We have some institutes for teaching Braille to blind persons but they have achieved nothing
January 4 is celebrated as International Braille Day, but in Kashmir, we lack both the infrastructure and instructors for Braille at the government level.
It all started with Charles Barbier and the code for army
In the early 1800s when Napoleon was ruling France, there was constant warfare, and these wars were strategized during the night. The Army while reading the codes used to light the lamps and the other camp was able to note the position of the personnel.
A war veteran Charles Barbier developed a 12 dots code that could be read with the help of fingers by touching and feeling the raised dots. This system was also called as “night writing” system. However, his technique was not possible to read with only 1 finger.
On January 4, 1809, Louis Braille was born in the village of Coupvray, France. He lost his sight at a very young age after he accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with his father’s awl. Braille’s father was a leather worker and poked holes in the leather goods he produced with the awl.
At the age of 11, Braille was inspired to modify the night writing code in an effort to create an efficient written communication system for the fellow blind so that they could also read and write.
After all of Braille’s work, the code was now based on cells with only 6 dots instead of 12. This crucial improvement meant that a fingertip could encompass the entire cell unit with one impression and move rapidly from one cell to the next. Over time, braille gradually came to be accepted throughout the world as the fundamental form of written communication for blind individuals. Today it remains basically as he invented it.
A blind person needs two things to learn Braille, 1: an instructor who could teach him the Braille, and an institute including a Braille library where it could be taught.
In the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, we have some institutes at the government level which teach Braille to blind persons but they have achieved nothing.
As per the census 2011, there are about 66,000 blind people in Jammu & Kashmir. However, we lack the study material for them. We don’t even have a single library either of Braille or the scanned/e-text or recorded books.
When nations across the world are raising blind to the best of their abilities, we in J&K are still looking them down and have confined them to the four walls of their homes. We have understood them as religious babas and beggars and have denied them the rights to which they are entitled. We deny them the rights which they have surrendered when entering into the social contract.
Article 21 of the Constitution of India provides for the right to life and it is not available to the non-disabled only but also covers persons with disability.
Similarly, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) declaration on the rights of persons with a disability provides that: Disabled persons have the right to medical, psychological and functional treatment, including prosthetic and orthotic appliances, to medical and social rehabilitation, education, vocational training and rehabilitation, aid, counselling, placement services and other services which will enable them to develop their capabilities and skills to the maximum and will hasten the processes of their social integration or reintegration.
Disabled persons have the right to economic and social security and to a decent level of living. They have the right, according to their capabilities, to secure and retain employment or to engage in a useful, productive and remunerative occupation and to join trade unions.
In the UT of J&K, we hesitate in admitting them to mainstream schools because of our preconceived notions of them not being able to read and write. We forget the examples like Tariq Bashir, an assistant professor in the department of higher education, who despite all odds has proved his capabilities.
At the government level, we should have a permanent instructor to teach Braille, a library that includes both Braille books and modern means of reading like e-text and audio-recorded books, a computer lab with the facility of screen reading software, and a special teacher in every education zone.
Louis Braille’s legacy has enlightened the lives of millions of people who are blind. As a result, blind individuals from all over the world benefit from Braille’s work daily. Today, we transcribe braille code in many different languages worldwide. Louis would be very proud to know his creation has given literacy to countless numbers of people over the decades. Consequently, people who are blind can enjoy all the printed word has to offer just like everyone else. The effect is tremendously empowering and helps them achieve success in school and their careers. But in Jammu & Kashmir, we need to work very hard to reach the level of other countries. Nothing is impossible.
Aqib Rehman is a student of International Relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and can be reached at [email protected]