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Windsor High School prints what may be the first braille yearbook

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Like most high school kids, when it came time to order a yearbook, Maycie Vorreiter always did. Unlike most high school kids, though, she could never read it.

Vorreiter, 18, has been blind since birth. Her assistant or twin brother Taylor would read it to her.

For her senior year of high school, though, the Windsor High School yearbook staff decided to change that.

After winning $500 at 2015 summer yearbook camp (“It’s not as lame as it sounds, I promise,” said Editor-in-Chief Charlie Sparacio), the yearbook staff was looking for something to spend the prize money on.

That’s when Sparacio, now 18 and a student at Santa Rosa Junior College, came up with the idea of printing a 2015-2016 yearbook for Vorreiter entirely in braille.

When he brought the idea up to people at Walsworth, the company that prints Windsor High’s yearbooks, representatives said they’d never heard of a yearbook being printed in braille, but would look into it.

It turns out Windsor High School’s braille yearbook might be the first, according to advocates for the blind.

That’s mostly because the cost is prohibitive, said Dr. Sharon Sacks, superintendent at the California School for the Blind, a 156-year-old public school in Fremont that serves about 80 students from age 5 to 22.

To print the entire Windsor High School yearbook in braille cost $4,000 — split between the school’s yearbook budget and the yearbook publishers. And it’s a foot high: four volumes of 81/2-by-11-inch paper — each volume 3 inches thick. There’s no writing or design on the cover or inside the yearbook, just plain white paper with a black spiral binding and a little white label on the cover that says Windsor High School 2016 Braille Volumes 1-4.

“I’ve never heard of a school doing that,” Sacks said. “Even we do a print one. In the past, we’ve done an audiotape of what’s in the yearbook, but we’ve never done a braille version.”

George Abbott, a representative for the American Foundation for the Blind, had never heard of it, either.

“That’s a pretty cool, inclusive gesture,” he said. “It’s unique. It’s ambitious.”

Sparacio also came up with the idea of incorporating braille into the rest of the yearbooks, printing the yearbook theme “Finding Our Way” in braille on all the approximate 800 covers.

The project was kept secret except for a need-to-know basis. When they finally told Vorreiter and her family at the end of the school year, Vorreiter was shocked.

“I’ve ordered a yearbook every year, basically just to be included in the whole end-of-year yearbook signature stuff,” Vorreiter said.

In her early years, Vorreiter’s assistant would braille what her friends had signed, but then as the years passed and the number of signatures started to grow, that process became a little difficult. For a while, they tried to have Vorreiter’s friends do an audio recording instead of signatures.

“But then people didn’t really know what to say,” Vorreiter said. “So senior year came around, and I was like, I don’t even see the point of ordering this. . . . I actually didn’t even know if a yearbook had been ordered, but then at the end of the school year, they were like, ‘It’s being created, and oh by the way we’re making it in braille.’

“I was like, that is so cool.”

Vorreiter lives in Albany most of the time now, enrolled at the Orientation Center for the Blind where she takes mobility and living skills classes five days a week but still comes home occasionally on weekends. She received the completed yearbook in October.

“When I got it, I was just so amazed and excited,” she said. “I couldn’t wait to see how it was all done. I didn’t know what it would be like.

“It was one of those really awesome moments that I would want to relive again. My hope is that in the future, if there are other visually impaired students that go through high school, they get a yearbook for their senior year, too.”

You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or christi.warren@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @SeaWarren.

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