[nobe-l] FwdStar Tribune article about Emily and BLIND, Inc.

David Andrews dandrews at visi.com
Wed Jul 17 02:50:31 UTC 2013

>Below is an article about the Code Master by 
>Emily Wharton and BLIND, Inc. Emily will be 
>interviewed on KFAI radio tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:40 am.
>This Article from 
>has been sent to you by   Shawn Mayo .
>*Please note, the sender's identity has not been verified.
>The full Article, with any associated images and 
>links can be viewed <http://www.startribune.com/local/215602851.html>here.
>Rosenblum: Two national awards honor work of Braille innovator
>Emily Wharton's epiphany came in college, as she 
>faced a roomful of listeners at a coffeehouse poetry reading.
>All her life, Wharton quietly compensated for 
>her declining eyesight. She wore big, thick 
>glasses and hovered over textbooks into the wee 
>hours so that she could graduate from high 
>school and attend Drake University, where she majored in English literature.
>But there she was, about to recite her poem, and 
>someone dimmed the lights. Wharton could no 
>longer see her writing. Finally, a friend 
>flipped a switch so she could perform, but she knew something had to change.
>“Forget this,” she decided. “I have to learn Braille.”
>She did that, and more. Turns out the poet also 
>writes pretty good Braille curriculum.
>Wharton, 37, is the 2013 recipient of the A 
>Touch of Genius Award by the National Braille 
>Press, and the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award by the 
>National Federation of the Blind. Bolotin was 
>the first blind doctor, born in 1888.
>The two awards, announced in June and July, 
>carry gifts of $10,000 and $15,000, 
>respectively. But those who work with Wharton, 
>curriculum and technology coordinator at Blind 
>Inc., in Minneapolis, say the biggest winners 
>are thousands of people whose lives will open up 
>thanks to Wharton’s “Code Master” system of Braille instruction.
>The revolutionary system, they say, makes 
>Braille easy and quick to learn, no matter one’s age or aptitude.
>“The impact has been incredible,” said Dick 
>Davis, assistant director of 
><http://www.blindinc.org/>Blind Inc., a 
>not-for-profit life-skills training center working with people of all ages.
>“We had people who had been laboring and — 
>boom — in six weeks, they were learning Braille. 
>Even people who struggled with literacy were learning fast.”
>Suddenly, clients were able to check baseball 
>scores, organize their kitchen pantries with 
>Braille labeling or read books to their children.
>“She took a risk,” Shawn Mayo, Blind 
>Inc.’s executive director, added, noting that 
>Wharton’s efforts are receiving national and 
>international attention. New Mexico, Colorado 
>and Louisiana have requested more information 
>about her curriculum. The Royal National 
>Institute for the Blind did a podcast with her.
>About 1.4 million Americans are legally blind, 
>including up to 40,000 Minnesotans. Yet, Mayo 
>said, “Braille teaching methods haven’t 
>changed much in the last 100 years. That says a lot.”
>That lack of innovation is likely why Braille 
>has fallen out of favor with teachers of blind 
>students over the past many decades. Just 10 
>percent of legally blind kindergartners through 
>high school seniors are taught Braille 
>nationwide today, Davis said, compared to upwards of 60 percent in the 1960s.
>The dramatic shift away from Braille instruction 
>toward audio learning is due, he said, to 
>stubborn misconceptions, including that it is 
>too difficult to learn, unnecessary in the age 
>of technology, and that communication by speech alone can suffice.
>“None of those things are true,” Wharton 
>said. “Braille is extremely practical, with 
>such a range of uses. I just love reading books in Braille.”
>After college, Wharton began to learn Braille 
>the old-fashioned way, but it was slow-going and 
>cumbersome. There had to be a better way.
>“It’s a system,” Wharton realized. “Hey, I like systems.’ ”
>In 2009, she began developing a Braille 
>textbook, which incorporated memorization, 
>writing and touch, as well as several routes to 
>learning: an audio CD for aural learners, for 
>example, and charts for visual learners. A year 
>later, she offered her first class at Blind 
>Inc., integrating Braille and technology, the 
>latter which has opened up the world to Braille users.
>On students’ first day, they learn the first 
>10 letters of the alphabet, “then we drill the 
>heck out of ’em,” Wharton said. They move 
>from there to the rest of the alphabet, then to 
>numbers, basic punctuation, contractions and more.
>She’s taught the system to more than 100 
>students, from age 18 to 60. Marie Kouthoofd, 47, of Oswego, New York, is one.
>She flew to Minneapolis last fall specifically 
>to learn with Wharton at Blind Inc. A psychology 
>professor, she has a degenerative eye disease 
>and tried, unsuccessfully, to learn Braille 20 
>years ago when the process took a minimum of six months to a year.
>“It didn’t go well,” Kouthoofd said. 
>“You get the book, put your fingers on the 
>dots. I got nauseated when I’d sit down and try.”
>Wharton’s Code Master system was a revelation. 
>A visual learner, Kouthoofd said, “I could see the code in my head.”
>Now she uses Braille to read Dr. Seuss books to 
>her grandson. With Braille labeling, “I can 
>use my stove again, my dishwasher, my 
>microwave.” She’s labeling her pantry cans, too.
>“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” she 
>said, “because I can read again.”
>This is exactly what Wharton had in mind. She 
>calls it having a good “Braillitude.”
>“It’s just about being really positive and 
>energetic. Braille’s not hard unless you make it hard.”
><mailto:gail.rosenblum at startribune.com>gail.rosenblum at startribune.com 
>Shawn Mayo
>Executive Director
>Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND,)Â Inc.
>100 East 22nd St.
>Minneapolis, MN 55404
>Phone: 612.872.0100 ext. 201
><mailto:smayo at blindinc.org>smayo at blindinc.org

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