The Braille system of reading and writing was developed by a Frenchman named Louis Braille when he was just a boy. He became blind through an accident, and he discovered that trying to read raised letters was much too slow. He wanted a faster way for blind people to read and write. He modeled Braille after a system of codes used by the military, and then he expanded his system.
Helen Keller was both deaf and blind. Although she had to fight to get the opportunity, she graduated from Radcliffe College. She wrote several books and worked hard to improve opportunities for the deaf and the blind. During her lifetime, people who were both deaf and blind did not have very many opportunities. Now there is better education, training, employment, and other opportunities for the deaf-blind.
Braille is a system of making raised dots on paper to form letters and words that are read by the blind with their fingertips. The basic Braille “cell” consists of two columns of three dots. The dots are numbered 1-2-3 from top to bottom on the left side of the cell and 4-5-6 from top to bottom on the right side of the cell. Each Braille letter, word, punctuation mark, number, or musical note can be made up using different combinations of these dots. Braille can be written with a Braille writing machine (similar to a typewriter). It can also be written by using a pointed stylus to punch dots down through paper using a Braille slate with rows of small "cells" in it as a guide. This method of writing Braille compares to writing print with a pen or pencil.
When you are newly blind, in the beginning, it can feel frustrating or scary. This is because you have not learned how to do things for yourself as a blind person. But once you learn the skills that blind people use, you no longer feel that way. Blind people do the same things as sighted people. We go to school or work, and we do the things that we need to do. We do this naturally, without even thinking about being blind. The blindness becomes just another part of who we are and what we are like. We don't think about being blind every day, just like you don't think every day about whether or not you have black hair or brown hair.
Many things cause blindness. Sometimes babies are born blind, but most blind people become blind later on. Glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy are the three most common causes of blindness today. Many older persons lose their vision from macular degeneration. Some people become blind through accidents.
Just about anything. Here's a list of some occupations in which blind people are working today, but there are many more. Farmers, Lawyers, Secretaries, Factory workers, Drill Press and Lathe Operators, Nurses, Child Care Workers, Social Workers, Computer Programmers, Insurance Salespeople, Housewives, Teachers, Professors, Telephone Operators, Counselors, Librarians, Mid Wife, Aerobics Instructor, HR Managers, Bankers, Stockbrokers, Accountants, Journalists, and many, many more. If you believe you can do the job, and if your employer believes you can, there are very few jobs blind people cannot do. It is important for blind people to have the chance to choose whatever job they want, and for the public to give blind people the opportunity.
There are many ways for the blind to go from one place to another. Using a long white cane when you walk allows someone who is blind to locate steps, curbs, streets, driveways, doorways, bicycles, elevators, escalators, people, chairs, tables, desks, or any other object or place. The cane is long enough to be about two steps ahead of your feet as you walk, so you find things with your cane before you get to them. There are canes of all sizes, including very small ones for children and long ones for tall people.
In the past most blind children went away from home to attend residential schools for the blind. There still are special schools for blind children. Now, however, most blind children are able to attend school in their home communities. Blind children in public schools are in regular classrooms, and use a cane and read and write Braille. These blind students might work some of the time with a special teacher who would also help get the special books needed by blind children. These Braille books would contain the same things your books would have in print. Blind children take the same classes that the other kids the same age take.
Blind people identify various coins by their shapes and sizes. They identify the currency notes by their sizes. In fact there is a small device available to aid them if required.
Most articles of clothing will have at least one distinct way of identifying them by feel. They will have different buttons or snaps or bows or ties or the fabric or texture will be different. Some dresses or skirts will have belts or elastic at the waist or different kinds of pockets. You might know that the red shirt is the one with the funny-shaped buttons, or the blue pants are the ones with no pockets. You can tell that the blouse with the fuzzy collar is green and is the one that matches the green pants with the belt that feels like rope. In this way, blind people can tell their clothes apart by touch, and they can tell what clothes match each other. Sometimes, however, there may be more than one shirt or blouse that feels alike; men's ties can feel alike also. For these times, some blind people like to mark their clothes in a special way in order to tell them apart. When you buy something at the store or when someone gives you clothes as a gift, ask him or her to describe the item(s) so you can learn how they look and how they feel. Some times blind people also seek help from their sighted friends or colleagues.
Some blind people are able to see some colors. Sometimes a blind person might have enough vision to see all colors, or maybe he or she can only tell bright colors. Some blind people can see some colors but not all of them, or they might have a hard time telling blue or black or brown apart, or pink from white. Some blind people do not see any colors. It is important to learn about colors even if you cannot see them. You need to learn what colors look nice together, and what colors do not match, and about stripes, plaids, and other patterns. This is important for clothing and decorating. You need to understand that the sky is mostly blue and grass is mostly green, and the colors of the ocean and the colors of leaves in the fall are just as important for the blind to know as everyone else.
There are many kinds of food that can be identified by touch, such as fruits and vegetables, and other items. But things like cans of soup, cereal boxes, canned vegetables, gallons of milk, ice cream containers, and other things may be hard to identify. Many blind people like to shop with a friend who will help to find things and can read the different brands and types. Or a blind person might use a store employee who can help find the groceries. Some blind people (especially if they are buying a lot of things) will make a print list for someone else to read, and they will use a Braille list for themselves.
