Noye's Path to Literacy

Hey everyone! My name is Chinonyerem Enwereji, but my friends know me as Noye.

Noye holding a book with a sign that says braille across america

I have a condition called Oculocutaneous Albinism, which is a condition that causes the lack or absence of pigment in the eyes, skin and hair. I am absolutely happy to be me and there is no one else I’d rather be!
When I was 9 years old, I taught myself how to read and write braille and it was the best decision I have ever made. The braille dots are extremely small and I’m not able to see them at all and therefore I had to get creative to learn it since I didn’t have anyone to teach me.

I love Marc Brown, the creator of the Arthur books and his books are my absolute favorite to read. I know a lot of them by heart. I had many of the books on audio cassette tape and what I would do is I play the audio cassette as I read the braille version of the book with my fingers. That’s how I learned grade 1 and 2 braille and essentially the rules of braille itself such as which contractions can go together and which ones stand completely alone. When I learned braille, the Unified English Braille (UEB), the braille code that we currently use today, hadn’t taken the stage as of yet. It was still the old braille code EBAE, English Braille American Edition. Soon after I learned braille, I started to teach younger blind children how to read it at my elementary school alongside the braille teacher. I’ve taught braille to so many kids over the years. If you’re curious, I’m only 26. It was so fun watching them enjoy reading a braille book. It was also a blast teaching them braille technology.   

I chose to learn braille because it allowed me to have more freedom than large print allowed. I wasn’t able to read as quickly or for an extended amount of time. The words would start blurring together, I would start reading different lines of text, my eye strain started to cause headaches, and eventually, I was forced to take a break. This routine was particularly troubling for example during homework. Most nights, because of all the eye strain breaks I took, it took me until 11 o’clock to finish ONE assignment. However with braille, I was able to complete work more efficiently and quickly. I wasn’t spending a lot of time taking breaks suffering from headaches. I was able to complete all my years of schooling and braille aided me through. My Braillenote Touch Plus, that I have named Barq, is my current best friend and the biggest game changer in college. Believe me, having Barq made taking notes, reading several chapters of text, and writing a number of papers, undoubtedly easier. He certainly made student teaching both in a vision class room and a general education classroom attainable.

Noye at her Kutztown University graduation

In December 2021, I graduated from Kutztown University, Summa Cum Laude (Highest Honors) with a double major in Elementary Education Pre-k to 4 and Special Education with a concentration in Visual Impairment. Was it easy? Absolutely not. But did I accomplish an amazing feat? 1000 times YES!! I DID IT!!!! And I’m not done yet. I plan to go for my Masters degree too.

I believe educating the sighted community about braille is just as important as educating the blind community. The reason being is that they will be likely to look for braille in places where braille should be but isn’t. And that to me is another voice advocating for the expansion of braille. What could be better! Educating sighted children about braille allows them to build, not sympathy, but empathy for the people who use it. Plus kids love learning something new. They are naturally curious. When I was a student teacher in a 2nd grade general education classroom, I taught my kids about braille and they saw me use it everyday. Braille became a part of their daily lives as well. It was so ingrained, the kids just saw braille as “normal.” I taught them about my blindness and I got the same response. There are a number of resources to learn braille for sighted children and adults available as well. Check them out here at Paths to Literacy.

Braille has brought me so much happiness and given me the freedom to succeed in my life, I wanted to share that joy and the beauty of braille with others.

That’s why I started my social media platforms:

Braillion and Braillion TvEye Diaries on Youtube

@BraillionOfficial on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook

Heading to Noye's YouTube Page

I figure why not show people how cool braille is and why it is important. I recently reached a milestone on Instagram and TikTok. 130,000+ friends on TikTok and 30,000+ on instagram. These numbers mean so much to me because that’s over 100,000 people who know something about braille and disabilities and they are excited to learn more about it!

On these platforms I share my experience of living with Albinism and braille; both the benefits and the challenges and everything in between. I get to teach people the very important lesson of “Blindness is a Spectrum” and blindness varies even if you have the same eye condition. Everyone’s experience with blindness is uniquely their own. I also explore many avenues to make this world more accessible and welcoming for the blind/visually impaired. I also film videos about different types of braille and blindness/visually impaired technology as well as squashing myths about blindness and albinism.    

Braille is not always as readily available as print and it also costs three times as much to produce a book in braille than to produce the same book in print. I believe literacy should be accessible to every single person whether it is print or braille. I also believe that children who are braille readers shouldn’t have to pay more for their books either. So myself, the National Braille Press, and hundreds of other people decided that we were going to do something about it. The National Braille Press is a non-profit company that produces amazing print/braille books that invite braille and print readers alike to share a story together.

They produce print/braille books and sell them at the same price as the print version of the book. This past April, we chose to carry our braille boton for the second year and complete another fundraiser with the National Braille Press called the Braille Across America Challenge.

Noye pictured at the PA regional braille challenge

In this annual challenge, anyone, individually or in teams, can choose to walk, run, bike or roll in a wheelchair 26.2 month long marathon and raise vital funds that allow the National Braille Press to continue their braille literacy programs that benefit blind children and adults. One of the programs they provide is called the Children’s Braille Book Club in which braille reading children can obtain print/braille style books FREE of charge. You can learn more about it here.

Noye pictured with her Braille Knights cover page for fundraising on the NBP website

This year on my fundraising page, which I have named the Braille Knights, I was able to raise $1,053!!! I’m absolutely ecstatic because these are funds that will go towards creating more braille books for the littles! If you would like to participate click here. So many thank yous!

As you all can probably tell, I love braille! I want to do everything I can to enhance its presence in this world. I want to help change the way people view braille. We can do it together!  Audio is not a substitute for braille. Braille is the equivalent of print. Braille is literacy!                

Noye's Path to Literacy title with Noye at the Braille Literacy Event