Braille in times of lockdown

Europe has - as so many other regions of the world -been struck by massive lockdowns. Citizens everywhere have been confined and have been compelled to fine meaningful ways to spend their time. This goes for visually impaired persons too. I am sure that many have been Netflix series bingers, including those with partial sight or who enjoy listening to Audio Descriptive films.

But there are those who for one or more reasons prefer other ways of spending time in the company of a good book or more. Here, the talking book or podcasts are good ways to keep ourselves entertained, on with the headphones, close out the surroundings, and delve into one's own universe.

But then, there are those who take in culture from writers through their fingers, the braille readers!

Braille may occur on paper or on a braille display either hooked up to a computer, where the source file in electronic format is to be found, or downloaded to a stand-alone notetaker.

Braille, invented more than 200 years ago, is still without doubt or exception the writing and reading font (format) specifically adapted and used by blind persons who have no residual sight to read magnified text.

Whether in a professional setting - job or education, or in a leisure setting, the Brailled text is the direct link between the writer/author and the blind reader. It enables us to have the full control and the direct connection with the text through the fingers on the braille, and we have the control over the throttle, i.e. the speed control.

I, personally, use braille every day, all the time, often in combination with a computer with the qwerty keyboard and speech or with my notetaker. But I also use braille on paper all the time professionally and in my leisure time, and I have truly been binging braille books by authors both national and international, American, Indonesian, German and Spanish - all translated to Danish, i must confess.

So why am I writing about braille? Well, apart from not missing any occasion to promote braille, which I have by the way done at several international events, including the recent EBU Assembly in wonderful Italy, I have the privilege of being chair of a working group now taking out speed  to focus on braille for the next four years in line with the first  objective and first action of the strategic orientation of the EBU adopted at the aforementioned assembly.

 It highlights braille, teaching and literacy.

The board has identified 11 areas where braille might be a hinge to self-assurance and self-reliance on the part of blind persons as well as a number of actions where politicians, educators and developers of devices and solutions may be activated or addressed to promote braille in a multitude of settings.

The EBU, too, has as one of its possible actions to assist in focusing on braille on its website, by supporting useful networks and disseminating questionnaires and petitions. It is in my view a cross over between international pressure and national awareness that braille may be put more in the bracket and level where it deserves to be.

And just as I write, the Onkyo braille contest is running, and the inspiration through stories, essays and express of joy and enthusiasm may be one way to awake and ignite the same amongst readers.

John Heilbrunnn