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July 23, 2009
Dear President Obama:
I have been an avid Braille reader since the age of six. Braille reading and writing have helped me acquire and retain every position I've ever held. I have worked as a recreation aide in a 1,500-bed nursing home, where I taught some of the vision-impaired residents simple Braille skills; operated a control board at a special radio station that provided broadcasts of newspapers, grocery ads, bestsellers, and other time-sensitive information; taken phone reservations for a hotel chain using a computer with a Braille display; and taught Braille and living skills in schools and rehabilitation centers.
In incorporating Braille skills into any curriculum, I like to emphasize practical uses for the code such as labeling canned and frozen food packages (often unidentifiable without Braille), marking medications, identifying clothing, keeping an address and phone file, and much more. Students often advance to recreational reading of library books in Braille even though sound recordings are also available, since many people like keeping up their spelling and literacy skills by actually having the words in front of them. This is especially important in working with children, since computer and other audio reading doesn't give the spelling of the words.
On a personal note, with the advent of Braille notetakers, in an upcoming trip I am able to carry with me a small library on compact flash cards whereas in the past I'd have to ship volumes of books ahead to my destination. In teaching I can now almost immediately have a quotation from a pertinent living skills or inspirational book at my fingertips. I read Braille every day, teach Braille to adults, and think there is absolutely no substitute for it; Braille allows a blind person to do things he or she could not do as quickly or efficiently in any other way.