Braillers breaking barriers

African students reading braille text.

Perkins is proud to work in partnership with the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust to provide students across the globe with literacy devices to enable them to tackle their own barriers.

September 1, 2014

For Martin, an 8-year-old Kenyan boy, the pencil he once held in his young hands had suddenly become obsolete. It was a crushing realization for Martin, who had just lost his sight and was about to begin his academic career.

"Life seemed to have come to an end," he said. In truth, life was far from over for Martin, but he would not learn that until overcoming the barriers that lay ahead.

Martin began to transcend his writing limitation on May 15, 1991. He remembers the exact date as it was the day he arrived at St. Lucy School for the Blind – the day he discovered braille.

It was a key turning point for him and it was not long before Martin was reading and writing braille with the use of a slate and stylus.

Having the ability to write gave Martin access to the education he once felt had been robbed from him. But it was not without challenges. Using the stylus to prick one braille dot at a time was a slow process. Additionally, it was confusing to read left to right, yet write from right to left, as braille requires.

He would often prick himself accidently, and finding a dropped stylus could be quite difficult. For years Martin dreamed about getting his hands on the illusive Perkins Braillers®, a privilege reserved for the older students.

In 2000, Martin reached class eight and the wait was over. Armed with a Perkins Brailler, Martin was able to overcome even more educational barriers. "The Perkins Brailler helped me to perform well on my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams, which enabled me to attend Thika High School for the Blind," said Martin.

After four years of high school Martin went on to pass another exam earning him a Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education. This allowed him to enroll at Kenyatta University in Nairobi where he continued to succeed.

For most individuals graduation day is something to look forward to. In Martin's case, this excitement was mixed with the anticipation of a new barrier. Schools do not permit current students, let alone graduates, to take Perkins Braillers off the campus. Martin knew that employment opportunities would be limited without access to a brailler. Furthermore, he worried he would start to forget braille and all that he had learned.

This past June Martin graduated with a Bachelors of Education in the Arts. Happily, Martin and three of his classmates received their very own Perkins Braillers, thanks to an essay contest organized and funded by the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust, and backed by the African Braille Centre and Perkins Products.

"Indeed my mouth may not be able to say the joy that invaded my heart on receiving the brailler," says Martin. "From the day I received my Perkins Brailler my heart has always felt happy... I am very proud of my Brailler and of the people who gave it to me."

Francis, a fellow recipient, added, "A life without a brailler is a life where creative thoughts are still kept in the minds. I have not lost hope because Perkins continues to make more qualitative and advanced braille devices."

The barrier that stood between Martin and a quality education and career was not a lack of ability but a lack of opportunity. Martin's story is a reminder of the power of an individual when given the appropriate tools to succeed.