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Braille Ambassadors

Many braille users from all over the world support the World Congress Braille21 voluntarily and give the event a personal face. These are people who have made and still make good experiences with braille. Please read here, how manifold the use of braille is!

If you would like to become a Braille Ambassador yourself, please contact us: .

photo Mohammed Abbas

Mohammed Abbas (35)
Computer teacher
Damascus/Syria

Braille has enlightened the great majority of the blind in almost all countries. It plays a main role in taking people from illiteracy to literacy. In my case, I depended a lot on this writing system through my study years. For this reason, I consider braille to be the most important part in my life.
Since the age of technology, conferences, fairs and workshops have been the best solution for applying new technology on both institutional and individual level. Braille21 will be a congress, where people meet to become familiar with new braille technology and its applications. They will get to know how to implement them at least in the field of teaching.

photo Martine Abel-Williamson

Martine Abel-Williamson (40)
Policy analyst
Auckland/New Zealand

Braille is important to me, because it’s my primary method of being literate in today’s knowledge and high-tech society. In my work life as a policy analyst, I'm utilising braille for note taking, presentation and brainstorming purposes. I’m really in the business of dabbling with words, creating directional statements and checking existing action plans of other departments. I would not have been able to fulfil my job tasks in a competitive environment, if it wasn’t for braille literacy skills.
Braille21 is important because it highlights the importance of braille, even in today’s technologically advanced society, for braille is keeping up with modern inventions. Governments can be reminded via this congress of the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and of obligations with regards to providing information in accessible formats, including signage in the built environment.
This congress can act as a united front and world-wide lobbying exercise to further awareness, promotion and technical advancement and research into braille and braille technologies.

photo Vivian Aldridge

Vivian Aldridge (51)
Training coordinator in a vocational training centre for visually impaired adults
Basel/Switzerland

Braille has fascinated and accompanied me through more than 35 years of my life as a sighted person. Without braille my career would have taken a different course and I doubt I would have migrated from the United Kingdom to Switzerland or married my wife. Having grown up - from the braille point of view - in the English language and now being active in the care of German, I find it very important to take a look over the linguistic garden fence. If we don't, we will never be able to find the right balance between worldwide unification and adaptation to regional needs. That's why we need the international discussion forum of Braille21.

photo Sheila Armstrong

Sheila Armstrong (56)
Braille transcriptor
Market Harborough/UK

Braille is important to me because it allows me an important human right – that of being literate, able to both read and write efficiently. I am passionate that all blind people who wish to learn and use braille should be able to do so. I remember far more of what I actively read in braille than I do when listening, so I greatly prefer braille for study or understanding complex material. For fiction or lighter reading, braille does leave more to the imagination, since there's nothing between you and the words on the page. If braille were to be lost, blind people would be excluded from some areas of life, particularly higher education and the workplace.

photo Marina Becker

Marina Becker (16)
Student
Troisdorf/Germany

I am blind by birth. Braille matters a lot to me, because I like to read and I do this very often. I learnt braille when I came to school at the age of 6 years. Braille is so important for me, because I am not able to read any other writing. My parents buy a lot of braille books for me that I always love to read. My favourite books are embossed ones. Another reason why I like to read is that I thereby learn plenty of new things all the time. But at school, we use to work a lot with laptop and braille display.

photo Uta Borchert

Uta Borchert (45)
Audio descriptor for movies
Berlin/Germany

Braille is universally and commonly usable – a chance for education of visually impaired and blind people.
With a braille typewriter, a letter, a note or a concept is written easily. In my handbag, there is a little slate. With its help, I am able to note appointments, telephone numbers and addresses. I read in the train, city train and in waiting rooms. I memorise read text much better than heard text. That’s why I prefer to use the braille display instead of speech synthesisers. Furthermore, I am more flexible with it and spelling is not missed out.
I wished for braille not being only on medicine packs but also on foods.
Braille is considered to be expensive. This is why I am afraid that it could be pushed back. I have already experienced that a printers and a library have been closed. Likewise, some magazines disappeared.
I expect from Braille21 that the congress will help to ensure braille and to implement visions.

photo Eva Cambeiro Andrade

Eva Cambeiro Andrade (29)
Coordinator of international projects for blind and partially sighted young people
Granada/Spain

