You’ll read the title of this post, raise your eyebrows and scream, “WHAT! You read books all the time, you liar!”
It’s true: I read books so much that I’m surprised I don’t drown in them. Saying that, I haven’t READ a book in forever. Doesn’t make sense? I’m not surprised.
When I “read” books, I either listen to them on audio, get my phone to read them to me (by using a thing called voiceover), or when I had my old computer, I connected it to my phone so that I could read it on the Braille display. For anyone that hasn’t guessed it, I’m blind. Noooo shit, you never would have been able to tell!
These methods work well. I can get through a book faster, either because I read faster or the speech plays it more quickly. If a typically fast-paced section is going on, I pause the book to absorb it. It’s how I work, and I like it, but at the same time, there’s something missing.
It’s been so, so long since I held a physical BOOK in my hands that I could read. So long since my fingers have run over the pages, feeling a little numb after a while because of the feel of the Braille. Even longer since I’ve sat on the sofa, or on the beach, turning pages lightning fast. Finishing one book, then going onto another.
There’s something beautiful about reading Braille: not the braille of my computer, but braille on paper. The braille that if you press a dot hard enough, it flattens and disappears, though that’s kind of like scribbling out a letter. The braille that fades with time, but that you can still feel; the writing that makes your hand cramp as you finish that last sentence. Only blind people will get this, because a lot of sighted people’s fingers aren’t sensitive enough to pick up on any individual dot, and that’s not because you’ve got anything wrong. It’s just that I was trained, as well as a lot of people were, to have sensitive fingers so that I could read.
Braille books are huge. When I say huge, I mean huge; the book ITSELF is larger, but it doesn’t just come in one book. Oh, no; the Harry Potter books came in 13 volumes (not that I read them in Braille, but this is just what I’ve been told) and the Lord of the Rings ones are apparently so monstrously large that they clutter up the house. I was too scared to get them because I was intimidated by them? They’re heavy too, of course – you can’t carry around 6 volumes of Braille, which is the amount of volumes I usually read when I got my books, without staggering. Some books are smaller, and it really depends on who makes them.
When I was younger, I got my books from the RNIB library. Maybe it’s cruel to say this, but their selection for books – especially young adult books – is… Not great. I get catalogues of books that have been made into Braille and I see ones from three years ago. Though there are recent ones, there aren’t many.
I understand, and I guess it’s unfair of me to criticise them. It takes money and time to print the books into Braille, so no wonder their selection isn’t “up to date”. What they do have is good, just not good enough for ME. It was when I was about 10, 11 and 12, but not now when I consume books like they’re food. I used to borrow them, and so I had to finish them within a select time, and I couldn’t do that now. What with stress and A-Levels, it would make it worse if I felt like I had to finish a book.
Reading – ACTUALLY reading – books gave me a great vocabulary, so I’m very grateful for that. However, the only Braille things I’ve properly read within the last two years are exam papers, Maths text books, some on Diagrams, signs and lifts. That’s not exactly thrilling stuff. The last book I read in Braille was She Is Not Invisible, and that was because I REALLY wanted to. Rcving it was almost a novelty, because I hadn’t borrowed anything for the RNIB library in what felt like an age. Um, more like 2 years… (I tend to exaggerate)
I miss reading, the feel of shoving a volume back in its bag and hauling out another one. Some of my best memories involve getting books, leaping up and down in my cringy 12-year-old way and getting way too over-excited and then dropping them on my foot. What can I Say – I was eager. Then again, 11-year-old me diving on 4 bags of books was a bit extreme…
A lot of people read in different ways. I almost envy people with sight, who can read print, because you can just walk into a bookshop and buy a book. Without asking, “Is this availible in Braille? When will it be? When can you get it to me – has someone already ordered it?” You could just get it out on the train without having to lug around a massive BAG of books. I suppose, though, that there can be downsides; deaf people can’t listen to radio shows or audio-based things, so I’ll always be grateful for my ears.
I miss reading. Perhaps I’ll get back into ordering books again, once I’m more relaxed. Maybe it’ll HELP me to relax.
I wanted to show you a little part of my world, just for a bit. I read Braille, always have done and always will. Print’s fascinating to me, the way it probably looks like art on a page, but that’s a discussion for another lifetime.
Reading’s something I always take for granted. Some people CAN’t read or don’t have access to books, so for now, I’ll carry on reading how I read.
From Elm 🙂
P.S: If you’ve got any questions about Braille or anything, really, then you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to talk about it, and sorry for ranting strangely about my obsession with books (again)!