Living without seeing, the challenge of being what you are
The World Blind Union joins the rest of the world in observing “World Braille Day” on January 4, 2021, the fourth year since the UN officially designated it as a day observance. It is to raise awareness of the importance of Braille as a means of communication for visually challenged people. January 4 was chosen to commemorate the birth anniversary of Louis Braille – the inventor of Braille for persons with visual disabilities. According to UN, Braille is a tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols using six dots to represent each letter and number. Braille is not a language. It is just another way to read and write other languages, such as English, Italian, French, etc. People use their sense of touch to figure out the Braille code and carry on with their study or communication. Braille is considered necessary in education, freedom of expression and opinion, and social inclusion, as reflected in article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. World Braille Day aims to spread awareness about the importance of Braille as a means of communication for visually impaired people. Before Braille, people with visual disabilities read using the Haüy system, which involved Latin letters being embossed on leather or thick paper. Not only was this method complicated, but it also only allowed people to read and not write. The system’s shortcomings encouraged Braille to develop a more manageable and less complicated Braille system.
The journey of Louis Braille, who is credited for developing a language for the visually impaired, is very motivating. An accident resulted in Louis Braille losing his vision when he was 15. However, the accident did not stop him, and he continued his studies. In 1824, when he was 15 years old, Braille first presented his system for the visually impaired.
Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities (more than one billion people worldwide) are less likely to access health care, education, employment, and participation in the community. Life under lockdown has posed several issues for the visually impaired, more so as they rely on touch to communicate their needs and access information. The COVID pandemic has revealed how critical it is to produce essential information in accessible formats, including Braille and audible formats.
The pandemic challenged everyone. The struggle of blind and partially impaired individuals during this period is ineffable. Most of them spend the lockdown periods in isolation without anybody to communicate with. UNDP and various organisations publish hundreds of books in multiple regions for blind people to ease such difficulties. Several organisations are also producing audio materials and other educational and entertaining materials.
The World Blind Union (WBU), the voice of the blind, speaks to governments and international bodies on issues concerning blindness and low vision in conjunction with our members. World Blind Union works to achieve its long-term vision of “A world in which we, as blind or partially sighted people, can participate fully in any aspect of life we choose.”
While we talk about people born or led to live without vision or partial vision, many are blessed with complete vision. Still, they have difficulty seeing things as they are or should be. The world must cope with such people. The challenge is to bring awareness. It is not the individual’s mistake to be born with a disability. They deserve much more than merely changing the way they are addressed. When the world struggles to develop societies and communities to be just and empowering, the disability brings a new dimension to finding solutions.
Observing a day like this acknowledges that life can be different and challenging for some people. All human beings must ensure that suffering because of disability is minimised. Also, there is a need to enhance voluntary efforts, like eye donation and developing methods. Research needs to be improved to find solutions to reduce the number of people getting into partial vision. Lifestyle diseases like Diabetes are making things worse, affecting the vision. The determination showed by Louis Braille, not only in leading a life of purpose and laying the foundation for enabling millions to get connected with the world by introducing the language of Braille.
The ToonLogs posted on the same topic earlier can be accessed at: