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  • Rabu, 20 Mei 2009


    May 21, 2009

    For Immediate Release


    The World Blind Union (WBU), the internationally recognized voice of blind and low vision persons at the global level, recently announced that it will award its highest honor, the Louis Braille Medal, to Euclid Herie of Canada in Coupvray France on June 20, 2009.

    The Louis Braille Medal is awarded at most once every four years, and is granted to individuals who have made a substantial and outstanding contribution to people who are blind or low vision through international service or to the WBU over many years.

    In announcing the award, WBU President Maryanne Diamond said, “Dr. Euclid Herie was selected from among several worthy candidates from all around the world, and in our view exemplifies the merit of this award”. Presently an Honorary Life Member of the WBU, Dr. Herie served in the international Officer positions of Treasurer, President and Past President from 1988 to 2004. During this time he was also President and Chief Executive Officer of the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind), the principal organization in Canada providing specialized services and support to visually impaired persons. During his tenure with CNIB, he actively engaged the organization in sharing its expertise with other organizations of and for the blind around the world, and was one of the architects of the WBU Institutional Development Program (IDP), then supported by CNIB, Hilton Perkins International Programs from Boston and Sightsavers International based in the United Kingdom – this same IDP program has provided and continues to provide significant development training to hundreds of blind leaders around the world. Following his retirement as President and CEO of the CNIB, Dr. Herie founded the World Braille Foundation which provides support for grassroots braille literacy programs for blind persons in developing countries, and which has focused significantly on making such braille literacy programs available to blind women and girls.

    The awarding of the Louis Braille medal during 2009 and in Coupvray France is particularly significant, as the award will be presented just minutes away from the actual birthplace of Louis Braille and during the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, the inventor of the braille system. Given the significant contributions Dr. Herie has made, it is right that we celebrate and recognize the work of the World Braille Foundation - what a legacy – providing access to literacy for thousands who would otherwise be denied this vital tool of empowerment and self-determination.

    For further information please contact:

    Penny Hartin
    Chief Executive Officer
    World Blind Union
    1929 Bayview Avenue
    Toronto Ontario Canada M4G 3E8
    1-416-486-9698 (tel)


    The World Blind Union (WBU) is an international not-for-profit, charitable organization representing the estimated 161 Million people who are blind or have low vision worldwide. The WBU is recognized as the international voice of blind and low vision persons speaking on their behalf at the United Nations, UN Agencies and other international organizations. The WBU has consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and with a number of relevant UN Agencies such as WHO, WIPO, UNICEF, UNESCO, ILO, UPU and World Bank.

    Its mission is achieved with and through its members - organizations of blind and partially sighted persons and organizations providing services to blind and partially sighted persons in some 181 countries and through six Regional Unions. The six WBU Regions include: Africa, Asia, East Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America/Caribbean.

    The overall long-term vision of the WBU is “a community where people who are blind or partially sighted are empowered to participate on an equal basis in any aspect of life they choose”. This vision is actualized through the WBU three Strategic Priorities of:

    Representation: Promoting full participation and equal opportunities for blind and partially sighted persons in all aspects of social, economic, political and cultural life;
    • Working towards a world accessible to blind and partially sighted persons
    • Representing Blind and Partially Sighted Persons at the United Nations and UN Agencies
    • Advocating for human rights of blind and partially sighted persons

    Capacity Building: Strengthening the capabilities and capacity of the WBU regional structures and member organizations; and
    • Improving employment opportunities for blind and partially sighted persons
    • Developing the capacity of our members
    • Supporting our target populations for full inclusion
    • Strengthening the World Braille Council
    • Supporting our members to implement the CRPD at the National level.

    Information Sharing: Serving as an international information and resource centre on matters in respect of blind and partially sighted persons.
    • Developing a Resource Repository for members including website
    • Developing international partnerships and collaboration
    • Developing the capacity to include our various language communities within the work of the WBU

    For additional information and access to our materials and publications, see the WBU website at:

    Braille celebrates bicentenary
    By Pedro Zurita

    Louis Braille, who was born two hundred years ago, did not have the chance in his lifetime to witness the unbridled success of his simple but brilliant invention, a system which revolutionised the lives of blind people by opening the doors to knowledge and culture, fields which were hitherto out of bounds to them.