Learning braille was for me like opening the door to a new world of hidden words. If I, as a sighted person, find it so fascinating, I can hardly imagine how valuable it has to be for blind people. I think braille is a very important and powerful tool for education and culture and should not be forgotten or ousted by the new technologies

photo Hans Cohn

Hans Cohn (89)
Retired physiotherapist
London/UK

I was born into a Jewish family living in Berlin, Germany. At age 11, I was struck in the left eye by a classmate who was a member of the Hitler Youth. The damage was irreparable and the right eye followed a year later. By 1935 I was almost totally blind.
By that time I had been attending the “Französische Gymnasium” and the headmaster made it possible for me to continue my education. I quickly learned braille. By 1938 my parents realised that there were no prospects for me in Germany as a Jew with a serious disability, and sent me to England where I completed my education in 1942.
After leaving school, I studied physiotherapy. I was, by this time, fluent in English, French and German, including their contracted braille systems. Later I acquired a working knowledge of Russian including its braille code. As I am a keen chess player and amateur pianist, I also master the Braille Chess Notation as well the International Braille Music Notation.
Although I have had to become proficient in accessing other media, braille has always been my preferred choice, particularly for difficult texts such as official documents and poetry. It would be a tragedy if braille went out of use because of the prevalence of electronic media.

photo Yves Ipolo Désiré

Yves Ipolo Désiré (40)
Mathematician and teacher specialised in sight impairment
Ouagadougou/Burkina Faso

As a math teacher, I use braille in my daily professional duties, with pupils and teachers I train.
Braille and affiliated compensation technologies for visually impaired people helped me to improve my teaching practices and to profoundly understand some math topics. It is a powerful tool to reach Education for All. So I urge teachers to learn it.
The only sadness of using braille is the segregation inside the community of users, in sciences specifically because there are many different codes. Why not unifying mathematic codes for the sake of all users? I hope that Braille21 will be an opportunity to set this issue.

photo Katrin Dinges

Katrin Dinges (25)
Student of German and European Ethnology
Berlin/Germany

Braille is important for me every day. Without, my life would be much more difficult and exhausting. Because of my hearing impairment, I cannot understand spoken texts very well, so it is a good help that I can also read with my fingertips. I have never liked the speech synthesisers, but also natural spoken language is often difficult to understand for me. I could not read only half of the literature I read at the moment if I were not able to read braille.
Braille has supported me for eleven years and I am very grateful that it exists. I wish all blind people the possibility to learn it, so that they can experience its great advantages for their every day lives as I have done through the last years. It does not matter how old anyone is. Braille can be learned by everybody. It helps to reach a new status of independence from other people’s the eyes and voices.

photo Gustav Doubrava

Gustav Doubrava (73)
Graduate in public administration, teacher at the German Federal Post Office and at German Telekom
Nuremberg/Germany

Braille has been my writing since I was a child. I owe braille my place in society. Braille21 means braille everywhere, faster, better, more.

photo Verónica Gonzalez Bonet

Verónica Gonzalez Bonet (33)
Journalist at a public telestation
Buenos Aires/Argentina

Since I was a girl, my family taught me to love books. When I learned braille, I read all the books and magazines that came to my hands. At 6 or 7 years, I could read a book consisting of five or six volumes with great fascination more than once.
Today, I am a journalist. Despite having good technological skills I believe that braille cannot be replaced. I work at the public TV being responsible for a column on disability issues. To record the report, I write it first at the computer and then in braille to read it fluently. It is necessary to know braille grade 2. It manages to write and read faster.
Braille is crucial as it gives a clearer picture of how to write than screen readers, it is essential to incorporate spelling rules, to take notes, read stories to children, nephews and nieces, in my case.
I think it is imperative that we have conferences about braille, to dimension its importance, to review the way it is taught and preserve it as an essential communication system for those who have visual disabilities.

photo Eberhard Hahn

Eberhard Hahn (70)
Mathematician, research assistant for data processing at the Centre for Data Processing at the University of Tübingen
Tübingen/Germany

It was braille that allowed me a secondary education, university studies and a challenging professional occupation. How should I have dealt with complex mathematical formulas or written ambitious computer programmes? As a music hobbyist, braille music notation was equally important for me. It enabled me to study and to learn compositions or to put own musical thoughts on paper. I expect of Braille21 that it intensely raises public awareness especially for those aspects of braille that are more than simple rendering of plain text and are hardly to be covered by other media.

photo Marie-Renée Hector

Marie-Renée Hector (59)
Teacher
Paris/France

From the age of four, braille has been with me every day, like a tactile guiding star to the bright fields of knowledge and imagination. I associate Braille with such feelings like gratitude, recognition, curiosity, joy and self-assertion. To so many of us, with blindness or very low vision, it has opened and shall carry on opening new social and professional doors. As a child I was made to understand using it would be the best thing for me and, although I quickly realised that I wrote differently from my brothers, I was proud to show I could read when I was five. I cannot stop thanking my parents and my teachers who brought me along the path which has led me to be who I am, a happy woman who enjoys reading and writing with a slate and a stylus or with a tactile device and a computer.
I feel both sorry and rebelled when I hear braille being questioned by people who are unfamiliar with its use and benefits, or squint at its aspect with fear or lack of open-mindedness.

