Saturday, 20 September 2008

Braille Champions

I was reading the latest issue of Pure magazine from RNIB, which is a girly mag in Braille. There was an article stating that it's Louis Braille's 200th birthday next year, (the guy who invented braille). To mark the anniversary RNIB are looking for Braille users to share their experience of using it. For some reason they are calling it Braille Champions, but i'm not sure why. Anyway, I thought I would be a good sport and participate, as they hint there are opportunities to share your experience on radio, tv, their website and publications. This is something I enjoy doing and i'm all for awareness of visual impairment.

Here's what I wrote, i'll let you know if they want me!

Dear Mandy

I’m Selina, 20 years old from Leicester. I read about the ‘Braille Champions’ in RNIB’s Pure magazine and would like to give my input. My contact telephone number is: 07732284343.

My story:
I have been visually impaired since the age of 2 and until I was 10 had good partial vision. I was totally blind in my right eye and could read large print in my left. As soon as I learnt how to read I became a serious bookworm. Most books for young children come in a good-sized font, but my local library used to order in books especially for me too.

At the age of 10 I woke up one morning with blurry vision and by the evening I was totally blind. Luckily, I had numerous operations to restore some sight and was then able to read 48-point font. To continue my love of reading I used a CCTV. The first book I read was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and I was immediately addicted to the series.

At the age of 11 it was decided that it would be more beneficial for me to learn Braille against my will. I was still adjusting to my sight loss and continued to have deteriorating vision with more operations in an attempt to save my sight. My sight was reducing and the magnification increasing on my CCTV, but the eyestrain and headaches didn’t bother me, as I was grateful I could read print.

By the time I was 14 Braille and I were enemies. I was too reluctant to learn it and found it so difficult. My logic was that I could read print so I didn’t need it. Of course realistically I did.

The teachers gave up on me and I stopped attempting to read Braille at 14. I struggled through my GCSEs and A Levels with a CCTV. The day before my English Language A Level exam my sight dropped and reading on the CCTV was a nightmare. I squinted and strained to read the blurry text. No chance of getting a reader in English. I was so determined though that my blindness wouldn’t beat me.

After my A Levels I made a conscious decision to go to RNC (Royal National College for the Blind) for one year to learn Braille and independent living skills. I felt now was the time for me to learn Braille and some final acceptance of my sight loss. I did adapt to my sight loss before my exam and was able to read comfortably on my new CCTV that I got for my 18th birthday. The best present ever was my Clear View Plus, as it was more advanced and clearer than my Aladdin Rainbow.

At RNC I loved learning Braille. I don’t know why, but I picked it up quite quickly. In January at RNC my sight went yet again and as usual another operation was needed to restore it. I was so used to the procedure after having 14 operations, but although in the surgeon’s eyes the operation was successful, I lost my ability to read. For months I desperately tried to read with my CCTV, but couldn’t. The final Harry Potter book was due out in the summer and I had to read it!

I completed the Finger Print Braille course a month before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. I had ordered my print copy months before, but what use was that to me now. I have never been a fan of audio books, as they send me to sleep and takes the imagination out in my opinion. So, I had no choice, but to order the book in Braille from RNIB. One good thing was that it was being released on the same day.

I was shocked when 16 volumes arrived on my doorstep! I had never read more than 1! I made sure nobody told me the story and ploughed through the book. My reading speed was about 1 page every 10mins and I could only read a couple of pages at a time before needing a break. It took me 3 months to complete the book and I was so proud that I had done it.

Braille has honestly changed my life for the better. I’ve known it properly for just over a year now and have managed to keep my passion for books alive. My speed has increased rapidly and no book is a challenge after Harry Potter! I loan books from RNIB’s National Library and get Pure magazine monthly. I also have Uno and normal playing cards in Braille, which I enjoy playing with friends and family.

Braille isn’t the easiest thing to learn, but once mastered is well worth it!

Thank you for reading and apologies for the essay!

Hope to hear from you soon

Kind regards

Selina Litt


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