[Pibe-division] Large Print or Braille: Reflections of a Mother & of a Low Vision Young Adult

DrV pumpkinracer at gmail.com
Fri May 13 00:00:13 CDT 2011

Hi All,

The topic of Large Print vs Braille came up recently on the NFB Parent
Listserv. I realize that everyone’s situation is different & am passing no
judgments, but would like to share the following 2 responses for they
illustrate an important perspective & complement each other nicely. The
first is a really well written post by the mother of a low vision child, the
second is a post by a low vision young adult.

1. One Mother’s Perspective:

My daughter is also "low vision" and began school as a print reader. The
large print textbooks were always in black and white - even the maps and
charts! Plus there is the added burden of having multiple (and heavy) large
print books for one regular print book. While in high school she was able to
get a few of her text books on CD. Usually, her large print text books were
ordered in early spring prior to the beginning of school in the fall. I
would suggest calling to make sure this is done. You will also need to get a
copy of the list of classroom books for the upcoming year. Start working
ahead of time to locate the books. All of them won't be available. I don't
know how may times a book was copied, NOT bound, and given to my daughter as
a stack of paper. I'm sure you can figure out the outcome of that!

I would like to caution you about how hard it is for a large print reader to
be successful in school. What I say doesn't mean she won't be successful,
but she will struggle to keep up with her peers. Your daughter is young and
most print in books and text books for younger children is usually very
large. I believe 18 pt. font is the standard size font for large print
readers. First graders usually have even larger font sizes. As your daughter
progresses through school, each grade, the print becomes smaller and the
amount of reading increases. A child with partial vision will never match
the reading rates of totally sighted children. She will still need to
complete the same assignments as her peers. She will still need to read all
the books.

When our CTVI's do reading assessments for our "low vision" children, it is
usually done in optimum conditions such as: clear, crisp reading material
(large print copies are often grainy), quality lighting and usually not for
an extended period of time. At the end of the assessment the kids are deemed
"visual" learners. I assume this is determined because our kids are able to
read print, but they don't take into account other obstacles. When our low
vision kids are faced with reading novels, with very small print, they are
often fatigued after a short while. My own daughter complained of neck
aches, back aches, and head aches from the strain of visual reading.
Homework always took twice as long if not longer. Most nights usually ended
in tears from fatigue. Parents presume the professionals such as CTVI's have
the knowledge and foresight of best educational decisions for our children.
The fact is, that most hold low expectations for their educational outcome.
Many don't know braille or how to teach it. Most have the presumption that
braille is hard. Many say how horrible it is to ask a child to wear sleep
shades to learn braille. None of my daughter's CTVI's ever witnessed what it
took for her to complete her homework visually. While I complained, it fell
on deaf ears.

I write this to you as one mother to another. Children do not have to be
"totally blind" to benefit from braille. Low vision kids who learn braille
are able to keep up with their peers in all reading material. You will hear
this often - braille is an equalizer! My own daughter began teaching herself
braille in the 7th grade. Her CTVI chastised her for wanting to learn
braille, so she became a closet braille reader. We fought the school
district and she finally received braille instruction her senior year of
high school. Since she learned braille at an older age, her braille reading
speed will probably never be equal to her peers, but now she has the
opportunity to read for "pleasure"!

I hope I have given you some things to think about. I only wish someone had
given me the wisdom and foresight into what would best benefit my child in
the long run.

Thank you,

Kim Cunningham

2. One Young Low Vision Adult’s Perspective:

I agree with Darci! I LOVE reading now. It wasn't always like this though as
I was a low vision child struggling with normal sized print because nobody
would give me large print (most of the time).  But when I was in 7th grade
(1996-1997 school year), I taught myself Braille because none of my teachers
thought I needed it (had 20/80 2/60 vision at 7inches from my nose, my eyes
don't and never have worked together)!  That changed in 2 years in 9th grade
when I had a major decrease in vision to 20/200 to 20/120. So, I am very
glad I learned Braille even though I had to teach myself!

T. J.
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