Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – I am 51 and read Disney’s Frozen!

Greetings all blind wisdom seekers!

I didn’t imagine that when I turned 51 that I would still be reading Disney stories but now that I am 51, and I can read Disney stories I am beginning to see life differently.

You see, thanks to many things,

· going blind,

· becoming a single blind parent,

· learning braille,

· reading a page of braille a day,

· getting children’s books in braille through the post from the Blind Foundation,

· reading aloud Hairy McLarey to the kids as part of the 7 day challenge in Blind Week 2016,

· and joining the Children’s braille book club at the National Braille Press in the USA,

all steered me towards Disney’s Frozen. I had decided when I was struggling with things to read in braille from the Blind Foundation’s adult library, that I would try the Youth Library instead. I needed to feel motivated to read and the adult books were simply to long and laborious for my braille reading fingers. I decided I would have a go at reading children’s books instead. I phoned the Youth Library at the Blind Foundation and they sent me a variety of children’s titles. Flick the Fire engine, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and that classic favourite Hairy McLarey all arrived through the post. I began reading each one with my fingers, and to my surprise, I was finishing them too. It was so exciting to be able to read a book in one night!

So, when an email came through from the National Braille Press in the USA containing details of their Children’s book club, I wanted to join. Once a month they would send a children’s title in braille and this month’s book was Disney’s Frozen!

I know at 51 it seems a bit silly to be still reading fairy tales but I really loved it! Reading about Princess Elsa with her magic powers of turning everything to ice, and her lovely sister Anna, with the dastardly Hans who pretended to love Anna, but only to get hold of the sister’s kingdom! Anna had accidentally turned her sister to ice and the one single thing that would defrost her was an act of true love!

I won’t spoil the ending in case you want to read it too, but to Walt Disney, Louis Braille, the Blind Foundation and the National Braille Press, thank you for making this 51 year old blind woman very happy!

P.S. the photo is of me and my two boys taken at Disneyland Hong Kong when I was 45 years of age! When will I be too old for Disney? 45, 51, 61, 71, 81, 91 – I hope not!

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Saying thank you in the key of braille!

Above the front door of Louis Braille’s house in Coupvray, France, hangs a plaque with the words “he opened the doors of knowledge to those who cannot see”. This humble house, lying 40 km east of Paris, is now a museum honouring the blind man who gave us the key to that door of knowledge; Louis Braille.

Louis Braille was born on January 4 1809 in his small village of Coupvray. The fourth child of the local saddle maker, the Braille’s were a modest family living in a modest house in modest times. What was about to happen in this saddle maker’s workshop was not only about to change the life of their family forever, but also for the lives of blind people forever.

Like most other three year olds, Louis Braille was curious and adventurous. He wasn’t content playing in the corner with his blocks. Like most boys he wanted to play with things he shouldn’t. This day he crept into his father’s workshop and started playing with a sharp tool called an awl. Louis slipped while trying to punch his leather sample and instead of imprinting his piece of hyde, he imprinted his eye. Panic struck the Braille house where Louis was rushed to the local herbalist who treated the injury with lillie water. An inevitable infection from the injured eye took Louis’s second eye and by the age of four he was blind.

There are lots of events to be thankful for in the life of Louis Braille. First up his father taught him how to write using a board he made containing letters of the alphabet made from saddle making pins. Louis Braille was then able to attend his local school in his local village before mainstreaming was even a word! He then went off and attended the first school for the blind in the world which just happened to be 25 miles away in Paris. The next significant event to be thankful for in this story was a visit to that school by a French military captain called Charles Barbier who brought to the school a system of night writing. Barbier had invented this system of reading and writing for his soldiers to use in the dark but it was deemed to complicated for the soldiers so it was decided to bring it to the school for use by the blind.

Louis Braille took this code, and at the age of 12, began creating his system of reading and writing for the blind. It took him three years to perfect and once he had, it was a hit amongst the rest of the blind kids. Not so keen on the new code were the establishment at the school, for this system was based on six dots, bearing no similarity to the print alphabet of which they were familiar. Opposition from the teachers only increased the student’s enthusiasm for the code which had become rife once the lights went out at night. For the first time in their lives, the blind kids were able to write down their very own thoughts.

