus, and electronic braille through her Braille note Apex, all have played a big part of her personal and professional lives.

While attending Texas State University, Bree had a housemate, Jessica, who she became good friends with. Jessica was interested in learning about braille and other things associated with blindness. Jessica was an art major studying ceramics and many other things including paper fibers. She learned braille and incorporated it into one of her art exhibits at school. Jessica was trying to demonstrate that blind people are equal members of society. After convincing Bree to attend, but not telling her the theme of her exhibit, Bree finally made her way there, Bree was pleasantly surprised and equally impressed with her friend’s art work.

Bree participates in her church service by receiving the scriptures in braille through the Xavier Society. Bree enjoys reading, and playing scrabble, word and card games.

I thought long and hard on what I should do for my first article of the year. Since many of us need a little inspiration to go for our goals, I decided to give you a little insight on a young woman who has done so much and still has a lifetime to do many more things! I want to thank Pamela Allen, the executive director of the Louisiana Centre for the Blind for introducing me to Ms. Brown. It was an absolute pleasure for me to interview you Bree, and thank you so much for agreeing to participate.

Why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille. Braille readers do it with feeling! Until February when we meet again, remember to stay on the dotted line of life!

February 2018

Happy February! Remember to send your special valentine if he or she is a braille reader, a love note in braille. I received some get-well cards not too long ago and it was such a heartwarming experience for me. I was in contact with a fellow blind person and as per usual I promoted The Blind Perspective and, the Braille Highway. After speaking several times, I asked Jeremy if he would be interested in filling out a little Q and A piece and, he agreed. So if you are interested in doing the same or have any future article suggestions feel free to email me at the address mentioned at the top of this segment.

Read on to see what Jeremy has to say.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
I currently reside in Surrey British Columbia but I was born in Ontario Canada. I lost most of my sight when I was 37 due to glaucoma. However, I still have some light perception in both eyes. I learned the basic grade one braille when I was 39. And, just about three years ago, at 42 I learned grade two braille through the (CNIB) The Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

Q: Did you learn UEB and if so when and where?
Yes, I took the Transitioning to Unified English Braille course from the Hadley Institute for the Blind, just last year.

Q: When you produce braille, what methods do you use?
For small jobs on the go, I use my slate and stylus. For quick notes or taking down phone numbers, I use my Perkins braille writer. If I am producing a large list or needing to braille out some instructions, I use my Versapoint embosser.

Q: When you read braille, what format do you prefer?
I usually read hard paper copies.

Q: Do you use braille at home and/ or work?
I use braille both at home and for work. I take phone messages for several real estate agents and relay them via email or text messages. I use my braille writer to take these messages, then I forward them appropriately.

Q: Give a detailed description of how braille impacts your life.
I am a labelling nut. I put braille labels on everything including my music and movie collections, even my wife's collections. All my external drives, clothing, important documents, and tools are labeled. I have important phone numbers, addresses, and passwords all written out in braille.
I seem to learn new tasks easier when I read the instructions in braille over and over again, rather than listening to it either with my speech on my computer or an audio copy of the instructions. At work, it is much easier to braille phone numbers, names, and messages, in order to relay accurate information to the appropriate agent.

Q: Do you notice braille within your city?
Yes, I live in an apartment building and the doors are appropriately brailled with apartment numbers. The elevators have the floor numbers and words such as open, close and alarm brailled out. In addition, each floor has a panel just outside the elevator with a raised number, and the floor number in braille.
Many restaurants we go to have braille menus. I have attended different public exhibits and they provide descriptions in braille.

Q: Do you have any braille games?
I have both regular playing cards and a deck of Uno playing cards. My Monopoly and Scrabble games are the braille versions. I have a tactile Backgammon game, and the instructions came in braille since it was purchased at the CNIB gift store. I also have many other games that I made accessible with some sighted assistance.

Q: As a braille user, what would you say to a blind person who does not know braille, in order for them to learn it?
It is an amazing thing to be able to decide you want to play a particular CD and you can find it all on your own. Same thing applies with knowing what colour shirt I have chosen to wear. It is mind blowing how many times there is no sighted help and I would wait until someone came home and that made me feel so helpless. I have the instructions on my oatmeal so that I can make it along with other simple foods. I also have the recipe for making rice crispy treats brailled out for the occasions when I have a craving for something sweet.
My self-confidents has greatly increased simply by learning braille. Learning braille will open up so many doors and so many opportunities for you. I am a firm believer that the more we know the more we are worth.

Q: Do you have any cute or novel story to relay that someone has done with braille.
My wife for my 40th birthday went on the internet and looked up the dot sequences to make braille letters. She glued little pebble sized noodles onto strips of paper with 2, 3, and 5 word messages. She placed these messages throughout the house, knowing I would find them. That really made my birthday extra special.

Q: do you have any final thoughts to share?
I really think that braille to a blind person is equivalent to print to a sighted person. Learning braille has truly opened many doors and has increased my self-confidents to a level that I never thought I would reach.
Thank you so much Jeremy for answering my questions!

Braille readers do it with feeling! Complement your life with braille. Remember to stay on the dotted line of life! Speak with you again in March.

March 2018

Happy March! Let's all raise a glass of good Whiskey to our Irish friends who will be celebrating Saint Patrick's Day on March 17th.

I am excited for this month's article. In previous articles, I directly interviewed or had interested individuals complete a Q&A about how braille impacted their lives. These folks have all been wonderful and they all were brave enough to volunteer. Starting this month, I will be shining the interview spotlight on my fellow writers of the Blind Perspective. The first brave soul is Darrin Cheney, the author of APPetizers: Byte Size Tidbits to Help Master Your iDevice.

