200-year-old Braille remains staple for teaching impaired

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 26, 2010

The seven keys of the Perkins Braille Writer have unlocked a new world for Caleb O’Neal, an 8-year-old Beechwood Elementary second-grader.

“It’s like you get to function well,” Caleb said. “The keys are kind of like writing and seeing, and they teach you how to learn.”

Caleb is one of four visually impaired students learning Braille at the school with special education teacher Lina Jones. The Braille writer is a little bit like a typewriter.

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“He comes home talking about the letters he’s learning and the words he was able to put together and his numbers,” said Caleb’s mother, Nichole O’Neal. “I really like the program. I just want Caleb to be able to learn as much as he can.”

Jones is certified in teaching children with visual disabilities and says Braille is an important skill for them to have. About 80 percent of what most people learn comes through their sense of sight, she said, and the visually impaired have to find other ways.

“You can imagine how hard and how long we have to work in order to learn,” said Jones, 56, who was born with congenital cataracts and has limited vision. “You have to be strong, to fight every day. We’ve had to fight to keep Braille alive. Large print isn’t always feasible.”