photo Johanna Herranen

Johanna Herranen (35)
Singer- songwriter
Mikkeli/Finland

I am born blind, so braille has always been my only way to read. Today’s modern braille devices have opened many new doors. Now a blind person can be just as modern and mobile, part of the society, as a sighted one. With the new technology, life is a lot easier.
I believe every one of us has a right to read. For the blind this does not mean a right to just listen, but really to “see” the words with our fingers.

photo Saliya Kahawatte

Saliya Kahawatte (42)
Executive consultant, business coach, motivational coach, author of the book "Mein Blind Date mit dem Leben"
Hamburg/Germany

At the age of 15, I nearly lost my entire eyesight due to a retinal detachment. My current vision is 5 percent. As a profoundly vision impaired person, I always need adaptive technology to master my private and professional everyday life.
Braille and assistive equipment like the screen reader enable blind and visually impaired people to access knowledge, facilitate their professional integration and help to maintain social contacts. Thanks to these aids I have overcome former barriers and established my own company.
Braille21 promotes the spreading of braille, enables more blind and visually impaired people to access knowledge and eases their professional integration.
All of us are entitled to an accessible approach to the knowledge of sighted people, regardless of our origin and social standing. I personally stand up for Braille21 and its aim of equal chances for the blind and visually impaired people in this world.

photo Shalika Karunaratne

Shalika Karunaratne (42)
Teacher in a mainstream public school and member of the Executive Committee of the Sri Lanka Council for the Blind
Colombo/Sri Lanka

I was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa but had some useful vision. So my parents did not see the importance of making me learn the braille system – something I wish they had done now that I am losing my sight gradually. Presently, I am like a fish out of water. I learned braille but as I learned it late in life, it is hard and I am not very efficient with it.
Although technology has taken over our lives, sighted children are still taught to write using pen and paper and read handwriting. Similarly, it is essential that children with visual disabilities are taught to use a stylus and slate and to read braille at a very early age. Learning braille is so important to blind people in developing countries like ours where technology is not easily affordable and accessible to many.
Therefore, I hope Braille21 will discuss the importance of encouraging young children with low vision to learn the braille system of reading and writing.

photo Maha Khochen

Maha Khochen (40)
Disabilities of sight adviser
Tyre/Lebanon, currently resident in London/UK

Braille was the light at the end of the tunnel which I was searching for as I struggled to finish my teaching diploma in Lebanon, spending ages and ages to read a single page of print with the remaining sight I had. I strongly believe that Braille21 will be a great opportunity to look at the importance of Braille in the 21st century and will highlight the fundamental role of reading through touch, wherever possible, for those whose sight impairment does not allow access to printed material.

photo Dietmar Lehmann

Dietmar Lehmann (39)
Massage therapist
Riesa/Germany

I have been visually impaired since my birth. In the mid-nineties my vision declined so much that I could not read any more, not even with visual aids. I got in touch with braille for the first time during my apprenticeship. At that time, I did not yet consider it necessary to learn braille.
Once, blind friends wanted to play cards with me. I was afraid not to be able to deal with the braille cards fast enough. But I said I didn’t feel like playing, although my friends, who had become blind later in life as well, would certainly have understood this.
Two years ago, I gave braille a second chance. Initially, I borrowed children’s books. It was a great joy to read again. In one book, I read the word “quiche”. I had already eaten this dish, but now I know as well how it is spelled.
I can take notes again and label things in the household. Braille is also an enormous relief in advanced vocational trainings.
With contracted braille, everything will work even better. Since December 2009, I am the proud owner of a manual on contracted braille and I memorise all the contractions step-by-step. I already use the learned contractions for writing.
I would like to encourage many people to learn this important writing even if it demands a lot of patience: it’s worth the trouble!

photo Ronald McCallum

Ronald McCallum (63)
Professor in Industrial Law at the University of Sydney
Sydney/Australia

I use Braille on everyday of my life, from my Braille watch to my Braille Note computer and to the texts of the lectures and papers which I deliver. Braille is the best friend of the blind.

