Is Braille Enough to Give the Blind the Education They Deserve?
Education of visually-impaired people suffers because of state and society apathy towards them.
As we observe the World Braille Day, there are numerous visually-impaired people who have to fight for equal opportunity and means to achieve self-sufficiency on a daily basis.
Last year UN passed a sanction declaring 4th January as the World Braille Day. Earlier the day was celebrated as the birthday of Louis Braille, a visually-challenged person who introduced the braille codes for the blind.
BR Alamelu, a visually-impaired person and a professor of English at the Delhi University says,
“As we celebrate the first World Braille Day today, it is very important to understand its significance. Earlier the celebration was more person-centric, now it is script-centric.”BR Alamelu
Technology vs Braille
With the advent in technology, the braille code, which is used by visually-impaired persons to read and write, has been neglected. Talking about the same, people from the community say nothing can replace braille.
The same technology is available for people who have no disability but still we teach them how to read and write. Knowledge of a script is what distinguishes a literate and an illiterate person. Then why is there a neglect of training of braille code for visually-impaired persons. Nothing can replace braille.
The apathy of educational institutions towards the needs of visually-challenged persons is shocking. Recently, a visually-impaired student of JNU, Munesh Kumar flunked in his Japanese exam, courtesy the lack of study material for visually-impaired students in the Centre for Japanese.
There was no study material available for me. There were no braille books or even Job Access with Speech (JAWS) software available for my course module.Munesh Kumar
He further points out how he would get a special educator only once a week and for an hour. Kumar says the department told him that as he is the first visually-impaired person to take Japanese that’s why there was no availability of study material for him. Questioning their logic, Kumar asks,
If they had given me admission in the course, isn’t it their duty to provide me with study material?
Like Munesh, many other visually-impaired students have to fight huge battles, to access education. Education for children under fourteen years of age is a fundamental right in our country.
According to Census 2011, 45% of India’s disabled population is illiterate, compared to 26% of all Indians.
Cost vs Quality
Dr Satendra Singh, a disability rights activist and the recipient of the prestigious Henry Viscardi Achievement Award points at the high cost of braille books as a deterrent towards visually impaired persons education.
There is no GST on braille books but there is GST on braille typewriters and papers. Can a book be prepared without papers? Why is the government taxing them. It should be revoked.Dr Satendra Singh
Shamim B, who comes from a small town of Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh, holds a masters degree. He is hundred percent blind since birth. Regardless of the challenges of his situation, he did MA in Urdu from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), BEd from Jamia Millia Islamia University (JMI) and is now doing diploma in teaching from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). Out of all the three higher educational institutions, he finds AMU most friendly towards visually challenged individuals. Talking about JNU and Jamia he says,
In JNU all the study material could be accessed through computers for visually impaired students. But I didn’t know how to use computers and there was no one to teach me. At Jamia, I had a very hard time. There is no study material available in braille and no fee concession for the visually impaired.Shamim B, student
Shamim revisits the horror of setting for his BEd exam.
I was not allowed to bring the scribe of my choice, and the scribe that was given to me would ask me spellings of words. I can’t tell him spellings as I am visually-impaired.Shamim B, student
Shamim’s experience is not an isolated incidence.
In 2017, visually-challenged people were unable to write National Eligibility Test (NET) exam as their scribes were not allowed entry in the examination hall.
Sushmeetha Bubna founder of the NGO Voice Vision says,
In India, everything is challenging for a disabled person- getting an education, a job, marrying, leading a dignified life. Until and unless the society is sensitized at large, it is not easy for them.Sushmeetha Bubna, founder, Voice Vision
This World Braille Day let us strive to give importance to the education of visually-impaired persons and braille code that it deserves.
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