Monday, March 21, 2011


Spring has entered as a lion this year (maybe like that yellow mountain lion my neighbor saw walking through his yard a month ago). For me it started with the sudden and unexpected passing of my dear friend David "Stewball" Ackley, who I considered like a brother and who is missed terribly. My mom and I travelled to Des Moines, Iowa the last week of February for the memorial, leaving behind early spring-like weather here in NC to journey into the wrath of Midwestern late winter. We travelled through driving, blinding rain, snow and icy roads, wind, lightening, more rain, and the densest fog I have ever experienced in our 3 1/2 day trip to and from Iowa.

The reason for the expedition was very sad and tragic, but there was a bright moment in the whole thing, which was a firsthand visit and private tour of the workshop of the nation's best Braille writer repairman, who happens to be the father of my friend who passed.

Braillerman (aka Alan Ackley) is a special someone who knows his stuff. You can read all about him and his story (which I highly recommend that you do) by clicking the link attached to his name. Basically, in a nutshell, he began his career in 1974 in the accounting department for the Iowa Commission for the Blind. Part of his training was to learn Braille and to learn how to use Braillers. (Another part of his training was to become "blinded" with a blindfold and go through the day that way for several weeks- he even walked to work with his blindfold on!) He immediately took an interest in the mechanics of the Brailler, and took his loaner Brailler apart one night. The next day he returned it, but he had put it back together a little wonky, and the librarian noticed (and became a little aggrevated.) However, he was given that Brailler to learn on, and allowed another to do his assignments on, and thus began the lifelong career of Braillerman! Alan has been repairing Perkins Braillers from his home for over 35 years now, and he is the best there is.

The thing that touched me the most about Alan's (Braillerman's) operation was the passion and integrity he brings to his work. He has been servicing Braillers from all over the country and beyond for years and years, and I can tell he treats each one with equal care and respect. He is kind and generous with his clients and simply loves what he does. It is so very specialized almost seems random for a man who is neither blind nor has any blind family members, but knowing Alan, I know that he is one of the fortunate humans among us who has found his perfect niche in life. Being the nation's best Braillerman is a job that seems custom-designed for Alan, and he does it oh-so-well.

It is my wish for myself and for all those I love that we may be lucky enough in our lifetimes to find what it was that we were made to do. When I meet someone who is doing something perfectly fit for him or her, it gets me really pumped up and inspired.

Thanks many times over to Alan for opening his home and AWESOME Braillerman shop to me!


Dustin Pearson Harlan said...

Dana, you should really be charging to read this stuff.
I love your point about finding your niche in life. I like to think I'm always on that path, and I like to be around people who exude the frequency of those who are doing exactly what they were made for. What a treat!

George H. Williams said...

Our mutual friend, Kerry Ferguson, sent me the link to this blog post. Thanks for letting us know about the work Alan Ackley is doing!

Steve Baum said...

That is such an amazing story! It is so great that in nowadays people don't really need braille that much since the can use amazing products such as the OrCam MyReader which is one of the best assistive devices for visually impaired out there.