New course brings braille to people with sight

Public invited to learn two-hundred-year-old reading system

Elizabeth Lalonde has the world right at her fingertips.

Since learning to understand the meaning of the raised dots in the 200-year-old braille language, the Saanich resident has opened new doors for herself.

“It’s literacy for blind people,” said Lalonde, who was born with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that affects retina cells.

Lalonde has lived her entire life with 90 per cent vision loss. And until last year, when she enrolled in a nine-month intensive blindness immersion training program, she relied on CD books and talking computer technology to “read.”

But at the Louisiana Center for the Blind – there are no formal training centres for blind or visually impaired people in Canada – Lalonde learned non-visual life skills, from cooking for large groups and travelling with a white cane to using adaptive technology and braille.

Now Lalonde, 38, wants to teach others Right On The Dot,  her new introductory braille course for people who can see and those who are blind or have limited vision. She developed it after establishing her new business, BlindWay Training and Consulting Services, six months ago.

“It’s really not as hard as people think it is,” Lalonde said of learning braille.

She has been an advocate and mentor in the blind and disabled communities for more than 25 years, and volunteers as national chair of the Canadian Federation of the Blind.

By teaching people with sight how to read the braille alphabet and numbers, Lalonde hopes to increase their awareness about a language that isn’t often talked about.

“I want to normalize it a bit for people,” Lalonde said.

The six-week course begins Wednesday (Oct. 26) at 7:30 p.m. at Esquimalt Recreation Centre, 527 Fraser St. Cost is $13 per class or $78 for the session, including taxes. Blind or visually impaired people may take the course for free, or by donation.

For details please email elizabeth@blindway.ca, call 250-590-9048 or visit www.blindway.ca.