When Madison Mayster learned that the government had stopped funding Braille education in public schools, she decided to do something about it. The Washington University junior started a volunteer organization to teach blind members of her community the Braille method, as well as relevant occupational skills.
Mayster has been involved with the local blind community since high school, when she and her mother invented the Mayster-Braille loom, which teaches Braille in a creative and tactile format. The loom uses the Perkins Brailler typewriter for the blind as a model and consists of seven shafts and levers which correspond to the levers on the typewriter.
Mayster organized a base of volunteers to individually teach blind individuals Braille using the loom and other innovative teaching tools. Her methods proved successful, and Mayster and her peers were able to help children as young as nine become fluent in Braille.
As the recession worsened, Mayster's dedication to the cause increased, and she was able to draw a larger group of volunteers from Wash U.
"In a country where finding a job is hard for a well-educated college graduate, blind applicants are being overlooked more and more often," said Mayster, "They are often capable and competent learners who have not been given the opportunity to share their knowledge." Blind people who cannot read Braille are in an especially difficult position, as many potential employers find it too costly to provide necessary instructions and information orally.
As the unemployment rate of the blind continues to rise, reaching almost 70 percent in the past two years, Mayster's cause is more relevant and necessary than ever.
Recently, Mayster was named Maryland's top Youth Volunteer by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. She said that her experiences with the blind have given her an increased appreciation for the opportunities available to her as a college student and have motivated her to continue to fight disability related inequalities in any way that she can.
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