Louis Braille died from tuberculosis at the age of 43 in 1852. Even though his code was an instant hit amongst the blind, it was not officially adopted until two years after his death in 1854. The code is still in use to this day in over 90 languages from Albanian to Zulu. Maths, music as well as words can be written in this tactile code, with the basic alphabet remaining the same to this day.

If Louis Braille “opened the doors of knowledge to those who cannot see” then his code must be considered the key to that door. We must therefore conclude Louis Braille is responsible for unlocking the potential of many a blind person around the world who were able to open their door of knowledge through the use of braille. On January 4, 2009, the international blind community gathered in Paris to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille’s birth. This was a fantastic opportunity for blind people all around the world to say “thank you in the key of braille”.

Thanks too to the attached water colour of Louis Braille, painted by my husband and also braille lover, Ron Esplin!

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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – Blind wisdom prayer of thanks!

Good morning blind wisdom seekers!

A few years ago I attended a Be the Change workshop with the wonderful Chris Le Breton, a coach with a big world view who was spending time in Dunedin. Chris held this one day workshop on a Saturday, which I attended with other coaching friends. At one stage, we were all taken into a school hall, that Chris had prepared for us, with big posters on the wall with categories such as women, indigenous, spiritual, European, disability etc. We were all asked to pick our top three and to go into one of those. With too many of us going into the “women” section Chris asked us if we could choose another category. I chose disability, while one of my coaching friends chose indigenous. There I was, all alone, in the disability corner, feeling quite isolated. Then I thought “I am a lone voice” and then after a moment I thought “Hang on a minute Julie, if you are a lone voice, that makes you a leader!” I quickly felt better about standing alone, before we were asked to regroup. My friend who had stood under the indigenous poster, came over to collect me and we began talking. Me about standing on my own, her about indigenous wisdom! Then it struck me, “if indigenous people have wisdom, then blind people must have wisdom as well!”

And so……..

Blind wisdom was born!

Later in the day we did a stream of consciousness which has resulted in the following blind wisdom prayer of thanks.

Very often in Maori Dom, spirits of the ancestors are welcomed to a meeting space, to sit over the room while we are all gathered together. This weekend I had the blessed job of being MC at the Parents of Vision Impaired conference in Wellington, where I opened with this Blind Wisdom prayer of thanks, to welcome those of our blind past to enter our place of meeting.

Here it is for you now:

We welcome to this space our blind ancestors, for their stories and actions that have taught us not to be afraid of our dark, but to live in our light.

We remember all blind people who have inspired us to be fearless and who have shown us that doing things in different ways is where we find our true source of power.

We give thanks to the creativity this brings into our lives and opens our hearts to diversity.

We are grateful for our triumphs and our happiness but most of all we give gratitude for the sense of peace our blind wisdom brings us.

Yeah to blind wisdom!

And thank you for being open to blind wisdom!


Blind Wisdom International Stacked.pdf

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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – Sign up to our Youtube channel!

Oh, have you seen the clips of the braille biscuit monster on the braille biscuit show on Otago Access Radio?? 105.4 fm or on podcast at

It’s so so cute! Help us spread the braille biscuit word by sharing this post as well as going onto the Youtube channel and subscribing! That way, every week you’ll get to learn all about the braille alphabet, for the next 24 weeks – we’ve already done A and B – and we’re going right through to Z!

Listen to interviews with braille lovers or hear their stories, there’s quotations from Helen Keller, readings in braille along with music from blind musicians!

And if you want a poster for your workplace, school or organisation simply send me an email to julie with your postal address and I’ll send you one out!

We’ve already been picked up by another radio station – Plains FM in Christchurch which is super exciting! The braille biscuit monster is very pleased, he loves being the centre of attention! Unless he’s trying to pinch those braille biscuits of course, then he’s quite happy for you not to notice him!

Have fun checking this Youtube clip out from yesterday’s show and the braille biscuit letter b! That’s b for blind wisdom!

Bye bye!

The Braille Biscuit Show Logo pdf.pdf

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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – The braille biscuit show!

Good morning blind wisdom seekers

And welcome to the braille biscuit show!

Yes, it went live yesterday and what fun it was. It’s my new multi-platform radio show on Otago Access Radio, 105.4 fm.