As always, I invite you to email me with suggestions or topics for future articles. Now let's read about Mr. Cheney.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m retired and I live in Weiser, Idaho, near the Oregon border. I lost most of my vision due to Rod Dystrophy with Cone Sparing, a form of RP. I first noticed loss of peripheral vision and night-blindness in my youth and I was legally-blind when I started college. In 2007, I experienced the “storms of 40” and became ill. As a result, I lost most of my remaining vision and retired in 2008 from the University of Kansas Medical Center as the Director of Teaching and Learning Technologies. In 2011, after many tests and exams, I was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Myopathy which is a genetic, progressive disease that affects the energy production in every cell of the body. Doctors believe this may be the cause of my RP and other health related issues.

Q: Did you learn UEB, and if yes when and how did you learn it?
I completed the Braille Literacy Series and Transition to UEB course from the Hadley Institute. To reinforce UEB, I use the UEB translation on my iOS device to write and read braille on my braille displays.

Q: When you produce braille, which methods do you use?
I use my slate and stylus to jot down a quick note or a checklist, and make a label for medicine bottle. I also use my Perkins braille writer. I do most of my reading and writing email, articles, and projects using my refreshable braille display connected to an iPhone.

Q: When you read braille which methods do you use?
I like both hard copy and electronic braille. There is something magical about reading with my fingers on paper. I also like to write on my braille display. Reading books from NLS on my braille display is much easier to manage than a large binder.

Q: Do you use braille at home?
I use braille at home to label food and medications. I also use bump dots like on my TV remote to highlight the “mute” button which benefits everyone. I braille my speaking parts at church. When I am able, I volunteer as an advocate. I try to bring blind individuals and resources together, to promote braille literacy, to share information about Hadley courses, to help blind individuals with Apple's assistive technology, and to discuss strategies to deal with life's challenges.

Q: Give a detailed description of how braille impacts your life.
Braille gives me the ability to read and to write without sight, to gain access to thousands of books and resources, to write notes, lists, and to correspond with friends and fellow students. It has also helped me gain my independence by labeling items in the kitchen, medicine cabinet, and throughout the house. I use braille when I’m cooking in the kitchen and at the BBQ grill.

Q: In your city do you have access to braille?
I live in a rural town of 5,500 people. Most braille is limited to the hospital, post office, and various banks. One popular local restaurant has braille menus.

Q: Do you have any braille games?
I have a braille Chess Set that I received when I took a braille Chess course from the Hadley Institute. I also have tactile Dominos, dice, and playing cards. I’m exploring getting a Sudoku board.

Q: As a braille user what would you say to a blind person who does not know braille to convince them to learn it?
“Why learn braille?” “Literacy.” Literacy can be defined as the ability to read and write and it and that you have the ability to use language proficiently using proper spelling and grammar. Braille is a life changing skill, but it requires a lot of hard work and effort. It is a skill that requires daily practice to master and to use effectively. Once you master it, braille unlocks your independence and reading and writing for yourself is priceless.

Q: Do you have any cute or novel story to relay that someone has done with braille?
I am a Star Trek fan. Thanks to NLS, I was able to request braille Star Trek books in both embossed and in electronic braille. Reading “Klingon” in braille is way cool!

Q: What are your opinions on braille?
I am passionate about learning braille. Not only does it help me deal with my loss of sight, it gives me “vision.” I want to encourage others to learn braille. I try to identify solutions to integrate technology in reading and writing braille and to share that knowledge with others. Learning to read and to write braille is the key to truly being literate. Learning braille is a challenging process that requires daily practice and effort, but the reward is an ongoing personal, special gift that will endure for a lifetime. Braille connects me to new friends and resources all over the world. If I can learn braille, anyone can. I was named the Hadley Institute Braille Student of the Year in 2012.

I want to thank Darrin for being my first fellow writer and for being so forth coming with his story. Braille users do it with feeling. Don't complicate life with gadgets when you can compliment it with braille. Remember, to stay on the dotted line of life. Take care and see you again in April.

April 2018

Hello and welcome to The Braille Highway for the month of April! Being a braille enthusiast, I belong to a couple of open forum chats where the main topic is braille. While participating in these forums during the month of March, I spoke to a few fellow braille fans. In this month’s segment I will be relaying a couple points brought to my attention about their lives before and after blindness and how braille truly opened doors and allowed them to continue living a big part of their sighted life when they became blind.

Before we get to this month’s article, a little housekeeping. As per usual I always invite the reader’s input, opinions, and suggestions. So, email me at the email address mentioned at the beginning of this article. I would like some feedback about what you would think of a braille competition to be held in January of 2019, with some prizes for the top finishers? Would you participate? What do you think of the idea of a braille competition where I would dictate a few sentences and the object of the competition would be to use a computer program like Perky Ducks to braille the dictated words? Then you would send in the finished copy as an attachment within a few minutes of completing the reading, to discourage folks using braille translation programs to aid in their accuracy. I am looking forward to your feedback.

The first person I want to shed a little light on their story is a gentleman named Desmond from New York. He is in his 50 and is married with 3 children. He became blind at 39 years of age from an accident while outside during a Halloween party. A firecracker exploded near his face. Desmond was the dj for that Halloween party. After many surgeries to try to save his eyes and more cosmetic surgeries later, Desmond has no vision.

Desmond has a wonderful supportive family who were all encouraging and extremely helpful. After getting over the initial shock and the reality of being blind, Desmond’s wife suggested he go for some training at a local center for the blind. Desmond’s love for music is what inspired him to learn JAWS. While at the center, he learned the alphabet and numbers in braille.

