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Frequently Asked Questions
The Braille system of reading and writing was developed by a Frenchman from the 19th century named Louis Braille when he was just a boy. He became blind in 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 is a 20th century educator who 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. Now-a-days Braille Printing Machines are available for large scale printing in Braille. Braille is language independent for the most part.
If a visually impaired 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”. Vision impaired 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 visually impaired person wants help, he or she may take your arm, or simply walk beside you. Some visually impaired people 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 at other times.
The answer to the previous question applies here as well. Some visually impaired people will appreciate help in locating a chair, but some can find chairs, tables, and desks on their own. Sometimes a visually impaired person may ask where the chairs or tables are and then they go to them on their own. Normally some help in terms of the orientation to a new room/place/setting will help them more than holding them and walking along.
When someone loses vision, in the beginning it can feel frustrating or scary. This is because he/she will not have learned how to do things by themselves without the support of vision and will be entirely dependent on someone to help them for all their day to day activities. However once they life skills that blind people use, they no longer feel that way. Visually impaired people do the same things as sighted people. The blind go to school or work and do the things that they need to do, they may just do it a little differently sometimes. They do all thus naturally, without even thinking about being visually impaired. The blindness becomes just another part of who they are and what they are like. They don't think about being blind every day, just like a sighted person will not think every day about the colour of their hair.
Many things cause vision impairment or blindness. Some people have low vision and some are totally blind. Even with low vision, there are many types of low vision, some can have limited tunnel vision while others can have peripheral vision. Some types of low vision degenerates progressively over time and others do not. Sometimes babies are born blind, sometimes vision loss happens due to various conditions like malnutrition, health conditions like Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy or genetic conditions like Retinitis Pigmentosa (commonly known as RP). Many older persons lose their vision to macular degeneration. Some people become visually impaired due to accidents.
They can do just about any kind of jobs. Here's a list of some occupations in which visually impaired people are engaged in today, but there are many more not listed here. 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, Aerobics Instructor, HR Managers, Bankers, Stockbrokers, Accountants, Journalists and 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 visually impaired people to have the chance to choose whatever job they want, and for the public to give visually impaired people the opportunity for the same.
There are many ways for the blind to go from one place to another. Using a long white cane when walking 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 their feet as they walk, this helps them find things with their cane before they get to them. There are canes of various sizes, including very small ones for children and long ones for tall people. People with vision impairment use public transport like buses, trains and autos. They also use cabs provided by agencies like Ola and Uber with the help of Accessibility features on their phones.
In the past most visually impaired children went away from home to attend residential schools for the blind. There still are special schools for visually impaired children. Now, however, many visually impaired children are able to attend school in their home communities. Visually impaired children in many inclusive schools are in regular classrooms and use a cane and read & write in braille. Some schools have special instructors who can teach them braille and sometimes they learn braille with external support. Such special instructors could also help get the special books needed by visually impaired children. Visually impaired children take the same classes that the other kids the same age take. Mitra Jyothi’s Educational Resource Centre provides all kids of Accessible Books to support and promote education of the blind. Please check our website for more details about our Educational Resource Centre.
Visually Impaired people identify various coins by their shapes and sizes. They identify currency notes by their sizes and specially designed guides. Currency of some foreign countries are braille enabled.
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 have 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 visually impaired people buy something at the store or when someone gifts them, they ask how to describe the item(s) so that they can learn how they look and how they feel. Sometimes blind people also seek help from their sighted friends or colleagues.
Some visually impaired people are able to see some colors. Sometimes a visually impaired person might have enough vision to see all colors or maybe he or she can only tell bright colors. Some visually impaired 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 color. It is important for them to learn about colors even if they cannot see them. They need to learn what colors look nice together and what colors do not match. They need to learn about stripes, plaids and other patterns. This is important as they shop for clothing and for decorating. They 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 are just as important for the blind to know as everyone else!
There are many kinds of food that can be identified by touch and smell. Fruits and vegetables are some such items. However things like boxed and canned items, bottled items, ice cream containers and other things may be hard to identify. Many visually impaired people like to shop with a friend who will help to find things and can read the different brands and types. A blind person might take the support of store employees who can help find the groceries they need. Some blind people (especially if they are buying a lot of things) will make a print list for someone else to read or they will use a braille list for themselves.
It takes some practice to become a good braille reader, just as it does with print. Visually impaired people 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 young. That way, one will have many years of practice and experience to develop good braille skills by the time he/she becomes an adult. Visually impaired 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 visually impaired people use braille to make 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 all the other things one might do using print. There are special libraries that provide braille and audio 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. Organizations like Mitra Jyothi provide books in braille, audio and other accessible forms. Websites like Sugamya Pustakalaya and Bookshare also provide accessible books online.
Visually impaired 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. They can put braille labels on the microwave touch buttons and wherever else needed. Some visually impaired 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. They can tell by the smell, sound, temperature, time of cooking, texture, and consistency about the progress of the food being cooked. For a person who lost vision lately there are special training programs to help him/her learn to cook without vision. Some blind people, just like some sighted people, will enjoy cooking more than others.
There are special watches that open up so a visually impaired person can feel where the hands are and can feel braille dots at different hour points. There are also talking watches that speak the time and have an alarm built in. Now there are many talking clocks that have 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. With the advent of smartphones which are fully accessible for people with print disabilities, such things are not at all a challenge.
Visually impaired men can do each of these things by feel, without looking, just like sighted men. With practice, shaving and tying ties become habitual and routine. One can do such things without even thinking about them much. Some men like to shave in the shower while some do not. Men can touch and feel to decide where they need to shave. If they have beards or mustaches, they can feel where to trim them too. 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 one is 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 and friends. Now, they also have youtube to give detailed instructions!
Visually impaired people can use many cues to help them find addresses and places. Learning to locate specific addresses is an important part of getting around and a very important aspect of their Orientation and Mobility training. They also uses cues like the second driveway on the right, the third set of stairs on the left, or the house with the wooden fence along the sidewalk. They also watch out for things like the large tree in front, signposts or a special kind of door.
A visually impaired person can tell when it is 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 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. One can even start to listen to this when half a block away. If there is no light at an intersection that has to be crosses, one can simply listen to hear on-coming cars. However it is advisable for a visually impaired person to not cross alone but to seek public support.
It is easy to put braille markings on a deck 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 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.
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 visually impaired 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, a person can learn to feel okay about blindness.