ADVOCACY, Education

Call for more awareness on Braille

As Rwanda joins the rest of the worldto markWorld Braille Day, visually impaired persons have called for more awareness and harmonisation around braille as a means of communication.

According to the United Nations, 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.” It involves raised dots that can be read with fingers.

Observed annually on January 4, World Braille Day aims to raise awareness of the importance of Braille as a means of communication for blind and partially sighted people, and helps advocate for their equal rights and opportunities.

Dr. Donatilla Kanimba, the Executive Director of Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) is aware that braille is being used in schools as well as centres for the blind and visually impaired persons, but is rarely found in mainstream schools since many teachers do not know how to use it.

Although national exams for visually impaired students are also available in Braille, she continued, there is still a need for harmonization so that people can easily access braille whenever they want it.

Dr. Donatilla Kanimba, the Executive Director of Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB)

Kanimba further called for standardisation of this ‘tactile representation’ in the country so that schools and centers with blind and visually impaired persons can use a uniform braille.

“The government hasn’t shed light on standard braille in Rwanda. That is still a challenge,” she disclosed.

Clemence Mukarugwiza, a visually impaired person who lives in Masaka Sector, Kicukiro district said that finding braille for other content that is not school lessons is still a challenge because “our printing houses do not have machines that print out braille documents.”

“There is no other way visually impaired persons can read a writing while outside their schools,” she asserted, urging printing houses to consider having braille printers.

Nema Uwiringiyimana, a visually impaired person, has been using braille since 2008.

She said it prevented her from dropping out of the school when she started losing sight when she was in a mainstream school as well as retaining her best grades that had become poor ever since. Thanks to braille because she was able to continue her studies and graduated from the university.

However, Uwiringiyimana still faces a challenge because she can’t find braille at places like banks or hospitals where she seeks services that require her to read.

“In a bank or at a hospital, there are books or forms with mainstream writings that a visually impaired person can hardly see. It requires you to have another person to read for you. If there can be braille forms to help the visually impaired persons to read and be sure of what they are going to fill or sign by themselves, it would be better,” she said.

Uwiringiyimana also urged the government to ensure that teachers and parents are taught braille to help school children with visual impairment in learning and revising their lessons.


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