Desmond has a very large music collection that he burned onto DVD’s. Each disk holds a thousand songs or more. The songs are all listed on a word document and each DVD is numbered. So, for example, if Desmond is looking for “We are the champions” by Queen, he would conduct a search for that song title and artist in his Microsoft word document. Once that song is located, it would tell him what DVD it is on. Desmond’s DVD’s paper sleeves have all been labeled with braille numbers, in order for him to retrieve the one he needs or wants.

Desmond has resumed his position as DJ. One of his sons and a nephew assist in setting up the speakers, microphone, and other necessary equipment. He uses his laptop to find the songs and then uses his braille skills to find the proper DVD, and the rest is history. With just a little training on how to use JAWS and learning the A B C’s of braille, Desmond has been able to go back to work doing what he loves.

Lynda is a very gifted clay artist. In her mid-thirties, Lynda is blind from RP. Prior to her eyesight declining she was a bright up and coming artist in clay works and her pieces were very sought after. Living in France Lynda fell in love at a young age and was married at the age of 20. After losing most of her sight, Lynda found she could still make certain clay pieces just not as detailed in the decorations.

Lynda says that she was always a very independent person and thrived on marching to her own drummer. As you can imagine, she became very stressed when she thought that she would need to always depend on others for assistance, especially when creating her pottery. Lynda has a mentor that she was paired up with when it became apparent that she would be losing her sight. Through this mentor Claudette, Lynda found out about resources and training opportunities in her area. Lynda learned braille and practiced it with Claudette and others. Lynda’s father had a room that was his workshop and she decided to convert it in to a place where she could create her works of art.

After multiple changes and modifications Lynda finds that she can work pretty independently from start to finish when creating her pottery. Like before, she uses help for removing items from the kiln. Lynda has made braille labels for her buckets of paint as well as other needed materials and tools. She creates braille labels for each of her clay pieces. She also braille’s time cards for each piece in order for her to know how long each piece needs to dry before being baked in the kiln.

With all her suppliers phone numbers and contact information being brailled and stored in her telephone directory, Lynda places all her orders as needed when she sees the inventory reaching critical low levels.

Lynda has also made notes in braille on what techniques she used for a particular series of work and refers to it when starting a new project so that she maintains the consistency that her loyal customers have come to expect from her.

I asked Lynda if she has come up with a braille theme for her pottery yet. Lynda said that she has not as of yet, but it is a work in progress. She added that before she is done, she is sure that she will make a piece or two with a braille theme. Although in Lynda’s case she was still able to continue her love of creating clay art, the need for her to be able to do things independently for her own peace of mind was made possible by learning braille.

I was so happy to have come across both Desmon and Lynda who are excellent examples that although losing their sight later in life, they chose to learn braille which helped them to resume doing what they loved. I want to thank you both Desmond and Lynda for allowing me to talk about you both in my article. You are both wonderful examples of why folks who have lost their eyesight later in life should learn at the very least, the A B C’s of braille.

Braille users do it with feelings. Why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille. Remember to stay on the dotted line of life! I look forward to speaking with you again in May!

May 2018

Hello and happy May to all! In this month’s article you will read a Q&A exchange I held with our very own Blow Hard, who writes the Rotating Trio: Windbag segment. As always, I invite your emails good, bad, or constructive criticism. Just use the email at the top of this article.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born blind due to retrolental fibroplasia. I was 3 months premature, weighing less than 1 pound. Pure oxygen in the incubator burned the link between the eye and the brain.
Since 2006, I reside in Lawton, Oklahoma. Prior to that, I lived in Phoenix, Arizona. I will be turning 64 later this month.

Q: when did you learn braille?
I probably learned braille when I started kindergarten at age 5, through the use of a resource teacher.

Q: Have you learned UEB?
N! O!, and I have no desire to do so. I think that the only good thing about it is that users of braille in the UK are now using the dot 6 to capitalize.

Q: When you produce braille, which methods do you use?
I use a braille writer an and electronic braille device.

Q: When you read braille which methods do you use?
I use a braille display and hard copies whenever possible.

Q: Do you use braille at home and/ or work?
I did use it at work until the budget crunch crunched me out of a job. I also do use it at home.

Q: Give a detailed description of how braille impacts your life?
How could I physically read without something to read? I learn stuff far better if I can actually read a book rather than listening to an audio recording.
I take notes on the home computer, then edit them using braille.
I keep track of the material yet to cover while giving a group guitar lesson each Saturday. I can be reading stuff and the students don’t even know I’m doing it. Sneaky, eh? And, they thought that I had a memory! Ha ha ha.
I put braille on dymo tape to label my microwave.

Q: In your city do you have access to braille?
We do have brailled elevator buttons and some brailled menus. We can always use more, but, then again, who couldn’t?

Q: Do you have any braille games?
I have Scrabble, Monopoly, and some decks of brailled cards somewhere. I do have a triple Yahtzee game, and have some braille paper and a slate and stylus in the box, so that I can keep my own score, just as those who are sighted do.

Q: As a braille user, what would you say to a blind person who does not know braille to encourage them to learn it?
Braille is the best and most accurate way to get good feedback from books or a computer. Over 70 percent of the blind population are not working, and the vast majority that are working are braille readers.
Regardless of the amount of noise where you are, and whether the electricity is working or not, regardless of how much battery life you have remaining in your audio devices, you can still read braille. Batteries not needed!
Braille gives you independence. You don’t get a reader’s impressions, you form your own.
To the professionals in the field of education and rehabilitation who feel that braille is no longer necessary because we now have speech output, I ask, “Kids who can see must learn to read. Why shouldn’t the blind?”

