When 48-year-old Raymond Marcus first came to the LightHouse, he had no interest in trying to learn Braille, even though he had once carefully studied the letters on a free Braille alphabet card someone had given him years ago.
Marcus has had problems with his vision all his life due to Retinitis Pigmentosa, which has left him with limited vision. He attended a vision loss rehabilitation class twelve years ago, but he says, “I was just going through the motions. I wasn’t really benefiting from it. At the time I had a lot of resentment towards my vision.”
But in October, 2008 he learned about the LightHouse and began attending our peer-led support group. “It really helped to hear other people’s stories.” This experience encouraged him to take advantage of other LightHouse services. He completed Orientation and Mobility Training and the Living With Vision Loss series. Then, social worker Linda Porelle gently suggested the possibility of learning Braille.
“It was too intimidating,” said Marcus, “I didn’t think I could do it.”
Marcus took the initial test anyway, and found to his surprise that he was better at it than he thought he would be.
He began weekly Braille classes with LightHouse Braille instructor Divina Fontanilla this January. Using a Perkins Brailler borrowed from the LightHouse, he started with simple tasks such as making labels and taking down phone numbers and addresses and moved on to basic reading.
He loves the result of his efforts. “I am amazed that I can read without worrying about having enough light. I can take my Braille with me on the bus, on Paratransit, anywhere,” said Marcus. “With Braille playing cards, I can even sit and play cards with my aunt and cousin.” He is also using a Braille calendar, and writing by hand with a slate and stylus.
Now, just five classes letter, Marcus is pages away from completing the course in Grade One Braille. About to move on to learning the more challenging Grade Two Braille he says, “I’m kind of intimidated to memorize more letters and all the combinations of syllables. But all I can do is try and see what happens.
“My experience at the LightHouse has been a series of new beginnings. One class would end and something new would begin. I never know what the next thing will be, and it’s still continuing today.”