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August 27, 2009
Dear President Obama:
My parents read to us every night of my childhood, and I always looked forward to that magical day when I too would learn to read. All the books in our house were in print. I loved paging through the encyclopedia, feeling the smooth pages. and smelling the ink, and I longed to read.
Then I was six years old and beginning first grade. My teacher placed my index finger on a single dot and told me that I was reading my first letter--A. I was overjoyed and couldn't wait to go to school every day, where I learned to read Braille. My mother took a Braille class too so that she could assist in my education. The beautiful symmetry of the letters as they flowed under my fingers was a constant source of excitement and fascination for me. When my sister and I were in bed at night and the lights were out, we were supposed to go straight to sleep, but I would sneak my book underneath the covers and read to my sister until our giggles brought our parents in and my secret was revealed.
Braille is as much a part of my life as print is to the sighted people in the world around me. I know that my life would be empty and devoid of meaning if I had not been given literacy as a child. Braille equals literacy for blind people. As I read all my favorite children's books to my own children, sharing in the laughter and joy of The Bobsey Twins and Tom Sawyer, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to Louis Braille, who made it possible for me and all blind people to achieve literacy. Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between Braille competency and employment among blind Americans. I feel most fortunate to work as a Braille consultant with the Texas State Services for the Blind, providing our Braille teachers with the skills and knowledge needed to bring the power of literacy through Braille to the blind Texans they serve.