You can hear the show every Tuesday morning at 10 am

· 105.4 FM

· 1575 AM

· Streamed live at

· Download the podcast from the website

· Find podcasts of previous shows on that blind woman’s facebook page!

· The show is sponsored by the Blind Foundation and began on October 4, as part of Blind Week, 2016! so get ready to find out more about this magical code with interviews with braille lovers, music from blind musicians, readings in braille and quotations from Helen Keller sprinkled throughout the show!

Each week we end with the show’s Louis Braille Limerick!

There “was a French boy who ate snails,

Who poked his eye with a nail,

He went blind the next day,

So he started to play,

With some dots that he turned into braille!”

Viva Louis Braille!

Listen in and help us spread the word about this amazing literacy tool for the blind!

Poster_Braille Biscuit Show (1).pdf

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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – 7 day reading aloud challenge!

This Blind Week I am responding to a 7 day challenge put out by the Blind Foundation in conjunction with an organised event where 7 blind people are challenging themselves over 700 km for 7 days!

However, I am doing a different kind of challenge. After becoming partially sighted at the age of 18, I have not been able to read aloud for over 30 years. Until now……

I learned braille as a 35 year adult but while I found writing braille relatively easy, reading it with my fingers was a whole different story.

I am collaborating with Dunedin Public Library all next week where I will be reading at least one children’s book a day for 7 days at all libraries around the region.

I’ve been practising my reading for 30 minutes every day for the past year to improve my reading speed. and Just for fun, we are going to make blanket huts and crawl into them and I’ll read the kids a story. Just like we used to do when we were little!

Here’s where you will find me in my pyjamas, reading aloud around Dunedin in Blind Week, 2 – 8 October!

Sunday 2 October at 11.30am: City Library, Storypit

Monday 3October at 3pm: Blueskin Bay Library

Tuesday 4 October at 11am: Mosgiel Library

Wednesday 5 October 3 pm – Pop up Braille blanket hut! Surprise!

Thursday 6October at 3.30pm: Port Chalmers Library

Friday 7October at 3pm: Waikouaiti Library

Saturday 8October at 2pm: City Library, Storypit

You can follow the Blind Foundation’s 7 day challenge on their site

Or they have their facebook page

Or follow it all on twitter

#lifewithoutlimits #lwol #acityofstories

If you want to contact Dunedin Public Library you can do so through

Kay Mercer
Events Coordinator, Dunedin Public Libraries
Direct Dial: 03 474 3419

Email: kay.mercer

Or me on julie!

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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – I wonder where my husband is!

That’s what I thought the first Christmas we spent together in 2005! “Where’s Ron?” I asked myself. He kept disappearing. Putting it down to having ants in his pants, I carried on through the silly season and at last Christmas arrived!

“here’s your present” he said quietly as he handed me a flat square parcel. “I made it for you!”

“Oh that’s where you’ve been disappearing to then,” I exclaimed!

I opened the package, running my hand around what felt like a frame, and some bumps on it. Reading the bumps with my hands Ron added in some description, “It’s a braille art work that reads the word vision, in tactile print as well as braille.” He continued, “because even though you can’t see, I still think you have vision.”

I cried. Tears fell on the painting. In a quiet voice I replied, “I’ve only bought you something!”

Since then, Ron has only dabbled in braille art works until recently, when he decided to do some more. Ron Esplin now has an exhibition at the Rob Piggott Gallery at 8 Jetty Street called a Portrait of Dunedin. While most of the works are water colours of Dunedin scenes, there is a beautiful section containing braille art works, created by Ron himself.

The works are based on contracted and uncontracted braille, and Ron encourages you to come and touch them! Unlike most galleries where the printed sign reads “Please do not touch”, these ones you are allowed to feel!

The exhibition runs until next Tuesday, 13 September and the gallery hours are as follows:

Saturday 10 & Sunday 11 September, 10 am – 4 pm

Monday 12 & Tuesday 13 September, 12 noon – 2 pm!

8 Jetty Street is just below the big intersection of Princes, Manse, Stafford and Jetty Streets! (opposite the Chip monks car park) (that’s instructions for the blindies amongst us!)

Plus, there is an article in today’s Otago Daily Times on Page 5 entitled “Innovative braille art gift to wife”

Ron, thank you for being inspired by braille! You see beauty everywhere, including in blindness and braille, and for that I love you very much!


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