[Ohio-talk] Sightless Children's Club

David Cohen adcohen823 at gmail.com
Tue Dec 9 16:06:26 UTC 2014

Kaiti I am sure you’ve heard this ad nauseum, but I am impressed.  I
cannot help but reconsider the words so often spoken about blind
people competing with sighted peers when I read your communications.
I say this  with the most sincere uncritical sentiment that I believe
your peers should set competitive sights on you.  I want you to
succeed as you are and your folks should be celebrated.  My words here
are not written in response to your email only inspired by it.  Go

How often do those who read meet others who read without having to
seek out such people in a book club?  How many times have you been
introduced to another or engaged by another and asked if you read and
found yourself speaking of books?  Within proximity  of my home I have
access either by foot or via a short bus ride to five libraries, and
on any given day the majority of people using the service are
borrowing videos or music.  This is true.  Also, when I am inside of a
library these days it is become a noisy place and not at all a place
of expected respectful silence which it always used to be.

The other day a friend told me that he heard mentioned on the radio
that less than 5% of people 45 and younger receive the Dayton Daily
News which is a good start mind you, but the radio, TV and internet is
so willing to accommodate and pick up the slack.  People in general do
not read.  People can read, we learn to read in elementary school, but
the greater majority of people think about reading as a tiresome task.

Routinely people will say that they do not read as much as they
should.  What does this mean?  Why is it that people know or believe
reading to be good, do not read and even chastise themselves for not
reading.  In truth many people I think feel intimidated at some level
by people who do read, and the majority of people who do not read have
children and some are blind children so the challenge to gain the
attention to the importance of reading and Braille is compounded, yes?

I mention this only because the discussion about Braille’s importance
and the Braille literacy rate in the last 25 years has not changed.
Maybe a different approach is required?  Maybe a different way of
looking at and speaking about the way Braille is necessary is needed?
Maybe the discussion needs to be assembled, wrapped, and presented as
a gift suitable for a different occasion?

I learned Braille using a Macduffy reader.  I taught myself.  I
believed that all blind people read Braille.  I do not and never have
engaged reading Braille books.  I never read one single print book for
fun and the majority of what I did read in print I did not comprehend.
However, I use Braille routinely.  I have dymo label inspirational
statements taped in various places in my home and the people at Kroger
expect me to have a Braille list.  I can use Braille effectively.
However in recent years my friends and neighbors have heard me say,
“I’ve got to stop reading.  I gotta do something with my hands
instead” and my words are met with laughter and disbelief.

An important thing about Braille that I think about regarding a young
blind person’s academic experience is that Braille not only offers a
necessary tool, but the code which is learned is a wonderful brain
exercise.  The code is logical.  The code is sequential and ordinal.
The code and the memorization and understanding of the code is so
worthwhile for the many uses it has given a person like myself and I’m
sure others.  I believe very much in the mental exercise of learning
Braille and the many ways that the code and writing Braille can be
used outside of writing Braille.  To engage the Braille code is to
begin or continue to exercise the brain muscle so that the exercise
and one’s success therein becomes applicable to other tasks and
learning opportunities.  The act of learning Braille is a strong
foundation upon which to construct an academic home.

Again, the majority of people who are directly involved in educational
decision-making do not read and just maybe do not understand or look
at education as a process by which mental development is introduced
and grows throughout a lifetime.  Instead many professionals involved
with the subject of education look at it as a means to an ends and
something that has a beginning and an ending such that so many people
eventually say, “Oh I can’t remember that.  I learned that in school
years ago.”  Did you really learn it?  Was it not worth holding on to
and if not, why engage it?

Audio book listening is believed to be easier, a shortcut and is
routinely defined as lacking the compositional means to becoming
literate.  But did you ever consider that writing is a tool of
forgetfulness, that writing things down is simply an excuse to forget
something?  The mental effort requisite to receive information,
process it and store it as useful demands of one’s mind optimum level
recall.  Who ever wrote down the words to the Lord’s prayer, the
National Anthem or the theme song to Cheers or a Mcdonalds commercial?
 Now how many people know which elements on the periodic table of
elements is contained within the human blood, or what the quadratic
formula is or the basic English grammatical sentence structure is?

