If you're fortunate enough to have your sight, reading braille may seem like an impossible new "language." Division of Employment and Rehabilitation Services (DERS) Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) counselor, Vasant Garcia, knows the challenges of learning to read by touch. She lives with a progressive visual impairment and started learning to read and write braille in 4th grade. She now teaches it to her clients.
Woman’s hand on Braille Typewriter
Tool used to learn Braille
Woman (Vasant Garcia) Reads Braille
"I have had the best of both worlds, and now I want to help people achieve their independence," explained Garcia. "My goal is to keep people doing whatever they want to be doing, and to relieve their families."
As an RSA counselor and certified rehabilitation therapist, Garcia's job is to help clients with visual impairments attain independent living skills. She understands the challenges that come with losing one's sight later in life.
On average, it takes a person approximately six to twelve months to learn to read either one of the two "levels" of the raised dots. "Uncontracted" refers to the basic alphabet. It's a letter for letter substitution, and is the foundation of the braille code. "Contracted" braille is a speedier version that uses symbols and contractions to replace commonly used words and letters.
Magnifying equipment is often provided to clients with low-vision to help them read.
"Clients want to read their mail and tell time." said Garcia. "We have talking clocks and watches that we can give them."
Other tools are also available. A writing guide is used to make sure written lines are straight, and talking labeling devices help individuals brand anything from medications to condiments and spices. Garcia points out that it's crucial to have information like expiration dates easily identifiable for the visually impaired. RSA also has mobility specialists' on-hand to provide canes and other specialty mobility equipment to clients, when needed.
Additionally, Garcia helps her clients learn or re-learn how to cook, navigate their homes and much more. She utilizes specialized tools to help individuals function independently whether it is in the comfort of their own home or in the workplace.
The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) strengthens the state by helping its clients reach their full potential through self-sufficiency. Counselors within RSA serve clients with disabilities and create individualized plans to meet each person's unique goals and needs. Arizonans living with visual impairments can receive assistance to complete their educational and employment goals and develop skills to live as independently as possible.
For more information, please visit our Rehabilitation Services web page.