Always Learning

A finger traces a line of braille After months of internal debate, I decided to apply. I filled out the forms and asked my doctor to confirm my disability in writing. I submitted the required items, completed an enrollment exam, and waited. When you’re anxious it means you care, right? Would I be in or out? Unlike applying to college, there would be no thin envelope versus thick envelope waiting one day in my mailbox. A simple email would determine if the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired accepted me into the correspondence program to learn braille.

As I waited to hear from Hadley, I experienced insecurity. It stirred up the memory of shock when the SSA denied my claim for disability benefits in the time after my last surgery but before the state program for rehabilitation accepted me. With my vision impairment, I operate in the gray space between sighted and legal blindness. Will I qualify for Hadley’s braille program?

People doubt my disability because “I don’t act blind” as some tell me. The unsolicited assessments bother me. I don’t fit into American cultural expectations of a blind person. Stockton notices people gawk when I use my smart phone at the store. Raising awareness, one stare at a time. Yet, strangers and even acquaintances doubting my real vision loss will not stop me from using assistive devices like my cane or magnification in public to do the things I wish to do safely and independently. I remind myself, I do not live for their cognitive convenience.

I kick self-doubt to the curb and focus on why I want to learn braille. I remember my occupational therapist at Wilmer Eye Institute advised me to consider learning braille. It would help me do more things with no eyestrain. She knew I was an avid reader of working age and would benefit from alternative ways to take in info. Also, I love to learn and explore my world so motivation would not be an issue if Hadley accepted me.

Braille serves as an insurance policy for my mental health, too. Although my remaining vision is stable now, there’s no guarantee that glaucoma or another retina problem won’t creep further into my sighted life to steal more real estate. Why not learn skills that will help me as my eyes age? I’m ready.

Notice from Hadley arrived. They accepted me. Whee. Learning braille fits into the core of my character. As an adult, I gained a disability, but I didn’t lose my desire to learn and advance in life.

Have you taken braille courses? Have you taken any courses from Hadley? What education programs have you sought out as an adult? Locally, do you have education services like adult GED programs, continuing education opportunities or things like lecture series? Tell me about it.


12 Comments Add yours

  1. Good morning,

    I did take braille courses from Hadley. I found I couldn’t learn the way the teach, and created my own system that worked for me. Then, finished up at the state program. I only really learned UEB.

    Like you, I have days I need braille. Today would be perfect for my braille display. Rainy, dreary, and miserable.

    I haven’t been online much since mid January. Hubby has had two great retinal tears, and a cornea abrasion, twice in one eye. He is missing his vision and hoping for recovery soon.

    As for me – I am thinking about writing a blog post about how differently society treats a man who just lost his vision versus a woman who just lost hers. I’ve “seen” how differently just in the last few years.

    Have a good day.

    1. Much to think about. Thanks for sharing, April. I hope you do write the mentioned blog post, it sounds interesting.

  2. Celine says:

    Good for u Suz! Always learning!

    1. Thanks, Celine! I hope you enjoyed your travel in France!

  3. Genevieve says:

    Great decision. Good luck. I learned to read Braille by sight when I taught a blind boy in my class of sighted students. It helped me make worksheets for him and to grade his papers without waiting for his Braille instructor. So I guess learning Braille even makes sighted people more independent!

    1. Very interesting, Genevieve. What a great use of braille.

  4. Casee says:

    I bought the book Just Enough to Know Better by Eileen Curran, M. Ed to learn braille. I started out with great enthusiasm and then I let other things get in the way. I know that the UEB switch was about to happen and I knew I probably needed to learn that instead and here I am, four months into 2016 and I have not started. Like you, right now my vision is stable but I do plan to learn braille. I may not be able to use Hadley at this time but it is nice to know that such a great resource is available. I learned the alphabet and some numbers. I prefer learning on my own when possible so I will research some resources that will help me learn UEB.

    1. Casee, when I realized UEB would be rolling out in 2016, it encouraged me to wait a bit to dive into braille.
      The Hadley program is free for qualified students. I’m required to do one assignment per month which I’m managing fine so far. Let me know if you end up doing a Hadley program.

  5. Delighted for you, Susan. Oddly enoihj over here we have excellent health care but limited aftercare for VI. As far as I know there isn’t much organised help for adults adjusting to VI. On the other issue of people not accepting my VI, I recently stayed with a friend who kept handing me the newspaper to read. I took this for absent mindedness to start with and when I finally remonstrated she said that my eyes didn’t look damaged. What can you say!

    1. Baffled. “To Assume makes an ass out of U and Me” comes to mind, but perhaps it’s not welcome to say aloud. Hopefully the reality of your vision loss set in for the newspaper giver after time passed. Thanks for commenting, Bridget.

  6. Aunt Susie says:

    Congrats Sooze. I look forward to hearing about your efforts with the Hadley program. More opportunities! Love you, Aunt Susie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s