To take the issue of Braille literacy to a majority populous that does
not read except when it is absolutely necessary is a very tough
project.  Moreover we are at present experiencing the reduction in
literacy among people in general.  The ellipses has replaced the comma
and the period and you know this because JAWS now speaks to you the
language of dot dot dot, dot dot dot, dot dot dot when you read some
people’s emails.  Catch phraseology thanks in large part to Twitter,
Facebook and pop-news posting is the new vernacular.  We used to write
letters to one another, then we wrote emails of substance.  Then
emails of loose brevity and then we were given instant messaging
followed by texting.  The printed world is shrinking and we know how
much more literary space Braille requires.

The mental exercise of learning Braille is to me based on my own
experience what is important.  I think this fact should be clarified
and spoken about enthusiastically in terms relative to the mental
exercise that five-year-olds engage when learning to read.  This is a
fact of our educational system for both sighted and blind people that
we share and can relate to as equals.

On 12/9/14, Timothy J. Meloy via Ohio-talk <ohio-talk at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Hi Katie,
> I'm concerned by your email. My experience with SCC was nothing but
> positive. I was able to receive much of the equipment I needed for law
> school that BSVI didn't have the budget in my case to provide. Not once did
> I see them deny a request and I believe some tiger embossers were even
> purchased for some children. SCC fills a void created by BSVI's budgetary
> and regulatory restrictions, which can actually prevent people from
> receiving the technology they need. Their work should be applauded. Just my
> two cents.
> TJ
>> On Dec 9, 2014, at 5:24 AM, Kaiti Shelton via Ohio-talk
>> <ohio-talk at nfbnet.org> wrote:
>> Hi all,
>> I am writing with a few thoughts on an organization based out of
>> Vandalia called the Sightless Children's Club.  There are several
>> reasons for this post, but I'm writing mainly to see if anyone from
>> the affiliate has tried to speak to them in recent years, and to see
>> if something can be done.
>> Some of the members of OABS had parents who were involved in this
>> organization when we were much younger.  The organization was a
>> non-profit which helped blind and visually impaired children across
>> Ohio get assistive technology they needed.  I remember receiving my
>> first laptop, printer, and a Blazey embosser from them which I used
>> from the time I was 12 through most of my high school years.  This is
>> also where the braille book lending library my mom and I started
>> almost 10 years ago is kept.  The most recent thing I received from
>> them was my copy of the Goodfeel Music Suite from Dancing Dots, which
>> I desperately needed in high school in order to take music theory (By
>> my senior year, my school district seemed to view the software
>> purchase proposal from my TVI as a bad investment rather than a way of
>> meeting their requirements according to the law, but that's another
>> story).  Anyway, they were really good when my mom first joined.
>> Cindy Conley was president at that time, and it seemed like a way to
>> bridge the gap between what the school could provide and what I needed
>> for doing homework at home since BSVI doesn't cover equipment for
>> children as young as 10 or so, and we really didn't have the money for
>> all the equipment.  However, there were changes in leadership over the
>> years, more and more restrictions were added so families needed to
>> jump through more hoops to get equipment for their kids, and the
>> philosophy was appalling.  The president of the organization did not
>> know much about the assistive technology, and would describe requests
>> for technology that she didn't understand as "All the bells and
>> whistles," but she and the organization in general made it clear that
>> they had the notion that braille was on the way out.  Some of the
>> requests for things seemed ridiculous to my mom and I.  6 year olds
>> were requesting and being granted Victor Streams so they could listen
>> to audio books that their sighted peers were reading in class.  One
>> girl requested and was granted an audio talking bible, and others
>> requested and were granted the KNFB Mobile.  While I fail to see how a
>> bible and a cell phone are necessary for school work (or at least the
>> cell phone wouldn't have been in that day and age since it was before
>> the advent of Bluetooth and the notetakers weren't as sophisticated),
>> very few requests were granted for braille-related things by that
>> point.  My mom was astonished when the 6 year old at the time was
>> granted the stream and other equipment like it that would provide
>> speech output for text.  I wrote in my monitor article that she became
>> a huge braille supporter, and she really didn't understand why one
>> wouldn't want to establish literacy skils in their child first, and
>> then give them access to these other options as a means of providing
>> an alternative choice once they had the hang of reading.  It seemed
>> that audio wasn't another option, but it was being presented as the
>> substitute for braille.
>> The lending library was almost never used, and the director, in a
>> misguided attempt to look good, said that braille labels should not be
