A hand belonging to an off-screen owner uses screen-reading technology.

Reading! It’s an activity we do every day. Whether we’re reading signs, menus, or books. Everyone reads even if you haven’t read a book in years, you are still a reader. Being blind, I get a lot of questions asking how I read. Do you read braille? Do you listen to audio books or use text to speech technology? Many people assume that blind people can’t or don’t read. In reality, reading plays a major part in mine and the lives of other blind people, especially reading books.

When people ask me how do I read, my answer is in lots of ways. Personally braille is my favorite way to read. Braille is a six dot system created for the blind to allow them to read text using their fingers. I began learning braille at the age of three and it exposed my young mind to the world of books. By learning braille, I was able to read just like my peers. Another way I read is through audio and text to speech technology. With this technology, I am able to read the screen of a computer or phone, audio books, and many other things.

Books are a way for me to understand the world around me, especially the parts I can’t see. Through reading I am able to learn what things and people look like. For example, if I read a book about a specific type of flower, I am able to learn what color that flower is, how it’s shaped, etc. This might seem like a small thing to most people, I mean, everyone learns about things they can’t see through reading, but in my situation it’s much deeper. Being blind, I don’t have clear knowledge of what ordinary things look like such as cars, street signs, and people in general. Reading gives me the ability to visualize these things by reading descriptions and stories about them. While reading, I create a picture in my head of the way things look. I will admit, sometimes my mental picture is very inaccurate.

Not only does reading help me understand the physical part of the world, it also helps me understand the social part as well. By reading about characters and how they interact with each other, especially through nonverbal gestures and social cues, I am able to use what I learn in my own social life. For instance, when I was younger I learned that a nod means yes, a shake of the head means no, and waving is a way to say goodbye or hello.
Reading also helps me gain experiences that I am able to have as a blind person, such as the experience of driving a car.

No matter what way I choose to read a book, whether that be through audio or braille, I know that I will broaden my outlook on life.

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