Future Reflections Winter 1996, Vol. 15 No. 1


The World Under My Fingers:
Personal Reflections on Braille
Edited by Barbara Pierce

Table of Contents

An Open Letter to Parents

Who Should Learn Braille

Keeping Within the Lines

The Everyday Usefulness of Braille

Blueprint for Learning?

Braille Made the Difference

The Value of Learning Braille as a Child

Braille is an Essential Part of My Life Because...

Braille or Print: Why the Debate

The Chance to Read

Reflections of a Lifelong Braille Reader

Braille Today and Tomorrow

Braille: What Is It? What Does It Mean to the Blind?


All parents yearn for their children to be happy and healthy and to grow up to live satisfying and productive lives. If it were possible to do so, we would arrange for them to be attractive, intelligent, ambitious, sensible, and funnyþall the traits, in short, we wish we could boast and never have enough of, no matter how talented we are. Obviously our children do not grow up to exhibit all these traits, but most of them do well enough with the skills and attributes we do manage to impart to them.

Sometimes, however, a child must come to terms with very real difficulties: frequent or serious illness, mental handicaps of one kind or another, or physical disability. The parents, too, must then face the limitations or alterations that such problems place on our children and on our dreams for them. The natural instinct is to feel that the more closely the child can be taught to mimic the behavior of so-called normal youngsters, the better off he or she will be in the long run, because the differences will be less obvious. If we are honest with ourselves, we usually find that a part of this reaction also comes from the feeling that we will not have to confront the problem as directly and painfully if the trappings of disability are kept to a minimum. However, successful adults who have coped with various disabilities for many years have a somewhat different notion. We have found that striving for the independence and richness of normal adult experience is far more satisfying and constructive than trying to use the methods of those who have no obvious disabilities, even though such striving requires mastery of alternative techniques and skills.

In the case of people whose vision is so poor as to make it difficult or impossible to read regular print for extended periods of time and to write accurately and legibly, it is extremely useful to learn to read and write using Braille. When learned early and taught by a knowledgeable teacher, Braille is an invaluable tool for those who cannot use print comfortably for extended periods of time or in all kinds of light.

Most of the following stories and articles are firsthand accounts of people who have depended on Braille all their lives or who were denied Braille instruction and have paid the price of that neglect for years. As you consider whether or not to ask that your child be taught Braille, we invite you to consider the experience and views of these competent blind adults.