When visually impaired students have the need to read, these volunteers are there to help

Volunteer, Mariann Witengier, is this week’s Getting Results Award winner

ORLANDO, Fla. – Have you read a good book lately?

For visually impaired students, finding the latest novel printed in braille can be a challenge.

As we found out, one Central Florida volunteer organization is there to help.

This week’s Getting Results Award winner was nominated because of her never-ending passion for helping the visually impaired.

Marianne Witengier was a teacher of visually impaired students in Orange County for 38 years. But her passion for helping others didn’t stop upon retirement.

Witengier became president of the Braille Association of Mid-Florida and the volunteers there say she is the glue holding it together.

The Braille Association of Mid-Florida, Inc. is a nonprofit organization formed in 1965. The group is dedicated to providing reading material in braille to visually impaired people wherever they may live.

“When you take braille out of the picture for a blind individual, you take away literacy,” Witengier said. “So we’re focused so that every child who needs braille has the opportunity. That’s our focus.”

About a dozen volunteers work tirelessly to transcribe supplemental reading material for students. Things like novels for personal reading, classroom handouts, and worksheets. They will transcribe material for anyone who has the need. In fact, they’ve had requests from as far away as Sweden.

One volunteer even specializes in transcribing sheet music.

Winter Park High School Junior, Ton Pham requested Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata when he was unable to find it online.

Pham says he’s grateful for the work of all the volunteers. “If not for them, all the transcribers,” he continued. “I would not be able to read any sheet music.”

Pham hopes to turn his passion for music into a career. He said the work that goes into transcription is appreciated.

“It’s an extremely tedious process,” Pham said. “I mean it took months. A very long time.”

Current president, Sue Farnsworth said she got involved after seeing an ad in the newspaper looking for volunteers. “Braille to a blind or visually impaired person is really literacy,” Farnsworth said. “So we try to get books that they want to read.”

Witengier was nominated by fellow volunteer Carol Shannon. Shannon said Witengier is the reason so many volunteers learned to braille and continue to help the organization.

“She is the reason this organization exists today,” Shannon said. “She has taught all of us.”

Witengier stepped down as president last year but said she’s still involved nearly every day helping create new material. “I feel like we’re making a difference,” she said. “We’re helping.”

The Braille Association of Mid-Florida Inc. is looking for volunteers. Braille certification courses are offered but volunteers without experience are needed as well.

Contact information is listed below:

Braille Association of Mid-Florida, Inc.

PO Box 140908

Orlando, Florida 32814

Phone: 407-723-8813

About the Author:

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.