    The birth pangs were not, however, insignificant. Braille completed his code in 1825, when he was barely 15 years old, but he passed away two years before France officially adopted his system in 1854. For decades his method faced rejection from both teachers at the Young Blind People’s Institute in Paris, where Braille himself studied and taught, and from sighted people. It was even banned for some time, and it was not until 1878 when an international congress held in Paris recognised the braille system, giving it the boost it needed to be implemented gradually worldwide. Since then training, development and independence for blind people have relied largely on this reading and writing system that is now, two hundred years after it was invented, used in practically every language in the world.

    Although in the past few years many have hailed the replacement of the braille system due to technological breakthroughs, no alternative method capable of substituting it completely has yet been developed. What is more, there are numerous signs that it enjoys rude health as it is used increasingly in everyday settings to enable blind people to become more independent. Braille is still irreplaceable in this respect, as we can see, for example, with the cosmetics firms, food companies and wine merchants who market their products with braille labeling, the European Union directive that makes it obligatory to have braille signage in new lifts, or the fact that since October 2005 all medicines in the European Union must carry braille labeling.

    Yet more initiatives can be found in the field of citizens’ rights. Countries such as France, Germany, Spain, India, Mexico, Colombia and Costa Rica are using braille to come up with different methods to ensure blind people are able to exercise their vote independently in elections.

    The logic of an alphabet
    The simple and logical structure of the braille system is based on the presence or absence of dots in a cell containing two parallel columns, each with three dots. The different permutations of dots in the six-dot cell give us 63 different combinations representing all the letters of the alphabet.

    Louis Braille based his system on the so-called "night writing" developed by Charles Barbier, a captain in the artillery, to enable the military to send messages in the dark. Braille learnt about this tactile code when he was just 10 years old and, after studying it, he reached the brilliant conclusion that the two columns containing six dots each put forward by Barbier should be reduced to two columns of three, an ideal size for the perception of a fingertip. Braille also showed that the sense of touch was significantly more sensitive to dots than to the linear system used in the code created some years previously by Valentin Haüy. Haüy’s system, which used lines to represent the letters of the visual alphabet, was the one Braille had learnt when he began at the Young Blind People’s Institute in Paris, founded by Haüy himself in 1784.

    Using this knowledge, Louis Braille came up with a very logical code: the first ten letters of the alphabet are formed using combinations only of the top two rows in the cell; the next ten are the same as the first ten with the addition of the bottom dot in the left-hand column, and the following ten letters use the bottom dots in both columns. After that only the bottom right-hand dot is used, and so on. Punctuation marks are represented by combinations of dots using only the two bottom rows.

    Louis Braille, however, did not stop after inventing the braille alphabet; he is also responsible for adapting his system for mathematics, creating a clever system of abbreviations, and for music, developing a vertical system that is still used to this day.

    Braille and new technologies
    We do not have accurate figures on the number of braille users, nor do we have research showing a correlation between the use of the reading and writing system and academic qualifications. However, from the information we do have and available estimates we can deduce it is used by a minority of the blind and low vision. This is for a variety of reasons, among them the difficulties older people have in learning braille and the high cost of producing braille resource material. In addition, in recent times we have witnessed the development of new technologies based on text to speech which have reduced noticeably the extent to which braille is used, especially because a lot of information and books are easier to get hold of using electronic methods.

    Both methods, however, far from being mutually exclusive, can complement each other. In the 80s and 90s there were significant breakthroughs in computing and electronics, and we are now able to produce much more material in braille a lot more cheaply. Suitable complementary computer programmes make it possible to present the same information that is written on the computer in braille. There are now many resources that are an improvement on what most people used to have, but for people with a visual impairment many of these technological breakthroughs have opened up possibilities that were previously unimaginable. For example, a huge amount of information can now be stored on a CD-ROM, a DVD or other tiny storage devices that are now available and accessible to more and more people with vision loss who use a computer.

