WORLD BRAILLE DAY
Did you know that every 4th of January is World Braille Day?
According to the United Nations, World Braille Day celebrated since 2019, is set aside to increase awareness of the importance of Braille –a tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols using six dots to represent each letter and number – as a means of communication for the full realization of the rights of the blind and visually impaired.
However, Nigeria appears to remain light years away from adequately integrating the use of braille in various institutions. For instance, although Section 18 (2) of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 provides that “Braille, sign language and other skills for communicating with persons with disabilities shall form part of the curricula of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions”, students with visual impairments have lamented that they have to bear the financial burden of acquiring braille and similar learning materials and that these costs have increased at an alarming rate in recent years.
Similarly, at the 2019 elections, several visually impaired voters were unable to vote without assistance at their polling booths because the Independent National Electoral Commission had failed to provide braille ballot papers, contrary to Section 30 (2) of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 which provides: “Government shall actively promote an environment in which persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in-
(a) the conduct of public affairs without discrimination;
(b) non-governmental organisations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country; and;
(c) activities and administration of political parties.”
Government institutions, private establishments and individuals alike must remember that everyone has a right to receive proper education and to participate actively in the different aspects of social and political life, and for the visually impaired, the braille is an indispensible tool in making such participation possible.
Therefore, braille should be provided for free in all academic institutions and where this is not possible, the cost of acquiring it should be heavily subsidized to ensure that every visually impaired student will be able to afford one. Similarly, the provision of braille ballot papers at polling centers should be recognised as a statutorily imposed duty. Indeed, all hands must be on deck to ensure that loss of sight does not equate to the loss of an opportunity to receive a robust education or to participate actively in political activities.