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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Braille: One of Chris Parson's 21st Century Skills

A smiling dark-haired woman at her computer desk, her hands on a page of Braille.

Chris Parsons teaches technology at the Colorado Center for the Blind, so she obviously knows these essential tools and how they apply in the 21st Century workplace.

Braille is also without a doubt one of Chris Parson's 21st Century skills. The bedrock of her education is Braille. So much so that she was a three-time national winner of the Braille Challenge as a youth, and this weekend will be in Los Angeles as a guest alum for the 2017 competition.

With solid literacy skills based in Braille, Chris went on to earn an English degree from Webster University in her home state of Missouri, during which time she worked for two-and-a-half years as  a student writing tutor.  She took up playwriting while in college and says Braille was essential to the process of writing and revising.

"When you're writing dialogue, you have to hear the characters' voices in your head, and you can't do that using an external (synthesized) voice," she says.

After college she worked for over three years as an online writing coach, often relying on a Braille display to view the intricacies of spelling, grammar and sentence structure.

"early on, I would just emboss the student's paper sometimes because I needed to have that Braille hard copy," she says.

Later though, reviewing  and making comments and suggestions on as many as 20 papers a day, she relied more heavily on her tech skills, always drawing on the fundamental literacy she gained through Braille.

"No way could I have ever done that if I hadn't learned to read and write in Braille," she says now.

Like many writers, Chris loves not only the sound of language, but the shape - and in her case, the feel - of words, sentences and paragraphs. Also like many writers, she is given to conjure the written images of language in her mind.

"Oh yeah," she says, "I see the dots in my head."

You can help the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado bring the joy of literacy to blind Colorado youth. This summer, we will hold two BELL camps, the first in Grand Junction begins June 19. Another will be held in Westminster July 18 through the 28th.

The NFB Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy prepares blind and low vision children, ages four through twelve, to grow into confident and independent blind people who will live the lives they want. The program provides Braille and non-visual skills instruction through fun, hands-on learning in a day program or residential setting. In addition to Braille crafts, games, and other engaging projects, children learn vital independent living skills, interact with blind adults who serve as mentors, and enjoy field trips to sites related to the NFB BELL Academy curriculum. Through these activities and interactions, the children learn that blindness or low vision does not define them or their future. 

To support our 2017 NFBCO BELL camps, go to gofundme.com/BELL4BlindCOKids.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Braille is the Rails for Literacy and Success!

eight staff members seated around a table, most reading or writing in Braille
by Dan Burke

Has technology rendered Braille obsolete ... yet?

This is a question that has been coming up for ... well, since the invention of recorded books, blowing things up on the copy machine, and the development of speech and magnification on personal computers.

The answer is "No!"

It was mentioned by a VR counselor from out-of-state recently - why should his client at the CCB spend time on Braille? Hasn't technology made Braille unnecessary now. That counselor was blind, by the way.

Our final Answer: Still "NO!" An emphatic "No!" because Braille is still about literacy, and none of the above-mentioned suggested options can deliver literacy as effectively or as completely as Braille. They're just bailing twine and duct tape when good welding and good steel are called for.

The photo above is a Tech Department meeting last month at the Colorado Center for the Blind, and one trigger for writing this. I'm shown in it, as are our three full-time Tech Instructors and part-time instructor and in-house desktop support guru. Also shown are Director Juie Deden, Assistant Director Brent Batron and Administrative Support Specialist Carol Sprague. Carol is the only sighted person in the room, and she can be seen using some old sighted technology - paper and a ballpoint pen.

Each blind person in the room has a hand-out embossed in Braille beside them. Of these seven, one is using a laptop, one a bluetooth keyboard paired to a phone, and the other five are using Braille note taking devices. This is our tech team - overwhelmingly literate and proficient in Braille. Chip, Showe, Chris and Yolanda were taught Braille as children, and Braille is the Raills upon which runs their literacy and professional success!

Yes, these things all go together!

Want to help today's blind kids find literacy and pofessional success in their lives? The NFB of Colorado is holding two BELL camps this summer. The first is just a week away in Grand Junction.

The NFB Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy prepares blind and low vision children, ages four through twelve, to grow into confident and independent blind people who will live the lives they want. The program provides Braille and non-visual skills instruction through fun, hands-on learning in a day program or residential setting. In addition to Braille crafts, games, and other engaging projects, children learn vital independent living skills, interact with blind adults who serve as mentors, and enjoy field trips to sites related to the NFB BELL Academy curriculum. Through these activities and interactions, the children learn that blindness or low vision does not define them or their future. 

To support our 2017 NFBCO BELL camps, go to gofundme.com/BELL4BlindCOKids.

Braille is the rails, and this train is bound for literacy!