Thirty-year-old Premalatha N.G., sitting in the corner of a room, vigorously punches in alphabets in her brailler and transcribes books into Braille, even as S.R. Shankaranarayana Rao reads out the last few lines of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms to her.
Over the last week, Ms. Premalatha has been typing a chapter of the basic English textbook for B.A. students of Karnatak University. The book will be ready for use by a visually impaired student of the university from the next academic year.
She is one of four braillists at the manual transcription wing of the Braille Transcription Centre here, part of Canara Bank Relief and Welfare Society. The centre, which completed 20 years last month, caters to the needs of visually impaired students right from kindergarten to postgraduate level.
It not only ensures Braille transcription of thousands of story books, reference works and dictionaries, but also provides employment to those with visual impairments
“Transcribing books into Braille has helped me earn my own living,” Ms. Premalatha says. “For every page we type, we get Rs. 7,” she explains, as she continues to punch in words at a fast pace. She pauses for a moment to say: “Although we type so fast, we proofread the pages and ensure that the transcription is error-free.”
Mr. Rao, an enthusiastic 79-year-old, says he finds immense satisfaction in dictating the text that would not only help the braillist earn a living, but also help students with visual disabilities pursue their education. “‘All I want to know was how to live.’ Make sure you type ‘all’ as capital ‘A’,” he says, commanding a teacher-like respect, as he finishes reading a paragraph from the Hemingway story.
In another section of the centre is the computer section. Here, three visually impaired persons and volunteers type information that is translated into Braille by computer software.
Vani Lakshman (53), a volunteer with the computer section for the past 20 years, says transcriptions for a large number of textbooks are computerised. “Individual requests are dealt with by manual transcription, the rest are done on the computer.”
Six essential keys
Apart from this, the centre also offers training where low-vision and visually impaired persons are trained in Braille.
Vanajakshi B.M. (28), who has low vision, has been learning Braille for the past month at the centre. As she places a cardboard sheet in her brailler, adjusts the margin and carefully rolls up the paper, she says: “For a braillist, life revolves around six keys. The sooner we get accustomed to the six keys, the faster will be our learning process.” How long it takes to learn depends on the sensitivity of a person’s fingers as well, she adds.
When asked why she is learning Braille, without batting an eyelid, Ms. Vanajakshi says, “After five years, my vision will reduce. Learning Braille will help me obtain a job, which will ensure that I am independent.”
The Braille Transcription Centre is located at Canara Bank Relief and Welfare Society, 27th Cross, Banashankari 2nd stage, Bangalore. The centre can be contacted at 080-26713421.