Worth a thousand words

3 min read
18 Oct 2017
3 min read
663 words
From the Archive (Jun, 2016): We sometimes tend to forget the struggles of learning a visually impaired student goes through

There has long been a shortage of Braille textbooks for Nepal’s visually impaired students. And in a country where the visually impaired do not have access to all the course materials they need, there are obviously barely any books outside of their curricula available to them at school. To help provide visually impaired students between grades 1 to 5 with some Braille reading material, Save the Children early this year printed 2,300 copies of 23 factbooks. The books were produced in collaboration with the Nepal Association of the Blind and support from the Department of Education and Curriculum Development Centers. The books will be distributed to all 97 resource centres for the disabled in the country.

The initiative is an effort to counter the problem of exclusion that visually impaired students have to deal with. “We sometimes tend to forget that visually impaired students have their own struggles when it comes to learning,” says Sudarshan Shrestha, Advocacy and Communications Director, Save the Children. “The challenge not only stems from the shortage of course books, but also because visually impaired students don’t have a way to immerse themselves in reading books outside their curricula,” he says. “That can lead to these students’ feeling excluded from the overall education and learning system. We are denying them access to education, not only in terms of learning within the curriculum, but also when it comes to reading for pleasure or fun.”

Save the Children went with the pictorial format because they wanted visually impaired kids to have access to fun books and to make the process of learning enjoyable for them. The organisation believe that including pictures can create a new learning experience for children. It is not always possible for visually impaired students to depend solely on words to make sense of their surroundings, and pictures can help them add to the information that comes from words.

In the few months since books were launched, the kids who have gotten a chance to go through them have been very excited about how the picture books have made it easier for them to absorb facts. “For sighted people like us, when we read about a giraffe, for example, we can create an image of a giraffe in our head because we already know what a giraffe looks like. However, visually impaired students can only read about what a giraffe looks like,” he says. “The pictorial book is a medium through which students with blindness can feel and understand what a giraffe, or some animal, or a thing, looks like.”

In the second phase of the initiative, Save the Children plan to print more pictorial books, and the enthusiasm with which the books have been received has shown them that they are on the right track.

“As for solving the problem of the shortage of books—coursebooks and otherwise—for the visually impaired, we first need to address the problem of exclusion,” says Shrestha. The first thing to do, even before printing the books, would be to make everyone aware that there are visually impaired people who deserve the same opportunities as anyone else, and to sensitise people towards people with total or partial blindness.

“We need to understand that for us to be able to address a problem, it’s important that we first acknowledge the fact that there are problems that a very important group in our society is dealing with,” says Shrestha. “And that these are problems we can help eliminate.”