Using Available Technology To Your Advantage 

                    An Article From Sky

 I’m going to be honest, when I was young, I hated braille. I didn’t want anything to do with it. As a student who was mainstreamed, I was often taken out of the less then important activities ‘like when we watched movies or had pizza parties’ to work on reading and writing braille until the end of third grade. My dislike for braille was so serious that after begging my parents and low vision teachers, they removed me from the classes. I was so relieved when I was young but now that I’m a university student, I have regrets. 

My dislike of braille didn’t only come from missing out on the more fun aspects of my classes, but also that my teacher scared me. I wasn’t what you might call a “natural” when I was learning how to read with my fingers. I remember getting caught on words and my teacher would yell at me for getting stuck. I’m sure I didn’t practice as much as I should have but that doesn’t lessen the fact that I was afraid of her. I would stress that parents of students in these types of classes talk to their kids privately outside of IEP meetings, to ensure that lessons are conducted properly. Now that I’m in university, reading braille fluently would be a big help.  

Even as a student who has a decent amount of usable vision in dark lighting, as I get into higher division courses with more assigned readings, I also must content with increased eye strain. This can greatly impact my focus and the amount I am able to read during a study session. Time management is vital for a student in higher division courses, and the fact that eye stain is holding me back is frustrating. Of course, there are audio options available. Some of the technology available now is amazing. I have an E Bot Pro and often order my textbooks from my Disability Resource center in Word files so that I can use Windows Narrator or Zoom Text Fusions. I even read my own notes aloud to a voice recorder so that I can play them back when I am outside and can’t see, or when my eyes are hurting. These are great strategies and I utilize them often, but they certainly aren’t the best choice in all circumstances or for everyone. 

What do I mean by this? Well, take it from me that the reading level of college textbooks is high. There is also the fact that some of the subject matter is dry. All of this means that you must be very involved in what you are reading and that you are paying close attention. I do think that different people learn in different ways, but I would say I’ve become pretty good at auditory learning over the years and I still miss half of what my textbooks are saying when they’re reading to me. I find stopping and starting a bit more cumbersome and finding specific areas of text to go over when you miss something is difficult. There is something to be said about actually reading a book with your own brain instead of simply having it read to you. Of course, there are lots of positives to auditory learning. It’s fast, convenient and easy. However, I think having multiple tools in your arsenal when it comes to higher education can never hurt. 

Recently, I have started teaching very basic braille to folks with low vision at a local nonprofit here in Nevada while learning higher level braille myself. It’s tricky for sure, but I find reading this way enjoyable. I am already starting to look at braille displays and think that if I decide to go on to graduate school in a few years, this would be a very valuable tool for me. If you are considering learning braille or have a child in the school system who can learn it, then I would encourage it. Give them as many ways to be successful as possible. I know braille is going to help me in my future endeavors, and I think it will help others as well. 

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