The first-ever in-house prison braille conference 'behind the walls' was held June 12 & 13, 2023 at the Mountain View Unit, Gatesville, through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). The following speech was written and presented at the opening ceremonies and has been published with permission of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Additional information on the conference as a whole will be published at a later date. Enjoy. ~
(Written by a Mountain View Transcriber for the Mountain View Prison Braille Conference, the first ever conference for offenders held ‘behind the walls,’ June 12-13, 2023. Published with permission of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice)
One dot. To a sighted reader it only has a few meanings: a period, half of a colon or semicolon, or part of an ellipsis. So one dot alone is restricted in interpretations, but one dot to a braille reader is the equivalent of a mustard seed. Matthew 17:20 says: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” The smallest entity that has the power to have the greatest impact, because of all that it can mean. In braille, one dot … one tiny, seemingly inconsequential dot, could almost mean an infinite number of things, depending on which dot it is and what the context of that dot is. Just think about all that one dot can mean to a braille reader: the letter a, the number one, an ea contraction, a comma, apostrophe, script typeform indicator, typeform word indicator, a whole list of things when we consider Nemeth, and the list goes on and on. The possibilities are endless. If you don’t know braille, you’ll just have to trust us.
But that is just considering the literal meaning of one dot. Taken in the abstract, one dot means infinite opportunities for the braille reader are opened to them; worlds previously inaccessible. It gives them choices in careers that hadn’t been options before. It moves mountains or at least gives them tools in order to conquer those mountains themselves. The dots are their mustard seeds.
Does that make anyone else nervous? Because as many meanings as one dot has to the braille reader, that also means that it can go so very wrong by just one dot being off; completely altering the meaning of something and as a result, altering someone’s education. Because that dot also represents a person. We are not just creating braille … there is a person that will directly benefit from each dot we create and it is up to us as to what quality level we send them. In the Braillist’s Pledge of Professional Ethics’ Position of Statement from the National Braille Association, the last tenet is to ‘continuously develop the highest levels of knowledge and skills through professional development in my chosen specialty,’ because the quality of braille matters that much. And the more it can matter to us the more driven we are to ensure that we produce the highest quality braille that we are capable of. Find your Andrea, your Alejandra, your Lily or Timmy in these dots. Each of the braille readers who receive our work matter and because they matter, so do we.
Our visitors … this opportunity … this conference … is not only fulfilling the charge of the pledge in such a visible way, but also confirming that each person involved in the process of braille production matters. You and this conference are an embodiment of both a dream for Mrs. Billman and hope for those in the program. We can see the future us in you and it will be easier for us, because we don’t have to forge the path that you did … we just have to follow in your footsteps, but thankfully we don’t have to fill them. We do have to strive to produce the best braille possible by caring about each dot. So thank you for coming here today to help us in a way that’s never been done before. Our dots will be better because of you and this conference … and at the end of the day, it is all about the dots.