Future Reflections          Fall 2007

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Harmony’s Progress
Report from an English Mum

by Lynsey Scott

by Barbara Cheadle, President, National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

Harmony reading a pre-Braille activity book.The Internet is an amazing communication tool. It is, without any deliberate or conscious effort on our part, circulating the Federation message and philosophy about blindness to thousands of parents of blind children all over the world. Several parents in the United Kingdom (UK)--which includes England, Scotland, and Wales--read Future Reflections and our other literature online, and also participate in the NOPBC’s blindkid listserver. One such mum (or mom, as we say in America) is Lynsey Scott. She thinks our approach to blindness makes sense, and, despite resistance from the blindness establishment, is teaching her blind daughter (who has a little bit of vision) Braille and the use of the long white cane.

The 2006 Braille Reading Pals Program helped to foster Harmony’s love of reading and her Braille skills, while at the same time promoting Braille awareness across the UK.But Mrs. Scott is also trying to help other children in the UK. A Braille petition created by Harmony’s mum and other parents in the UK has received nearly 3,000 signatures and the parents continue to ask why registered blind children are not learning Braille, even when they cannot keep up with their peers by print alone. UK citizens can sign the online petition until the 27th of August. For more information go to <http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/SaveBraille/>.

Although the Federation’s Braille Readers Are Leaders contest and Braille Reading Pals program do not operate outside the USA and Canada, Mrs. Scott found out about it, and, with our permission and some creativity on her part, used the materials in the program to help her daughter improve her Braille skills and also to raise funds to get important Braille technology. Here’s what Lynsey Scott, an English mum, has to say about her daughter’s progress:

Harmony enjoying the freedom and independence that Braille literacy brings.Lynsey Scott: Harmony is six years old and home educated. She is registered as blind and is learning to read and write with both print and Braille, despite being told by professionals not to bother with Braille. She took part in the American NFB Braille Readers Are Leaders 2006 Braille Reading Pals program in order to raise awareness about Braille in the UK and to raise money for her own Mountbatten Brailler. Harmony completed her program in January 2007, and received a certificate from the National Federation of the Blind in America.

Harmony holding the Spring 2006 LOOK magazine which published an article about why she is learning Braille.Harmony was sponsored by friends and family for taking part in the NFB program, and raised nearly enough money to buy her Mountbatten. Victa, a charity for visually impaired children, agreed to pay the remaining cost. Harmony received her Mountbatten Brailler in June because it had to be shipped from Australia where they are made. Harmony also met the lady who sells the Mountbatten here in the UK, Patricia Fraser; she moved here recently, and works for Quantum Technologies, creators of the Mountbatten.

Here’s what the National Federation of the Blind (USA) says about Braille and why they conduct the Braille Readers Are Leaders program. This is from the NFB Web site, <www.nfb.org>:

The purpose of the Braille Readers Are Leaders program is to help blind and visually impaired children become good Braille readers. Good readers have confidence in themselves and in their abilities to learn and to adapt to new situations throughout their lifetimes. Furthermore, Braille literacy is one of the highest predictors of success in later life for blind students. It’s estimated that about eighty-five percent of blind and visually impaired people who are employed are Braille readers.

After promoting Braille awareness and the importance of early Braille literacy, Harmony was able to acquire her Mountbatten Brailler. However, many parents and children do not know that Braille is a viable alternative to print or that Braille readers can be competitive with print readers. Too many blind children graduate from school with low expectations for themselves as readers. The Braille Readers Are Leaders program generates enthusiasm, raises expectations, and instils pride as children come to realize that reading Braille is fun and rewarding.

PVIC (Parents of Visually Impaired Children) is a UK-based online yahoo group set up by Harmony’s mum for parents of visually impaired children and visually impaired adults who wish to support parents and share positive experiences: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PVIC/>.

VIC is the ‘sister’ group to PVIC and is a place for parents and professionals (teachers, staff, and volunteers working with visually impaired children and their families): <http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/visuallyimpairedchildren/>.

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