Braille key to survival

07 October 2010 | Story by Newsroom

Braille WorkshopReinette Popplestone (seating) with (from left) Andre van Deventer, Prof Crain Soudien, Justice Zak Yacoob, and Dr Nomfundo Mali at the Braille Awareness Workshop.

The Braille Awareness Workshop comprised talks, discussions, performances and an exhibition, but all carried one message: Braille is central to everything blind people do.

At the event, hosted by UCT's Disability Service in conjunction with the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) on 6 October, speaker after speaker demonstrated how Braille empowers people with visual disabilities and how the nearly 200-year-old system is their gateway to education, work and recreation.

Reinette Popplestone, manager of the service, says the workshop was held because levels of Braille literacy are decreasing, a reliable indicator that education at schools for the blind is deteriorating.

Justice Zak Yacoob of the Constitutional Court, and a chairperson of the South African Library for the Blind, recalled how Braille developed over the years, and how it helped him at school, as a lawyer and on the bench.

"Braille gave me the power to make living much more worthwhile," he said. It is the government's responsibility to make sure that the world is accessible to everybody, and for people who are blind, it is by Braille, added Yacoob.

PasSALB and the Western Cape government pledged to make effective Braille literacy and access to information in Braille a priority.

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