Braille Workgroup of European Blind Union, among many others, was founded and is managed by the European Blind Union (EBU). The EU countries represented in the group are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Slovakia and the UK. Like the other working groups, our braille group has many tasks related to braille in Europe. One of the accessible and tangible results of this group’s work is this very portal, the livingbraille.eu, which is available to all braillists in Europe as of May 2022.
Among other important tasks of the EBU Braille Working Group, the video of EBU on Braille is also important, in which we will inform Europeans about the possibility of using braille in everyday life, about the possibilities of creating and producing it in home environment, of marking products, things or places. The video was filmed on 22 and 23 September in Madrid. We believe that we will be able to present this video until the end of 2022. It is going to be yet another step towards better and attractive presentation of Braille in life of blind and partially sighted people.
Along the video recording members of the Braille workgroup led the extensive professional discussions on the various aspects of braille in our lives. The making of the video was time consuming for the members of the group as well as for the film company who undertook this daunting task. In fact, the filming schedule was created through a difficult several months of online discussions, and only two days of filming were to show how well we had prepared for the task. All of the filming activities went really smooth and the filming crew was of fantastic people, always understanding and ready to do the best. We believe in really nice Braille presentation and looking forward to present it.
The expert discussions took place on 23 and 24 September and lasted about 7 hours in total, which suggests that it was indeed an in-depth exploration of several areas of braille use. It was indeed a fruitful and very inspiring exchange of ideas, experiences and knowledge, not only in the field of braille creation or use, but also in the field of relief printmaking. In the first part we discussed, for example, the use of braille in musical notation in different countries, mathematical or other technical notations, highlighting the different specificities of these codes in different countries, but also the need to unify them as much as possible across Europe. English-speaking countries around the world have already embarked on such a unification journey and have successfully created Unified English Braille standards. And although such a universal unifying system cannot work in Europe because of the diversity of our languages, an introduction to braille notation unifying is certainly in order up to reasonable level. In the second part, we talked about the use of braille in combination with embossed latin letters in public spaces. The conclusion of this discussion was a unanimous agreement that braille should be the main communication tool for providing information to the blind, that relief Latin is important, but that if a decision had to be made about the placement of one or the other, braille should definitely take precedence. We have made this conclusion despite the fact that for some people, after sudden vision loss, embossed braille may be a seemingly easier route. Of course, this conclusion does not stand for any authorized approach, merely summs up the discussion. The best way, if possible, is the combination of both approaches.
A large section was devoted to braille and relief printing, where we shared information with each other about a variety of techniques and machines for creating tactile information. The last parts of the discussion were devoted to the education of children and adults after sudden vision loss. We talked about different methods of education and introduced each other to educational materials from all over the Europe, as each of the working group brought something of the materials used in their country to the meeting. We saw different braille games for finding and identifying letters, stimulating interactive books, a braille car, braille legos and many other aids.
In addition to the video filming and discussions, we were able to peek into many areas of the fantastic and devoted work of Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles (National Organization of the Spanish Blind people – ONCE). We saw the process of development, sales and distribution of all kinds of braille related assistive technologies and aids, the production of books in braille, audio or tactile graphics, different tactile materials, maps, pictures, plans, huge variety of canes, toys, braille education materials and a lot more. We saw impressive tyflological museum dedicated to braille and tactile monuments, where one can find historical pieces of Klein machine, old braille machines, but also fabulous works of world monuments engraved in stone or wood in very detailed manner. We could, for the first time most of us, touch the Colosseum of Rome, different basilicas of Spain, bridges and castles. ONCE is definitelly a place to be visited at least once in life.
In fact, ONCE was the host of the entire meeting. And there can be no doubt that it was a good hosting. ONCE and its staff not only prepared for us the space and conditions for filming the video, the room for discussions, the refreshments and their specialists for the expert discussions on brail, but they have constantly been willing and open to provide help, support and inspiration for the work in our home countries, for which we owe them our heartfelt thanks.