    Internet also opens up brand new horizons for those of us who cannot see but have access to an adapted computer. Reading the newspaper is now no longer a utopian pipe dream for the blind. Nevertheless, the truth is that all these innovations do not take anything away from the value of braille, and in fact they contribute to strengthening its merit. Nowadays the ideal system is to combine braille and text-to-speech software when using a computer and, more generally, when handling information.

    Braille as a universal system
    Although braille is used by a minority of people with vision loss, it must be recognised as a truly universal system since it is used in all languages, including Chinese, Japanese and Arabic. In the last few years it has also been applied in minority languages such as Guaraní, widely spoken in many parts of Paraguay, Tibetan and Dzongkha, one of Bhutan’s official languages. In Africa, braille has expanded recently to include Kinyarwanda and Kirundi, the official languages in Rwanda and Burundi respectively.

    The World Braille Council, set up under the auspices of UNESCO in 1950, played a leading role in the application of braille in the written languages of the world. It carried out the very important task of preserving unity in dots that were common to several languages and made a vital contribution to extending braille to languages less widespread than English, French or Spanish. Its chairman at the time, Sir Clutha Mackenzie, published World Braille Usage in 1953, a magnificent work that sets out general principles and includes braille alphabets in those languages where they were available at the time.

    The World Braille Council then came under the wings, firstly, of the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind (WCWB) and later, following its foundation in 1984, of the World Blind Union.

    Information has led to change in the main linguistic groups and in specific languages. These changes have been undertaken without taking other languages into account and without the involvement of a universal authority, thus leading to less consistency in the use of certain punctuation marks such as, for instance, brackets, even in closely-related languages like French, English and Spanish, while there is still a wide range of alternative forms of representing the now ubiquitous "@" in E-mail addresses.

    Unification is, for many, a desirable objective, but the goal is difficult to achieve when it involves giving up things one considers to be the best for one’s own language. An international braille code does exist and is used more and more, but the WBU Braille Council still has an important task ahead of it to unify and promote it.

    Louis Braille (1809-1852)

     1809: Louis Braille was born on January 4th in Coupvray, a small town east of Paris.

     1812: at the age of three, he accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with an awl when he was playing in his father’s saddle-maker’s workshop. The infection spread to his other eye and he became totally blind.

     1819: Louis joined the Young Blind People’s Institute in Paris, founded in 1784 by Valentin Haüy. He stayed at the Institute for 24 years, first as a student and later as a teacher.

     1820: Braille was introduced to the night writing system developed by army captain Nicolas-Marie-Charles Barbier for the army. He studied the system, made some improvements and developed his own method, which he completed in 1825 when he was just 15 years old.

     1827: Braille became a teacher at the Young Blind People’s Institute, where he taught grammar, history, geography, arithmetic, algebra, geometry, piano and cello.

     1829: the first version of his method was published. The second version, including some improvements, was published eight years later and contains the braille method as we know it today.

     1852: on January 6th, Braille died of tuberculosis aged 43. He was buried in Coupvray, where the house in which he was born still stands and is now a museum.

     1952: Braille’s body was moved to the Pantheon in Paris, not far from the Young Blind People’s Institute where he spent most of his life.

    Selasa, 19 Mei 2009


    1. NAME

    As a tribute to the memory of the late Mr. Takeo Iwahashi for his magnificent contribution to work for the blind, the Fund is named “TAKEO IWAHASHI AWARD”.

    2. OBJECT

    The object of the fund shall be to make the annual award to a worker for the blind whose contribution to work for the blind in the fields of education, training, rehabilitation, placement, prevention and cure of blindness, administration of services for the welfare of the blind or any other program related to the welfare of the blind has been outstanding.


    (a) The corpus of the fund shall consist of the initial contribution and the general contribution.

    (b) The target for the corpus of the fund shall be $10,000 of which Mr Tokuji Hayakawa has contributed an initial amount of ¥1,000,000 contributed later by Mrs Eiko Hikita and thereafter the fund raising campaign shall be conducted until the target is reached.

    (c) The target may be raised if necessary as the need may arise.

    (d) The corpus of the fund shall remain invested in high yielding and safe bank deposits which are officially recognized.


    The income of the fund shall be utilized for the following purposes:

    (a) Suitably worded scrolls of honour and plaque for presentation to the award winner.

