Future Reflections Spring 1992, Vol. 11 No. 2

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BRAILLE READERS DESERVE MORE
by Cynthia Aronoff

Editor's Note: Reprinted from Contrast (a New York parents newsletter).

     As my son leaves for school each morning, I kiss him goodbye and wish him a fine day. I know that he will work to the best of his abilities alongside his sighted classmates, but instead of a pencil he will use a Brailler and instead of reading print he will use Braille.

     The vital importance of written communication and the power of the printed word in the education of our children is a given. The task of having the printed word transcribed into Braille is often a problem.

     For sighted children, the presence of books is taken for granted. The teacher hands out textbooks at the beginning of the year; school and public libraries boast volumes; bookstore shelves are filled; and offers to join book clubs and to purchase encyclopedias are stuffed into our mailboxes almost daily. These luxuries do not exist for the Braille reader.

     The visually impaired child is dependent upon others for transcribed books, publications, and materials. It is a world limited to "what's available in Braille" and what can be Brailled if a transcriber is available. Books needed for school must be ordered months in advance. And yet, come September, books may arrive late or not at all. Sometimes the Braille does not follow the format of the print copy. Sometimes two Braille copies of the same print book arrive. Sometimes a text is deemed "too visual" and is dropped altogether.

     Parents are often overwhelmed by all the details involved in their child's education. Securing books is not only a time-consuming chore, but can also be a frustrating one. Here are a few suggestions which might help organize this ongoing responsibility:

     1. Insist that books be ordered early in the school year (by March if possible) for the following fall. This should include textbooks as well as books from the classroom and school library reading lists.

     2. Insist that you be given a copy of all book orders including the following: name of book, publisher, dates, where the book is being ordered from, phone number, and contact person if available.

     3. Since it is doubtful that anyone will follow up on book orders over the summer, do it yourself to be sure. Check in July and double check in August. Ask about the current status of the book and when it will be sent.

     4. Be sure to keep records which document all your efforts. List phone calls, notes, etc., which demonstrate your intervention.

     5. If space allows books can be delivered directly to your home rather than to the school. The advantage is that books can be checked off as they arrive. The disadvantage is that the books will have to be transported to the school. Should you care to use this method, instructions must be given when books are ordered.

     6. Since it is always better to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, offer to help out. You can contact the local library for the blind in an effort to obtain books on school reading lists. Help locate additional Braillists should they be needed. If possible learn Braille and support the vision teacher's efforts.
Braille is a basic tool. To compete with sighted peers the visually impaired child must become a proficient and fluid Braille reader. It is up to us, parents and professionals, to insure our children this equal opportunity to learn, to grow, and to succeed.

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