Good Reading : May 2011
MAY 2011 ı goodreading 17 me my shelf i ● How old were you when you started to lear n to read braille? I lear ned to read braille in my first year of school when I was five. Braille is a series of cells containing six dots in two columns of three. Some 63 combinations of dots can be made in each cell -- for letters, punctuation and contractions. Imagine pushing a pencil through paper.You will find that the dot or bump comes out on the other side. It is the same with braille. Now I have a braille printer attached to my computer. A special computer program can translate a Word document into a braille document and I can just print it out. ● Which do you prefer -- braille books or audio books? I prefer audio books because I just love the sound of a human voice reading a story. It really calms me, especially at the end of a stressful day. ● How often can a braille book be read before its dots become so wor n down that the text becomes illegible? If a braille book is printed -- or as we say, embossed -- on good solid paper and is looked after well, it can be read for more than 60 years. ● Is there any other new technology that assists you to read? The advent of computer-based adaptive technology, which started in the last half of the 1980s, has changed my life. Although computers have changed the lives of all of us, I believe that they have changed the lives of blind and vision-impaired people more than the lives of others. By using a program called JAWS -- Job Access With Speech -- I can have a synthetic voice read to me anything that comes onto my computer screen. So I can read Word documents and HTML documents that I download from the internet. I also use a program called Kurzweil 1000, which enables me to scan a book onto computer and then have that book read aloud in synthetic speech. I also obtain audio books from the library of Vision Australia, which is Australia's largest blindness welfare organisation. I am one of the two deputy chairs of its board. I read newspapers by downloading them each mor ning from a specialised Vision Australia website. I can even download books from that website, which saves me receiving CDs in the post. There is a network of print-handicapped radio stations around Australia -- including Sydney's 2RPH and Vision Australia Radio in Melbour ne -- which read out free to air the stories in newspapers and magazines. ● What are some of your favourite books and authors? My very favourite author is Elizabeth Goudge, who lived in England from 1900 to 1984. In particular I love her trilogy on the Eliot family -- The Bird in the Tree (1939), The Herb of Grace (1948) and The Heart of the Family (1953). I first read The Herb of Grace in 1980 and just loved it. At that time, I was really wondering what to do with the rest of my life, and Elizabeth Goudge really spoke to me about steadfastness and faithfulness. Whenever changes are taking place in my life and I really need some comfort, I re-read an Elizabeth Goudge book; it's like being held close by a loved one. Another very special book for me is The Miracle of Mindfulness by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. It is about Buddhism, being mindful and especially about meditation. A close friend gave me this book in 2004 and it really spoke to me. I have been a Christian meditator since 1994, following the teaching of Father John Main, and so Nhat Hanh's little book not only spoke to me simply and directly, but it also reinforced my conviction of the central role that meditation plays in my life. Another one of Nhat Hanh's books that I keep on my little reader is Being Peace. I really love the classics, especially Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. Both authors are magnificent at describing characters -- their looks, habits and emotions -- and both are superb storytellers. I think Great Expectations and Pride and Prejudice are my favourites. ● What books have made you laugh out loud? I remember during one holiday reading The Moon's a Balloon by the film actor David Niven. I laughed right through that gripping tale. ● Which books have moved you the most? The Wind in the Willows, The Herb of Grace, Ransom and some of the plays of Shakespeare. ● What books have you written? I have only published law books, but I suspect that this feature is often given over to authors of a very different kind from me. I am presently trying my hand at writing my memoirs, that is, my autobiography. It is interesting work, but I must say that I am finding it rather hard going. ● As Senior Australian of the Year, what message do you most want to deliver? My message is a simple one. I ask my fellow Australians to grant all of us persons with disabilities all of the human rights and inherent dignity that most other Australians take for granted.