Why I Do What I Do
I have often mentioned how I have been working with adaptive technology since 1977. This is way more than half of my life. Recently, it seems like I have been so wrapped up in the technicalities of surviving through tough economic times and changes in the field, that I forget why I am really here.
20 some years ago, I actually started my relationship with Perkins working as a volunteer in the Infant/Toddler program. I did this for seven years. I should not even use the word work in this sentence because those Monday mornings were the high point of my week. I have never been able to explain (even to myself) why it meant so much to me to be with those children. While everyone else was thinking what a great idea it was for parents and grandparents of blind children to interact with an adult who is blind, the adult was soaking up every glorious minute of being with those babies who were also blind.
Over the years, I worked with many of those children, their families and teachers providing technology solutions. I also got to share in watching them grow up.
One of those children was Lauren. When she turned three, she had to leave the program but she moved on to the Perkins preschool. I was asked to spend some time with her helping her get comfortable with Braille. I don’t remember exactly how this evolved, but nevertheless, I was able to extend my Monday mornings and spend special warm and fuzzy Braille time with Lauren. Lauren moved on to public school and her Braille skills increased so much that she made it to the popular kids' television show Sesame Street. Take a look at at how excited she was about Braille.
Later I was able to help Lauren learn how to use her Braille and speak. Then, Lauren moved to California and I lost track of her. I thought of her often, especially when I needed to remind myself who I really was.
Thursday, while at Perkins, I opened my email like every other day expecting to see the usual mix of junk and important messages all needing attention (even if it was just to press the delete key). And lo and behold, there was a message from Lauren. We sent a few messages back and forth and realized that that day was the only day we could see one another. Her dad agreed to bring her in to see me. They arrived promptly at 1:30 p.m. There she was, all grown up and out looking for a job. She had graduated from college and even speaks Spanish fluently. What a treat. I fought back tears and learned about what she is doing with her life. She has kept up both her Braille and technology skills. She had her HumanWare BrailleNote Apex with her and wanted to show me how she could use it on Facebook.
I asked Lauren if it would be alright if I wrote this blog entry about her. If there are any other family members of the children in those Infant/Toddler days, or even better, the kids themselves that remember me, please get in touch and let me know what you are doing.
You can reach me by email at Gayle.Yarnall@Perkins.org.
Thanks again, Lauren, for coming back into my life.