The Role of Braille Literacy Towards an Inclusive Society
On October 17-22 2022, my group and I from the "Abiyoso" Center attended the High-level Intergovernmental Meeting at the Fairmont Hotel, Jakarta. This activity was organized by the United Nation-the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in collaboration with the Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs. The peak of the event actually took place on October 19-21, but we have been on site since October 17 to prepare the necessary facilities.
Our presence from the "Abiyoso" Center at that time was not as a core participant, but as part of the secretariat, precisely as a provider of braille literacy services. When there are participants who need material in braille format, we are assigned to print it.
Well, I did not gain much experience during the activity because we were directed to always be on the spot, anticipating if anyone needed braille printing services. As a result, during those six days I could not stay away from the room where the braille printer was placed.
However, there is one thing that really stings my consciousness, namely about braille itself. We all know that braille is a literacy system intended for people with visual impairments. However, perhaps it is still rare to understand that in fact, each country adheres to a different braille system. Some have indeed developed their own systems, while others have adopted systems from other countries that are deemed relevant.
Frankly, we had made a mistake in serving the request for braille printing from the first participant who used our service at that time. The material provided for braille is in English and the participant who ordered it came from the Bhutanese delegation. Instead of printing them in the international braille system, we use the Indonesian braille system. Although the letters remain the same, there are a number of punctuation marks that have different meanings. Luckily we soon realized that mistake and immediately printed a new one using the international braille system. The participant can understand and is willing to exchange the first print for a new one.
The translators were indeed worried when printing braille using international standards, but that was simply because they were not used to it. So far, Abiyoso has often printed English reading materials, but the majority still use Indonesian as the language of instruction. Therefore, the system used is still the Indonesian braille system.
This experience was truly enlightening for me. It made me realize how important it is to master the international braille system! By mastering it, we can help meet the literacy needs of the community, from the local, national, to global levels. Truly a golden opportunity for any institution that is in charge of managing braille literacy, especially in today's era, when inclusion is heavily promoted.
Inclusiveness is something that definitely needs to be applied in all lines of people's lives today. For this reason, the role of inclusive literacy is increasingly needed.
Can we imagine how many public facilities and services throughout Indonesia need accessibility in order to be easily utilized by the visually impaired? ATM machines, elevators, room doors, instructions for using drugs, brand and price labels, journal articles (national and international), directions, and so on, of course, really need to be easily accessed by anyone, including the visually impaired.
Braille or audio-based information is really needed to provide access for the visually impaired. If efforts towards that direction are consistently carried out, I am optimistic that Indonesia can continue to advance towards an inclusive and humanist society.