Making a difference through my music and showing the world that blind people are just as capable as anyone else is what I intend to achieve.
My name is Precious Noemi Perez, and I am eighteen years old. I am Puerto Rican, but I was born here in Boston, Massachusetts. I am a first semester Berklee student, and I hope to double major in Music Education and Vocal Performance. As a teacher, I hope to inspire future generations to pursue their dreams and be successful in the same way that I pursued my own, because I know now that anything is possible, and giving up is never an option.
I know that one day, my legacy will be the reason people truly realize that what I can do is not determined or defined by everything I cannot see, and that this will evolve into a social norm rather than a remarkable revelation.
As a singer/songwriter and/or music educator, I will crush stereotypes by sharing my experiences and doing what has not been done. In case you haven’t picked up on it or are wondering, yes, I am blind. You’ve probably seen me around campus. Maybe you’ve helped me find a crosswalk or a classroom, or held a door. I want to thank you for that, but that’s not why I’m giving you a glimpse of myself. Yes, sure, I use a long white cane. Yes, my eyes don’t work. That doesn’t define me, it is simply a part of who I am.
I do not feel that my blindness is a “problem,” a “handicap,” or a “challenge.” I believe that God made me exactly this way for a reason, and he makes no mistakes. As I wrote in an original song, “It’s our time to shine, no one has the right to judge, ‘cuz we’re all undefined.” I am a person first and foremost; a patient, open-minded, and a honest person.
I saw a post circulating around Facebook a few weeks ago, and I decided that I needed to copy and paste it on my timeline, because I totally agreed.
“For many of you, I am the only visually impaired person you have ever met, or seen. Many of you are also shy or nervous about asking me questions related to my visual impairment, for fear that you will offend me in some way. I am writing this post to tell you that I will never be offended by curiosity. If you know me, you know that I make blind jokes all the time, simply because I am very comfortable with my blindness. In fact, I would like to give you all the chance to comment with any questions you may have. I want to educate everyone, I am a normal human being, one that is sick of modern-day society’s negative portrayal of the blind. I want to destroy that image, along with the discrimination, by answering one question at a time. A lot of my Facebook friends will scroll past this status, but that’s okay; some people never change. Maybe you’re afraid of what your friends will say, or maybe you’re too “cool,” but I’m done with that immature high school crap. For my Facebook friends who do read this status, please feel free to ask me anything about blindness, whether it is a general or more specific question. I am open to answering anything, from my cause of vision loss, to how I complete daily tasks. Don’t worry about making me feel uncomfortable; there is no such thing as a stupid question. I hope that some of you will take advantage of this opportunity, whether you are sighted, visually impaired, or even totally blind like me. You can also message me if you don’t want to post a comment. Again, I just want to give you a better understanding of the visually impaired, so that maybe next time you see a blind person in your travels, you’ll be a little more intelligent than the rest, and you could help me educate society with your newfound knowledge. And…go!”–Unknown
Below are the questions I received from some of my Facebook friends; people from choir, school, and my home town. I’ve included my answers as well, because these are questions you might have, too.
Question: Hi Precious! I know I have seen you use them a bit, but could you share a little bit more about the assistive technologies you use/how your devices (phone, computer, etc.) are adapted for your use? Thanks (and cool post btw!)
Hey! Of course! The thing I used in choir is called a Braille Note Apex. It’s basically like a braille computer. It connects to the internet, and it’s where I write things down, read my books, and do most of my work. It has a braille display so I can read everything, and that’s how I followed along with the words for all the songs. They were put into word documents, and I was able to access them on there via flash drive. I have a regular iPhone, but every apple product has a built in voice over feature under accessibility in settings, so I’m able to use anything Apple. I also have a Windows PC, and it has
a screen reader loaded on it. It’s a speech synthesizer that reads everything on the screen, and with keyboard commands, I can do whatever I need to do on the computer. There are two common screen readers. one is called Jaws, which is more compatible with some scripts for different programs like Sonar and other music software, but it is quite expensive. The one I prefer is NVDA, which is a free screen reader that can be downloaded from a website online and installed. I can use both, though.
Question: What’s the best way to approach a blind person in public? I’m a very sociable person and I like reaching out to strangers, but I don’t want to surprise someone or make them feel uncomfortable. I know offering help can seem demeaning sometimes but is there any time when it’s wanted or welcome? I think this post is a very beautiful idea.
Answer: Help isn’t always needed, but we do appreciate it being offered in a way that isn’t demeaning and makes us feel like we’re not like everyone else. If you want to offer help, it’s totally fine to just say something like “hi, I saw you pass by this same area a few times. Do you need any help?,” And if the reply you get is “no.”, then trust that we’ve got a handle on it, because we do. And if the reply you get is something like, “yes, thank you. I’m looking for…” or “How do I get to this or that place?” Then detailed directions will be very helpful, for example, saying something like, “If you are looking for the Macy’s entrance, keep walking straight in the direction you are facing, take a left at the next opening you come to, and Macy’s will be the third door on the left down that hallway.”
If you just want to approach a blind person in general just to be social, it’s cool to just say “excuse me, my name is so-and-so. What’s your name?” But don’t be surprised if we ask, if you’re addressing us, because we can’t always tell. Overall, we’re just like anyone else. Don’t be afraid to approach us. yeah, we have canes or guide dogs, but, they are tools we use to travel independently and further our independence. Our canes are not death machines or samurai swords. Our blindness is part of us, but in no way does it define who we are. We are people first and foremost.
Question: I’ve been curious for a while about how reading music works in braille. I’m a huge nerd and I’m super into the history of written music but I’m just now realizing that I’ve never come across any information about how it’s notated for those who cannot see. Interested in any info you have!
