Hard Work and Determination Yields New Awareness for Honor Students

June 27th, 2017

Rebecca Fadler and Allison Bertram

Braille, a tactile code for interpreting language is used by members of the Michigan State community and supported by the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities. For the first time ever, in recognition with the importance of maximizing opportunity, Tower Guard members experienced the intensity of learning Braille this year when a Braille class was offered by the RCPD.

Angela Sebald, the Blindness/Visual Impairment and Media Access Specialist for the RCPD set up the Braille class for students through the Michigan Department of Education - Low Incidence Outreach (MDE-LIO) in response to Tower Guard enthusiasm, a desire to further the tutoring capabilities of Tower Guard members, and open possible career opportunities for those enrolled in the class.

While Angela was excited about the new connection, she noted, “It’s much more intensive than people would imagine. Learning Braille is so much more than just knowing the alphabet.”

Angela Sebald talks to a group of Tower Guard members

Angela speaks to a group of Tower Guard members.

To any college student, two hours of class for sixteen weeks does not seem like a major undertaking. In reality, the Braille class which carried those parameters was more than many students would initially anticipate.

After all, learning Braille is like learning another language even though it is technically a code. For the Tower Guard members who already read and write in English, the difficulty of Braille lied in training their brains to learn something different than they ever had before.  

Ryan Griffin, a member of the Tower Guard Executive Board who enrolled in the class noted, “I did not expect for the class to be as complex as it is, nor did I expect it to require the amount of homework as it did to practice.” Despite the difficulty, Ryan was able to effectively learn braille at the expense of a lot of hard work. At the start of the class, Ryan was unsure how he would ever use Braille beyond his Tower Guard experience. Now, he has been hired by the RCPD as a Student Braille Assistant where he will continue his work.

A brailler.

A brailler.

Despite difficulties, the power of teaching fully-sighted students in the Michigan State community, especially Tower Guard members, is exponential. As Tower Guard is a sophomore year commitment, members who learn Braille through the class can improve their skills, grow awareness in their forthcoming years at MSU, and continue to help the RCPD and its students.

As RCPD continues to advance its technology to aid visually impaired students, faculty, and visitors of Michigan State, it makes equal progress in forethinking training for contributing members to the RCPD mission of ability like Ryan.