65th IFLA Council and General
Bangkok, Thailand, August 20 - August 28, 1999
The Training Workshop on Computerised Braille Production in ASEAN
Japan Braille Library
Thank you, Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to express my appreciation for this opportunity of giving a presentation on the international cooperation project of Japan Braille Library (JBL), the International Training Workshop on Computerized Braille Production.
On the 24th of November, 1998, I was in Kuala Lumpur to attend the opening ceremony of Malaysian Braille Press (MBP). At the ceremony, Datin Hajjah Roquaiya Hanim Tun Hussein, Chairperson of the Management Committee of MBP, and YB Dato' Mohd. Khalid bin Yunus, Deputy Minister of Education gave speeches in which they highly valued our cooperation program. I was deeply impressed with their words, realizing that our project proved to play some role in establishing MBP. It is certainly our greatest pleasure to see MBP exist in reality as a fruit of our project which began five years ago to promote computerized braille production in Malaysia and in the neighboring countries.
It was in 1994 that JBL conducted the first International Training Workshop on Computerized Braille Production in Kuala Lumpur. Prior to that, in 1993, the Decade of Disabled Persons in Asia and the Pacific Region proposed by ESCAP began. And JBL planned to initiate an international cooperation program in Asia as an activity of the NGO campaign. Firstly, to decide the theme of the project, we visited Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh for the purposes of researching the needs of visually-impaired persons in the region, & developing an organization to be our partner for the project. As a result, we came up with the conclusion to offer aids in promoting computerization of braille production in ASEAN countries in order to minimize the problem of a shortage of braille materials in the region. In 1985, JBL introduced computer technology in braille production, and we have gained much know-how in this field to share. In addition, the computerization of braille production can be put into practice anywhere, requiring only the PC unit installed with a braille translation software and the braille-embosser.
At this point, I would like to emphasize that, most importantly, we are lucky enough to have become aware of the "inclusion" of the National Council for the Blind, Malaysia (NCBM) as a wonderful partner of our project. Mr. Ivan Ho Tuck Choy, Executive Director of NCBM, and Mr. Wong Yoon Loong, Chairman of the Committee on the Promotion of Braille and Library Services have been playing a key role with great enthusiasm in organizing the workshop, including its follow-up evaluation. They have also given us useful suggestions on our project. Moreover, I should mention the contributions of the National Library of Malaysia, Penang State Library and Sabah State Library, who have all provided their facilities and staff members for the workshop. Without their cooperation, we would never have been able to see the success of the workshop. I would like to extend my gratitude to Mrs. Mariam Abdul Kadir, Director of the National Library, Datuk Adeline Leong, former Director of Sabah State Library and Mrs. Ku Joo Bee, Director of Sabah State Library.
Now, I would like to discuss the content of the workshop.
Each year, JBL provides equipment that is for the use of trainees during the workshop--that is, ten units of Windows PC's from NEC Malaysia, ten sets of braille translation software from Duxbery U.S. and braille-embossers from Index Inc. Sweden. After the training session, the equipment is to be allocated to each organization thereafter. And we have invited instructors from Japan, Malaysia, Sweden and the Netherlands. You can see that the workshop has been truly accomplished by international cooperation, making full use of worldwide resources.
We have had trainees from organizations in Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Myanmar as well as in Malaysia. This year, participants from Cambodia and Laos will join us for the first time. To date, Asian participants have taken part in the training session, of which, the number of participants from Malaysia has accounted for the largest.
Every year after the workshop, NCBM administers follow-up evaluation of organizations to which equipment has been donated. And it is reported that each organization has started producing braille materials with properly functioning equipment.
Here, I would like to point out a very interesting program of the Ministry of Education in Malaysia is that sends their staff members from the Department of Special Education to our workshop at the expense of the government every year. To my belief, it is quite meaningful that administrative officers of Special Education have opportunities to practice producing braille materials, and to know the importance of having materials in braille for visually-impaired persons. With their understanding of the situation, they can make useful proposals which have influence on the policy-making of the Ministry of Education for promoting braille production. For instance, the Ministry of Education has made orderS TO MBP for dictionaries in braille, which, I would say, is a good example that they are aware of what should be done. In Japan, the Ministry of Education provides nationwide textbooks in braille free of charge for visually-impaired students attending schools for the blind. Without doubt, literacy is the foundation of education. And for visually-impaired persons, literacy means skills in reading and writing braille. It is especially crucial to acquire literacy at the elementary stage of education; without which, the individual's potentiality could not be developed in an effective way. We do hope that every visually-impaired student not only in Malaysia but in other Asian countries will be able to have textbooks in braille in the very near future.
From March through April of this year, the training session on production of CD talking-books by DAISY was held in Kuala Lumpur. It was sponsored by JICA, and was organized by the Ministry of Education of Malaysia and NCBM. There were participants from MAB, St. Nicholas Sepapak Secondary School for the Blind, MBP, Society for the Blind Malaysia and the Department of Special Education. And a staff member of the talking-book section at JBL was in charge of instruction. According to her report, the session turned out to be very successful and participants made progress to the level of producing CD talking-books. I hear that there are about 80 visually-impaired college students in Malaysia. I am sure that CD talking-book production will be of tremendous benefit in their studies.
NCBM and JBL have been inspired by the success of the training session to introduce the technology of DAISY talking-book production to other countries in this region. And we are eager to seek for the possibilities of continuing the training session in Malaysia, recruiting sponsors.
Today, computers have become essential in producing materials for visually-impaired persons, either in braille or in talking-book format. And high-tech equipment will continue to progress dramatically. No matter how rapidly innovation in technology occurs, "JBL realizes the responsibilities of providing visually impaired persons with a wide variety of information and keeping ourselves updated with current technological changes.