Organizing My World with Braille

Are you like me when you notice, again, a stack of papers on your desk? You think, I should put those away. Maybe I’ll get to that tomorrow. I’ve been dusting around a stack of CD’s that’s been there for weeks—okay months. I keep telling myself that some rainy afternoon, I’ll label them in Braille and put them in their folders. What happens is I get out a few for when I’m having company for dinner, and then the next time I go to use the stereo, I find these CD’s in there, and by that time, I’ve forgotten what they are.

We haven’t had a rainy afternoon in months, so I bit the bullet and settled down this morning to put Braille labels on the plastic compartments in the CD folders. That required sticking in the CD one at a time, making the label, and then stop listening to the CD, which was the hard part, and immediately file it. As I went through this tedious task, I wondered how blind people who don’t use Braille keep their tapes, records, and CD’s organized. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they are happy just picking one and playing it, whatever it is. Maybe they have a system like one rubber band around the jewel case means rock, two rubber bands means country, etc. I have so many different types of music that I’d go through a whole box of rubber bands in no time. I’m so glad I learned to read and write Braille.

I’m not the kind of Braille reader who reads Braille for pleasure. I didn’t learn to read Braille until I was 18, and I never practiced it enough to be a speedy reader. However, I did start using it in other practical ways. I took notes for my college classes in Braille. I labeled my records, by using a special plastic tape that can be inserted into a Braille slate and then pressed onto any dry surface. Later, when I was married, I made Braille labels for canned goods with a special labeling material that is magnetic. I’d write, say, “peas” on a label and slap it on a can of peas before putting it on the shelf. When I used the can of peas, I’d remove the label and stick it on the fridge for the next time. I made shopping lists with Braille. I kept phone numbers in Braille, although back in the day, I kept most phone numbers in my head. I even used Braille to label shoes that were the same style but different colors. When I give presentations to kids, in my “Seeing Without Sight” class, I tell them I have a pair of shoes at home just like the ones I’m wearing, except that they are a different color. Then I ask them if they know how I can tell the difference. After a few wild guesses, I show them the single Braille letter on the bottom of the shoe, between the heel and the toe that doesn’t touch the ground. “But what about black and brown?” you might ask. One B is for black. Then I have to use BR or BL for brown or blue, or I might use N for navy. I put Braille labels on all my spices, and I have a stack of Braille recipes, which I keep in alpha order in folders marked in Braille, like “cookies,” “main dishes,” etc.

I’m grateful for all the technology that is coming along to make life more accessible for us in the 21st century, but there’s nothing so efficient as those 6 little dots placed in varying order to organize my world.



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