January 4th is Braille day, Louis Braille; the creator of this system was born on this day in 1809. He was blinded by an accident very early in his life and attended special schools for the blind. At that time, the main system for tactile reading/ writing was the Valentin Haüy’s system. This early system was useful but expensive to apply (very few books were available). It was a bit difficult to understand since it basically consisted on normal letters with texture.
When he was only 15 years old, he developed the Braille’s system. This new system was based on an old and unpopular writing system developed by Charles Barbier as a method to allow soldiers to read without light. Braille’s system consisted of units of 6 dots that could be used to represent letters of the alphabet. It became popular rather quickly and nowadays is the main method used to read and create texts for the blind in most of the world.
Importance of Learning
Being able to read and write is essential. In old times a visually impaired individual found it hard to be a fully functional member of the society but things have improved now. We are all expected to gain knowledge and this is equally true for those with visual impairments. They need to be able to gain access to literary resources and express themselves through text. Braille provides independence not only within the context of education, but also in everyday life. This system is present in many commercial establishments as a way to facilitate their access and use by the blind. Despite amazing advancements in communication technology, Braille still hasn’t been replaced. Special writing machines and books remain relevant. Some think that no contemporary system or technology shows the potential to completely replace Braille.
Situation in Pakistan
Beyond the usual challenges, Pakistani individuals with visual impairment need to also deal with the problem of a moderate to severe level of neglect from the government. Schools for the blind (for both genders), textbooks and other elements of a functional support system for the blind do exist, but are practically unavailable for most of the affected population. Financial and geographical limitations make it tough to provide fair access to everyone affected. One of the most commonly expressed concerns is the lack of textbooks in Braille, which naturally makes education more difficult. Even establishments dedicated to the distribution of books written in Braille have small catalogues to choose from. If a blind person is expected to be given equal opportunities, then this situation needs to be addressed.
As we mentioned, Braille allows independence and education by facilitating information through tact rather than sight. The goal should be to have new digital systems in place to help the blind at learning. Giving them ability to interact with technologies such as smartphones and tablets is also important. Also, many sources recommend learning Braille to those actively (but informally) involved in the education of blind people (parents, friends, co-workers, etc) since it promotes integration and easier communication. These are are especially important during the first periods of someone’s life.