Conquer the World without Eyes



Chandigarh, January 03, 2023:

Braille is a tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols. The system uses six dots to depict each letter and number. It was Louis Braille in the 19 th century who invented the system for the blind or the partially-sighted. This system helps the visually-impaired persons to read the same books and periodicals as printed in a visual font. It has been included in Article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

World Braille Day is celebrated all over the world on January 4 as the birth anniversary of Louis Braille. The system has become so much in vogue that NASA named an asteroid after Louis Braille in 1992 known as 9969 Braille. Louis was not born blind but he became blind at the age of five due to injury and infection in his eyes. It was the inspiration of Charles Barbier who pleaded the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris where Louis invented a better system for easy understanding known as Braille. It is heartening to note that the Centre for Equitable Library Access has 80,000 titles in accessible formats including
Braille. It is pleasing to note that Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are accessible to people with vision loss in Canada and other countries.

Braille Day was first initiated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2019. January is considered as Braille Literary month. A study carried out in Washington found that people who learned Braille at an early age performed equally well like their sighted peers. The competition in Braille Challenge has
been introduced to motivate visually-impaired students.

Visual impairment can influence education, employment, communication and challenges of negative behaviour in society. But those visually-impaired persons who are fortunate to get family support do reach higher positions. They should be involved to learn skills as a part of their curriculum. There have been eminent personalities who reached the top though they were blind.


There have been good musicians, efficient lecturers, telephone operators, good writers by virtue of their exposure of hidden talent, and of course, government schemes and participation of NGOs has been useful. Helen Keller, Louse Braille, poets like John Milton and Surdas have tremendous contributions to society. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has started recognising the services of the blind by conferring National Awards since 1969. There have been visually impaired people in India and abroad who have not felt defeated. Kanchanmala D. Pande is a visually-impaired International Swimmer who has competed successfully with sighted swimmers. She has 106 gold medals to her treasure. Ravinder Jain was a renowned Music-Composer and singer and was awarded the Padma Shri in 2015.

Beno Zephine, 25 year old is an inspiration for the blind who was selected to Indian Foreign Service. Shekhar Naik is a visually impaired cricketer and a former Captain of the Indian National Blind Cricket Team. Then Tiffany Brar is the Founder of Jyothirgamaya Foundation, a social activist and advocate. Pranjal Patil is India’s first IAS Officer. Sudha Chandran is a known figure on Indian Television with many awards to his talent. Bhai Gurmej Singh, Hazoori Ragi at Sri Harmandar Sahib, a blind had started transcription of the Holy Book of Sikhs into Braille in 2000 and accomplished it in 12 years. The Department of Gurmat Sangeet of Punjabi University awarded Bibi Jasbir Kaur Khalsa fellowship to Bhai Gurmej Singh on translating Sri Guru Granth Sahib into Braille Script. Hazoori Ragi of Sri Harmandar Sahib Bhai Lakhvinder Singh is also visually-impaired but he has a very sweet and melodious voice. In the same way, Ragi Gian Singh Surjit had a gift for music who lost his eyesight at a tender age. He founded the first ever school and music academy of its kind in Punjab with the association of his three blind friends – the late S. Rajinder Singh, S. Avtar Singh Mann and S. Sital Singh Sitara.

Dr. Kiran is the first visually-impaired female having Ph.D. Degree in Sociology who is working as Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Punjabi University, Patiala. According to Dr. Kiran, “Louis Braille had revolutionised the World of visually-impaired by
inventing the Braille Script and had provided the path from the darkness to the light by opening the doors of education and I want to follow his footsteps for the betterment of visually impaired children.” She learnt Braille from Vocational Rehabilitation Training Centre, Ludhiana. She taught Braille for 15 years to students of Institute for the Blind, Sector 26, Chandigarh. Punjabi University, Patiala has recently announced a Centre for Disability Studies and Dr. Kiran will function as its Coordinator.

The Patiala School for the Deaf and Blind, founded in 1967 in Saifdipur Village, Behind Punjabi University, Patiala is a co-educational institute with about 200 students and run by Colonel Karaminder Singh. The school provides free education, lodging and boarding and serves students from Pre-nursery to 12 th
class on rolls out of which 60 are blind and others are deaf. In Punjab, there have been Navchetna Charitable Institute for the Blind in Patiala; Home for Blind, Ferozepur; Blind School Bahowal; Rashtriya Andh Vidyalaya, Jalandhar, Institute for the Blind, Amritsar; Drishti Foundation, Amritsar; Blind School, Malerkotla; Guru Nanak Mission Netarheen Blind School Phagwara; Rishi Kutiya, Nawanshahar etc.
UNESCO declared 4 th January as World Braille Day to imbibe a sense of inclusion of Braille in education for visually-impaired persons. The day is an occasion to support Braille Literacy and acknowledge the struggles of blind people. The theme of World Braille Day 2023 is to honour Louis Braille and create awareness about possible means of communication for the blind.

Author: Dr. Jaswant Singh Puri, Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa), Social Activist, Punjab Rattan, Member, Dewan Family, Erstwhile Princely State of Patiala (Author of the world acclaimed book ‘Rise and Decline of the Mughal Empire’


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