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August 28, 2009
Dear President Obama:
Imagine being born with perfect vision and suddenly one morning at the age of seven waking up blind. This is what happened to me. My name is Dianne Grant, and I am blind.
My blindness is caused by multiple sclerosis. When I lost my vision, I lived in Jamaica. I was in the fifth grade with no Braille skills. I was able to complete my school work because I had a reader. When I was nine, I came to the United States, and I struggled as a blind student in the public school system. I still did not know Braille. I was given a teacher’s aide to assist me in writing and reading my classwork. I felt lost and hopeless in a big world. In my mind I knew there had to be some help out there for the blind, but I did not know where to begin to look.
Time progressed, and I stayed in the public school system with no knowledge of Braille until I was a sophmore in high school. My vision gradually came back in my right eye, so I was able to read large print. Nevertheless, I was unable to function normally in a mainstream classroom. I received little Braille training, not enough to say that I knew Braille, and I was unable to use the skills that I had learned. I was encouraged to read large print instead of learning Braille. My grades were good, but they could have been excellent if I had known Braille.
It has been twenty years since I lost my vision, and I now have the opportunity to learn Braille through a training center with Blind Industries and Services of Maryland. Mr. President, this opportunity has opened so many doors for me. I am now able to read recipes and cook, read books that I enjoy, communicate in writing with friends and family, and label things in my home. The skills that I have learned from the training center have prepared me for graduate school and have made me more marketable for corporate America. My chances of keeping a job have increased because I am now able to read and write Braille. The gift of being able to read and write should never be taken for granted. I am a competent blind person because I am literate. I am able now to read and write Braille. Creating the opportunities for other blind students to learn Braille is important, and I will do all that I can to support the effort to make Braille literacy possible for every blind student.