photo Kerstin Nitzsche

Kerstin Nitzsche (47)
Braille trainer
Leipzig/Germany

Due to my sight loss, I have learned uncontracted and contracted braille in 1998. Since that time, I am active as a braille trainer. It is my personal concern that all people of any age – also those with multiple impairments – get the chance to read and write.
It is absolutely important that braille will be available on paper also in future: I myself am not allowed to work with the computer and the braille display due to a disease – therefore, I depend on the paper form.
I want to continue Louis Braille’s legacy because braille connects blind people all over the world.

photo Boubakar Ouédraogo

Boubakar Ouédraogo (42)
Coordinator of Braille Literacy Department/Bible Society of Burkina Faso
Ouagadougou/Burkina Faso

Adapting braille into African languages has been the ultimate for propagating and promoting braille in our languages. Up to today, the braille alphabet has been adapted in five major local languages in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Three of them have been officially adopted and recognized by the Ministry of Education, and used nationwide in more than 100 literacy centres, where many visually impaired adults learn how to read and write in braille in their mother tongue.

Braille should be accessible to the poorest and the needy!

photo Hanna Pasterny

Hanna Pasterny (32)
disability consultant, book author; assistant on a voluntary basis to Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Parliament
Jastrzębie Zdrój/Poland

Braille enables me to function normally, gives me independence, freedom and many hours of pleasure. As a student I recorded lectures and then transcribed them in braille, because I can memorise a lot more when I read than when I listen to recordings. Braille is the only means to learn to write correctly. Braille helped me to win a dictation contest, beating 500 sighted opponents.
The World Congress Braille21 is necessary to promote braille and demonstrate the importance of accessible information. It should show blind people that braille has not become a relic of the past. Braille is still essential and relevant today. Speech synthesizers and talking books will not make you literate or help you be taken seriously.

photo Aleksander Pavkovic

Aleksander Pavkovic (35)
Slavicist and IT trainer
Nuremberg/Germany

Somebody who has learned braille is nearly instantly able to learn languages whereby readers and writers of common print have to pick up a further alphabet. Braille does not distinguish between Latin and Cyrillic script but accommodates every language with few necessary special characters.
Been born blind and as an enthusiastic braille user, I enjoyed the astonishment of my fellow students when I said: “Regarding the writing, Russian or Bulgarian is absolutely no problem for me. As a blind person, I have definitely an advantage”. Of course, nobody really likes being blind. But in our times of networks and enormous technological opportunities, we are able to show in diverse ways what we can move with the help of braille. Don’t let us be illiterate by means of budget speech synthesis!

photo Dian Petrov

Dian Petrov (41)
IT teacher
Sofia/Bulgaria

I was born blind. This has deprived me of seeing many beautiful things. When I learned to read braille at the age of 6, I found a new world - vivid and interesting.
I have been working for 17 years in a school for visually impaired children in Sofia. The idea of my mission is to help other people finding their place in this world. Being useful for the children makes me feel happy. I meet constantly the children’s gratitude when they have the opportunity to read books thanks to braille - only 6 dots, but how powerful they are!
Even today in the time of Hi-Tech it is impossible to educate blind children without braille. In my opinion, activities like the World Congress Braille21 are very important to make braille popular and to find solutions to create innovative methods for braille education in general.

photo Daniela Preiß

Daniela Preiß (26)
Student of book studies, political science and history
Erlangen/Germany

Braille is indispensable for my everyday life because without it, I could read only with my ears. In some areas, this is possible, in others not. Which medicine pack can tell me about its content?
I have the vision to not only let run my fingers over the pages of particular volumes in a bookshop but to be able to read them ... Braille21 connects literacy and accessibility – two important factors to let my dream become true in the whole world.

photo Tarik Sarzep

Tarik Sarzep (29)
Interpreter and translator
Neuwied/Germany

For me, reading braille means to lean back from the computer and to relax. Especially with longer texts, it is important to have a relaxed posture. That’s the way reading is fun – not tiresome.
I hope that Braille21 will arouse people’s interest in braille, especially among young people. They should become more practised in reading and writing. In my opinion, there is a high risk for blind people to either not properly learn spelling or to forget it because of screenreaders.

photo Christine Simpson

Christine Simpson (61)
Braille Consultant and Transcriber/Producer
Victoria/Australia

Braille is a vital part of who I am. As a totally blind person I "see" life through my fingers and my hands. I "touch" to understand, I "touch" to learn, so why wouldn't I "touch" to read!

Braille enables me to make my choice from a restaurant menu or browse, choose and prepare meals from amongst my own recipe collection. With braille I'm more easily able to follow a knitting pattern. I braille on greeting cards to send to my braille reading friends. With the addition of braille I identify printed correspondence and competently manage an office filing system. I use braille playing cards and braille scrabble; and with braille I complete crossword and Sudoku puzzles. These are just some examples of my widespread braille usage.

