Despite a sizeable visually-impaired population, India’s Braille literacy ranks among the lowest in the world. This World Braille Day, a new innovation hopes to change that statistic by using unique features to make learning Braille fun and simple for India’s visually-impaired children.
Our journey with the enchanting world of Braille began almost four years ago with White Print, India’s first English Lifestyle Magazine in Braille. Everyday was a new challenge, with new learnings, but encouraging reader responses kept so focussed and enthusiastic. Each time I spoke to a reader, he/she would express immense happiness about reading the magazine, share feedback about stories, and also eagerly ask me what more we were printing in Braille. My response would be filled with hope, and I would promise them that White Print would soon have more to offer. While technology has made navigation, communication, etc. fairly comfortable for the visually impaired, we still lacked tools to quench the thirst to independently read and savour the pleasures of reading.
In the past four years, we’ve also heard criticism about the quality of Braille printing in the country. However, I’ve witnessed the constant dedication of the team at the National Association for the Blind in Mumbai to make the Braille reading experience better too. The machines being constantly serviced and repaired and the highly efficient proofreading team keeping at their work each day are testaments to this dedication.
When I first heard the Braille literacy figure of below 1 % in India, it blew my mind. I realised a lot of work needed to be done, and was also convinced that this needed to be dealt with from its foundation. Two years ago, we kick-started our mission with a music film, ‘B for Braille’.
Music has great power to spread a message, and we did just that. Furthering our journey, we decided to work on a Braille Tactile alphabet book. Last month, after surpassing many hurdles, we finally released Tactabet, both in English and Hindi. The alphabet books will enable integrated and fun learning for visually impaired kids and kids with low vision. The child will learn the alphabet and the words associated with it, and also instantly feel the shape of the same.
Tactabet uses Poly-Braille technology that facilitates the permanent nature of the dots and the tactile outlines of the images. We have created the series’ illustrations around the unique tactile element, to give a complete experience to the child. This also facilitates parent-child interaction within the learning process.
In the future, we envision numerous Braille books, available at bookstores, libraries, schools, and colleges. Tactabet and White Print are just the first few steps in that direction.
(The author is the founder and publisher of White Print – India’s first English lifestyle magazine in Braille.)