This World Braille Day, Let’s Take A Step Towards Inclusivity!
By: Sonali, Diamond
Published On: January 04, 2022
‘Every cloud has a silver lining.’
This proverb holds true here - where a little boy at the age of 3, lost his eyesight after accidentally stabbing himself in the eye with his father’s awl. As a result, he spent a lot of time at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in France, where he formulated the system of raised dots that eventually came to be known as Braille, a means of communication for people who are blind or visually impaired. Yes, we are talking about Louis Braille, who by coming up with the novel form of Braille has lightened up lives across the world.
To honor Louis Braille, the United Nations General Assembly declared January 4 - the day of Louis Braille’s birthday - as World Braille Day. The first World Braille Day was celebrated in 2019, to acknowledge the human rights of blind and partially sighted individuals. According to the United Nations, Braille is essential in the context of ‘education, freedom of expression and opinion, as well as social inclusion’ as guaranteed in article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
What Is Braille?
Braille is a tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols using six dots representing each letter and number. It can be read by feeling the raised dots by using one’s finger. In other ways, Braille can be understood as a code through which many different languages can be read and written.
Insight From An Expert
To know in detail about how the use of Braille affects the learning process for the blind and visually impaired, we bring to you detailed insight from a special educator, Khadija Patel. Khadija has been teaching specially-abled and visually impaired students across various age groups for over 7 years now.
Sonali, the interviewer: What exactly inspired you to take this career path?
Khadija, the interviewee: It's a very interesting story actually. During one of my school visits, we were taken to an old-age centre in Mumbai where I saw a little girl practising Braille and writing something. I saw those raised dots and I was like ‘what is this?’ You know, how can a person just touch the dots and learn so much. I was very intrigued by the whole concept and wanted to know the whole world of Braille.
Sonali: Can you tell us a little bit about your work?
Khadija: Yes, of course. I have worked with specially-abled children for the last 7 years. I used to work in the Helen Keller Institute for Deaf and Deaf-blind children in Mumbai for 2 years. Basically teaching them functional academics - things that we do on a regular basis that come relatively easy to us but might not seem so easy to them. After that, I came to Dubai and was working with different schools.
Currently, I have a mixed group in my class where at least one-fourth of the children are visually impaired. I am teaching them Braille, orientation and mobility. In simpler terms, I help them develop and build on skills that can help them become independent. My students are between 14-45 years old. One other thing that we work on daily is community awareness, basically things like - how to use the cane, how to use the braille for literacy so that they can read and write.
Sonali: What are the challenges that you generally face while teaching visually-impaired children?
Khadija: In Hellen Keller, since it was my first batch of students, I was very emotionally invested in them. Then with experience and exposure, I realized that I had to keep a balance between work life and personal life, otherwise, your emotional health takes a toll.
Sonali: Can you tell us about the process of teaching specially-abled kids?
Khadija: For those with low vision, we have different aids such as a special sitting arrangement close to the board. We use colour contrast or magnified fonts, we make the font to be 35 or 40 based on the condition.
Then there is something called cortical vision impairment where your vision is there but the nerve connecting to the eye is damaged, so vision is distorted or you see only certain colour combinations like red and yellow or black and yellow. We first look at the conditions from the medical report and then based on that make the resources.
For the completely visually impaired, we rely heavily on Braille along with tactile symbols and maps. So we adapt the resources according to the needs of the students.
Sonali: Since we are about to celebrate World Braille Day, what is your opinion about this historic discovery of Braille?
Khadija: I think the discovery of Braille has helped them find a way to connect with the world. For example, with Braille, they can go to the elevator and know exactly which button to press to help them reach the floor that they want to. It has made things a lot easier and accessible for them.
Sonali: Can you tell us about the transformation that you have witnessed from past to recent times when it comes to interaction with specially-abled children?
Khadija: Initially, when I started in this field there was very little awareness. With technology advancing and different resources coming up there is more exposure. In the UAE, many resources are accessible and free for the specially abled. Overall, due to more awareness, different adaptations and resources available, gradually people are more open to or rather, more informed when dealing with specially-abled children.
Sonali: According to you, what are the things that we still lack when it comes to discussion or interaction with specially-abled children?
Khadija: Basically, I feel we should have more awareness and sensitization campaigns where we put the parents and other people into the shoes of the child. Make them understand how the child is feeling so they empathize and not sympathize with the child. Make them understand the disability and the difficulties that come with it as only a small percentage of people who directly work with the specially-abled know in detail about them.
As special educator Khadjia said, it is extremely important to understand what blind, visually impaired or specially-abled people go through in order to step towards an inclusive society. ImpactGuru strives to help people from different walks of life get the financial help they need with the viable option of online crowdfunding.
A study by Pascolini D, Mariotti SP published in the Global Estimates of Visual Impairment showed that India is home to about 20.5% of the world’s blind and 21.9% of those with vision impairment. The Covid-19 Pandemic made things tougher for them. To help, ImpactGuru partnered with the Blind Welfare Society raised around ₹2.5 lakh to supply grocery kits to blind people's families whose livelihood was badly affected by the Pandemic.
Extend Your Support: Let’s Be A Part Of The Solution!
This World Braille Day, you can start a fundraiser on behalf of vulnerable communities and raise awareness for a cause, initiative or people close to your heart. Start a fundraiser in minutes, here.