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Farmingdale teacher says Braille computer was stolen in break-in

Jim Hughes, a high school teacher from Farmingdale,

Jim Hughes, a high school teacher from Farmingdale, left his school bag containing his $3,000 Braille computer in his family car outside his home Monday night. A thief made off with the computer, which Hughes, who is blind, relies on to do his work. He spoke about the computer and its loss on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman

The Farmingdale community is rallying around a history teacher whose Braille computer was stolen Tuesday.

A thief broke into a family car outside the home of teacher Jim Hughes, 49, who is blind, and grabbed his schoolbag, which contained the computer, Hughes said.

The Farmingdale school district called the incident “unfortunate” and said it is in the process of replacing the keyboard-sized device.

Hughes, who has taught in the district for 26 years, “is a valued member of the Farmingdale teaching community, not only as an outstanding educator, but as a role model for all of our students,” the district said in a statement.

Hughes said he’s glad to be getting a replacement HIMS Braille EDGE 40, the specialized computer that allows him to read, type, text and perform other school and personal functions.

The district had purchased the nearly $3,000 device for him in February 2017.

Hughes said he carried it with him in his schoolbag and usually took it inside his house after he got home from work. However, he and his wife returned home later than usual Monday night and Hughes left the bag in his wife’s car, thinking it would be safe for a few hours.

“I was at a PTA meeting and I’d said, ‘Ah, I’ll just be leaving for work in the morning,’ so I just left it in there,” he said.

At about 3:30 a.m., his wife, Diana Hughes, heard a car alarm go off on the street. In the morning, the couple realized their vehicle had been broken into and Hughes’ bag — with the device inside — was gone.

A Nassau County police spokesman said a break-in was reported on Meadowwood Lane in Farmingdale on Tuesday morning.

Hughes said he relies on the EDGE heavily. It’s not particularly valuable for those who don’t read Braille, but its loss is huge for him, he said.

“I’m fairly dependent on technology,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate circumstance. It’s not just a regular laptop, so this is a burden.”

Diana Hughes posted about the theft on Facebook and the family received an outpouring of support and positive messages, the family said.

Still, Jim Hughes said he was happy to hear the district would be replacing it. “I’ve never had anything but support from them,” he said.

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