Restoring a Passion For Reading

Celia Montes

“Braille Institute’s library helped me become more independent, and reminded me that I have a lot of potential.”
—Celia Montes

Celia Montes has loved books her entire life, especially murder mysteries. But starting in late 2007, she found herself less and less able to pursue that passion.

A medication her doctor had prescribed caused unexpected retinal toxicity. “My vision progressively started to go,” Celia recalls. By 2009, at the age of 31, she was legally blind. “I kept trying to cope and hide it, but I was depressed. And I couldn’t even read, one of my favorite pastimes.”

In 2014, Celia’s fraternal twin sister, Linda, shared some hopeful news. “She told me, ‘I’ve seen a Braille Institute bus on the freeway, and it looks like they could help you,’” Celia recounts.

With Linda’s encouragement, Celia phoned Braille Institute’s San Diego Center. Registrar Maggie Bradley invited her in for a tour and told her about the many courses she could take, including braille lessons.

Celia quickly started classes. Now, not quite two years later, she reads braille fluently. Meanwhile, the many other classes she’s taken at Braille Institute, from independent living, to cooking, to sensory awareness, to orientation and mobility training with a white cane, have helped open up the world to her once more.

Suddenly, Thousands of Books Became Accessible

Another stop on that introductory tour of Braille Institute had an even more immediate positive impact. “The very first day,” Celia says, “I started using their free library, checking out audiobooks I could listen to on a digital player which was provided by Braille Institute.”

That moment felt instantly transformative. “Reading for me is a way of keeping my mind working, a way to enjoy life,” says Celia. Books became even more accessible to her through technology classes she took at Braille Institute, where she learned to download even more free audiobooks from the extensive collection of the National Library Service.

Today, Celia Montes considers herself an integral, happy member of the Braille Institute community. “Everyone has your best interests at heart. They’re here to help you continue leading a fun, positive life pursuing your goals.”

She’s an active volunteer here, too, as part of the San Diego Center’s Welcome Club for new students. “I show them around the campus,” says Celia. “And I make sure to introduce them to all the different resources Braille Institute makes available—including those that were really important to me, like the library.”

“Braille Institute’s library helped me become more independent, and reminded me that I have a lot of potential.” Celia says enthusiastically.