Since Helen Keller was blind and deaf, a regular formal education was a challenge. She had been taught from a young age by Anne Sullivan, one on one and usually in the garden. This education included sign language and Braille. She even learned how to speak, but she could not hear.
Helen’s problems with preparing for and going to college were that most books were not available in Braille, and she had trouble during lectures because Anne Sullivan had to spell the lecture into her hand.
Miss Sullivan could not spell out in my hand all that the books required, and it was very difficult to have textbooks embossed in time to be of use to me, although my friends in London and Philadelphia were willing to hasten the work. For a while, indeed, I had to copy my Latin in braille, so that I could recite with the other girls. (Ch. 28)
Helen Keller says that Anne Sullivan had “infinite patience” in providing accommodations for all of her lessons, and she prepared for college. Some of her teachers even tried to learn the finger spelling so they could teach Helen directly, although Helen described them as “slow and inadequate.” Nonetheless, Helen learned, and enjoyed being around girls her own age for the first time.
Although Helen makes progress, it is slower than expected. Her teachers feel she is pushing too hard, and she is also getting sick. As a result, her parents withdraw her and her sister from the school and hire a tutor, Mr. Keith.
Helen found working with a tutor much easier and less stressful.
I found it much easier and pleasanter to be taught by myself than to receive instruction in class. There was no hurry, no confusion. My tutor had plenty of time to explain what I did not understand, so I got on faster and did better work than I ever did in school. (Ch. 29)
During the examination for Radcliffe College, they ran into a difficulty because the college examiners would not allow Anne Sullivan to read the questions to Helen. The Perkins Institution for the Blind copied them into Braille for her. This caused some problems, especially when it came to the differences between English Braille and American Braille.
At Radcliffe, Helen Keller had many of the same issues. Textbooks were not available in Braille for the subjects she needed, and lectures and books had to be spelled to her. She also felt that some of the joy of learning was sapped out. Still, she perservered.