Braille in Brazil

I noticed an article talking about how Brazil was going to start production of braille writers in the country.
Likely you can pick any population demographic and see the striking difference between the haves and have-nots on the planet. Each time I read one of these articles about an accessibility technology being built or used in a place that hasn’t had it in the past, I’m thankful for the education and experiences I’ve had.
I grew up during a time when it was no longer standard practice to send kids who were blind off to a residential school. In my case I was offered a choice between what I’ve come to call the “Braille Jail” (Wisconsin’s school for the Visually Handicapped) and what was a pilot program in Wisconsin at the time to send kids with disabilities to “regular” schools and provide the additional resources necessary as part of the education within the school.
This was long before terms like “mainstreaming” and “classroom assistant” were a part of the educational landscape. In my case these additional resources simply meant a full day of school in kindergarten instead of the traditional half. My afternoons were spent doing things like learning braille and developing my sense of touch. In later years it meant a resource was available to do things like read books, tests and such. This is an over simplification and perhaps I’ll blog about my entire education experience at some point.
Reflecting back on my education today, I am so thankful I had the experiences I did. I’ve talked to many people who are blind who didn’t have anything approaching the positive attitudes from teachers and other students I did. All wasn’t necessarily perfect as the school system I attended was not in the city where I lived. Today living in the Seattle area, a distance of 17 miles doesn’t seem like a big deal. Back then the same distance–from Fond du Lac to Oshkosh–was like two different worlds.
Perhaps my only regret is that I didn’t attend any of the same schools as anyone else in my family. Sure the stories of school days past are pretty much the same the nation over, but the characters in mine versus others in my family are all different. That said I wouldn’t even call it a regret. In a family of 11 kids, it was assuredly easier to be my own individual when I wasn’t lost in the shuffle of being just another “Ford” at the local high school.
I’ve used a lot of gadgets, technology and devices over the years. That’s likely another blog post or two but it is nice to see what I regard as one of the standards, namely a Perkins, being made available to more people. Screen readers, scanners and such are all great but I’ve had my Perkins since I was five and it is still something I treasure. Some do not have the physical ability to read or write braille, but for anyone who does, braille is a must and the sound of a Perkins hammering away as someone writes is music to my ears.

The Good Death?

Earlier today I read this article from the New York Times Magazine talking about society’s efforts to arrive at the “good death”. As I sat down to write about the article I happened to turn on the radio and heard the news that Peter Jennings had died.
There’s a strong temptation to write my memories of Jennings and all the news brought to me through his coverage. Although journalism isn’t my profession today, Jennings and ABC news of the late 1980’s was one of the reasons I did get my degree in journalism.
That said today was also my mom’s birthday. In a phone call with my mom to wish her a happy birthday, she mentioned to me that an uncle of hers died.
All the discussion of death and the magazine article remind me of a book idea I kick around in my head from time to time. When “famous” peple die we have such an intense discussion about them and this societal sadness that strikes me as somewhat not quite real.
What about the others who died today or any other day for that matter? The media picks the “fortunate” few, and celebrates their accomplishments with what seems to be an undo importance.
I toy with the idea of a book titled “They Died Too”. The book would pick 15-20 people who died on the same day as someone who’s death was given strong media publicity and focus on the impact those people had in their own circles of influence.
Obviously everyone can not be famous and the theathers to which each of us play out our own lives are of differing sizes but I think it is important to keep in mind that we are all important to those in our world. The media-driven culture we have today tends to make it seem like the accomplishments of a select few are what matter.
We’d do well to step back, look around our immediate environment a bit more and remember that whether it is the person at the neighborhood store or the person running the largest corporation, the contributions we each make to the world are worth celebrating. Life is a precious gift and many do wonderful things with this treasure.