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August 27, 2009
Dear President Obama:
My life began as a sighted child and an avid reader. I checked books out of the school library on an almost daily basis. When I was eleven and in the sixth grade, I suddenly lost most of my vision from an injury. I struggled for a while with the tiny bit of sight remaining to me, but I could no longer see the blackboard, nor could I keep up with the reading.
When I was about thirteen, I was sent to a school for the blind and was taught to read and write Braille. A whole new world opened up for me. I learned everything from algebra to literature through the use of Braille. After finishing high school, I went on to college, receiving a bachelor's degree in sociology. Later I attended graduate school and earned my master's degree in counseling and psychology. I took all of my class notes in Braille. I used a typewriter for most of my tests.
After finishing my undergraduate work, I married and had two sons. With this responsibility came the need to be able to read all sorts of information. I used Braille recipes; marked kitchen items with Braille; and, of course, wrote spelling words and other information in Braille in order to assist my sons with their homework.
My Braille literacy allowed me to find work as a vocational counselor where I worked with many young blind or vision-impaired clients. Many of my young clients had never been taught Braille. Teacher shortages and negative attitudes on the part of parents toward Braille as an effective tool were some of the reasons these students were never taught Braille. They could not see well enough to read print, and with no knowledge of Braille they were basically illiterate. This fact has obviously hampered the progress of many blind people and is a contributing factor to the high unemployment rate among working-age blind adults today.
The answer must be more emphasis on Braille instruction and a more positive attitude toward this system of learning. The right to literacy is a civil right and needs whatever attention from you, Mr. President, that is possible. Thank you for your interest in this critical issue.