On 15th September, the Foundation for Information Technology Accessibility (FITA), presented the Malta libraries with Braille material, which will be added to the Talking Books section at the Public Library in Floriana. This includes:
- a Braille version, produced by FITA, of the novel San Ġwann by Ġuzè Galea, in Maltese.
- a complete Braille version of the Oxford English Dictionary.
The novel San Ġwann was reproduced in Braille with the kind permission of Midsea books and the respective copyright holders. This Braille embossing project, is made up of three volumes, and was sponsored by Ms Bridgette Micallef, the NGO ADVICE and FITA.
The original cover artwork was created by Mr. Trevor Grech of FITA. It is a composition of different photos, which he himself has taken and processed for this edition. A short overview of the project and production of the artwork, in both print and Braille, is included at the beginning of each of each volume. Transparent Braille stickers are also present on the outside cover, with details identifying each of the three volumes, for easy reference by blind persons.
This version of the Oxford English Dictionary consists of 16 volumes. This was kindly donated by Ms Marcelle Cremona. While there is a lack of Maltese language Braille publications, such as the San Gwann novel, there is a greater availability of English language Braille media and this dictionary is sure to help people who are seeking to expand their vocabulary.
FITA promotes access for all. We assist disabled individuals, business organisations and government entities, in making use of accessible ICT as an empowerment tool, particularly for education and employment. This includes promoting the use of voice recognition and speech synthesis tools. Ongoing consultation with local associations of the blind, suggests that Braille remains an important tool in ensuring blind and visually-impaired people gain access to literacy.
Voice based media limits blind and visually-impaired individuals to mostly consume information that is accessible electronically in such a format. FITA believes that despite the advantages of modern technology, an adequate literacy level remains important, as it enables individuals to produce and contribute information content that is text based. This is particularly important within a clerical work environment, where emails and reports remain a common information medium.
According to the National Braille Press: “There is no substitute for the ability to read. For blind people, braille is an essential tool that aids in the process of becoming literate. Tape recorders and synthesized speech are useful tools, but they are inadequate substitutes for reading and writing. Braille literacy plays the same key role in a blind person’s life that print literacy does in a sighted person’s-it increases opportunities. US based research shows that of the 26 percent of blind people who are employed, the majority of them are braille readers. The correlation is clear – braille is an extremely important tool for blind people to become literate, and it is a critical component that supports educational advancement and increases employment prospects.”
Nowadays, Braille interfaces are integrated with many devices, including tablets and computers, thanks to the use of refreshable Braille displays. These are used in conjunction with screen reader software, so that users can verify spelling when they read books, browse websites and access other forms of written information.
FITA provides a Braille embossing service, that caters for various projects, ranging from books, conference programmes and menus to business cards. For more information about this and other ICT accessibility services, you may contact FITA at email@example.com or phone us on +356 25992048.
The Braille materials, including the San Gwann novel, audio books and more accessible products can be borrowed from the Public Library. You may contact the Public Library on +356 21240703 / +356 21243473 or +356 21224044. Alternatively they can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org