The end was near. Diligently I plugged away month after month on the correspondence course from Hadley. Dot by dot, page by page each workbook taught me a few letters of the braille alphabet.
Listening to the audio lessons at my desk in my darkened computer room I focused on the page under my fingers. Running my hands over the page to map the column layout, keeping track of which line I read, reviewing words and figuring out what my fingertips felt became somewhat routine. The outside world fell away. Unless of course the terriers got barky.
Sometimes I needed a break, the work overstimulated my fingers and a pause would sort of refresh them. Occasionally a line would stump me and reviewing it twenty times left me no closer to understanding. Another break.
One day I reached the end of the last workbook. At my fingers, I collected the whole alphabet. I typed my last homework assignment to my instructor and sent it off, happy to complete the course.
When I cracked open my first workbook motivation surged in me. Now I finished the alphabet and I’m not compelled to advance to greater complexity. Learning the letters gave me the ability to read short phrases and to create personal labels. Lately it’s more useful to master VoiceOver than to spend time on braille. It’s about finding a balance. Braille is one of the many tools I use living with low vision.
I asked a friend who is a fluent braille reader about learning braille and using it.
“You have to practice everyday. Everyday,” she told me over the phone, “Or it’s going to go away.”
Days pass and I don’t even check my letters on the bookmark-sized card Hadley mailed me. The moment I do, things feel unfamiliar, mentally dusty and slow.
I’d like a basic book for practice. Maybe a book of quotes or simple poems. Or, I could add braille dots to a print copy with my handheld labelmaker. Instantly it will become a new kind of workbook, a way to retain my braille knowledge.
What new skill are you learning? If you are a braille student or teacher, how do you practice? What has been helpful? Tell me about it.