Braille Monitor                                                    November 2009

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Promoting the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar: Time Is Running Short


Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver DollarFrom the Associate Editor: Your opportunity to promote and sell the one-of-a-kind Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar is running short. The U.S. Mint will destroy all unsold coins by the end of the year. The last practical opportunity to buy these historic coins from the U.S. Mint is Friday, December 11, 2009, because of the time required for shipping and handling.

As autumn melts into Thanksgiving and Christmas, let's make one final push to sell the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar so that we can fund our national Braille Readers are Leaders (BRL) Campaign and improve the quality of life for blind people in America and around the world. For further information or to purchase the coin, visit <http://www.usmint.gov> or call (800) 872-6468. Information about the BRL Campaign can also be found at <http://www.braille.org>.

We reprint below two documents from this Website that emphasize the importance of Braille. The first document provides the perspectives of blind people about the value of Braille to them. The second challenges commonly held myths about Braille. Together these resources will help you promote Braille in your local community. While educating your neighbors about Braille, remember to sell and market the unique Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar. Act soon or you will miss your opportunity to own this coin. Act soon to help the National Federation of the Blind advance Braille literacy.

What Does Braille Mean to Blind People?

Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind and lifelong Braille reader: “Encouraging blind children to begin learning and reading Braille as early as possible is one of the best things parents and teachers can do to ensure the child’s future success. When I was a child, my parents strongly reinforced the value of reading Braille, and I am certain that without their belief in the power of Braille--and my subsequent knowledge of it--I would not be where I am today.”

Dr. Abraham Nemeth, inventor of the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Scientific Notation: “The importance of Braille literacy cannot be overstated. My knowledge of Braille has led me to places I never dreamed possible and allowed me to create opportunities for the blind mathematicians of the future. I believe that Braille readers can accomplish anything they choose.”

Dr. Geerat Vermeij, professor of geology at the University of California at Davis: “I can emphatically say that Braille literacy is critical and that the lack of Braille instruction in classrooms today is outrageous. Without the use of Braille, I simply would not be able to do my job—I use it every day while collecting and analyzing data, maintaining an enormous Braille library of scientific material, and writing manuscripts.”

Dr. Fredric Schroeder, research professor at San Diego State University: “I use Braille every day in my work. In the seminars I teach I often have to lecture from notes, and Braille allows me to do this just as any other instructor would. Braille has given me the ability to achieve at the same level as any other person who has proper training and opportunity.”

Mark Riccobono, executive director of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute: “For the first twenty years of my life, reading and writing seemed more like chores than productive elements of daily living. I never had access to instruction in Braille, and no one articulated the power of the knowledge that Braille could provide. When another blind person finally laid out why Braille was important and offered to teach me, whole new worlds of opportunity opened to me. Braille is to me both a symbol and tool for the unlimited aspirations I have for my life.”

Marché Daughtry, elementary school student and Braille reader: “I love Braille. If I had to use large print, I think I’d be behind everyone else. Braille is so much easier.”

"The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” —Dr. Seuss

Learning to read is for every child an exciting time. The excitement is no less for those who are blind. Teaching Braille to children and newly blinded adults will open the door to literacy and unlimited opportunities. Although there is a positive correlation between employment of the blind and Braille literacy (approximately 85 percent of blind people who know Braille are gainfully employed), only 10 percent of blind children in the nation are learning to read and write Braille. Society would never accept a 10 percent literacy rate among sighted children; it should likewise not be acceptable for the blind.

But why then do we not teach Braille to our blind children? Let’s look at some of the myths about Braille that stand in our way.

Myth: Braille is hard to learn. For a child, learning to read is learning to read, whether it is done in print or in Braille. With proper instruction in Braille, blind children master reading and writing in the same amount of time that sighted children master print. As for adults, learning to read and write Braille can be done in six months or less with proper instruction.

Myth: Braille is slow and inefficient. When effective Braille instruction is provided, Braille can be read at hundreds of words a minute and can be used fluently in all aspects of daily life.

Myth: All blind people have the opportunity to learn Braille. Blind people with some degree of usable vision (the majority of people experiencing significant vision loss are not totally blind) are more often encouraged to read print (because it is normal) and are thus discouraged from learning Braille. The misconception that print is normal and Braille is inferior means that thousands of blind people are taught to believe that it is better to read print at all costs and that Braille is a last resort. The truth is that Braille is a tool for independence, and it offers equality and flexibility. Furthermore many blind people who have some vision master both print and Braille and use them interchangeably, depending on which is more efficient, e.g., giving a speech using Braille notes). The more tools in the toolbox, the better.

Myth: Braille is on the way out with the coming of the digital age and the greater availability of audio material. Let’s face it: listening does not equal literacy. Literacy is the ability to read and write and to do the two interactively. Children who learn exclusively by listening do not learn about proper spelling, punctuation, and syntax. As for technology, the irony is that technological advances have made Braille easier to produce and consequently more widely available today than at any other time in the history of the code--not to mention that quietly holding a book in your hands and reading for the pleasure of reading is a gift. Independent reading is true independence of the mind. Braille is the only thing equivalent to print for the blind.

When it comes to Braille, it is best to get the facts from the people who know. The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s largest membership organization of blind people, has long been the leading champion of Braille literacy and the advocate for innovative programs to empower the blind. The president of the United States and the U.S. Congress have recognized the critical role the NFB plays in creating new opportunities for the blind by passing Public Law 109-247: The Louis Braille Bicentennial--Braille Literacy Commemorative Coin Act. The Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar and the literacy campaign help fund an unparalleled opportunity to make literacy a reality for every blind person. Join us as a champion for Braille literacy and shatter the myths that limit the dreams of the blind.

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