by Fredric K. Schroeder
From the Editor: Attention everyone who believes in Braille. We need your help immediately if you have a compelling personal story about Braille in your life. Read on for all the details:
So far our Braille Readers are Leaders initiative has been a resounding success. We have sold so many Braille coins that we have exceeded the mint’s production schedule, and at the time of this writing the coins are currently back-ordered by as much as six weeks. We have distributed tens of thousands of Braille alphabet cards, held dozens of events in celebration of Braille, and appeared in newspapers all across the country. Our campaign has achieved so much momentum that we have even been able, with the help of NASA, to send two Louis Braille commemorative silver dollars into space.
Our work, however, is far from complete. In order to sell all 400,000 Braille coins by the end of 2009, we must continue to spread the word about the importance of our campaign. Today far too many blind children and adults are being refused Braille instruction by both schools and rehabilitation agencies, and many who are receiving a Braille education are given inadequate instruction. The Braille literacy crisis in this country must be brought to an end, and we must make it happen. We are the experts in blindness, and it is our knowledge and experience that will shape the future for blind people everywhere.
Many who have not received quality instruction in Braille can tell compelling stories of missed opportunities and difficulties at school or on the job arising from their lack of Braille. Others who have experienced a full education in Braille can tell stirring success stories of the way literacy has changed their lives and helped them to participate fully in society. Our goal is to collect these stories—the inspiring and the compelling, the positive and the negative—and compile them into a book about Braille literacy. From the submissions we receive we will select one hundred of the most powerful stories for our book, and the author of each chosen testimonial will receive a free Louis Braille commemorative silver dollar.
If you have been educated in Braille either in school or through a rehabilitation agency and you lead a productive life because of this knowledge, or if you have been denied Braille instruction at any point and you believe your life has been affected by the struggles you have faced in becoming literate in Braille, the world needs to hear your story. If you are a parent or teacher who has seen the positive effect Braille can have on your children or students, your story needs to be told.
On October 1, the first day of Meet the Blind Month, we will present our collected stories to President Barack Obama, demonstrating through our own voices the power of Braille literacy for all blind Americans. We will share our hopes and dreams with him; we will tell him about the struggles we have faced in becoming literate and the success that has come from our knowing Braille. Through our personal stories we will show him that Braille provides independence to blind people and makes us free.
One of the major goals of the Braille Readers are Leaders initiative has been to educate the public about the importance of Braille for all blind people. We have accomplished this through media exposure and word of mouth. We have educated our local and national legislators about the necessity for Braille instruction. By reaching out to the highest office in the United States, we can teach President Obama about the critical link between Braille and independence. If we can enlist his leadership, we can insure a brighter future for Braille literacy.
We need your help in sending this message. To add your story to our collection, please send it by August 28 in print or Braille to Letters to President Obama, c/o National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Be sure to include your full name, address, phone number, and email address if you have one. You can also submit your story online by visiting <www.braille.org> and clicking the link entitled “Letters to President Obama.” If we decide actually to publish this collection of letters, contributor contact information will be omitted.Whether we are seeking competitive employment, a quality education, or integration into society, Braille is key to our success. It is the crucial component that enables us to be literate and productive, and it is necessary for our independence. We must take the initiative and inform the president about the absolute importance Braille plays in each of our lives. Working with one another, the president, and the public, we will bring an end to the literacy crisis.