ĦInternational Runner-Up:@Group A (over 26 years old)
Braille \ My Means of Communication
By Ms. Irene Joyce McMinn
(52 years old, Australia)


I am sitting in my room reading my book; I have the vibrating pager of my phone attached to my belt. sudeenly, it starts to vibrate; I go to my Braille TTY and turn it on; then I press shift with dial to access my call and type in my opening message. It is the NRS (National Relay Service) and my mum is on the other end. The relay officer types in mum's message and I read it on my Braille display; now I type my reply and the relay officer reads it out to mum. This continues until we have finished "talking"; then I type my SK SK (stop keying).

I have just taken a phone call like a Sighted Hearing person.

I can well remember the first time I ever felt Braille. I was nine years old and I was rapidly losing my eyesight.

I was attending a school for the physically disabled as I had the additional disability of cerebral palsy. There was a battle going on regarding my ability to learn Braille. The teachers told mum and dad that they did not think I would ever learn Braille as I did not have the intelligence to do so. But my dad refused to listen to them and insisted that I be given the opportunity to at least try.

Eventually, the teachers agreed to let me have a go. When the Braille teacher first put the book under my fingers, I was fascinated by the feel of the dots; so I made up my mind that I would indeed learn to read and write using Braille.

Not only did I learn to read and write in Grade One Braille but later as an adult I went on to learn Grade Two Braille; this enabled me to learn Braille music, computer Braille, and to use my Braille TTY as a telephone and as a means of communication.

I often wonder what would have happened If I had not had dad to fight for me.

There are so many ways in which I use Braille each day to help me achieve my goals. Not only can I read a wide variety of books from the NILS (National Information and Library Service) but I also use many tactile maps and diagrams to provide me with information.

I have games such as Monopoly, Scrabble, Uno Cards and Playing Cards all in Braille. These enable me to play games with the other residents at the Spastic Centre where I attend a day programme for two days each week.

I have all my knitting and sewing patterhns put into Braille so that I can read them independently and I need not wait for some one to read the next bit to me. My sewing patterns are all marked in Braille so that I know which bit is which and how many to cut out and also where to place the fold lines.

I have my cottons all marked with Braille clothing tags; these are easy to use when attached to a piece of elastic and they can tell me what colour each one is.

I have a Braille display attached to my computer; this gives me communication with the outside world and it opens up a whole new world to me who is deaf-blind through the use of email.

The most important way in which I use Braille is with my Braille TTY which I use as a telephone, a Braille display for my computer, and as a means of communication at meetings. While the hearing person types on the keys what is being said, I can read it on the Braille display. I can also communicate with deaf or deaf-blind persons in the same way.

In fact, there are so many ways in which I can use Braille to help me in my daily life. Had I not been given the opportunity to learn Braille, life would surely not be as wonderful as it is today.

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