Thiruvananthapuram: At the Government Visually Impaired School in Thiruvananthapuram, 10-year-old Ameena VVS and her friends look forward to their library period the most. They are among the few visually challenged students in Kerala, who manage to read stories like Tenalirama or biographies of famous personalities all by themselves, as the text is in braille, a form of written language for blind people.
“We don’t have story books in braille like this at our homes, so because of our sight problem we don’t get to read anything at home”, says Ameena VVS.
51-year-old Baby Girija, a teacher at the school, has volunteered to fulfill Ameena’s and other such children’s wish to read.
For around 10 years, Ms Girija has been typing extra-curricular books, into braille, voluntarily and has got 42 books ready for these children.
Without any help from the government for her braille library project in the school, it’s donors who have kept her dream alive.
“First I started this to just pass time but now it has become a necessity. Everything is volunteer based. People volunteer to read the books to me, so I can type. Papers for typing are donated. Almirahs for safe keeping of books are donated.” Ms Girija told.
“I always remember what my father used to tell me. Don’t let one day pass without reading at least one page,” Ms Girija adds.
And while there are many computer screen reading technologies available today, Abdullah Hakeem, Principal of the school, believes first hand reading cannot be replaced.
“For language and cognitive development its very important that they read books by themselves, beyond hearing texts being read out on computers. Other states have books in braille beyond textbooks, but in Kerala we mostly have only textbooks”, Abdullah Hakeem said.
But as Ms Girija finishes for the day after almost six hours of vigorously typing on the school’s Perkins Brailler, the braille typewriter, she says, “We have only one functional braille typewriter. Rest are all spoiled due to heavy and very frequent usage. Since we don’t have government support for this project, it will be very nice if someone can donate a Perkins Brailler.”