In an effort to highlight and promote the importance of braille in the life of a blind person, Alrode Blind SA has announced that Alberton will now have its first ever braille museum.

In a few months, a braille museum will be officially open to the public to discover a rich historical culture of braille including mediums dating back centuries.

Braille Services of Blind SA was established in 1953 and is the sole producer of Braille in all eleven official languages ​​of South Africa.

The purpose of Blind SA is to end the cycle of poverty among blind South Africans. It is by empowering them with knowledge and information through education, braille and developmental services.

They have since collected a historical development of different writing media and devices that date back centuries into a museum that will bear the name of the late Antonnette Botha.

Growth of the writing system

According to Philip Jordaan, Director of the Braille Services Division, South Africa is one of the oldest braille-producing countries in the world, dating back to literature and photos.

“We were the first to produce braille in the African language. We thought it would be wise for someone to document this. We thought we’d go beyond the history of Blind SA and that’s where we said ‘why don’t we make a specific library for braille’, although it’s not the only one in the world”, did he declare.

If braille as a means of communication is not preserved, he said that in five to 10 years it will be gone, especially old braille papers and the first electronic braille equipment.

“We have what we could only gather from the Blind SA collection and a few items from private collections, for example the braille edition of Playboy. We also have the Afrikaans Braille Bible made by Pioneer Printers, which was the only second Afrikaans Bible ever printed. We have books that date back to the early 20th century. We cataloged most of them,” Jordaan said.

The Braille start-up museum will be housed at the head office of Alrode Blind SA.

Rich history

Jordaan, who has years of experience in braille services, said there is a need to be proud of the past and what has been achieved.

“If you know where you come from, it gives you a reason to exist and a reason to move forward. The quality of braille produced in South Africa is on par with the rest of the world and the quality is vigorously guarded by the South African Braille Authority. We are currently one of two certified Braille producers in the country for the production of textbooks,” he said.

Open to the public in November this year, the museum will be called the Antonnette Botha Braille Museum. She was internationally recognized and respected for tirelessly working her life in the Braille fraternity.

“Antonnette was herself blind, a teacher in a school for the blind and was very involved in the development and promotion of braille in South Africa and abroad. We would love for our local community to come and see the rich history of Braille and how it has helped blind people improve through literacy,” said Jace Nair, CEO of Blind SA.

Nair reiterated that they want to use this museum to preserve the rich historical culture and development of the braille medium.

“We would like to invite locals to visit the Blind SA house, especially the museum, so that they can be exposed to some of the publications, memorabilia and devices that we have here,” he explained.

Lebohang Tekela of Blind SA said, “We still have children who are born blind and I think it will be very beneficial for them to understand the history of Braille. It is also because we are also moving towards the technological space and the fourth industrial revolution.

He said braille should be preserved as a form of communication for blind and partially sighted people.

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