It’s no secret that strong and powerful women have been a part of making history time and time again. For Founder of Braille Code Inc. and children’s author, Gracie Benedith-Cane, the inspiration and vision came from the heart and soul of her now 13 year old son Wani.
At just two months old she noticed that something was going on with Wani’s eyes and immediately sought expert advice. Doctors soon discovered that he would not have 100% of his vision because of a rare diagnosis of Septo-optic dysplasia. A shocked Benedith-Cane wrestled with what this would mean for her new son and their lives, but it was just the beginning of a life filled with pure joy and passion.
It was another strong woman that reminded Gracie that everything would play out exactly the way it was supposed to. “The support of my mom was everything. She was a God fearing woman and reminded me that there were bigger and better things in store for Wani,” and mom was exactly right.
Wani continued to grow into an active, happy, and independent young boy with hopes and dreams of his own. It was on this journey together that Benedith-Cane started to realize that society isn’t really set up to give the visually-impaired and blind community the opportunity to fully live on their own.
Through the ups and downs of being a new single mother to Wani, it was the loss of a job that sparked Benedith-Cane to have a literal vision of what she was meant to do. “I was in my room thinking THIS is it, this is what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to put Braille on clothes.” Enter Braille Code Inc.
It all began with simple braille patches on kids clothes with directional cues that allow for more independence and autonomy, but the ultimate goal is to empower individuals within the visually impaired/blind community while engaging sighted peers in conversations around inclusion. How inclusive are things now? Benedith-Cane says it has to be better.
There is an estimated total of 32 million U.S. adults that have limited to no vision even with corrective lenses according to the latest data from the 2018 National Health Interview Survey, and over 500 thousand children struggling with impaired vision as well.
“The only thing I can do is just pick the toy up – shake it and say, what is this?”
“The only thing I can do is just pick the toy up – shake it and say, what is this?” Wani explained as he detailed his difficulty navigating through something as basic as the toy aisle. Braille Code Inc and the Benedith-Cane family is determined to see a world where the blind and visually impaired can walk into any store and know exactly what they’re getting.
“Wani has taught me so much. He goes into schools with so much happiness and really impacts the life of these kids with his story. Even his little sister grew up asking to use a cane of her own because of the confidence she saw in her brother. He’s so smart and plans to live out his dream of singing and going to Julliard for college, he’s always loved music,” Benedith-Cane shared. She even wrote her first children’s book in 2018 to continue to spread awareness and fill the wide gap of representation for kids like Wani.
So what’s next for Braille Codes and the dynamic duo of Gracie and Wani? More big things. Several patents pending for the ingenious descriptive braille patches, a new children’s book and a not-for-profit on the way – it’s clear that the two are just getting started.
For all of the sighted allies reading this – let’s be a part of making space in mainstream society for the millions of individuals that don’t exactly see things the way we do. Let’s take some time to support strong black women taking charge of their own challenges, and let’s show some love to Braille Codes and the Benedith-Cane family by keeping up with the latest through their Instagram or Facebook. It may have just been Black History month, it may be Women’s History month now…but here at Level 21 we stan all year long.