Lithuania - 60th anniversary of our magazine

2019 marks the 60th anniversary of the monthly magazine Musu zodis (Our Word) published by the Lithuanian Association of the Blind (LASS). Only a very few Lithuanian magazines can boast such continuous activity and no doubts, it is the only one produced in four formats: large print, braille, digital download and audio. Started in distant Soviet times, the magazine had served as a source of knowledge and information for blind and low vision people. It is no surprise that the first issues of the magazine were optimistic in a Soviet way. The ideology of a bright communist future was felt in all media of those times. But all those years Musu zodis remained a magazine primarily by and for the visually impaired. For decades the journal comprehensively covered issues important for blind and visually impaired people: everyday activities, recreation and sports, technology reviews, pieces of poetry or fiction written by blind people. But it was a monthly magazine primarily for LASS members.

There were hot debates over the past couple of years among the members of LASS regarding inevitable changes in the design and content of the magazine. The main reason for change was the threatening decrease of readers, especially braille readers. Braille illiteracy is a growing problem in many countries, including Lithuania. With a shortage of Braille teachers and reluctance of many young people to read braille, there is a great risk of losing braille print. What could be done? One of the things we did was engage with open society to discover the world of visually impaired people. Now Musu zodis is open to many professionals working in different fields. Every issue includes tips on adapting to life with low vision. The cover of the magazine always communicates an important or interesting idea. The back cover shows the same picture as on the front, but the picture is presented in a way seen by visually impaired people with protanopia, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, retinitis pigmentosa. For the first time, visually impaired readers can enjoy image description. And it works! The journal is gradually gaining popularity - even among braille readers. The only thing that has not changed is the name of the journal. The members of the organization do not want any changes there – it‘s our heritage, they say. And it is too precious, because from the very beginning, blind and partially sighted people wanted to be heard.

Audra Jozenaite