Q: Do you have any cute or novel story to relay that either you or someone else has done with braille?
I fell in love with a woman that I met online in 2004. Neither of us were looking, but we met, and, well, there you go. I moved to Oklahoma in 2006 to be with her. Four months later, I used a Perkins brailler to create a picture of a frosted birthday cake with lit candles on it. Above the candle flames, written in all caps it said, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY WEE1!!!”
It blew her away, because she had never seen a picture like that. It was my first attempt at making one too. So, I was thrilled that she could tell me what it was.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Blow Hard for agreeing to participate with me in this Q&A exchange! Surprisingly, it was not a whole bunch of wind!!
Remember folks, braille users do it with feeling! Why should we complicate life with gadgets when we can compliment it with braille. Finally, remember to stay on the dotted line of life! Until we meet again in June stay safe!

June 2018

Happy June to all!
I was excited knowing that for my June segment I would be finding out about Cheryl’s experience and opinions with that wonderful invention by Louis Braille. Cheryl is the author of Spencer’s Spotlight and she always has an interesting item to spotlight for her segment. I also need to publicly thank Cheryl for suggesting that I contact my fellow writers and see who uses braille, and what their thoughts, preferences, and experiences are.

As per usual I invite you to email me suggestions, opinions, and constructive criticisms at the email mentioned at the top of this segment. Without any further delay, please read below the replies from Cheryl Spencer.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Texas. My Father was in the army so we moved around a bit. I am the youngest of five children, 2 brothers, 2 sisters. I live in Jacksonville, Florida and have been here since 1977.
I had 20/20 corrected vision until the age of about 14. I had an inflammation of the eyes which was misdiagnosed as having blocked tear ducts when, in actuality I had conjunctivitis. By the time I was 15, I could no longer pass the eye test to get my learners permit. 40 some odd surgeries later, I was totally blind because of photophobia. Long drawn out story here. Suffice to say, I lost and got my sight back 5 times before it became permanent in 1981. I have been total since.

Q: when did you learn braille?
I learned braille when I went back to High School after having to quit public school in my Junior year, at the Alabama School for The Blind in Talladega. I took two braille classes a day, 5 days a week. Within two and a half months I learned braille, grade 2 braille, and nemith code.

Q: Have you learned Unified English Braille (UEB)?
I have not tackled UEB yet, but I have the book on it. I am sort of attached to my conventional braille. I will slowly integrate into UEB braille as I go along, let’s see how that works. It took me a long time to figure out computer braille.

Q: When you produce braille which methods do you use?
I learned braille on a slate and stylus, so I always have one close at hand. I also had the Braille and Speak, which I think was ahead of its time, it was a wonderful machine. I use a braille writer, which comes in handy for labeling my snail mail. I can write braille directly on the envelope or I use an index card and write what the mail is about. I have had the Braille Note, the Braille Sense and now the Braille Sense Mini U 2. I also invested in a 6 Dot Label Maker, which I absolutely love. I have a notebook with all my important information in it using these labels.

Q: When you read braille which methods do you use?
Sadly, I do not read braille for recreational purposes. I learned braille late in life and read slowly. I mostly read the labels I write and use. I have my Braille Sense at work to take notes, and write the phone numbers I need.

Q: Do you use braille at home and/ or at work?
I use braille both at home and at work. It is just part of my everyday routine. My daily vitamins are even labeled in braille.

Q: Give a detailed description of how braille impacts your life.
As I stated above, I label my important mail, file folders, vitamins, user names and passwords, and the list goes on. When I play games on the chat sites, I can make teams using my Braille Sense, and when I am a clue giver for Password, all my clues are done in braille.

Q: In your city do you have access to braille?
Braille is very present in my city. My office has braille numbers on all the offices, and the restrooms are labeled. Most of the elevators have braille and raised numbers. Some restaurants have braille menus.

Q: Do you have any braille games?
I have a braille Scrabble game, and my late husband and I used to play all the time. I have playing cards, and Uno cards so I can play with my family and friends. I also have a braille Monopoly game my sister gave me years ago.

Q: As a braille user, what would you say to a blind person who does not know braille to encourage them to learn it?
I am always encouraging my friends to learn braille by telling them how much it will improve their independence. It is among one of the most important tools you will ever have in your toolbox!

Q: Do you have any cute or novel story to relay that either you or someone else has done with braille?
After I completed my braille course in school, I was so excited to go back to the dorm room and begin reading my braille book. I opened the book and found the beginning and no matter how hard I tried, I could not figure out one single word. I was really upset! I was about to panic. I was walking around the room in total meltdown. After I calmed down I went back and picked up the book again and then realized, I had had the book upside down. I was so relieved, and I began recognizing the braille I had just learned.

Q: What are your opinions of braille?
I love braille!! I think it is one of the most important things I have ever learned as a blind person.

Thank you, Cheryl, for taking the time and effort to fill out this Q&A for me!
Braille users do it with feelings! Why complicate your life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille? A friendly reminder to stay on the dotted line of life!
Until we speak again in July, stay safe.

July 2018

Hello and happy July to you all! I want to first thank you all for taking the time to email me. Of course, I enjoy reading the positive emails but, I also do appreciate the Constructive feedback too.
So, please keep your emails coming! In this month’s article you will learn about Suzy’s braille tendencies. she is the author of The Rotating Trio: Potpourri segment. Without any further delay, please continue reading to learn more about Suzy.

