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August 20, 2009
Dear President Obama:
My name is Kayleigh Joiner, and I am a seventeen-year-old high school senior from Texas. I have been blind since birth. I have a small amount of vision in my right eye.
Since I started school, I have always been forced to use my vision to read print. I have used large print textbooks and work sheets in school. No one in the school district bothered to teach me Braille, suggesting that it was something negative and disadvantageous for me. As you get older, the print in the books that you read gets smaller and the amount of work that you do increases. Last year I had my reading speed tested. The results showed that my speed was about half that of my sighted peers. I am taking advanced placement classes that require a lot of reading. When I have to read small print for long periods of time, my neck starts to hurt from bending over to read the print, my eyes start to hurt from overexertion, and occasionally I get headaches.
My school district didn’t think that I should learn Braille, so I took matters into my own hands and decided to teach myself. I wanted to learn Braille because I was sick and tired of having my neck and eyes hurt after a long day of school and homework. I took courses from the Hadley School for the Blind for about four years. I did this without the help of anyone in my district.
This past summer I went to a training center called the Colorado Center for the Blind. While I was there, I managed to learn the literary Braille code in about seven weeks. Since learning the code, I have been able to pick up any Braille material and read. I don't have to take frequent breaks to rest my eyes. I don't have to have my head bent down to read the text. I can just simply read. I know people who can read about three hundred and fifty words per minute in Braille.
Many teachers of blind children don’t have the proper training and qualifications to teach Braille. Some also believe that Braille is too hard to learn. Others believe that, because of advances in technology, learning Braille is unnecessary. These are myths that should be corrected. Braille literacy equals opportunity for blind people, and, when given that opportunity, we can live happy and independent lives.
Braille is the key to gaining employment for the blind. Braille is also the key to a proper education. And it is the key to full integration into society. Did you know that 90 percent of today's blind children aren't being taught Braille? I ask you to help us reverse this trend toward illiteracy for the blind. Illiteracy is not the road to a successful life. I am sure that, if your own children weren't able to read or write, you would want something to be done about it. So please, once again, help us reverse this unacceptable trend. The future is bright, and with your help someday all blind children will learn to read and write in Braille. Thank you for your time.