Braille Monitor                                     November 2017

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Braille: One of Chris Parsons’ Twenty-First Century Skills

by Dan Burke

Chris Parsons sits at her desk reading BrailleFrom the Editor: This article is reprinted from the June 2017 issue of The Blind Coloradan, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. Chris Parsons is a tremendous writer, speaker, and role model for her students and for all who are blessed to know her. Here is what her state affiliate says about her:

Chris Parsons teaches technology at the Colorado Center for the Blind, so she obviously knows these essential tools and how they apply in the 21st century workplace. Braille is also without a doubt one of Chris Parsons’ 21st century skills. The bedrock of her education is Braille. So much so that she was a three-time national winner of the Braille Challenge as a youth, and this weekend she will be in Los Angeles as a guest alum for the 2017 competition.

With solid literacy skills based in Braille, Chris went on to earn an English degree from Webster University in her home state of Missouri, during which time she worked for two-and-a-half years as a student writing tutor. She took up playwriting while in college and says Braille was essential to the process of writing and revising.

"When you're writing dialogue, you have to hear the characters' voices in your head, and you can't do that using an external (synthesized) voice," she says.

After college she worked for over three years as an online writing coach, often relying on a Braille display to view the intricacies of spelling, grammar, and sentence structure.

"Early on, I would just emboss the student's paper sometimes because I needed to have that Braille hard copy," she says. Later though, reviewing and making comments and suggestions on as many as twenty papers a day, she relied more heavily on her tech skills, always drawing on the fundamental literacy she gained through Braille. "No way could I have ever done that if I hadn't learned to read and write in Braille," she says now.

Like many writers, Chris loves not only the sound of language, but the shape—and in her case, the feel—of words, sentences, and paragraphs. Also like many writers, she is given to conjure the written images of language in her mind. "Oh yeah," she says, "I see the dots in my head."

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