As a Braille Consultant and Transcriber, braille earns me my living!

Braille is my pencil—an extension of my mind! Braille is convenient, portable and private. Braille is easy for me to use and with it, my comprehension skills are high. Importantly – with braille, I can communicate with my deafblind friends.

photo Sabriye Tenberken

Sabriye Tenberken (41)
Founder of “Braille without Borders”
Trivandrum/India

I don't want to talk about the fact that braille opened MY door to the world.
What I do want to talk about is what difference braille can make for people in countries where literacy is not the norm. In those places, braille has the power to make the blind, who in many cases have been outcasts, visionaries and leaders!

One of our Tibetan students was standing in the courtyard with a big smile on his face.
We asked him: ‘Kjumi what's up?’
He answered: ‘I am so happy.’
‘Why that?’ we wanted to know.
He thought seriously, while playing around with his braille-homework and then replied: ‘I am happy, because… I AM BLIND!’

This might be a shock for some people, but in fact, this boy knew that because of him BEING blind, he had many more chances than his sighted sisters or brothers. He is able to read and write braille in Tibetan, Chinese and English and knows how to use a Computer. Braille enabled HIM to independently open HIS door to the world!

photo Anja Vetter

Anja Vetter (33)
EU pensioner
Leipzig/Germany

I have been blind since my birth. I have learnt uncontracted braille in the first school class and contracted braille in the fourth class. Since then, I have liked reading a lot. I use braille to letter CDs and cassettes, spices and folders. I note down addresses, telephone numbers and recipes and I like writing braille letters. During my vocational training to become an office employee, I learnt the handling of computer and braille display. Thanks to a qualification measure, I am also able to deal with braille shorthand.
One of my hobbies is playing the guitar. That’s why I have started braille music notation five years ago. Today, I know it well.
I have been user of DZB Leipzig already a very long time. When the medium DAISY arose, I have listened a lot to CDs. But I realised that continuous listening is very exhausting. Now, I read journals and magazines in braille again.
Braille helps me a lot in my life.

photo Regina Vollbrecht

Regina Vollbrecht (35)
Teacher for braille, IT and German as a second language
Berlin/Germany

Braille is very valuable for me and an essential information source in job and everyday life. At work, it makes me proud to pass on knowledge. In my free-time, I am a lot on the way as a sportswoman. Therefore, braille is an important companion to me. At train and plane trips, I like to read magazines or books. If I get new contacts at contests, I like to pass on cards labelled with braille.
I am looking forward to Braille21, as we can exchange about the manifold possible applications of this genius writing there. For blind and profoundly visually impaired people, braille is the only way to literacy. It is the main task of the World Congress to arouse and strengthen the awareness for this!

photo Bianca Weigert

Bianca Weigert (37)
transcriber and braille teacher
Leipzig/Germany

I even had not finished first class at primary school but tried to read books in braille and could not wait to be able to read properly.
Since that time braille accompanies me in everyday life. I work at the centre for adaptive technology of the State of Saxony in Dresden. Books, user manuals etc. are transcribed for our clients as well as letters and greetings cards are written.
Only what I actually read with my fingers sticks permanently in my mind. In times of comfortable audio media and “speaking” adaptive technology, our scripture, whether on paper or on braille display, makes a substantial contribution to learn to write correctly. Teaching braille is a beautiful, sometimes not an easy task. But it is worth the effort for every happy exclamation: “I can read!”
Braille is fun when you can use it to create your own patterns and images. And I rejoice every time I unexpectedly encounter it: Labelling in the elevator, on food packages, even on dishes and medicinal products for our pets.
I hope that Braille21 strengthens the awareness of braille users that we all have to do something to preserve and promote it.

photo Pedro Zurita

Pedro Zurita (63)
Former Secretary General of the World Blind Union
Madrid/Spain

I am pleased and proud to be a standing user of braille. I am not fanatical but convinced that we should do everything possible to ensure that any blind person anywhere in the world who can potentially benefit from braille has indeed the opportunity to learn and to use braille. Braille is not at all obsolete and it should have a harmonious living with new technologies. In our access to information, we should positively combine braille, DAISY books and synthetic speech.
It is most appropriate to have a World Congress on braille. Braille is truly universal and we should not spare any effort to bring about a unification of signs.

Braille-Ambassador

picture Kerstin Nitzsche

Kerstin Nitzsche (47),
Leipzig/Germany

»It is absolutely important that braille will be available on paper also in future: I myself am not allowed to work with the computer and the braille display due to a disease – therefore, I depend on the paper form.«

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