By Joe Wassermann
The Braille and Accessible Formats Committee has sponsored essay contests for the past several years. This current year, we opened the contest for the first time to the TVIs (teachers of the visually impaired) throughout the state. We were offering a $150 prize for the winning submission, and an invitation to read the essay at our annual conference and attend the banquet.
While the number of entries has always been disappointingly low, this year we hit bottom. Absolutely not one TVI submitted an essay. They could choose from these three subjects:
- Why is braille important for you to teach?
- What are the true barriers of teaching braille to a student?
- How have you seen a student excel as a result of learning braille?
Needless to say, the Committee and the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind are very disheartened. Regarding this apparent lack of interest on the part of the TVIs, what are we to think: Is braille not important? Are there no reasons for our blind and visually impaired students to learn a method of self-communication? Is literacy not important? With refreshable braille displays becoming the stepping stone to employment, doesn’t it make sense to teach students the skill to be able to use them? Was the prize money not sufficient enough to excite them? Were they afraid of pointing out the true barriers of teaching braille?
These and many other questions have driven the Committee and PCB to voice our disappointment at the mainstream’s disinterested view of braille and its vital role in enabling our students to be future tax payers and leaders. A goal of PCB is for all people who happen to be blind and visually impaired to lead independent and productive lives in our state and society. Shouldn’t that be everyone’s goal?