Today is a day which has transformed disability tremendously. Louis Braille not only invented a script for the blind but by doing so he created a global awakening about the potentialities of the blind and the disabled community. It would be false to claim that there were no blind people who achieved great heights prior to Braille, but those were very few and far between. Even today when technology has made inroads in all spheres of life, the position of Braille does not diminish. Even though now it is fashionable to denigrate Braille and opt for computer technology, there is yet no alternative to reading for the blind people whereby they could experience the letters and words and their mystery.
I still remember those nights in my youth when missing parents and feeling lonely in a school hostel for blind children, reading various books silently made me happy and contented. It gave me comfort and warmth that cannot be comprehended by merely listening to books. Besides, the imagination that runs with reading words with fingers was unparalleled.
Today, probably children who are blind may get more opportunities and facilities to expose themselves to the world but I am dead sure that the fun of reading classics and eternalizing great words is remote for them. We who are working for the empowerment of the blind children and individuals need to work hard to preserve those golden habits, for, unlike their sighted counterparts, options to know the world for them are limited. Although computers have opened up a world that is unending, their connection to semantics and language will never be adequate unless they read. In the argument that in western countries blind are neither learning nor taught Braille, we cannot take refuge. Our sociocultural situation is still far different from that prevailing in many of those countries. Besides, Braille enabled me to work and enjoy in silence. I could do many things unobtrusively and without literally burning midnight oil. And, of course, lack of electricity for hours in our villages can hamper reading and recreation.
If we fail this generation in teaching them Braille, we may not realize the damage that we are causing them till when they will become parents in an inclusive society and would find themselves inadequate to teach their offsprings proper language semantics and many finer nuances. I wish we create a system which takes best of both worlds.
Let me reiterate what I have been saying for years: Braille has won a golden globe even in its defeat for it started a process of exposing the blind community to education and made them reach places that no one could have dreamt of even a century ago.
Louis the great, You will live in my heart till I breath my last.
Sightsavers India Fellow, 2019-2021 gets candid as he completes his fellowship journey. Here’s a tete-a-tete with the ophthalmologist on eye health in rural India, the pandemic and his overall fellowship journey.
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India is home to the largest population of blind people in the world. Over 12 million people in India are blind, of which nearly 88% of the blindness was unavoidable.