“Should” Parents of Blind Kids Learn Braille?

Today I mailed off my final project in hopes of earning my national braille transcriber certification from the Library of Congress! It’s a 35 page manuscript and I must pass with an 80+.

In November 2018 we went through a formal complaint and mediation process with our school district because Kai was not receiving timely, accurate braille materials for his math and science classes. We “won” at mediation and things got much better, but while fighting for braille I felt so helpless. My son was completely at their mercy. It was then, that I decided I wanted to learn to create braille materials, and I set the goal to get certified by the time he graduates high school.

Y’all, when I registered for training to become a braille transcriber in Feb 2019, I didn’t even know the braille alphabet! I honestly cannot believe I’ve made it to this point.

Parents of kids who are blind or low vision often ask if they “should” learn Braille. Here are my thoughts on that, and my answer may surprise you!

Kai began to unexpectedly lose his sight when he was 9, and we were completely overwhelmed. We didn’t know a single person who was blind or low vision. We had no idea how sight-loss would impact his life. I was in no shape to learn braille with him.

Should parents of blind kids learn braille? In my mind, parents have only one “SHOULD,” and it’s ACCEPTANCE.

Kim Owens, Navigating Blindness

In my mind, parents have only one “SHOULD” and it’s ACCEPTANCE. Parents need to work through their own feelings about blindness so that they can adequately support their child. The work of acceptance requires parents to connect with mentors and resources. Acceptance allows parents to set high-expectations for their child and their child’s educational support system. In my experience, any time a kid is struggling with learning braille or tech or with using a cane, it’s because the parents are struggling to accept their child’s need for the tools and skills.

Once you do the hard work of acceptance you will know the next best step for you and your family. Maybe that means you learn braille, maybe it means you file a formal complaint — whatever that next step is, I promise you that you will know what to do.

Acceptance is key. Kai graduates on May 27th! He’s the class valedictorian. In the last 8 years he’s learned braille, assistive technology and orientation and mobility. He travels independently and he’s headed off to college in the fall. None of this would have been possible without acceptance and the help of others.

Parents, get the help you need. Call upon the experts in the field — blind and low vision adults. Also seek out other parents who have “been there, done that.” The help is out there, but you must be willing to reach out and do the hard work of accepting this new path.

ps. I’ll let you know if I pass my braille final and earn the certification!

pss. A shout out to the UEB Study Group and specifically Elizabeth Symington, Amy Furman, Dan Gergen, and Cecilia Prinkey

Picture descriptions: 3 images in a mosaic pattern. 1. Kim and Kai standing together, and Kim is holding a large envelope containing her manuscript. 2. Is the paperback book, the braille manuscript and the mailing envelope. 3. Is a print page and its corresponding braille page.

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