Anchor Alumni – Dave Bahr ’92
Reflections from a Graduate: I graduated Anchor in 1992. Armed with 4 characters of braille under my belt which was in extreme accomplishment considering I didn’t want to learn it in the first place, I set out for the wide…
Reflections from a Graduate:
I graduated Anchor in 1992. Armed with 4 characters of braille under my belt which was in extreme accomplishment considering I didn’t want to learn it in the first place, I set out for the wide world of elementary school! Oh, I should also mention that I had a toy boat which went into the water complete with its own hose that you could squirt water from! Don’t ask me why I remember that. Anyway, at the Preschool Graduation Ceremony, I distinctly remember being the one to “throw” the anchor chain over the large boat that was placed on stage. This was at the old anchor building which was quite small and we used the cafeteria across the way. So, oh boy! On to bigger and brighter things!
I was very fortunate to be in an affluent school district. I had a mobility instructor and Vision Itinerant teacher straight from kindergarten through high school more or less. I can remember having a very small cane with a padded handle and a very pronounced slot where one’s finger goes so as to develop the proper technique.
I also recall starting piano lessons around the time I graduated from Anchor. This apparently was a catalyst to my learning braille very quickly. That’s saying quite a bit considering, like I said, I had learned a total of 4 characters when leaving the school. Apparently the improvement in my finger coordination and perhaps sensitivity to braille in general was due to my learning the keys of the piano. I also had a blind piano instructor who attempted to teach me braille music which failed miserably on my part. I ended up teaching myself how to read it in college at a very basic level for my Masters in Musicology.
To the parents reading this, I highly suggest enrolling your child in music lessons of some sort if they have an aptitude for such things. I took a total of 6 years of piano lessons and, naturally, regret that I didn’t continue. But that’s another topic for another day.
The ADA had been passed only relatively recently after I graduated Anchor. The technology that I received had to be fought for pretty hard throughout my k-12 schooling. This might seem contrary to what I said earlier about growing up in an affluent district. However, the tech I needed, like a Talking computer, braille printer, braille notetaker, two or three Perkins braillers, etc. added up in cost over time.
Even though tech has come a long way from when I started school, the ability to get it is still something that requires fighting for. When I say fighting, I don’t mean in a mean argumentative way. I mean fighting for what you need as a person to complete your studies. As a parent, I highly recommend your child learn to do this in stages. When I was in elementary school, I was told to get on the phone and order my own braille books. I protested. Why couldn’t someone else do it for me? The response was simple, “when you get older there won’t always be an aid around, you need to learn to do it yourself.” So, I advise your child to know why he or she is being asked to advocate for him or herself. Even if it takes different ways of explaining it, keep at it.
Sure enough, come my senior year of high school, my aid/braillist had to resign to take a teaching position. But I was ready to take on my own advocacy and she knew it. That was the best training I could have had for college because I was already used to asking for everything I needed. At that point, it included getting brailled copies of assignments in all my classes and being certain that I printed out the assignments for teachers to read. Was it always easy? No. Did I screw up and turn in things late? Yes, but having that year to essentially be my own advocate was vital to my success in college.
So, from 4 characters of braille at age 5 to a Masters in Musicology at age 25, I’d say life after Anchor worked out pretty well.