Braille Institute Expands Student Horizons

An earthquake jolted Trudy Williams awake very early one midsummer morning in 2010. At that moment, however, something else shook her world far more deeply.

“I was staying at a friend’s house,” she recalls. “I called out for someone to turn the lights on. They said they already were. That was when I realized I couldn’t see.”

 Trudy had gone blind from undiagnosed glaucoma. Sure, she’d had warning signs— occasional double vision, or “words that looked like they were moving off the page” when she read at night. But she explained it all away as eye fatigue, a byproduct of an adult life joyously dedicated to teaching, tutoring, and reading.

Literally overnight, that joy evaporated. “I felt destroyed,” Trudy says. “I blamed the world.”

Eventually, her deep religious faith helped her “give up that self-pity and replace it with ‘I can and I will.’” That belief, in turn, led her in 2012 to Braille Institute. Daily living skills courses there helped Trudy regain her confidence in everyday life. “Now my sister says I put the sighted to shame in cleaning and organizing,” she laughs.

But Trudy regained even more—her life’s calling— when she began taking classes at Connection Pointe, Braille Institute’s state-of-the-art technology learning center. Under the “compassionate, warm, supportive” guidance of teacher Earth Kidkul, who is also legally blind, she grew confident using both mainstream and adaptive computer technology. Following Earth’s enthusiastic assessment of her progress, the Department of Rehabilitation presented Trudy with a new MacBook Pro computer to use both at home and in courses she’s now taking full-time at Los Angeles City College.

With Braille Institute’s help, Trudy now imagines limitless horizons. “I would love to teach seeing-impaired and blind school children, ”enthuses the determined 53-year-old. “If I can achieve that, I don’t need to dream for anything else.”

Other Lives, Other Achievements

Trudy’s success dramatizes how Braille Institute can help people who are blind or visually impaired gain confidence through free classes—all made possible by our generous donors. Still more stories underscore the wide range and many ways in which Braille Institute touches lives.

Take Ralph Scheffers.  An energetic and upbeat 93-year old World War II Navy veteran and retired regional sales manager, Ralph began taking classes at Braille Institute after he was diagnosed with macular degeneration.

Braille Institute also provided both practical and emotional support when Lois, his beloved wife of 63 years, passed away. “The classes there keep me going,” he says, listing them— daily living skills, orientation and mobility, exercise, cooking, issues of the day—with the enthusiasm of a college freshman.

Ralph Scheffers now thrives solo in the Fullerton home he and Lois shared. He still looks after their two animals: toy poodle Cutie-Pie; and Sweetie-Pie, a Tennessee Walking Horse that Ralph rides “every day when the weather is nice.” And Braille Institute remains an integral part of his active life. “It’s a fabulous place with fabulous people,” he says.

Those same sentiments are echoed by 21-year-old Rebecca Mendez. Born blind due to septo-optic dysplasia, a congenital malformation of the optic nerve, she attended a public school that provided classrooms for visually impaired children.

Adulthood, however, brought new challenges. Classes at Braille Institute helped Rebecca gain the confidence to meet those challenges. Through an “organized living” class, she learned practical skills like folding paper money in different ways to tell denominations apart. Cooking classes taught her to make such tempting dishes as chicken enchilada casserole and peach cobbler.

She reserves her greatest enthusiasm, though, for classes at Braille Institute’s new Connection Pointe technology center. “I was able to acquire the skills to use and buy a new laptop computer,” says Rebecca, who’s now enrolled in college and wants to learn how to “compose music for films and television.” Braille Institute’s Connection Pointe has bolstered her confidence to share the music in her soul.