The Brunei Darussalam National Association of the Blind (BDNAB) is aiming to have braille textbooks available in primary and secondary schools as early as the 2018 academic year.
Through its Braille Book Company, BDNAB is working to produce braille books to ensure equal opportunity in education, says its president Muhammad Hamzi Omar.
He noted that visually impaired individuals tend to lag in their literacy development due to insufficient reading materials.
“The project is aimed at producing academic books for blind/visually impaired students because at this moment, there are no specific braille books for them. Some people may already know this but it is still overlooked,” he said.
The initiative, he said, will support the government’s effort to ensure quality inclusive education.
“We have been in discussion with the Special Education Unit (UPK) and Department Of Curriculum Development under the Ministry of Education. Hopefully they will give us the green light to produce these books,” he said.
The process requires hours of retyping textbooks into Microsoft word. Upon completion, the file will then be uploaded to Duxbury software where it will translate the text into braille.
Muhammad Hamzi said this is where things can get complicated.
“We need to make sure that the books are standardised to UPK’s format. We also need to double check the braille codes, therefore it can take at least two weeks to complete one book. We only have two staff working on standardising and double checking the braille codes because we only have two of the Duxbury software available,” he said.
Since August 21, with the help of volunteers, the association has completed translating two Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) books for Year 7 and Year 8 and they are halfway through a Maths book for Year 11.
“The MIB books are ready for publication once it is approved by the Department Of Curriculum Development. The textbooks are provided by Department Of Curriculum Development. Once we have completed a book, we will receive a new book for us to start the process all over again”.
In an effort to accelerate the braille books production process, BDNAB is calling for volunteers to help.
To date, more than 100 volunteers have come forward to register for a three-month project ending November 17, mostly university students.
Volunteers are required to bring their own laptop and work in shifts. The maximum number of volunteers per shift is five people and they work in three-hour shifts. The association has 10 volunteers working for six-hour shifts everyday from Monday to Friday.
On its social media, BDNAB also invites publishers and authors to donate soft copies of books that they have published to be processed into braille books.
Muhammad Hamzi said they are facing time constraint as the January deadline looms closer.
“If the project continues to receive encouraging response from volunteers, we hope to extend this project beyond November. This will allow us to the process more textbooks into braille.”
BDNAB is also open to sponsorship to assist in covering the production costs. This includes purchasing more Duxbury software so that more people can work on standardising and double checking the braille codes.
BDNAB’s Office is located at Unit 6-07, Sixth Floor, Plaza Athirah, Jalan Kubah Makam Diraja, Batu Satu . Interested volunteers can send it their details (name, phone number, preferred slots) to firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp to +673 8888569.