Central Leader - - NEWS -

Karen Plim­mer was born blind and is us­ing her ex­pe­ri­ence to help oth­ers.

She works with blind and par­tially sighted clients at the Royal New Zealand Foun­da­tion of the Blind as an adap­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­struc­tor.

Part of her role is teach­ing braille, a lit­er­acy tool con­sist­ing of ar­range­ments of raised dots which stand for in­di­vid­ual let­ters or com­bi­na­tions.

Ms Plim­mer learnt the dot­ted lan­guage at an early age be­cause she ‘‘didn’t re­ally have a choice’’.

She says her per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence helps her stu­dents, who have usu­ally lost their sight as adults.

‘‘I re­ally think there’s ad­van­tages and disad­van­tages to ev­ery po­si­tion you’re in.

‘‘For me it means that when my stu­dents make mis­takes I can just say ‘Don’t worry, I did that too, you will suss it out’.’’

Ms Plim­mer de­vel­ops in­di­vid­ual pro­grammes to suit each per­son’s needs.

In­struc­tion can range from braille lessons through to key­board and com­puter basics, set­ting up talk­ing screen soft­ware and help­ing peo­ple use tablet ap­pli­ca­tions.

Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances have changed the land­scape of her world as well as her work, Ms Plim­mer says.

There are now phone and tablet ap­pli­ca­tions which make life eas­ier in sim­ple ways such as iden­ti­fy­ing food la­bels.

Many of th­ese tools were not around when Ms Plim­mer was young.

She is ex­cited to see the way tech­nol­ogy de­vel­ops but says braille still plays an im­por­tant role.

‘‘There’s a real im­me­di­acy about braille. Peo­ple as­sume it’s all about read­ing books – but if your level of vi­sion is so poor you can’t see any print, you also can’t read any­thing in your pantry and, more se­ri­ously, your med­i­ca­tion.

‘‘A tin of toma­toes feels ex­actly the same as a tin of fruit salad – I’ve heard some hor­ror sto­ries about din­ner par­ties.’’

She says the best part of the work is see­ing the real dif­fer­ence she can make in other blind or par­tially sighted peo­ple’s lives.

She re­cently got a client back on email af­ter they had gone with­out it for 15 years.

‘‘No one chooses to lose their sight and for some peo­ple it’s so over­whelm­ing that they don’t want to come to us straight away.

‘‘Peo­ple can lose a lot of hope in a very short pe­riod of time – even if they haven’t been able to do some­thing for two or three months. It’s quite a buzz to give it back.’’

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