Welcome to Typewriter Tuesday, a series from the Museum of American Writers that aims to shed light on the typewriters and other tools behind some of your favorite literary works. Check back every Tuesday to learn more about these trusted machines and the writers who used them. Our special new Tools of the Trade exhibit opens June 22 and features more than a dozen typewriters, as well as other writing implements and instruments used by American writers.
Today we’re going to take a look at a writing tool that isn’t really a typewriter: the Helen Keller Braillewriter, on loan from the American Foundation for the Blind.
“no barrier of the senses excludes me from the sweet and funny speeches of my reader friends. They speak to me without shame or clumsiness.”
National Disability Independence Day is celebrated annually on July 26 to commemorate the day the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. Many years before this landmark legislation was passed, the incomparable Helen Keller tirelessly advocated for the rights of people with physical and mental disabilities. disabilities largely through her handwriting, some of which may have been typed on the same machine shown below.
how does helen keller’s braille writer work?
A braille writer is a fascinating and vitally important machine. it works similar to a typewriter, with a few notable differences. The writer only has 6 keys, each representing one of the six dots that make up all braille letters. By pressing these keys in the correct setting, Keller and other blind writers of the day were able to print each letter on paper that lay flat along the braille writer’s back plate. the hammer that enabled this would be moved along the paper using a mechanism similar to the tape spool on a manual typewriter, allowing each letter to be typed individually. Watch the short video below to see Helen Keller using her braille writer:
keller the lawyer
Keller was a phenomenal writer, but she was so much more than that. Among her many abilities, she was an ambassador, a suffragist, a civil rights pioneer, and a lifelong advocate for the deafblind community. long before most people cared about ada compliance, keller was fighting for schools and resources for the blind in particular and for people with physical and mental disabilities in general.
In particular, Keller was deeply involved with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB), which was one of the first agencies in the country to provide services for blind adults. At the annual meeting of the American Association of Workers for the Blind in 1907, Keller gave a speech on behalf of the MCB, and his words ring true even today:
“we must see to it that in the diversity of interests one class of blind is not overlooked for the benefit of another, or that some part of the work is undervalued.”
She strongly believed that children with disabilities should receive the same resources and education that is often advocated for adults. While she believed in higher education (after all, she was the first deafblind person to earn a bachelor’s degree and the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Harvard), Keller’s message was that children deserve opportunity and instruction. regardless of your perception. ability. To this end, she eventually traveled to 39 different countries advocating for schools for the blind so that those doors would be opened to them.
the museum of american writers is also committed to being an open space for all. To that end, we’re very excited to offer braille guides for our display of tools of the trade made by our friends at Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired. any other accessibility requests are always welcome, so feel free to contact us before your visit!