BLIND SPOT: Access to challenges

“…lack of resources make delivering a high-quality education to all Filipinos a challenge. “ - Josh Weinstein, 2010 ( Yeah, I know it’s summer; and based on the DepEd school calendar for S/Y 2016 to 2017, summer classes should start last April 17 and end on May 31, and should adhere to the provision that “only those learners in public schools with one or two failing Final Grades in any learning area shall be required to attend summer classes.” ( In the study: Factors Contributing to School Failure (Kamal, Bener, (2008), 46% of respondents pointed the reason for failing grade to be incomplete homework. ( Wouldn’t incomplete homework have a relationship with lack of learning resources? So what happens if the learner has disability and finds the already limited resources inaccessible to his/her personal condition? Say, would it not be so much of a frustration if the K to 12 learning material (which by the way, is plagued with some problems) poses as a challenge to the visually challenged? Last March, the DepEd Bureau of Learning Resources held the Workshop on the Braille Transcription of the K to 12 Printed Learning Resources, at Eco Tech, Cebu City. In this training, “A braille transcriber determines how to most accurately present information from a print textbook into a braille version and then transcribes it into braille so that a student who is blind or has low vision gets the same benefits from the information as his or her sighted peers.” Says, Sheryl Ativo of Rawis Elementary School, Legazpi City. In other words, your regular books which are printed with visual letters, which are conventionally accessible to sighted individuals; but not so much so for persons with visual impairment could be re-written in braille. (Just in case, that’s a new word for you, that’s a system of reading and writing used by blind people, in which reading is done by touching raised dots on paper; and if you’re having a hard time imagining how dots can raise on paper, visit the Resource Center for the Blind at Naga City Hall.) To give you a more concrete implication, this initiative would allow a pupil with total blindness (who could not possibly read printed material) to acquire learning from the information in the same literature as his/her sighted classmates, in the same books in braille format. Yes, K to 12 learning materials (and any literary material for that matter) could be easily and quickly come in its braille version. Ativo further adds, “transcribers must have specialized computer skills to effectively transcribe a textbook into braille. They must be fluent in the English Literary Braille Code, be knowledgeable in the use of braille translation software, be able to import publishers’ electronic files, and be knowledgeable in formatting principles from Braille Authority of North America (BANA).” This effort towards accessibility is facilitated with the use of the software program BANA which transcribes visual print to tactile braille; making it “visible” to the visually impaired. “This enables the reader to tactually pick out information presented in a print book, as quickly as a sighted reader gathers information by glancing at a page. The reader immediately can know there are footnotes, paragraphs, lists of items and tables by scanning the page with his/her hand. The formatting principles are highly structured and specific to braille.” Ativo elaborates. “Because of these trainings the sped teachers can already contribute their knowledge in modifications which are important in braille transcription. Learners with visual impairment under inclusion can already utilized K to 12 learning resources together with sighted peers. In my opinion braille transcription is a significantly innovative learning resource for the students with visual impairment. It answers the needs of the children with visual impairment for accessible learning resources.” “The Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari has said that the education, that is equitable, easily accessible and provides equal opportunities – is the sine qua non for development and it would determine the future shape of our society and polity.” ( Initiatives towards accessible education are determinants of development in a society, not just economically, industrially, scientifically or technologically; but more so morally, in a global community gearing towards trends of egocentrism, ethnocentrism and every sort of eerie schism. A social sphere which protects its margins, promotes its whole shape. “…as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40