Braille’s importance highlighted

Hakim Hayat

The welfare of visually impaired individuals in the country continues to receive great attention from the government. Various efforts have been made in cultivating the advocacy of eye well-being, awareness of serious eye conditions and visual impairment.

According to the Community Development Department (JAPEM) under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS), as of September 2020, 232 visually impaired individuals were registered as recipients of the visually impaired pension, down from the 241 recipients the previous year. In 2018, 222 were registered as recipients.

In conjunction with World Sight Day 2020 marked every October 8, Permanent Secretary (Community and Culture) at the MCYS Hajah Nor Ashikin binti Haji Johari launched the second Braille, Orientation and Mobility Workshop 2020 at the Pusat Bahagia Brunei-Muara in Kampong Pulaie yesterday.

The five-day workshop will see the participation of 14 individuals from the public and private sectors; volunteers, members of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), as well as parents and guardians of visually impaired individuals. The workshop is organised by the Differently-Abled Services Division of JAPEM; Special Education Unit of the Ministry of Education; Ophthalmology Department of Ministry of Health and the Special Religious Education Unit of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

According to Acting Head of the Differently-Abled Services Division at JAPEM Irnawati binti Haji Mahir, the workshop aims to promote the importance of utilising braille to communicate with the visually impaired, especially those also with hearing impairment.

She hoped it will positively impact the community to be more attentive towards the visually impaired, by allocating a conducive environment for them to mobilise, socialise, earn an income for a living and in getting jobs, skills and education.

ABOVE & BELOW: Permanent Secretary (Community and Culture) at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports Hajah Nor Ashikin binti Haji Johari observes a braille workshop participant; and Khairul Anuar bin Haji Abdul Ghafar shares his life story. PHOTOS: HAKIM HAYAT

Irnawati said that the workshop will expand the number of braille users to enable them to transcribe useful public readings and convert them into braille for the visually impaired.

An eye well-being awareness talk was delivered by Deputy Head of the Ophthalmology Department at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital Pengiran Dr Noor Affizan binti Pengiran Haji Abdul Rahman, who discussed the common eye health issues and the right care needed to avoid impairment.

Visually impaired Khairul Anuar bin Haji Abdul Ghafar who graduated in his degree in Fiqh and Judiciary from Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) in 2017, shared his story of living with the condition and how he overcame challenges with the guidance of friends, family and self-determination.

Khairul, whose dream job is to join the armed forces or the police force, said he had to put his dreams behind due to his condition. He said it was challenging looking for a job after he graduated.

“I underwent industrial training organised by JAPEM, and was offered a job placement at the Tabung Amanah Pekerja (TAP) and later a job placement at the Syariah Division at MoRA,” he said.

He hopes to grow his passion of sports into a business, and to become a gym instructor one day. “I hope we can be given a chance to make a living and continue to be given support,” he said.

Another visually impaired individual, Jamary bin Danggat, who was also the workshop facilitator, staged a song performance.

MCYS said that apart from inculcating skills in braille use among the community, the workshop also serves to offer participants the correct orientation and mobility technique when accompanying or guiding visually impaired individuals, while helping them to be independent, move freely and safely, especially in daily activities such as grocery shopping, using public facilities or at the workplace.