For the last six weeks I had the opportunity to teach a local man from Hirakata that many would call “handicapped”, and indeed he was blind. Actually I was selfishly more worried about myself, and how I was going to be able to teach him. When he first walked through the office door I regret to say his handicap took me off-guard. I quickly ran through ideas in my head of how to do a trial lesson with a visually impaired person, and every idea that I came up with required the use of the white board. After a short introduction I gave him something to drink, and as he sat in the lounge I noticed as he spoke that most of what he said was quite clear, and his use of grammar was more than adequate, so my fears of how to teach him slowly started to melt away. (I sure am glad that he was able to put me at ease)
My initial question, “So, why do you want to study English?” He said, “I work for a local library, and I have been invited to travel to Belgium to speak about our Library and its services for the audio and visually handicapped. I’m writing a speech in English and I need some help”. I have to say that his answer made me do some quick introspection, and I came to the realization that I have never been asked to speak anywhere about anything for any reason, nor have I ever needed to write a speech.. Suddenly this “handicapped” man had me on the ropes, and all before the trial lesson had even started. During the basic trial lesson I came to “hobby”, after he gave me the question sentence, again his answer more than floored me. “My hobby is using computers”. I thought, “computers, how is that possible?”
During the next six weeks we worked on his speech and each time he came to class I admired him a little more. He made use of certain tools that were really very cool, and honestly seemed impossible for me to understand how to use them. One such tool was called a “Braille Plate”. It’s a small plastic plate that has a series of small empty squares in rows, and he then would use another small tool that resembled a tiny screwdriver with a sharp point on the end. This is what a blind person uses to do hand written braille. He also had a sort of computer that allowed him to type braille, which was much easier by the looks of it than the braille plate, but he remarked at my amazement of the braille plate as “It’s simple to use”.
I guess as far as English teaching goes I really didn’t have much of a difficult time teaching someone that I presumptuously thought would be difficult due to his handicap. I feel more than foolish now. I think the one thing I personally will take away from this is that, I no longer really see him as handicapped in the sense that there is something holding him back. On the contrary, he has learned how to overcome a “difficulty” in his life, and more so has ambition to strive to greater knowledge by learning a language. The next time I get the chance to teach someone with a handicap, I will do my best to not let that influence my ideas of how to teach, because in the end they are just like everyone else.