January 5, 2006.
Louisville Courier-Journal - Louisville,KY,USA.
Vikki Kaleta, who has been blind since birth, said her life would be "pretty desolate" if Frenchman Louis Braille had not developed his system of raised-dot characters in the 1820s.
"I love literature and reading," said Kaleta, 45, who has worked for two years at the American Printing House for the Blind on Frankfort Avenue as a Braille proofreader. "Nothing beats curling up in bed and reading a good book at your own leisure."
Braille has also greatly improved the quality of life of Mario Eiland, 34, who has been blind since he was 7. Eiland, a printing house software developer and computer programmer, said Braille has helped him learn to speak German and Spanish.
The American Printing House hauled out a cake at an open house yesterday afternoon to welcome browsers to its museum. The celebration marked the birthday of Braille, who was born on Jan. 4, 1809, and died in 1852. A large white cake bore Braille's portrait and was inscribed, in both conventional and Braille text, with "Happy birthday."
Roberta Williams, printing house spokeswoman, said it hopes to make the commemoration an annual event.
Jane Hewitt was among several visitors who stopped by the printing house's Marie and Eugene Callahan Museum to take part in the activities yesterday afternoon.
With the help of Williams, she tried out a modern mechanical Braille writer that has six primary keys. She tried spelling her first name, but got a dot in the wrong place and spelled out J-b-n-e.
The museum, which opened in 1994, has displays on early raised-letter writing machines and other equipment, historic embossed books, and maps and globes.
The printing house dates to 1858 and is the nation's oldest and largest producer of materials, primarily educational, for people with impaired vision.
John Hedges, 46, a printing house computer programmer who develops puzzles, games and practical skills software, has been legally blind since he was 19.
Hedges said he never learned Braille because he prefers to read large-print texts. He said computers also are available that read words on the screen in synthesized speech.
While other raised-text systems have come and gone and a few still persist, Braille "has made access to education and learning much more widespread and easier," Williams said.
Reporter Sheldon S. Shafer can be reached at (502) 582-7089.
Source URL: http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060105/NEWS01/601050395/1008/NEWS01.
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