A year reading Braille

It’s been a year since I started reading Braille. Well, I don’t think I can exactly call what I did in those days “reading”, but I’m talking about when I first learnt the first few letters of the alphabet in Braille. Actually I think I started with the ones that made the most sense to me – yes, that’s right, I chose the ones that looked the most similar to their print counterparts as those were easier to learn. Not to mention that nowdays they all look identical to their print counterparts to me.

That’s funny actually, how the print alphabet and the Braille look alike to me. I guess that’s how it is when your brain learns an alternative way of representing the same information. But I actually don’t spend much time these days looking at Braille characters. When I first learnt Braille I was, of course, reading it by sight, even though my intention all along was to learn to read it by touch. I remember when I first started reading it by touch, then, and at first it was frustrating because it was slower that way, but now I’m faster reading Braille by touch than by sight and I get this weird feeling sometimes where I feel the printed words that I read as Braille characters under my fingers. I guess it’s kind of like where a sighted person subconsciously visualises the words that they are reading in their head – well, I used to anyway, before I learnt to read Braille.

It’s funny though that, since I learned to read Braille, I’ve been feeling more words in my mind than I have seeing them. It’s like that when I think, too. I don’t think in print that much anymore; I think in Braille. I think in contracted Braille, too, and I know instantly what a lot of common words feel like even though I don’t read that quickly when I read Braille. Perhaps this way of reading just comes more naturally to me, considering that I think of myself as a blind person ;-) .

And that’s what I often wonder: what, really, was my intention when I learned to read Braille? I don’t really think it was because I wanted to be blind – at the time, I had no thoughts of wanting to be blind. But yet, two days after I had learnt those first few Braille characters – about the time that I had finished learning the last few – I suddenly had the thought that I wanted to be blind. Had learning Braille actually triggered this? Or was learning Braille a way for my brain to hide the fact that I wanted to be blind, by providing another way for my then-developing BIID to exhibit itself that my brain knew meant that it wouldn’t have to face such a weird thought as wanting to be blind?

I find it hard to think that learning Braille would trigger my BIID; more likely, there was a reason why I learnt Braille in the first place. And there was a reason why I specifically wanted to learn to read it by touch.

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