It takes some practice to become a good reader of Braille, just as it does with print. We learn Braille by feeling the different dots in each Braille “cell” and memorizing what the different combinations of dots stand for. It is best to learn Braille when you are young, even if you can still read some print. That way, you have had many years of practice and experience to develop good Braille skills by the time you are an adult. Blind adults can learn Braille through many different types of programs or classes. Good Braille readers—like good print readers—can read much faster than they can talk. Today blind people use Braille to take notes in high school and college, to write letters, to read books and magazines, to keep addresses and phone numbers, to keep recipe files, to write books and other materials, and to do the other things you might do using print. There are special libraries that provide Braille and recorded books and magazines for the blind free of charge. Most states have one or more of these libraries where blind people can borrow these materials.
Blind people can use the same gas or electric ovens, microwaves, grills, mixers, food processors, blenders, and other kitchen tools and appliances as the sighted use. We can put Braille labels on the microwave touch buttons, and some blind people like to use Braille or a special marking glue to put dots on some of the stove or oven temperature dials. It is easier to use things like measuring cups and spoons that stack with different sizes rather than ones with lines drawn on them. We can tell by the smell, sound, temperature, time of cooking, texture, and consistency how our foods are cooking. If you are newly blind, there are special training programs to help you learn to cook without vision. Some blind people, just like some sighted people, will enjoy cooking more than others.
There are watches that open up so a blind person can feel where the hands are and can feel Braille dots at the different hour points. There are also talking watches that speak the time and have an alarm built in. And there are many talking clocks that have many different types of alarms that people can use in their home, in their office, or when they travel. For people who can read some print, there are also clocks and watches with large print faces.
Blind men can do each of these things by feel, without looking, just like sighted men. With practice, shaving and tying ties become habit and routine, and you can do them without even thinking about it very much. Some men like to shave in the shower, and some do not. Men can feel where they need to shave, and if they have beards or mustaches, they can feel where to trim them. Actual shaving techniques, such as how long to make each stroke or what angle to use, or what types of shaving products to use, are a matter of personal choice and are the same for men whether they are blind or sighted. Tying ties can take a bit of practice if you are sighted, too. Once you have learned the kinds of knots and what length is correct for you, you can tie a tie easily; you do not have to look in a mirror or see it. Some men learn how to do these things from their fathers, older brothers, friends, from seeing it done on television, or from reading about it.
Blind people can use many cues to help them find addresses and places. Learning to locate specific addresses is an important part of getting around. In addition to this, we can locate places by looking for perhaps the second driveway on the right, the third set of stairs on the left, or the house with the wooden fence along the sidewalk. We can also look for the large tree in the front, the signpost, or a special kind of door.
A blind person can tell when it's safe to cross the street by listening to the sounds of the traffic. If there is a light at the intersection, it is easy to hear when the cars going across in front of you begin to slow down and stop, and when the cars along the side of you start to move. Then you know the light has changed and you have the green light to cross. You can even start to listen for this when you are a half of a block away. If there is no light, you can simply listen to hear if there are any cars coming. Even then it is advisable for a blind person not to cross alone.
Yes. It is easy to put Braille on decks of cards, including cards for games like Uno. Some cards are printed with very large numbers and letters for people who use large print. Many games such as Scrabble can be played with Braille letters and a board with raised or tactile squares. Backgammon boards can also be tactile and so can boards for chess or checkers. These pieces can be made of different textures, shapes, and colors to tell them apart, or a small piece of tape can be put on one set. Monopoly cards can be Brailled, and the board can also be Brailled or marked. Yahtzee and other games using dice are easy if you use dice with dots that you can feel and count. Not all games have to be made especially for the blind. Many games and toys that you buy at the store are easy and fun for the blind. Sometimes you can use your imagination to think of ways that a blind person can use the same things as a sighted person. Not only this, blind people also play outdoor games such as cricket using a ball with jingles and kabbadi.
Most blind people are too busy to think about blindness very much. But being blind is nothing to be ashamed of. Blindness is a perfectly respectable characteristic of a person. Most blind people would be glad to answer any questions you have about blindness, just ask them. When someone first loses sight, then he or she might be unhappy. After receiving special help to learn how to do things as a blind person and having a more positive attitude about being blind, then a person can learn to feel okay about blindness.
If a blind person asks you for help, then you may certainly help. You can ask if any help is needed, but understand that the answer may be “no.” Blind people, if they have learned to use a cane and travel independently, may not need help. It is important not to grab someone who is blind. If a blind person wants help, he or she may take your arm, or simply walk beside you. Some blind persons may have a harder time hearing the cars and traffic, especially if there is construction or a lot of noise around the area. Then they might want help that they might not need other times.
The same rules apply here. Some blind people will appreciate help in locating a chair, but some can find chairs, tables, and desks on their own. Sometimes a blind person may ask where the chairs or tables are, then go to them on his or her own.