26.2 Miles for Braille Literacy

When Ilana Meyer and Marissa Sullivan cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon this Patriots Day, they won’t just have completed the world’s greatest race. For the last four months, they have run hundreds of miles in snow, ice, and rain, because they care about blind children and adults having access to the printed word. They’ve raised thousands of dollars in support of braille literacy, and National Braille Press is honored to have their support and to be a part of the 2017 John Hancock Non-Profit Program.

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#BeBoston, 2017 Boston Marathon, John Hancock 

Twenty years ago, when I competed as a runner in the Boston Marathon, all I wondered about was myself. How many people were in front of me? Behind me? How did I do compared to other blind runners? What was my time up Heartbreak Hill? I loved, and still love, that aspect of running, which allows me to compete with others, the clock, and myself.

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Joe Q running during training

Runners like Ilana and Marissa have shown me that running is so much more. Through John Hancock’s charity program, the Boston Marathon makes an individual act—completing the race—into an effort for others. That collective power has truly impressive results—over the last 6 Boston Marathons, NBP’s runners have raised over $100,000!

This year, Ilana and Marissa have already raised more than $20,000 so that others can share their love of reading. Their journey over the 26.2 miles is a reminder of the power of selflessness and of pushing oneself to the limit. Their race is not only a physical challenge, but also an act of altruism which will put books into the hands of blind children and adults—making a difference in their education, literacy, and day-to-day lives.

Marathon Monday has a different meaning for me now than it did twenty years ago. I no longer watch for just the top finishers—I now go out on the course to cheer on our champions, who truly exemplify what it means to run for others.

By Joe Quintanilla, Vice President of Development and Major Gifts

Observations WIthout Sight: Teach Your Children Well

While at a friend’s house a few weeks ago, a little boy loudly asked his mother, “Is that the one with bwinded eyes?” His mother quietly told him yes, and then quickly tried to distract him with other things. Not to be deterred, he asked me, “How did your eyes get bwinded?” I must admit that I don’t have much experience around little children and feel a bit awkward around them no matter what the situation. But I told him openly that my eyes didn’t work because I’d been born too early, before they were ready to work. (OK, not completely accurate, but close enough.)

His mother continued to shush him and I felt a little angry at this. I wanted to say (but didn’t) “You’re teaching your child, right here and now, that blindness is something we shouldn’t talk about, something shameful perhaps.” I doubt very much that this was her intention, and I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a young child and be embarrassed about what they’re saying or doing, worried that it will offend someone else. But if I could get one message across to parents of young children, it would be:

You know better than anyone how curious your child is, how eager they are to learn. Let them learn; let them ask questions, interact, engage. Please, don’t worry about me. There’s nothing your child could say that I haven’t heard before, and I’m not likely to be offended by a little one who is learning.

girl petting guide dogAbout a week after that, I was walking down the street when a little 6-year old girl and her father came up to me. She asked if she could pet my guide dog, Colbert. I stopped, had Colbert sit, and let her pet him. She asked me why my eyes weren’t open, and I told her that since they’d never worked, sometimes I just forget to open them. She asked about how Colbert and I did things, and her father told her that we do the same things everyone else does, just sometimes a little differently. She asked why I couldn’t see, and I told her I’d been born 3 months early. It turned out that so had she, and that we both weighed 1 pound 11 ounces.

This was a wonderful experience mainly due to her father’s open attitude, his willingness to allow her to ask questions, and to take that risk of possibly embarrassing or offending someone. If parents have a general attitude of kindness toward others and sensitivity to the feelings of other people, their children will pick up on this and learn from them. It will be much less likely that a child’s comments or actions when they see someone who is different will come from a place of criticism or meanness, and much more likely they will just want to learn!

Love your children, teach them to love, and allow them to engage, connect, and explore that common ground that we as humans all share!

 

Wynter Pingel works as a braille proofreader at National Braille Press in Boston, MA.

Tour Our Braille Facility and Witness a Labor of Love

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At National Braille Press, we welcome visitors.  Producing braille is a fascinating and labor-intensive process, which visitors from all over the world have seen during tours of our braille publishing house.  You can find us in a former piano factory in the heart of Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.

We open our doors to teach others how braille is produced but also to remind the world that braille remains an essential literacy tool for blind people. Braille obsolete?  Not on our watch!

Recently, a family from New Hampshire visited.  Their 8-year-old daughter, Abby, is a braille reader and has a bookshelf of NBP books at home.  Duffy family on NBP tourAbby, her brother, Sam, along with her mom and dad toured NBP a few weeks back and were impressed with the mix high-tech and low-tech strategies that go into embossing over 10 million pages of braille each year.  Abby’s mom, Penny, even wrote about it on her blog.

Here is an excerpt of what Penny had to say about her trip to NBP:

It was exciting when we got to the door because it was locked and you had to ring the buzzer to get let in. But wait, remember, this is National Braille Press and on the door in braille was the directions to hit the buzzer.  Abby read the door for us and hit the buzzer so we could be let in.

We were led into a conference room and encouraged to explore some of the titles that NBP sells.  Abby loved Make Way for Ducklings and read a few pages while we waited.  (It’s been added to our wish list).

We viewed a video about National Braille Press and then were led through all the departments including Transcription, Proofreading, Embossing, Pressing, Tactile Graphics and Finishing.  It was a wonderful learning experience and a lot of fun.  It was fascinating watching the big presses add braille from the plates.

What was the biggest surprise was the level of work done by hand throughout the process.  All the people we met from the different departments were so nice. It was an extra treat for them to have a braille reader as part of our party. They were so kind to us and so wonderful with Abby.

We learned a lot and I really recommend a visit if you have a chance sometime.   Special locations sometimes have a mood, a vibe, and this was one of those places. You couldn’t help but feel the LOVE…a pure JOY of braille throughout the whole building.

I encourage you to read Penny’s full blog post and if you are interested in taking a tour of National Braille Press in Boston, please contact us at 888.965.8965.