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August 28, 2009
Dear President Obama:
At the age of eighteen months I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. I would be the first of two children in my family with this degenerative eye condition. From this point forward my parents began a lifelong commitment to assisting me to achieve independence and success. At a very young age I became a member of the National Federation of the Blind. Through this organization and through dedication and commitment from my parents, I was on the road to gaining confidence, independence, and success.
As I began my formal education at the local elementary school in the town where I grew up, I also began struggling with decreasing vision. Because of my involvement with the Federation, I remember thinking as a young child how beneficial it would be for me to learn blindness skills, including Braille. For years my parents struggled with the local district, trying to get instructors who would teach me Braille and other skills. This battle with the school district proved to be unsuccessful.
At the age of twelve I left home to attend the school for the blind in New Mexico. There I began to gain skills and more knowledge about myself as a blind person. As soon as I began to learn Braille, I realized that my passion for reading had not left me. I realized that I too could be a productive member of society. I also realized that I, like all of my sighted peers, could continue to read and write. Being able to learn Braille helped me, not only in school, but in all aspects of my life. Today I work for an adult rehabilitation center for the blind. I am the Braille coordinator. I love what I do. I work with both consumers and staff in assisting them to develop Braille skills which will in turn be beneficial in their lives.
Recently I was a mentor for a young lady through the NFB Mentoring Program. I am proud to say that through my leadership and role modeling this young lady was able to learn and experience how Braille played a vital role in her daily life. I am proud to say that, through consistent and persistent advocacy on the part of my mentee’s mother, she was able to get services for learning Braille in her public school. While it would have been beneficial for her to learn Braille at an earlier age, she will still be able to benefit greatly from learning Braille. My mentee went through a blindness training center and was able to take a course in Braille to help reinforce what she had already learned.
I am also a parent of two young daughters. Because of my knowing Braille, I can do everyday, ordinary things with my children including read books to them, participate in their education fully by following along in Braille textbooks, and generally participate fully in life. My ultimate wish is that all blind children will receive Braille training in their public schools as their young sighted peers receive instruction in reading and writing print. Braille plays a vital role in the lives of blind people. It allows them to be productive members of society, compete in competitive employment, participate fully in their everyday lives, and provides confidence and independence.