    (b) The cash award shall be ¥100,000. The amount may be increased, funds permitting.


    (a) The Fund shall be administered by a Committee consisting:

    1) The Chief Director of the Nippon Lighthouse or his nominee.

    2) Mr Tokuji Hayakawa or his nominee and after his death nominee of his heirs.

    3) Mr Hideyuki Iwahashi or his nominee and after his death a nominee of his heirs.

    (b) The Chief Director of the Nippon Lighthouse will be the Ex-officio Chairman of the Committee.

    (c) The Chairman shall present a report of the Fund at the end of every fiscal year to the Award Committee.

    (d) The account of the Fund shall be maintained by the Nippon Lighthouse and opened with the Eiwa Credit Association. The Chief Director of Nippon Lighthouse will bear the responsibility of the account.


    (a) Any worker for the blind falling in any of the fields listed in Rule 2 shall be eligible for consideration for the grant of an award.

    (b) For the purpose for assessing the outstanding merit and achievements of a worker for the blind, his/her work over the past three years shall be taken into account along with his/her contribution during his/her entire working life.

    (c) Outstanding achievements in the field of education, training, placement and rehabilitation of the blind as also administration blind welfare services shall be taken into account.

    (d) The award shall be given to any worker chosen form all parts of WBU Asia/Pacific Region, but only to the alive worker.

    (e) The Chairman shall give the widest possible publicity to invite the proposals for award. He shall call for proposals by April 30 every year. Proposals shall be received by July 31 every year.

    (f) 1) The proposals shall be considered by correspondence in the months of August and the decision shall be announced by September 1 every year.

    2) Notwithstanding the receipt or non receipt of proposals, the Committee shall have the right to consider granting the award to any suitable worker for the blind for whom a formal proposal has not been received.

    (g) 1) Only one award shall be granted every year.

    2) In the event of there being no suitable candidate for the award in any given year, the income for that year shall be added to the corpus of the fund after deducting all other expenses.

    (h) The award shall be presented to the winner on the 16th day of March, being Mr. Takeo Iwahashi’s birthday, or on any other suitable day as may be decided upon by the Committee in consultation with the national organization for and of the blind in the country concerned. The award (the scroll, plaque and cash cheque) may be transmitted through the Embassy, Consultate, or Liaison Officer of the country concerned in Japan.

    (i) The Committee’s interpretation of all the Rules relating to the award shall be final and binding.


    Any changes in these rules shall be made only by the Awardes Committee.

    Senin, 11 Mei 2009


    We, the participants of WBUAP-DAB Visionary Conference, assembled between 4-8 May 2009 at the Don Chan Palace Hotel in Vientiane, Lao P.D.R., hereby declare and envision:
    1. A society which is inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based for blind and visually impaired persons in all aspects of life;
    2. A society in which blind and visually impaired persons are guaranteed the right to quality education, rehabilitation based on positive thinking, decent employment opportunities, and health care services;
    3. A society in which blind and visually impaired persons can fully enjoy access to information, communication, relevant technologies, transportation and built environment;
    4. A society which is caring, sensitive and respectful to the needs and requirements of blind and visually impaired women and children;A
    5. A society in which blind and visually impaired persons can fully participate in social, political, economic and cultural activities;
    All on an equal basis with others.

    The Vision Statement incorporates the substance of the WBUAP Quadrennial Plan of Action, which is up to 2012, subject to extension thereof, and within the framework of the above-mentioned Vision Statement, being mindful that the planned period of implementation of these objectives in the first instance is up to 2015, we hereby, with the active role of WBUAP and all its member organizations, declare and affirm our intention to achieve the following:
    1. To strengthen capacity building of organizations of and for the blind and visually impaired persons in the developing countries, and more particularly, Lao PDR and Mongolia on an ongoing basis, and additionally, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea, and technical and training facility be extended to Brunei and other countries in the region where appropriate
    2. To prioritize education, employment, economic empowerment, ICT, women and children, and healthcare
    3. To encourage and expand advocacy and rights-based development through the active involvement of the organizations concerned
    4. To foster greater cooperation and interaction between organizations both within and outside the Region
    5. Ratification and immplementation of CRPD

    Dated this 8th day of May, 2009