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August 27, 2009
Dear President Obama:
My name is Jackie Anderson. My five-year-old daughter and I are blind. I want to make you aware of a dire need in our country. Today fewer than 10 percent of blind children receive instruction in the use of Braille. I would like to explain how this sad statistic affects the lives of real people.
I began life in Jamaica, and, while there for the first ten years of my life, I was considered blind and given a solid education, including the skills I would need to compensate for my diminished vision. This was the case even though I had some residual sight. When we came to the United States, my family was told that I was not blind but only vision impaired, and we were told that I should not be treated as though I were blind. The result of this new label was that all Braille instruction ceased.
I am now an adult woman who certainly cannot see any more than I could as a child. I, however, do not have the literacy skills that are commensurate with my ability or education. I firmly believe that, if my training in Braille had continued as a child, this would not be the case.
As I explained earlier, my daughter Aunya is also blind. Because I know what I missed out on in my education, I feel strongly that she deserves better. I have found it exceedingly difficult to secure a proper education for her. The tendency of the educational system is to have her use the little sight she has and to emphasize print over Braille. I am afraid that this all-too-familiar pattern will result in my child growing up to find herself in the same circumstance that I am in today.
I cannot stress enough the importance of your willingness to ensure that the Aunyas of the world have prospects for becoming truly literate citizens. Please help those of us struggling to help ourselves and our children get the education we are entitled to receive.