Leslie Underwood 1947 –
A Rochester, New York, native with a master’s degree in social work, Leslie, who has been blind since her twenties, joined the Bruderhof in 2008. In a way, coming represented the closing of a circle: she’d come across the community forty years earlier: “There were several young women from the Bruderhof at my college, and one, Annemarie Zimmermann, was my roommate. She would read my textbooks to me.”
Years ago Leslie worked at a nonprofit, teaching blind youth how to use computers. Today, she assembles accessories in a Rifton Equipment workshop, and transcribes audio files for Plough Publishing House.
Leslie welcomes the technology she uses, from an electronic device that lets her download audiobooks and a computerized speech program, to her Braille reader and her infrared Cobalt Speech Master. (“You put it up against an object and it tells you the color. It has a wonderful British accent.”)
I can fully understand the dangers of people “using” too much technology, whether they’re on the internet all the time, or glued to their smartphone or tablet. On the other hand, the computer programs I use are my way of communicating with others – of having community with them.
But I also love physical books. I have a Braille Bible and I get Harper’s, one of the only American magazines that still puts out a Braille edition. It comes every month in a huge box, like you’re getting a big present. And to me, it is a gift: at least one magazine where I can actually read the hard copy. Digital reading just isn’t the same. I like to open a book and turn the pages.