I am proud to introduce you to a very special blogger and writer who was introduced to me by my friend Maxwell Ivey, also known as the “blind blogger.”
Her name is Kerry Kijewski, and just like Max, she’s also a “blind” writer.
So needless to say that this specific article she wrote for my blog today, makes all the more sense. And who better than someone like her could have written it?
So, without further ado, let me leave now and let Kerry take over…
It is my desire to travel to France, but not for one of the usual travel destinations.
Sure, I would love to visit Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. I would love to experience The City of Lights, The City of Love, but there is a town outside of the capital city that I hope to visit.
This town I’m talking about is Coupvray. It is located 20 miles east of Paris. It is famously known to be the birthplace of Louis Braille.
Why my Interest in Louis Braille?
I was born visually impaired, so as soon as I was old enough, I didn’t just learn how to read and write, large print. I learned braille.
Braille is a series of six dots, used in different combinations, to form words that are raised and can be felt by the fingers of people unable to read print.
Braille is not another language. It allows the blind to read just like anyone else. Literacy is extremely important to me, and I have always loved the feeling of those bumps underneath my fingertips.
I think in braille dots. I picture words, not always in the print form that I once had enough vision to see, but now in the dots that were invented by a young French man in the early to mid-1800s.
Louis Braille was born with Perfect Sight
Louis was born normal sight, in the village of Coupvray, France in 1809. Nobody could have predicted what he would eventually become renowned for.
His father made horse bridals and leather harnesses, and young Louis liked to play in his father’s shop.
One day, when he was only 3 years old, he got a hold of a sharp tool called an awl and punctured his eye with it. Infection quickly set in, spread, and he was soon totally blind in both eyes.
If such events had happened today, Louis would have never had lost his sight, but in the early 1800’s what resulted of this terrible accident was pretty much inevitable.
I can’t imagine what this would have been like, the pain and the fear Louis must have endured at such an early age, as well as the terror his parents must have felt for their son.
Starting Life has a Blind Young Man
Blindness wasn’t received so well in the early 1800s and all the hope Louis Braille’s parents must have had for their child must have vanished in that one terrible moment.
However, Louis Braille eventually attended school and listened well enough to keep up, until earning a scholarship to the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris.
At this time, books for the blind were expensive and the letters were embossed and made of thin, shaved wire, but they took up a lot of space and were difficult to produce. It wasn’t going to be a practical way for the blind to read.
In 1821 an army captain visited Louis’s school and brought with him a possible way of communication for the blind, a system called Night Writing, a way for soldiers to communicate in the dark and in secret. This system was rejected, but Louis Braille took it and built on it and (in 1829), he would invent the system of six braille dots that would bring words to those who could not see them.
Braille Changed the Lives of Blind People and Mine
“Access to communication in the widest sense is access to knowledge and that is vitally important for us if we (the blind) are not to go on being despised or patronized by condescending sighted people. We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals and communication is the way this can be brought about.”
–Louis Braille (1809-1852)
Louis Braille is no longer here and so it is impossible for me to sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank him for all he has given to me.
The only way I can think of to show my appreciation, to pay homage to this man, and the gift of literacy he has given to me and so many others, is for me to stand where he may have stood as a newly blind child.
He must have been afraid to go on and function without his sight, but he persevered, at a difficult period in history for the blind, and he made a difference.
Who knows, I may also make it to Paris to see the lights, the tower, and the place where Louis Braille is now at rest. In 1952, 100 years after Braille’s death, the French government transferred his body to the Pantheon, In Paris to be placed along other national heroes, except for his hands which stayed buried in Coupvray in honor of his native village.
My aim for my life is not to simply exist, but to go out and fully experience it, to touch and smell and feel the things that pictures will never ever be able to convey.
I want to tread the steps where one of my heroes might very well have trodden, where he may have ventured out and taken his first uncertain steps as a blind man.
I want to wander and learn, to gain insights into the things that truly matter to me, and Coupvray, France is at the top of this list. This is a dream I really want to make true.
Your turn now, please, let me know what you think, and ask me questions if you wish.