Ranjan K Baruah
We are fortunate that we are able to read this article but there are many around the world who cannot read the way we can read. There are people with disabilities and one of them is the visually impaired. Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities—one billion people worldwide— are less likely to access health care, education, employment and to participate in the community.
Many times we might think that the number is less but the fact is that there is no enabling environment which restricts the movements of people living with disabilities. For the visually impaired, life under lockdown has posed several issues in terms of independence and isolation, especially for people who rely on the use of touch to communicate their needs and access information. The pandemic has revealed how critically important it is to produce essential information in accessible formats, including in Braille and audible formats.
The recent pandemic has compelled us to intensify all activities related to digital accessibility to ensure digital inclusion of all people including people living with disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many good practices have been implemented by parts of the United Nations system to promote a disability-inclusive response to the COVID-19 and disseminate information in Braille.
Braille is a tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols using six dots to represent each letter and number, and even musical, mathematical and scientific symbols. Braille (named after its inventor in 19th century France, Louis Braille) is used by blind and partially sighted people to read the same books and periodicals as those printed in a visual font.
The World Health Organization estimates that globally, at least 1 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment that could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed. Persons with vision impairment are more likely than those without to experience higher rates of poverty and disadvantage. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 2006, has advanced the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. The Convention considers Braille essential for education, freedom of expression and opinion, access to information and social inclusion.
Like many other days held around the world 4th January has been declared as World Braille Day. In November 2018 (Resolution A/RES/73/161), the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim 4 January as World Braille Day, recognizing that the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms relies on an inclusive written promotion. The day has been observed since 2019.
In India, National Programme for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment (NPCB&VI) was launched in 1976 as a 100% Centrally sponsored scheme (now 60:40 in all States and 90:10 in NE States) with the goal of reducing the prevalence of blindness to 0.3% by 2020. A Rapid Survey on Avoidable Blindness conducted under NPCB during 2006-07 showed reduction in the prevalence of blindness from 1.1% (2001-02) to 1% (2006-07).
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2015, further pledges that no one will be left behind in the aim to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives. This means we have to ensure that people with visual impaired should not be deprived of rights and Braille may be available so that they can also progress in life like any other human being. Apart from that we can also donate eyes and help others see after our death. Together we can make an inclusive society.
(With direct publication from the UN publication and feedback may be sent to [email protected]