By Carl Jarvis
Imagine: You’ve just entered your office on what may well be the most
hectic, stressful day of your life. Suddenly you realize all of your
reference books, piles of paper-work and notes are covered with little
bumps. In fact, you discover there is not one single printed word to be
found. Every scrap of information necessary to do your job, is now in
Imagine: you rush back out of your office, wildly looking about, peering
into offices, staring over the shoulders of clerks. Everybody is calmly
doing their job, using Braille. Mysteriously they have learned the
language overnight. Only you, it seems, were overlooked. For some unknown reason, you
are permanently and totally Braille challenged.
Imagine: you dash for the door hoping the rest of the world has not gone mad.
It has. In the elevator, you’re not sure which button to press for the
lobby. Someone has to help you. They stare at you as if you are stupid.
Pausing at the news stand, you are unable to tell one magazine from another.
You can’t stand it, you need to go home and collect your thoughts. But at
the bus stop, there’s no way of telling which coach is yours. You back away,
not wanting anyone to know, and you decide you’ll call a cab. Of course, you
only brought bus fare and lunch money, not nearly enough for the taxi.
Remembering your bank card, you pull it out as you run back into
the lobby. There, at the access machine, you stop short. The card has turned
to Braille, and so have all of the instructions on the machine. You’ll have
to call home and ask for help. Funny, you never paid much attention to the
telephone dial and now, in your growing state of confusion, you don’t recall
which number goes where. You are so alone, so frightened, you actually begin
Imagine: you have always seen yourself as a leader, a visionary, a
problem-solver. You will not run from this challenge. You shall succeed. You have a large mortgage.
Once you have recovered from the great shock, you begin
looking for ways to survive.
Imagine: you have finally made arrangements, through your employer, to hire
a Braille reader, a process so complex and painful you plan to patent it and
use it to torture Terrorists. Now you sit in your chair going quietly mad
listening to the drone of your reader’s voice, taking hours of time to cover
what you once scanned in minutes, while others whip about you efficiently
communicating among themselves via Braille-FAX and E-B-mail. You begin to
feel the “ice” in isolation.
Imagine: you learn you are not alone. You are a member of a very small
minority of Braille-Challenged people. There is, in fact, a Brailleless Culture;
a history far too long and complex to discuss here. So, you become
a member of the, Brailleless Association of America. (BAA)
At the BAA meetings you find out about a number of small companies manufacturing
adaptive equipment which enables Brailleless persons to access all of the
Braille computers, FAX machines, Braille scanners and Braillers.
The expense is far more than you can afford, so you seek assistance from
your employer. Your request is turned down. There are no requirements that
your employer accommodate your disability.
Imagine: BAA, along with many other disability groups, battle in Congress for the
passage of a Bill, guaranteeing you equal treatment under the Law.
The bill passes and, despite subtle messages from your fiscal officer, money
is, “found” for your accommodation. After considerable time and effort, the
technician from the Department of Services for the Brailleless, has you on-line.
Now you are able to scan Braille text and convert the little dots into
letters, and through a very complex process, the Braille display on your computer
is transformed into print. Finally, you are again up to speed, being your
old efficient self, feeling good about your work.
Imagine: you are humming and smiling and cranking along in high gear.
Suddenly, a message flashes on your screen and drives terror through your heart.
New breakthroughs in technology have produced equipment so superior
to the ancient junk–at least four years old– presently in use, that your
organization is upgrading the entire communications system.
The BAA, technicians have already informed you that your adaptive equipment
is not compatible with it. You go to the, “Powers-That-Be” in your
organization, and request a meeting to discuss this concern. You are told that your
fears are groundless. You will not be forgotten.
Following this meeting A rumor goes around hinting that you are trying to sabotage the
new system, and your associates begin to whisper behind your back. They want the
new system. It’s far superior, more compact, ten times faster, and it’s cool
looking. They are sick of your “whining and constant complaining”. You feel
the “ice” settling in again.
Imagine: you have been forgotten. The new system is in place. Everybody
loves it. You’ve been told not to worry, someone will be around to do what is necessary
to put you back on-line. The “someone” they had in mind is the
same technician who told you the system would not work. Despite your concerns, no one bothered to investigate before the equipment was installed.
Once again you sit, going quietly mad while your reader plows line by line through
the piles of Braille.
Imagine: you know you are close to losing your mind or your job–probably
both. You must find other employment, but you do not want your associates to
know you are finally beaten. You try to figure out a way to do a quiet job
search when all information is only accessible in Braille.
One day you hear that your State has developed a central information center,
called a, “kiosk”. These information centers are being set up in easily
accessible locations. The plan is for these kiosks to make government information
and services available quickly and conveniently, to the public.
Sort of a “one stop shopping center”. You learn that lists of job openings
are among the many services offered. This is perfect. This is exactly what you need.
you discover your town recently placed a kiosk in the Mall. You go there on Saturday
afternoon. There it stands, costing the tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars to create, but well worth it. In its
ultimate form, the kiosks will bring virtually all State services right into
your local neighborhood. You are thrilled as you step up to the controls.
An automated voice welcomes you and brags about the wonders of this system.
Breathlessly, you wait for your instructions… Then, the Braille display appears.
Imagine: they are dragging you away, shrieking at the top of your voice.
Onlookers are amazed. They do not know how you managed to rip the iron bench
from the floor of the Mall. None of them dared to try to stop you as you swung
it over your head, again and again, smashing the kiosk into pieces of
broken plastic, glass and twisted metal. None of them understand why you
kept screaming the same words over and over.
“I pay taxes, too! I pay taxes, too! I pay taxes, too!…….”