We had a fascinating group tour of the National Braille Press today with some homeschooling friends.
After an introduction to the history and concepts of Braille, we were taken through the different steps of producing Braille books. We talked with a transcriptionist, the proofreaders, an embosser, and a collator. We saw how language goes from spoken/written to printed Braille to embossed Braille, all in one building.
The tour was very interesting, and I think the girls picked up some bits and pieces, but it wasn’t until lunch afterward that I got them chatting about what we’d seen. They were curious about being blind and having a job. They hadn’t realized until later reflection that some of the staff we had met were blind. Esme remembered the service dog she had seen and they were suddenly full of questions.
There we were, sitting at the restaurant, looking out at Huntington Ave and the Northeastern T stop and discussing how the visually impaired make their way through the world- their concerns were street crossing, especially. Catherine remembered that some of our street crossing lights in Salem will beep or talk to the pedestrians. Right on cue, I pulled up the walking directions that the NBP have up on their website:
Take the “E” train on the Green Line outbound to the Northeastern University stop on Huntington Ave. When you exit the train, turn right. Walk along Huntington until you reach a down-slope and an opening on the left. At that opening, cross over Huntington Ave and turn right. Walk about ten steps and cross over Opera Place (it will be right in front of you). Take a left on Opera Place, pass an alleyway on your right, and continue until you reach the end of the block. Turn right onto St. Stephen Street. Our building is halfway down the block on your right. You’ll walk over two grates and the sidewalk slopes slightly to the left, just before you reach a set of stairs leading up to our front door.
We were so much more observant about our walk back to the subway than we had been on our walk in. Every street crossing and curb cut was so much more interesting. We noticed Braille on the emergency call box in the subway station and finally understood why the warning strip by the train tracks has huge bumps on it.
The book making process was really interesting, but I am so appreciative about how it launched us into bigger discussions about how we, and especially others, see and experience the world.