From Magnus Eze, Enugu
An estimate by the Resource and Recreational Centre for the Blind, at the Bina Foundation for People with Special Needs, a non-profit organisation that works for improved personal development, economic empowerment, social inclusion, and human rights of people with special needs in Nigeria, indicates that about two million Nigerians are blind while about three million are visually impaired.
One of the challenges facing this set of people, especially the young ones, is access to books and audio educational materials, especially the bbraraille.
Availability of books in braille, particularly children’s and young adult fiction, is important for nurturing the creativity and learning experience of visually impaired children, a vulnerable subset of the nation’s population.
Unfortunately, limited access to braille books, especially reading, learning, and educational materials increase the number of children who are out-of-school and unable to get proper education to prepare them for adulthood and enable them to reach their full potentials.
Smart devices like phones and computers have come a long way to create alternative reading experience for the visually impaired, however, lack of easy accessibility to these often-expensive electronics limit their use as alternatives for traditional braille books. Although audiobooks are on the rise, many books, especially fiction, needed by visually impaired children and young adults, are not available or accessible in audio.
However, the cheering news is that through Bina Foundation, books from authors have been made available in Braille and audio with full licence and permission. To encourage more inclusion, the foundation also donates licensed braille novels to blind centres across the nation to add to their library for students.
Director of International Affairs of Bina Foundation, Adaeze Atuegwu, has committed herself to enriching the reading materials of blind children. Her ‘Bina Series’ – as well as some of her other children’s and young adult books are the few Nigerian children’s youth literature available in braille, a writing system that allows books to be read either on embossed paper or by using refreshable braille displays connected to computers, smartphones and other smart devices.
Atuegwu is considered Nigeria’s youngest most prolific author having published 17 books at 17 between 1994-1995.
Her books, published by Fourth Dimension Publishers and Cika Publishers, available in braille include: “Tear”, “Fate”, “Chalet 9”, “The Magic Leaf”, “The Adventures of Nnanna”, “Bina and the Birthday Cake”, “Bina and the Sailboat”, “Bina at the Beach”, “Bina at the Supermarket”, “Bina at the Airport”, “Lizzy’s first year in School”, “Lizzy’s Second Year in School,” “Lizzy’s Third Year in School” along with corresponding “Lizzy” workbooks.
The foundation, which trained and sponsored the Nigeria men’s blind football team to the 2022 IBSA Blind Football Men’s and Women’s African Championships between September 14 and 26 in Morocco, also teaches braille to interested students especially children.
Braille is not only a way to ensure disability inclusion, a fundamental human right, but it is also a way to encourage visually impaired persons of all levels to develop a love for learning.
Unfortunately, several complicated copyright laws, high cost of production, and low demand affect the availability of braille books for the visually impaired, especially in Nigeria.
Experts say that more braille books are needed, especially for creative young minds who are at the developmental stage where solid foundational learning would nurture the love for further education and prepare them for more successful adulthoods.