Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement

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Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.


Author for Access: "The Transcriber" by Kristen Witucki
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9781936846375Blind since birth, Kristen Witucki is a longtime member of the Learning Ally community and a former staff member. Up until recently, if you've ever called the organization for help finding a title, downloading a book, or any other questions, Kristen may have been the patient, friendly voice on the other end of the line. She has since moved to West Virginia with her husband, young son, and guide dog to teach English, creative writing, and Braille to blind students. A lifelong scholar, Kristen holds three master’s degrees and can now add published author to her list of achievements. The Transcriber, a story for young adults, is her first published book of fiction. In her own words, Kristen describes The Transcriber as “A coming of age story told from the point of view of a boy named Louis, whose older sister, Emily, is blind. He observes that, unlike almost everyone around him, he finds his sister to be disappointingly human. He explores this idea in different contexts as compared to what he notices from his parents and from the school. As the book progresses and his father becomes ill, Louis starts to ruminate on what disability means in a broader sense and what the future could look like for his family.” A practiced storyteller, Kristen had been casually writing since childhood, but began seriously pursuing authorship during graduate school. The story in The Transcriber arose from an instance of serendipity. Kristen began writing about the characters of Louis and Emily, not with the intention of starting a book, but as an exercise to escape writer’s block in the middle of another project. To her own surprise, she found herself compelled to delve deeper into these characters. “I was taken with the voice of Louis and with how unsentimental he was,” Kristen says. [caption id="attachment_19096" align="alignleft" width="300"]Author Kristen Witucki. Photo by Anannya Dasgupta. Author Kristen Witucki. Photo by Anannya Dasgupta.[/caption] Set in suburban South Jersey, where Kristen herself grew up, the book was inspired in many ways by her own family and childhood, as well as by her blindness. “One of the themes that runs through the book is the boy learning how to write Braille. He’s the only one in the family who knows it well enough to transcribe between print and Braille, and vice versa. At first he learns Braille so he can read his sister’s diary and find out what she writes about him, but as the story progresses its purpose grows beyond that. It’s also a symbolic title, describing what Louis feels his role is in the family, and how he’s trying to change it.” Though much of her other published work is directed towards adults, Kristen says she was drawn to adolescent characters and coming-of-age themes for her first book for several reasons. “I’ve always found children’s literature to be fascinating. There’s something very honest about the way kids view the world before they’re taught what to think about it. What children notice versus what adults notice is refreshing to me.” Congratulations to Kristen on her new book and we wish her continued success in all her pursuits! You can learn more about Kristen Witucki at her website, www.KristenWitucki.com, and purchase The Transcriber from Amazon. It is also available in audiobook format in Learning Ally’s digital library


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