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Milton TN, a small rural community in Rutherford county. I was the fifth of six children, with four older brothers and a sister born 9 years later. I live in Murfreesboro, TN, and with the exception of 13 years of living in a couple of other areas in the state, where I worked, this is home.
I was born sighted and lost 96% of my vision at age 7 & 1/2 resulting from Spinal Meningitis. When I hit 55 my vision became unstable and it decreased much like people with “normal” vision who need glasses. However, that was not an option for me.
At this point, age 70, I have light perception, and on a good day, perhaps a bit more.

Q. when did you learn braille?
I remained in the public school system for two additional years, attending the Tennessee School for the Blind in 5th grade, at which time I learned Braille. Since my 5th grade teacher wanted me to stay in Braille class for the full year, and I had mastered it by Christmas, she taught me Braille music. She gave me lessons after school and sent me to the practice room while the others were struggling.

Q. Have you learned UEB?
No, I have not learned UEB, but recognize some of it in my Braille bank statements and menus.

Q. When you produce braille which methods do you use?
I use a Perkins brailler and slate and stylus, both of which are on my desk with my computer. There is a Slate and stylus in my kitchen, as well as in my purse.

Q. When you read braille which methods do you use?
Hard copy. I was never privy to electronic Braille display.

Q. Do you use braille at home and/ or work?
I'm retired, but used Braille on a daily basis at work, much as a sighted person uses a pen, or tapping on their iPhone. I use it multiple times a day.

Q. Give a detailed description of how braille impacts your life?
After losing my vision and knew I was to go to TSB, I was hungry to learn to read and write again, and never looked back. I use braille for notes, phone numbers, labeling food packages, meds, shopping lists, questions for the doctor, and folders. In addition, I use it for reading my bank statements, menus, calendar, manuals and directions I've written out and can refer to when needed. Off the top of my head, I can't think of anything else, although I know there are many more.

Q. In your city do you have access to braille?
Yes, to elevator buttons, menus as mentioned earlier, bathroom doors and any other place Braille may be displayed. I'm excited when I find it at unexpected places, obviously, it doesn't take much.

Q. Do you have any braille games?
Um, Braille games; Bingo, Playing cards, Rook, Scrabble, and Monopoly.

Q. As a braille user, what would you say to a blind person who does not know braille to encourage them to learn it?
Braille gives you so much freedom that can go with you everywhere. It doesn't require any electricity or batteries. It is like a sighted person using a pen and paper, and reading a magazine. You can jot down phone numbers anywhere, label household items, appliances, etc.
For me, it's literacy. Braille, along with the electronic devices we use, just helps level the playing field. It isn't one or the other, it is all. From the looks of the Brailed notes and papers on my desk, yes, it's very important for me.

Q. Do you have a cute or novel story to relay that either you or someone else has done with braille?
One year, when my kids were in college, they sent me a funny birthday card which they had Brailed using a slate and stylus and an alphabet card. One did the front and the other did the inside. Not finishing in one round, they had forgotten which way they were writing. I had to read one line from right to left, and then turn it the other way around. Needless to say, it was a challenge to read it but made it even more humorous.

Q. What are your opinions of braille?
For me, I can't imagine being without it. At the time I learned it, that was the only option and not being able to read or write after losing my vision, Braille just glued my world back together.

Thank you for taking the time and effort to complete this Q&A for me and the readers! I enjoyed learning how you use braille in your everyday routine.

With braille in mind, remember that braille users do it with feelings! Why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille. Finally, yes you guessed it, stay on the dotted line of life. I am looking forward to chatting in August and keep safe.

August 2018

The month of August is upon us and I hope this article finds you doing well. Continuing our series of the Q&A with my fellow authors, it should be a treat to read about Jim’s experiences with braille. Jim is the author of the Technically Speaking: Computer Tech 101 segment.

As always, I encourage you to email me any questions and or suggestions at the email noted at the beginning of this article. Now let's find out about Jim's thoughts, exposure, and involvement with braille.

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am 50 years old and live in Jacksonville, Florida. I was deemed legally blind around 1999, due to Cone/Rod Dystrophy. it’s a form of Macular Degeneration where the rods and cones, starting in the Macula, are destroyed. I have one sibling, a younger sister, who has Stargardt’s and can no longer drive. In fact, both of us, when we were both younger, have been to see the geneticists at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. This is one of the finest eye research and treatment centers in the world. Anyway, my understanding is that to get the Retinal disorder I have, the odds are pretty high, as in worse than winning your State’s Lottery since both parents have to carry the gene. To get 2 children in a row with a Retinal issue, you have better odds at winning the Lottery, and I’m talking all 6 Numbers, 4 weeks in a row. Needless to say, the folks at Wilmer had a ball with us.

Q. when did you learn braille?
I learned braille from the Hadley School from 2007 through 2008.

Q. Have you learned UEB?
Yes, I learned Unified English Braille the year after it was adopted in the United States. I took the Transition to UEB Course, which was offered by the Hadley School.

Q. When you produce braille which methods do you use?
I use both the Perkins Brailler and a slate and stylus.

Q. When you read braille which methods do you use?
I read braille in hard copy formats.

Q. Do you use braille at home and/ or work?
I use braille at home.

Q. How does braille impact your life?
Labeling items is my main use for braille. Usually when I read for information, I use Braille but prefer audio for pleasure reading. It is invaluable in identifying what DVD, flash drive, button on the stove or other appliance I'm pressing, etc.

Q. In your city do you have access to braille?
I find braille primarily on elevator buttons and commercial signs, such as the Restroom. Haven't had much luck with getting Braille menus.