Answer: There’s a braille music code. It’s really cool. Some of the basics are that eighth notes in a c scale are represented as d, e, f, g, h, i, j in braille(c, d, e, f, g, a, and b.) Each of those notes gets a dot added or two dots added to it to change the duration, which means that there is a different braille symbol for a whole note c than there is for a half note c. Rests, key signatures, accidentals, and octaves all have their own symbols. Braille music is not arranged in staves, but it’s written by measures. Each measure is indicated with a space between it and the previous one. At the beginning of each line, you can find a measure number.
For example, if the first line has three measures, the next line will have a 4 before the line of music. If there are words, they go above the melody line they match up to. There are also different notations for guitar, piano fingerings, and other instruments. Guitar and piano are the ones I’m familiar with aside from vocal music reading. I’m sure you could probably find some stuff online too. Hope this helps.
Follow-up question: That sounds so complicated! How long did it take you to master this?
Answer: I didn’t start learning it until sophomore year. I honestly hated it at first, but my braille teacher knew I’d need it, so she took a course so she could teach me properly, and she graded me on the lessons and assignments. At first that was the only way to get me to do it. I love it now though, and I was able to read songs for piano and guitar classes at school, and my scores for private lessons.
Choir is the one thing I still do by ear, just because reading the music for that would be so complex. It’s easier for me to just have the words in that case. I have enough under my belt for two years to be able to read. Sight reading is still a struggle, though. Not in terms of identifying notes or anything. Knowing when to sing up or down and intervals and stuff is still a little tricky. Unless it’s something simple.
Question: How to you stay so flawless without being able to see how flawless you are?
Answer: Haha, thanks. Well, first off, I don’t believe in make up. I just personally think it’s too much work, and I feel like I don’t need it. For special occasions I’ll tollerate it, but I don’t do it myself. That doesn’t mean I can’t, it’s just not something I felt like was worth learning. If you’re curious about how a blind person does their make up though, here’s a video that could explain it and show it better.
As for clothes, year-round I wear jeans and tops, because you can’t really go wrong with that. I like neutral stuff, so I don’t have to really worry about matching, because fashion isn’t really my thing. I do love dresses, though. With stuff I wear all the time, I remember what texture it is, and I remember what color it is when my mom buys it or when I buy something and I’m told what color it is.
When I get help with outfits and putting them together, after I wear it once, I remember that the long blue skirt and the button down dress shirt go together, just an example. I’ve also got a color identifyer. I can hold it up to anything and press the button and it tells me the color. For the most part, it’s accurate. There are also apps where you can call a sighted helper and they can help with stuff like that, but I’m awful at aiming cameras or anything like that, so that’s something I have to work on.
I have some basic knowledge of what colors can be worn with what, but it gets complicated when there are variations and things. I’m just not as in tune with all that, but luckily, I’ve got people who can give me advice on what looks good,. I get better at it with practice. Plus, it probably helps that I don’t care what people think, because I’m me.
Finally, my hair. I didn’t learn how to do it until I was in ninth grade. Same goes for cutting and filing my nails. My mom used to keep it in these fancy buns. When I learned how to do it, I decided I don’t want it up unless it has to be for some reason. I have a routine of conditioning, untangling, jell, moose, and hair spray. Since it’s hard to make sure all the hair in the front stays in place, I use a headband to make it easier for me to style my hair without worrying about it looking like a mess.
Question: Are you member of the National Federation of the Blind?
Answer: Yes. The NFB is the world’s largest blindness organization, and as a member, I am a blind ambassador who knows I can lead the life I desire to live. I am a member on the NFB Performing Arts division board, a member of the NFB and NFB of Massachusetts, and the student president of Massachusetts Association of Blind Students, which is the NFBMA student division.
Question: What is your eye condition?
Answer: My eye condition is retinopathy of prematurity. I was born two and a half months early, weighing only two pounds. My eyes were not fully developed, so I was born totally blind. I had five operations, and now have light perception in my left eye as a result which means I can see light and dark.
Question: Hey Precious! I love this status and I really appreciate how open you are to starting a conversation! So, when you have dreams at night, what is it like for you?
Answer: Hey! So I don’t see in my dreams. I don’t see colors or anything, although I associate colors with things(like, sky blue and ocean blue, and yellow is the sun). That might be different for people who have had vision before and lost their sight. I’ve been blind since birth, so I’ve never had any vision. All of the information I get about my surroundings is through my other senses. So I know what my dreams are about based on the images I have stored in my mind that are based off of everything I’ve gathered from my other senses. For example, I know someone specific was in my dream, because I heard their voice or smelled their scent or dreamt about a memory. That kind of thing.
I’m sure so many people have so many more questions, and I could probably fill a book with answers, but these are some of the questions I have received. Now that you know a little bit about me, let’s try this introduction thing again, minus the awkwardness.
I have never let my blindness interfere with my desire to gain and maintain an education and lead the life I desire to live. I am no longer afraid to advocate for my needs and those of others, nor do I get frustrated by curiosity or questions, because they are opportunities for me to rid the world of ignorance.
I do use the words “see” and “look” because that’s the English language, and there’s nothing improper or inappropriate about it. So please, if you have questions, don’t ever hesitate to ask. Please don’t assume you know where I’m headed or grab my arm to try and direct me. Please don’t be afraid to talk to me, because heck, I’m just as interested to learn more about the Brangelina split as the next girl.
Last but not least, please treat me like anyone else, because I’m just like you. There are other blind people on campus, but I am my own person.
Thank you all for being kind and helpful, and listening to what I have to say. I hope that next time you see me, my cane won’t be the first thing you notice, but you’ll see me, the person using it. Maybe you’ll laugh out loud when you see my Dare Devil Halloween costume. I hope you do, and I cannot wait to collaborate with all of you, Berklee community. It will be very nice to meet you.