WBU-NAC(Senior Group) Fine Work
Braille and Motherhood
Jennifer Spears U.S.A (28, Female)

As my eighteen-month-old son continues to blossom, he grows more curious about the world around him and is more eager to attempt more routine tasks on his own. I am certain that there will come a day where he truly believes that something he must do for the sake of moving forward in life is not necessary. Some examples that come to mind include household chores, going to school, and doing homework. Every parent will struggle with their children over such matters. Several of my vision teachers struggled with me in regards to the necessity of Braille. While I was one of very few who were fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to learn Braille in school, I was more likely to use my closed circuit television than Braille.
Having been born with some residual vision, I was one of many who clung to using the little bit that I had, even if it resulted in a headache. While I knew Braille well, I felt as though using it would only accentuate the fact that I was blind. I did not want to be different.
It took reading The Color Purple by means of my closed circuit television near the end of my senior year of high school—because it wasn’t available in Braille or audio format—to realize that the anguish that I was putting myself through was simply not worth it.
Even more significant than household chores, my bundle of joy will one day attend school and be given what most children loathe, homework. Then comes the whining that goes right to your spine: “I don’t wanna’ go to school!” “Why do we have to do homework?” “I wanna’ go play!” These are all classic complaints that children have used on their parents for decades upon decades.
While I did well in school for the most part—and did well with Braille when I used it—I did my share of whining in that department. My complaints were more along the lines of, “Why can’t I just use my CCTV?” or “I wanna’ type on the computer!” These words have escaped the mouths of countless blind children, nation-wide.
Devoted parents and teachers will do whatever it takes (within reason) to get through to their children and/or students. If you hold either or both of those positions, it is your job to insure your children’s and students’ success in life. With all of that being said, different children respond well to different approaches.
The first method that comes to mind is the “simple explanation” approach. A little girl may ask her mother, “Why do I have to go to school?” Her mother would then explain that an education is important because, without it, you will have more difficulty getting a job and living on your own. The little girl now understands school’s purpose and that is good enough for her. In an ideal world, that would suffice for all children. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Then there’s the “tough love” approach. This is often the result of a stubborn child or teenager who needs to be pushed. This could also include taking priviledges away. A teenage boy may attend school, but perhaps his grades are not the greatest. Perhaps he cares more about football than his homework. Perhaps his parents decide to pull him from any extracurricular activities until his grades improve. Parents who use the “tough love” method either hope or assume that their children will thank them for it, later.
Finally, there’s the method of allowing your children to learn a life lesson the hard way. This method is used more frequently with teenagers and young adults, but can sometimes be used with children. Typically, teens who clown around in high school, or college students who are only there to party, often discover that all of those years of goofing off were years wasted. Some may wind up working a job they despise. Others wind up moving back home, or never leave home in the first place. Toddlers learn the hard way when their parents tell them several times not to touch the hot stove. They touch it which results in pain. They typically don’t touch it again once that lesson has been learned.
When I was growing up, I was typically satisfied once a straight-forward explanation was given in regards to why something was necessary. When it came to the vision that remained in my eyes, I was constently told to use the vision that I had. That combined with not wanting to be different was a recipe for lack of Braille use. This brings me back to The Color Purple. Since Braille and audio formats were not an option at the time, I had two choices: I either listened to someone else read the book out loud, or I read it with my CCTV. Since this was a very explicit book, I chose pain over feeling awkward. This was an instance when I, like the college student who wasted four years slacking, had to learn the hard way. Braille not being an option for that one novel really put things into perspective for me. I had Braille at my fingertips and I took it for granted.
Thanks to Braille, I am now a Braille instructor at the Colorado Center for the Blind and am able to stay organized in my daily life. On a more personal note, I have the ability to snuggle with my son and read him books. While finishing school and learning Braille are not the same thing, the two will mingle in the lives of those who need Braille to move forward. Should my son ever ask me why school—or a subject like math—is necessary, I will be able to create a concrete parallel using my experience of how I learned why Braille is necessary for me. 



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