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August 27, 2009
Dear President Obama:
My name is Keith Wiglesworth from North Carolina. I have been a Braille reader since I was six, and for the past fifty-one years it has been vital for almost everything I do. I learned Braille in kindergarten at the state school for the blind in Raleigh, and I quickly became an avid reader. It was helpful through my early school years and in public high school. It wasn't as available as I would have liked in high school, but I was able to make the most of tape recordings, and I used my knowledge of Braille writing. I survived with decent grades, but they would have been much better if my textbooks had been available in Braille. However, the technology in the late sixties was limited, and so was the Braille, but I did my best.
As I furthered my education through both college and seminary, I took notes in Braille, and textbooks were even less available, but once again I used readers and tapes in order to keep up with my classmates. I was able to earn a master's degree in church social work, but unfortunately I was unable to find work in this area, so I worked for several years as a social worker with our state services for the blind. While I was in seminary, my daughter was born, and she grew up with her sighted mom and me reading many stories and books to her. We spent many happy evenings, bedtimes, and rainy afternoons reading stories about Bible characters, animals, Christmas, and Charlotte's Web. This spring she got her doctorate of pharmacy degree.
Braille was very important as well when I became hearing impaired and for a very brief time could communicate using Braille almost exclusively because my hearing was so poor. I became very isolated during those years, but I also considered myself to be lucky because I could still read books and magazines in Braille at a time of severe loneliness, isolation, and unemployment due to my hearing difficulties.
A miracle happened for me four years ago when I received a cochlear implant, and I can't begin to tell you how it changed everything in a positive direction for me. The research that I did to make this happened couldn't have happened without my prior knowledge of Braille. Now I'm still unemployed, and I work each day to change that, mostly on my own, but I'm a fighter and don't give up easily. Whatever I do and wherever I go, Braille will always go with me, and I want to do what I can to promote its use, especially to blind children now in school who for whatever reason don't have access to the printed word through Braille. To me it is a lifeline, and I can't imagine what I would have done without it.