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In her own words:

From grieving sight loss to embracing community with help from Braille Institute

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Each year thanks to support from generous donors, Braille Institute San Diego helps thousands of area residents who are blind or visually impaired through a broad range of free classes and programs for students of all ages. This is a first-person story from Braille Institute student Celia M. about how she went from grieving her sight loss to embracing community and leadership opportunities at Braille Institute.

My Story

My name is Celia M. and I live in Oceanside, CA. About seven years ago, I was diagnosed with macular toxicity, which doctors said was a side effect from medication prescribed to me for lupus. I began losing my central vision. Doctors told me I would adapt, but I went through severe depression and it was affecting my ability to work.

Now as a student and volunteer at Braille Institute, I can confidently say that while students here are all unique, we’re all going through similar experiences. People here understand that we do things at our own speed, and we all support each other. We’re using the tools we can to live a better life. Hearing about other people’s challenges helps me adapt and makes me grateful for what I have. And the staff is great – everyone knows you by name. When I’m at Braille Institute, I feel like it’s my second home.

Finding Braille Institute

Before coming to Braille Institute, I told my sister that I wanted to learn braille because I had been an avid reader, and with my vision loss, I now felt like I couldn’t continue reading the same way I was used to. What I didn’t know then was all that Braille Institute could offer me in addition to braille classes.

When I finally worked up the nerve to call Braille Institute, I spoke with Maggie Bradley, the Registrar. I think she was able to read the hesitation in my voice. I asked a lot of questions about classes, and she invited me to come in for a tour and to look over the class schedule. She gave me an alphabet card to learn more about braille, and I used it to start learning on my own even before I started classes.

Resources and Education

I’ve been a student at Braille Institute San Diego for over a year now. I also started volunteering with the Welcome Club, which helps new adult students get acclimated to the center, its personnel, and resources. During lunch we show new students around campus and tell them about additional resources available through the center and through other community programs for people who are blind or visually impaired. New students often thank me for sharing information and welcoming them.

As for classes I am benefiting from, I enjoy learning braille. Although it’s a challenge, it’s a way of keeping my mind active. I also enjoy cooking classes and the Library. Through the Braille Institute Library, I use an app called BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) to download books on my iPhone and digital player (especially James Patterson and mysteries).

I also enjoy Braille Institute’s technology classes. Through these classes, I learned that all of the Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.) have voiceover and zoom technology to read aloud and make text larger. That’s one of the biggest resources out there – iPhones have a lot of apps to download that help people who are visually impaired. It’s great because a cell phone fits in your pocket and is a great resource to have when you’re out and about. I also had the chance to attend a technology conference with Braille Institute staff and learned about new accessibility apps.

My experience at Braille Institute San Diego has really opened doors for me. It’s changed my perspective on life, reminding me that life is still worth living. I encourage anyone who thinks they could use Braille Institute’s free services to contact the center today. I understand being nervous. Before coming here, I too was hesitant, but I am so glad that I finally called.

For more information on how you or someone you know can benefit from free services at Braille Institute San Diego, call 1-800-BRAILLE, visit BrailleInstitute.org, or email Richard Ybarra at RMYbarra@brailleinstitute.org.

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