Q. Do you have any braille games?
No, I do not have any braille games.

Q. As a braille user, what would you say to a blind person who does not know braille to encourage them to learn it?
I would ask, “What happens if your device breaks, gets lost, or malfunctions in some other way? what would you do?” Braille doesn't "break". In the Navy today, they still keep paper charts even though they have all kinds of electronics for position keeping because paper doesn't break. One needs a totally dependable method to use as a backup, at least.

Q. Do you have a cute or novel story to relay that either you or someone else has done with braille?
While I was learning Braille, I accidentally hit the Braille number instead of the button and, to this day, still remember the wonder of the "dots" not just being "dots" but having a meaning. I suppose it's akin to the first time a sighted person sees a word and it's not just a collection of letters but means something.

Q. What are your opinions of braille?
Braille is an invaluable system that opens Worlds of independence to those who can't see. We must all be eternally grateful to Louis Braille for coming up with a system that is both powerful and flexible so that we who can't use our eyes can still see.

I want to officially thank Jim for participating in my Q&A and sharing his experiences with us. In closing, "Braille user's do it with feeling". Why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille. A friendly reminder to stay on the dotted line of life!

Until we meet again in September, keep safe!

September 2018

September is here and that means a new season is just around the corner. For this month I have temporarily stopped the Q&A with my fellow writers, but do not fear, it will be back in October. I had the pleasure of having a chat with, I am sure is no stranger to you, Jonathan Mosen. Below I hope you will find some interesting tidbits about a very popular and well-known person in the blind community. As per usual, I invite your emails with suggestions, comments, and constructive feedback at the email mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Here are some of Jonathan Mosen’s accomplishments but definitely not all:
government relations, worked as a professional broadcaster on a commercial radio station, founded ACB radio in 1999, product manager for both Humanware and Freedom Scientific, was the chairman of the board for the local blind agency, president of the consumer agency, treasurer of the Eastern Asia Pacific region of The World Blind Union, broadcaster on Mushroom FM Internet radio station, and owner of Mosen Consulting.

Also, Jonathan host several podcasts one which is a premium podcast called Daily Fiber. One can become a subscriber for five dollars a month and receive the latest technology news. Another popular podcast of his is The Blind Side. With all these accomplishments, you may think he is in his golden years, but he has not even hit half a century yet.

Jonathan learned braille at the young age of 6 and attended a blind school that his parents made sure to relocate nearby, so that young Mosen could come home at the end of the school day. He learned braille on a Perkins braille writer and did not learn the slate and stylus, since that was not taught at his school. He is a big braille supporter and user, Jonathan got his first refreshable braille display in 1983 called Versa Braille. This was a device that used tape, and was manufactured by Telesensory. Jonathan’s appreciation and dependency on braille increased as he became older.

Jonathan told me a story about when he was working as a professional broadcaster at a local radio station. While he was working in January of 1991, the Desert Storm war broke out. With the assistants of a braille embosser located in the building, he was able to read and relay this breaking piece of news to his audience while keeping his professionalism in tac. In comparison, if he got this news via a screen reader in his ear, he would have needed to hesitate while speaking on the air to listen as well as digest what he just heard.

Braille is a huge part of Mr. Mosen’s professional life. While he is producing the Daily Fiber podcast he says the majority of that podcast is done with him reading off of his braille display. By no means is he only a braille display user, he also uses Dragon Speak as well as a screen reading program.

Another great thing about being able to read braille, Jonathan told me, happened while producing the book, iOS 11 Without The Eye. This book has approximately 45,000 words and he read and proofread using his screen reader. Near the end, he read it with his braille display and was able to catch some mistakes that went unnoticed with only listening to it.

Jonathan has 4 sighted children and recalls countless hours of playing Monopoly, Scrabble, and lots of card games with all of them. He also reflects fond memories of reading to his children when they were young. He read books from The National Braille Press and from Seedlings. These books described the pictures in braille. Therefore, enabling the blind reader to confidently talk about the pictures with their captive younger audience. Jonathan also chuckled when telling me he read all 7 of the Harry Potter books to his kids. He feels that being able to read to his children and being able to play games, is quite rewarding as a parent. He added that, it builds great relationships with others and especially with family.

Jonathan approves of the UEB and was at one of the early meetings that was held in 1993 in New Zealand to devise how to unify braille. He likes it from the transcribing point of view, the ease with being able to forward and backward transcribe printed materials. He frowns on countries who have not unified braille straight across the spectrum. He feels that less privileged areas that receive donated books, would have the most difficulties. Siting an example, country X donates a mathematical textbook that incorporates UEB nemeth braille, and country Y donates another mathematical textbook but their math code is not UEB compliant. Talk about a mix message for students.

Braille being taught to school age students will encourage literacy, and also having older blind mentors will go a long way to giving positive feedback to youngsters. For people who lose their sight later on in life, they should learn braille to enable them to live a more independent life, rather than depending so much on others. Something so simple as selecting a CD or distinguishing the color of 2 identical feeling items of clothing, adds value and dignity to one’s life. These previously mentioned tasks can be so easily obtained by labelling with braille. So, one does not necessarily need to learn contracted braille, but at the very least, learn the A B C’s and that will open so many doors.

Jonathan feels that government should provide financial assistants to blind and disabled people to assist in evening the playing field when it comes to employment. A perspective employer might be hesitant to hire a disabled person thinking of the added cost and accommodations that are needed in order for that person to do his/her job to the best of their abilities. In the long run, if the government gives financial support to purchase equipment it is an investment in the future. The employed person will pay into taxes and become a contributing member to society.

