is the universal writing method for the blind. There are six dots arranged like the 6 on a dice. Combinations of those dots form letters, numbers and other characters. For example, only one dot is an “a”, two horizontal dots form a “b” and so on. Though the Braille system is used internationally, there are different alphabets, just the same as in regular writing.
In the picture you can see the Nepali Braille alphabet. This is what children at the Mobile Blind School are studying at the moment. As this alphabet is very complex, they have to learn many different combinations of dots until they are able to read and write all letters.
For writing, the children use slate and stylus. The slate is the frame that gives orientation for the correct size of letters and helps to position the dots at the right place. The stylus is the tool to print the single dots.
During Braille class, the older children practice writing the alphabet and small words. Smaller children learn how to use slate and stylus to print the six dots in the right position. In some villages Braille class takes place in an office or school building, in others students meet on the roof of a house for their class.
Most of the partially sighted students already know regular print. For them Braille is a method to make their studies more effective because they are not able to read printed books or writing on the blackboard. For small children this is the first contact with the alphabet and for two totally blind teenagers, the Braille class is the first opportunity to learn how to read and write.
The HEAD Nepal Blind School will be a residential program to equip blind and partially sighted children with the necessary tools for successful integration into a mainstream school. The target group of the project are
blind and partially sighted children aged 3 to 15 years. For young children the program is a preparation for mainstream education. For children who are already in school it is a supplementary course to provide them with more effective methods for their studies.
The curriculum is focused on the following areas:
– Braille literacy in different languages (Nepali, English and Tibetan)
– Mobility training: independent movement with the use of the white cane
– Daily living skills such as personal hygiene and some housework
– Computer literacy with the use of screen reading software
– Self confidence and communication training to accept the disability and respond to challenges and discrimination.
After one to two years of intensive training, the students will return to their home communities and integrate themselves into the regular schools using knowledge and methods acquired during the program at the HEAD Nepal Blind School.
Compared to the first experience of a mobile blind school, a residential program will be more effective for the following reasons:
– The teacher can concentrate on the preparation and implementation of classes, as he doesn’t have to travel several hours per day anymore to visit the villages
– Classes take place on a daily basis
– The residential setting ensures continued practice, e.g. of daily living skills, even outside the classroom
– The regular contact with other visually impaired children shows the students that they are not alone with their problems and they can build their confidence together
– Integration of older children in nearby schools can be easily supported.
Imagine you live in a place where there are no streets. The footpath in the village is covered with stones, mud and water. Not to forget the holes and steep slopes on or next to the way. Most people live from farming, though this is very difficult due to the mountainous landscape.
Are you still with me?
Now try to imagine that you cannot see well or you are even totally blind. How would you move around on the roads full of obstacles and surprises? And what would you eat if you were not able to do farming? The only way is to get a good education and to find alternative means of income.
But the challenges continue. At school you are not able to read what is written on the blackboard or use textbooks. Friends laugh at you because you cannot do your homework or bump into obstacles.
What to do?
The HEAD Nepal Blind School brings the solution. Blind and partially sighted children learn methods for effective studies, such as Braille. They also learn how to move safely in a remote area like Humla with the use of a white cane. They practice daily living skills to be independent at home and they learn to be confident so that they can respond to challenges and discrimination.