Braille Institute student Nimfa Beltran’s journey to mastering the latest iPhone started when she grew up in the Philippines. She was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in high school and told there was no cure.
Nimfa and her family didn’t let the diagnosis hold her back. She still had her vision and lived her life in the way any other young adult would, finishing high school, and going on to college, where she earned a degree in commerce and accounting.
After graduating college, Nimfa started working at an accounting firm in the Philippines. However, she was starting to lose her sight, but continued to live her life without acknowledging her fading vision.
“I was in denial. I didn’t want to acknowledge I was losing my vision and it was affecting my life, said Nimfa.”
Nimfa moved to the United States in 1991. The experience and expertise she developed early in her career allowed her to get hired at an accounting firm in Los Angeles, despite suffering from vision loss.
She worked there for eight years before her vision loss grew to where she had to retire. She heard of Braille Institute at the time, but maintained she was still in denial and held off on reaching out to the organization.
It was Nimfa’s daughter who eventually convinced her to go to Braille Institute in the late-90s.
“There were a lot of great classes and knowledgeable instructors at Braille Institute and it got me inspired to take as many classes on as many subjects as I could,” said Nimfa.
One of the subjects taught at Braille Institute that jumped out to her was technology for visually impaired. The combination of being mostly unfamiliar with technology, the emergence of new lifechanging technology for those who are visually impaired, and her success learning new skills at Braille Institute eventually drew Nimfa to the technology instruction offered by the organization in the early-2000s.
A keyboarding class was a great introduction into technology for Nimfa and led to bigger tech discoveries as she progressed through her classes and eventually made it to Advanced Computing. It was in these advanced classes that she became familiar with game-changing technology for those who are visually impaired, such as JAWS, which allowed her to shop, write letters, and download music.
“Learning technology opened my world up to so many of the things I had either lost or was never able to experience because of my disability,” said Nimfa.
Through her technology for visually impaired education at Braille Institute and working one-on-one with the organization’s Technology Instructors, Nimfa was able to become comfortable using a computer and the Internet. Yet, there was still a new technology mountain for her to climb as the evolution of cell phone technology started to open new conveniences for all cell phone users who are visually impaired.
Nimfa started using a cell phone in the mid-2000s, still using a “flip phone” up until a few years ago. Her daughter tried to convince her she needed to upgrade to an iPhone for years, but was unable to get her to make the change.
“I refused to give up my flip phone. I knew it and I thought it did everything I needed my phone to do,” said Nimfa.
A few years later, Nimfa’s daughter upgraded to the iPhone 10 and gave her iPhone 6 to Nimfa. Her daughter also continued to press, pointing out Braille Institute provided instruction on the iPhone for free and that was enough to get Nimfa to explore learning the iPhone.
Even though she had the iPhone 6, Nimfa was still relying on her flip phone when she first went into Braille Institute for technology instruction with Technology Instructor, Earth Kidkul. Nimfa specifically chose Earth as her instructor because Earth is blind, and she felt she could understand her and work well with her.
Earth started working with Nimfa so she could get the most out of her iPhone, but it wasn’t easy. Earth used a less-structured lesson plan and focused more on getting Nimfa to practice with her phone until she could get a grasp on how to use it and then would give her a unique homework assignment.
“Earth told me, write a recipe for Filipino food in your phone. I first thought I would never be able to do it, but I tried. It took two hours and I wrote a recipe for chicken adobo even though it was very challenging. I shared it with Earth and she had her mom cook the recipe,” said Nimfa.
The challenges Earth gave Nimfa were unique and required her to really get to know her technology and the way she used it to do things she needed to do. It wasn’t long before these kinds of lessons and homework assignments resulted in her being able to use her iPhone to its full capacity.
“Earth was amazing. I don’t think I would have been able to learn as much as I did without her. She always made me learn things the right way and never taught me the shortcuts first because she wanted me to know how to truly use the technology,” said Nimfa.
Nimfa’s next challenge came when the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and Braille Institute moved to offering their classes and instruction online.
“Earth challenged me when she sent me a Microsoft Teams link for a technology class I was taking and told me I had to be able to use the link to get into the class without her help this time. I was able to and figured out how I can now fully take part in remote classes on my own,” said Nimfa.
Having mastered the iPhone and remote learning on her computer, it may seem like this is where Nimfa’s technology journey ends, but that is not the case.
“My daughter got the iPhone SE and she offered to give me her 10 because my six was no longer updating and getting hot when I used it. In the past, I may not have been confident enough to upgrade to a new phone, but now I am,” said Nimfa.
Nimfa’s story is perfect for Technology Month, which we celebrate each January at Braille Institute, and she is just one of the thousands of people who are blind and visually impaired, who we have helped maximize their independence through technology for visually impaired education over the past more than 100 years.
Visit Braille Institute’s website for more information on our technology services, which are offered at each of our centers in Southern California. Contact the Braille Institute Center nearest you and ask about technology services, Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. You can call us toll-free at 1-800-BRAILLE (272-4553).