Jonathan uses a braille focus 40 display and says that he will give up braille the day that sighted people give up print and use audio books instead. He feels that with all the choices we have in braille display sizes and types it is encouraging to continue to use braille. We no longer can use the excuse that the book is too large to bring since we can literally bring hundreds of volumes of books on our portable displays. On a higher note, Jonathan says, “I feel that blind people are in the best position to solve our own problems!”

Thank you so much Jonathan for first of all, interviewing me for your awesome podcast, The Blind Side and of equal importance, allowing me to interview you for this article. I encourage all the readers to check out:
for awesome publications. Such topics include how to use your iOS device without the eyes, tips on how to maximize your Google Search experience, lots of useful information on the Sonos Sound system, and many other well produced materials all with the blind in mind.

Braille users do it with feeling! Why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille. Remember, to stay on the dotted line of life. Talk with you again in October and stay safe!

October 2018

We have now officially entered the last quarter of 2018. It is both scary and exciting for me. In this month’s article you will read about Sue, the author of A Time to Plant. She gives her thoughts and ideas regarding braille. As always, I look forward to emails expressing your suggestions, ideas, or constructive comments. My email address is located at the beginning of this article. Continue on and read what Sue has to say.

I had been born visually impaired, but it became worse six years ago! I can still see, but not well. The doctors told me that my next surgery would be the answer, but I have opted to not have more. Why hadn’t the other surgeries worked?

Now in my 60’s, I read and write braille, using a slate and stylus when writing. I started learning braille before the switch to UEB, so continued learning UEB right after finishing the EBAE course. All of my braille courses have been from Hadley Institute for the Blind.

I live in Prattville, Alabama. Statistically speaking, about one tenth of the population is or will become visually impaired in their lifetime. In my tri-county area, I know far fewer visually impaired people than what the statistic suggests. I wonder how many people pretend they can see well enough to perform daily tasks. How many people think there is a stigma to being blind, so they don’t find ways to deal with low vision?

Once, I was behind a customer in a store who passed her wallet to the cashier. She said, “I can’t see the money, would you please take out the correct amount?” I asked her how she had gotten to the store. She said she drove; she knew her way to and from the store! I hope she is never in a situation where an innocent person is hurt because of her actions!

Reading my braille books first thing in the morning, with my coffee sitting off to the side, is a practice I’m glad to have. One of my ancestors, David Stone, died in 1750, with the inscription on his tombstone reading, “blind for 56 years”. His options were limited; he had no electronic devices and no braille. I’m so thankful my options are so much more flexible than his!

I have not gotten into too much technology. I use only a slate and stylus to write braille, and read only hard copy books. Demonstrating braille and the use of a slate and stylus is sometimes part of what I do.

Occasionally, I pass the time with a deck of braille playing cards. With my creativity, I keep trying to figure ways to make other braille games.

I wish all people, both sighted and sightless, would learn braille. I think that the more ways we use all of our abilities, the more we understand the need some people have for different methods of reading and writing. Low vision and blind people should find a mentor who will help them figure out braille. Even though braille isn’t a language, I think it takes as much practice to learn and use braille as it does to learn a different language.

I want to thank Sue for writing about her thoughts and ideas regarding braille. Braille user’s do it with feelings! Why complicate life with gadgets when we can complement it with braille. Remember to stay on the dotted line of life! Talk with you again in November and stay safe in October!

November 2018

The month of November is upon us and we are heading down the home stretch for the holiday season. I am so happy and proud after so much bugging and harassing of our very own Maxine, author of Cooking Concoctions, that she has agreed to take part in my Q&A segment! Continue reading on to find out more about Maxine and how braille is part of her life. As always, send in your emails to the address at the beginning of this article with suggestions, feedback, and constructive comments, they are all truly appreciated!

Q. Tell us about yourself.
I'm in my late thirties and I currently make my home in rural Kansas with my husband and 2 pet dogs. I was born in the Philippines on a US army base, I am the middle child with an older brother and a younger sister. Making a long story short I was diagnosed with RP in my early twenties and have just a little light perception today.
My mom is as French as one can be without living in France. So, she has drilled in to her children about being passionate about food and always looking your best even on days you are not planning on leaving the house.

Q. How did you come about learning braille?
One day my sister informed me that I was not color coordinated. That is the day I looked into learning braille. Since I have learned braille all of my clothes have been labelled in braille as well as Tupper wear containers. I label other items such as vitamin bottles, my DVD’s and CD’s, and canned goods, simply put, anything I want to identify quickly that may feel like another item is always best labelled with braille.

Q. Have you learned UEB?
I have not officially learned UEB. However, I have picked it up with reading stuff produced in UEB, as well as picking things up on the internet.

Q. When you produce braille which methods do you use?
I most often use my Perkins Braille writer when I am needing to quickly jot down a phone number or write out a recipe. On the go, I use my slate and stylus or my newest toy, my Focus 14 display.

Q. When you read braille which methods do you use?
I use hard copy when I am reading labels and recipes and things I have brailled. I'm beginning to get used to using my Focus 14 display with reading my text messages and other things off my iPhone.

Q. Do you use braille at home and/ or work?
I use braille both at home and at work. I work as the dispatcher and the receptionist for my husband's plumbing company. I have all the suppliers and plumber’s contact information in braille, which makes my job a whole lot easier. I am able to quickly find the suppliers phone number while having a plumber on the phone waiting for that information.
As I have mentioned above, I am a big fan of cooking. So, when I am preparing a meal I like to have the recipe next to me to confirm measurements and or procedures. While one's fingers/hands may become wet or covered with ingredients, it makes a mess of the paper. I on the other hand, have taken my most popular recipes and brailled them onto the clear protective covers. Therefore, if I get them dirty it is as easy as wiping the plastic down with a damp cloth.
Prior to learning braille, it was a hit or miss when trying to pull something out of the freezer for dinner and correctly identifying the item. How many times does frozen fish filet feel like boneless chicken breast or other types of meats? I have mistakenly taken out a Tupper wear container being certain it was a frozen soup, and once it was thawed out discovered it was a spaghetti sauce. To remedy these potential problems, I prepare wide elastic bands and slide a piece of plastic paper with the brailled name of the item in between the elastic band and container. These are great since they can be reused for the next frozen container of soup, sauce, or other items.

