The Braille Monitor                                                                                       July 2003

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A Touch of Understanding

by T. Keung Hui

From the Editor: The following story appeared on May 23, 2003, in the Raleigh, North Carolina, News and Observer. It reports on the positive things that can happen when creative teachers make use of the NFB's Braille Is Beautiful curriculum. Here it is:

Preston Davis can shuffle and split a deck of UNO cards like a cardsharp. It wouldn't be hard to overlook that Preston, eight, is visually impaired and relies on Braille dots on the cards to see them. He was among a group visiting Davis Drive Middle School on Thursday as part of an effort to help sixth-graders learn more about the world of the visually impaired.

"Preston is cool," said Kimmy Lockhart, eleven, who acted as one of Preston's guides. "It's fun seeing things that are different from us."

The visit by Preston and sixteen other students from the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh culminated two months of study by 130 students at Davis Drive. Through the Braille Is Beautiful curriculum of the National Federation of the Blind the sixth-graders have learned to read and write simple Braille letters and numbers. Braille uses patterns of raised dots to represent characters; the dots are felt with the fingers.

"This is an opportunity for the students to work with kids they normally wouldn't meet," said Marnie Utz, the Davis Drive sixth-grade teacher who involved the school in the program. "This is a service opportunity."

One of the Braille curriculum's main themes has been that blind people can do anything sighted people can do. "It's cool seeing that people with eye disabilities are no different than us," said Alex Morrison, twelve, as she played UNO with Brandi Hunter, eleven, a visually impaired student. The Davis Drive students visited Morehead in April and learned what it is like to walk with a cane, listen to a computerized voice, and play a game of goal ball, where participants detect the ball's presence through the ringing of a bell inside.

During the reciprocal visit by Morehead students, the Davis Drive students showed how they could spell their names in Braille and play UNO on specially modified cards. For the Morehead students the visit was just as rewarding. "It's nice meeting people who want to learn Braille," Brandi said. "It's fun because in middle school you don't get to go out on field trips often."

Preston said he enjoyed the change of pace from life at Morehead, a boarding school. "It's good being around sighted people instead of blind people all the time," Preston said.

Hazel Staley, past president of the North Carolina chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, said the activities build bonds between sighted and visually impaired people like herself. "Blind people are out in society more and more," Staley said. "If they can communicate with us in a way we can read, it's nice."

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