How Braille Played a Role in My Summer Internship

“There is a wonder in reading Braille that the sighted will never know: to touch words and have them touch you back.”–Jim Fiebig

Learning to read and write braille are essential skills for any visually impaired person to learn and braille remains an important skill which I use on a daily basis. Throughout grade school, and now in college, I use braille every day to read, write and communicate quickly and efficiently. It was no different when I began my summer internship in Boston.

Marisa Parker with colleagues

Ann Murphy, Marisa Parker, and Stephanie Fleming at O’Neill & Associates

For the past few months, I have worked as a public relations intern at O’Neill and Associates (O&A). O&A is a Boston-based public affairs consulting firm that I became familiar with while volunteering as a National Braille Press spokesperson on numerous occasions. Writing  press releases, compiling lists of media contacts and taking notes on client meetings and conference calls are all part of my duties as an O&A intern.

My refreshable braille device, which I use to take notes in meetings or on client calls, functions like a laptop for me. I use the computer to write press releases and compose media lists. My refreshable braille display and the text-to-speech screen reading computer software, JAWS, are indispensable tools for me to successfully complete my intern responsibilities.

I not only use braille at my internship, but also as a college student. At school, I am learning to play the flute and am teaching myself the braille music code so I can learn pieces quickly and capably. I use braille to read books and edit papers as well.

I am very fortunate that from an early age my family and teachers encouraged me to read and write braille. If a person is literate more opportunities are open to them. For this reason, it is important for visually impaired people to have the opportunity to learn braille. Organizations such as National Braille Press make this idea a reality by publishing accessible braille materials for the blindness community. Every day, I realize more and more that braille has become an integral part of my life which I do not take for granted and could not live without

The Internship – this tale is not a comedy

When I was a junior at Boston College (BC), I had applied and been accepted at a Top 40 radio station for an internship.  I had hosted a radio show at BC for 2 years by this point and had done well in my production classes.  At my internship interview, the people from the radio station met me and realized that I was blind.  They didn’t know what I could do or how I could do it and they didn’t seem willing to take my suggestions.  After that initial meeting, they said they would call me back.  They never did.  Surprised?

The following semester, a professor mentioned that Jack Clancy, of Burclan Productions, would at times take interns from BC for his video and audio production company.  I called Jack, we scheduled an interview, and reeling from not hearing back from that radio station, I said to Jack, “I also want to let you know that I am blind.  Is that a problem?”  Jack answered me with a quick, “No, I don’t see why it would be.”

I learned a lot in those weeks at Burclan Productions and I went on to take video production courses at BC.  Yes, you read that correctly – video production courses.  And I got A’s.  Ok, I didn’t run the camera, but I did put together some compelling story lines for the videos.  After I graduated, I began to work in the non-profit field.  Those non-profits often needed videos to tell their stories, and I called on my friend Jack to help out with these productions.  He did so, with my input on how the story should be told.  He loved my storytelling ideas, my interview style, and how I imagined the opening sequences for each video.  Together, we created some impressive videos for some deserving non-profits.

I believe the reason Jack didn’t need convincing those many years ago when I applied to be his intern is because he really believes in blind people.  He believes that blind people can do any kind of work and excel at it. This includes professional fields that are often thought of as “visual.”  Jack and I have taught each other many lessons since I first interned for him 16 years ago.  One of those lessons was that to tell a story, the most important thing is to have a vision, not the use of your vision.