Dunedin woman Julie Woods’ love affair with braille has led to an innovative podcast series, radio show and YouTube resource that takes a fun approach to learning the tactile reading system for the blind and visually impaired. More on that, later . . .
The Braille Biscuit Show, a 26-episode series supported by The Blind Foundation, airs at 10am on Tuesdays on Otago Access Radio, with replays on Saturdays at 8am. It is podcast from the station’s website, with YouTube clips of feature braille-education segments available on YouTube.
Julie, a motivational speaker and coach, is known as That Blind Woman. In 1997, at age 31, she was diagnosed with inflammation of the retina due to an unknown virus which left her legally blind. Preferring initially to focus on computer and speech recognition technology to aid with communication, she turned to braille in 2001.
“It was a goal I set myself, to make a positive change, and I quickly fell in love with the code,” she says. “I was reunited with the written word and was able to once again read, this time with my fingers. It was truly liberating.”
But it wasn’t just the code that captured Julie’s imagination. The story of Louis Braille, the Frenchman who lends his name to the system of small rectangular blocks that contain tiny palpable bumps, also intrigued her.
“Louis Braille lost his eyesight by age 4, due to an accident. At the age of just 15, he developed his code, which has transformed so many lives.”
The Braille Biscuit Show includes interviews with visually impaired and sighted people who use the braille system, readings in braille, music from musicians who are blind or have low vision, and quotations from deaf-blind American author and political activist Helen Keller.
And Julie has a special companion alongside for a programme segment that explains the braille system.
The Braille Biscuit Monster, a hand puppet with an appetite for the chocolate biscuits Julie uses to spell out each letter of the alphabet, makes appearances in weekly audio and video features of the show.
“Braille is for young and old,” says Julie. “And braille is fun. I’m looking forward to introducing listeners to braille, and to the story of the young French boy who made an impact on the world. That’s inspiring, because we all have the potential to make a positive impact on the world but I don’t think we often see ourselves in that way.”