Q. In your city do you have access to braille?
Since I live in a rural area there is not much braille in the community outside of the usual places such as: elevator buttons, menus at major restaurant chains, hotel room numbers, and public rest rooms.

Q. Do you have any braille games?
I have Uno and playing cards, backgammon, Scrabble, monopoly, and tactile dice.

Q. As a braille user what would you say to a blind person who does not know braille to encourage them to learn it?
Just learn the basics so that you can independently identify things. It will truly open so many doors and help you gain so much self-esteem. Then once you have learned the uncontracted braille, you can make the decision whether to continue on to contracted braille.

Q. Do you have any cute or novel story to relay that either you or someone else has done with braille?
I have a weakness for gummy lifesavers. When my husband and I were dating and it was Valentine’s day, he sent me flowers that were being held by a teddy bear. This teddy bear had a scarf with a heart on it. Anthony got a hold of a few roles of gummy lifesavers and sewed them onto the scarf as braille dots, spelling out “Be Mine”. I didn’t notice the message.
When he picked me up for dinner, he asked how he had done with the message. I told him the flowers and teddy bear were fantastic. He realized I had missed the message. He took my hand, placed it on the lifesavers, and told me to read it. Needless to say, I became totally emotional.

Q. What are your opinions of braille?
I agree with what the other writers have written about the importance of braille. Braille to us is the equivalent to print for a sighted person. The ability to read and produce braille makes a blind person truly literate.

Thank you so very much Maxine for taking part in my Q&A, and for sharing a bit about yourself!
Why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille. Braille users do it with feelings! Remember to stay on the dotted line of life. Stay safe and talk with you again in December.

December 2018

Hello and welcome to The Braille Highway article for the month of December. In this article I will reflect a little on the year 2018 and also give instructions on how to make a frilly Christmas tree in braille. As always, I invite, and welcome any and all feedback from you the readership. You can communicate with me by using the email at the beginning of this article.

The majority of my articles in 2018, were about my fellow writer’s perspective on braille and how important braille is to them professionally and personally. I have learned through all these Q&A’s that braille is truly an important tool to have in order to enable a person to live a full and independent life.

I believed these things before, but now I am convinced beyond a shadow of the doubt that having learned braille and making it a big part of my life has opened doors and given me many opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. The simple tasks of selecting a cd, DVD, or an important printed document can all be made easier to accomplish independently by labelling them in braille. The same holds true for being able to differentiate between food items within my freezer. With a little organization and the time that it takes to properly label things, it makes life much easier, and a bit less stressful. The bottom line is that we are all striving for a better quality of life and I think that braille can assist in making that a reality.

For some of us, braille assists in allowing us to be color coordinated by labelling our clothing. Games that have been adapted with braille such as playing cards, board games, and bingo cards allow us to participate in these fun activities. Yet others may enjoy making braille diagrams to keep the young children or grandchildren in their lives entertained. So, as you can see and already know, braille is a well-rounded tool to have in one’s toolbox.

Please find below instructions on how to produce a frilly Christmas tree that you can put on the front of a greeting card, on a placemat, or as a gift tag. Do not fear if you are not well practiced in making braille. The braille signs are mentioned, and also included immediately after in parentheses are the corresponding dots to make that character.

This frilly Christmas tree is drawn using 7 lines down and 10 spaces across. The contraction A R and G H form the top of the tree and begin the flaring out of the branches to the left and right. The next 4 lines continue the basic triangular shape of the tree with the branching out of each line. Line 6 brings the branching in on each side and the dots 4-5-6 and the letter l suggest a trunk. Line 7 completes the tree and flares out the trunk a bit. This is an easy tree to “draw” and a pretty one to look at.

Line 1: 4 spaces, braille an A R sign, (dots 3, 4, 5), braille a G H sign, (dots 1, 2, 6).
Line 2: 3 spaces, braille two A R signs, (Dots 3, 4, 5), braille two G H signs, (dots 1, 2, 6).
Line 3: 2 spaces, braille three A R signs, (dots 3, 4, 5), braille three G H signs, (dots 1, 2, 6).
Line 4: 1 space, braille four A R signs, (dots 3, 4, 5), braille four G H signs, (dots 1, 2, 6).
Line 5: braille five A R signs, (dots 3, 4, 5), braille five G H signs, (dots 1, 2, 6).
Line 6: 1 space, braille three A R signs, (dots 3, 4,5), braille dots 4, 5, 6), braille 1 l (dots 1, 2, 3), braille three G H signs, (dots 1, 2, 6).
Line 7: 4 spaces, braille an A R sign, (dots 3, 4, 5), braille a G H sign, (dots 1, 2, 6).
This is the end of the instructions and I hope you had as much fun as I did when I created my first frilly Christmas tree.

Thank you so much for supporting The Braille Highway! I wish you and yours, a very happy, healthy, safe, and blessed Christmas! I am of Italian descent, so, Buon Natale, when translated means, Merry Christmas.
Remember to stay on the dotted line of life! I will talk with you again next year.

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