March 4, 2013

Teen Creates Braille Menus


Julian: The New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Company has always been a favorite restaurant for 16-year-old Sophie Trist. But like many teens, there is something she craves even more than going out for fast food. It is her independence.

Sophie Trist: In three years, I’m going to move out and go to college and, you know, out in the world!

Julian: But independence has been a challenge for Sophie. She was born with a genetic disorder called Fraser syndrome, which has left her unable to see.

Sophie: It’s just kind of embarrassing for a person like me to, ‘Can you read the menu to me?’ I mean, it makes a simple task like eating in a restaurant a bit challenging.

Julian: So, Sophie came up with an idea. She decided to create and sell restaurant menus written in braille for the visually impaired.

Sophie: My dad helped me turn the idea for braille menus for blind independence into a business opportunity.

Julian: In the United States, an estimated 1.3 million Americans are classified as legally blind, that includes about 59,000 people under the age of 21. Many people who are visually impaired, like Sophie, use a special typewriter called a Perkin’s Brailler to form braille letters and words, which are raised bumps in unique patterns that can be read through touch.

So, Sophie got to work. She reached out to a number of different restaurants in her state, asking if they would be interested in purchasing a braille version of their menu. And of course, one of her letters was sent to the New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Company.

Paul McGoey: When I read the letter, not only was I excited that it was Sophie and that she was putting it together, but I was like, ‘My goodness!’ I mean, there is a need for this in the community and we need to have one.

Julian: But instead of just one, he bought ten. One for each of his restaurant locations. Sophie’s business began to boom. In the first three months alone, she made more than 30 menus, selling each one at $30 a piece.

Will Trist: One restaurant has signs now. You know, they have a braille menu available. So, it’s neat to see, number one, that they are willing to do it and, number two, that they are now kind of promoting it.

Julian: But for Sophie, it is not just about the money. She says she gets more fulfillment out of the fact that she is helping feed the needs of a community that is so often overlooked.

Sophie: I’ve given the sighted community awareness that, ‘Hey, we are out here, and we really appreciate it when we have the tools we need to be independent.’

Julian: Julian Dujarric, Channel One News.


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