>> placed on the spines of the books like my mom and I wanted because it
>> would look weird if media ever filmed in there.  This totally defeated
>> the vision my mom and I had for the library, where while parents were
>> at the meeting students could come into the library room, find a book
>> independently, and sit down to read braille.  The catalog system was
>> also envisioned as a braille and print system, so that if I or a
>> sighted parent was supervising that night we could check the kids out
>> if they wanted to take the book home to finish it.  Of course, this
>> philosophy says a lot about the philosophy the organization has
>> towards independence too.
>> Sometime in my sophomore year of high school I questioned why the
>> parents were required to do the service hours for the club if it was
>> the Sightless "Children's" Club.  It just seemed weird to me,
>> especially since my mom and I worked together on our project, that
>> other kids weren't getting involved when they were directly
>> benefitting from the group.  Nothing came of that either.  Most kids
>> didn't even come to the meetings even when they requested things.  I
>> know some parents wrote the thank you notes for their kids after they
>> were granted things.  It was just not very conducive to independence
>> or braille literacy.  My mom and I were very outspoken advocates for
>> braille.  I even submitted a paper on the braille literacy chrisis
>> that I wrote for my sophomore honors English class to the group's
>> newsletter for publication.  It was printed, but no one seemed to pay
>> attention to the information I sighted from the NFB's 2009 literacy
>> report, information from AFB, and why literacy is crucial for people
>> regardless of whether they read print or braille.  I also spoke to the
>> group about my experiences that year, when in November my personal
>> laptop as well as my Old Faithful BrailleNote Classic crashed
>> unexpectedly.  I had to do all of my homework on the Perkins for 3
>> months until the school district broke down and got me an Empower, and
>> very little of my homework was done on a computer because if I wanted
>> to use JAWS for assignments I needed to work through my lunch break or
>> in the morning before homeroom and could not leave school with the
>> laptop the district owned.  That paper on braille literacy was written
>> with the aid of my mom because the family computer still had a floppy
>> drive and Windows 98, and therefor could not run the version of Jaws
>> that I had.  I talked about how I would have been totally helpless and
>> reliant on my parents to do all my homework like I was as a young
>> elementary school student had I not known braille.  Like with
>> everything else, people nodded in agreement but nothing changed.
>> Eventually, my mom eneded up really butting heads with the president
>> over this and left.  By then I was set up with BSVI so all we lost
>> were the books in the library, but the problems there have been
>> something my mom and I have talked about on occasion ever since.
>> I bring this up because recently at a scholarship dinner for UD, one
>> of the guests I was paired with for the evening talked about her
>> granddaughter who is blind and has parents in this group.  The girl is
>> 9 or 10, and doesn't know much braille although it is very difficult
>> for her to read.  The woman asked me a lot of great questions about
>> technology, cane travel, and braille.  She asked me how much I use it,
>> and when I replied, "Almost every day," she was surprised.  This club
>> had told her daughter that braille was on the way out, and that it
>> wasn't something the little girl needed to learn as long as she could
>> learn the technology and use her vision to read.  I politely pointed
>> out the cons associated with this line of logic, and thankfully the
>> woman is very interested in staying in touch with me and we've
>> exchanged some emails.
>> SCC has almost slipped my memory in recent years, but I'm worried by
>> the fact that things have not changed for the better since my family
>> and I have left the organization.  This could very well be a big part
>> of why we have so much trouble recruiting parents for our NOPBC
>> division, and also why the student division has been sleepy in past
>> years and isn't geographically diverse now.  If parents in this group
>> and others that may be like it around the state are being told that
>> braille is a waste of their child's time, then why would they want to
>> Ally with the NFB.  Especially if they think technology is the end all
>> beat all, and they know an organization which can give the equipment
>> to them, then they would logically see themselves as stable where they
>> are.
>> I have contacted the group in the past about the student division, but
>> no one has ever answered me.  Now either I've been blocked from their
>> facebook page, or they no longer have one.  I'm wondering out of
>> curiosity if anyone from the NFB has ever tried to work with these
>> people or addressed their philosophical problems which are definitely
>> having a negative impact on braille literacy for students in Ohio.
>> --
>> Kaiti Shelton
>> University of Dayton 2016.
>> Music Therapy, Psychology, Philosophy
>> President, Ohio Association of Blind Students
>> Sigma Alpha Iota-Delta `Sigma
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