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South Korea

Call for more Braille content for blind Koreans

Bishop urges Catholic dioceses to publish Braille Bibles, liturgical books, prayer books and hymnals

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: November 02, 2021 07:56 AM GMT

Updated: November 02, 2021 08:21 AM GMT

Call for more Braille content for blind Koreans

Braille Bibles are in demand. (Photo: Braille Bibles International)

Church officials and rights campaigners have called on South Korea's government and civil society to produce and distribute more Braille content including books for blind people.

The appeal came as the East Asian nation prepares to observe National Braille Day on Nov. 4.

The Catholic Church in Korea set up the Korean Catholic Mission for the Blind in 1979 and since then has supported blind people by providing Braille books and audio content, especially Bibles and catechism books, reported Catholic Times of Korea.

In 1973, the Catholic Students' Association partnered with the National School for the Blind in capital Seoul to publish the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Since 2006, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK) has sponsored publishing Braille content, leading to the publication of Braille Bibles, Catholic hymnals and prayer books.

Bishop Mathias Lee Yong-hoon, CBCK president, appealed to each Catholic diocese to publish Braille Bibles, liturgical books, prayer books and hymnals. He also urged dioceses to assign a priest to serve the needs of visually impaired people.

Dominic Lee In-hak, a campaigner for the blind, noted that the Church needs to publish more Braille religious books, not just the Bible and liturgical books   

Father Kim Yong-tae, head of the Korean Catholic Mission for the Blind, noted that Braille books are in high demand in various dioceses and they get new orders regularly.

However, the service faces challenges as people who became blind due to accidents are more interested in using audio or voice material instead of Braille.

“This means that despite our efforts with Braille books for the blind, the future of Braille books is not bright,” Father Kim said, adding that more Braille content, both in book and audio format, is essential.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the publication, distribution and use of Braille books in parishes as the recitation of prayers and singing of hymns stopped. A fear of infection from touching Braille books also prevailed.

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Dominic Lee In-hak, a campaigner for the blind, noted that the Church needs to publish more Braille religious books, not just the Bible and liturgical books.

“There are a lot of people awaiting such books and they need help more than ever,” he said.  

Besides the government, civil society and business groups have produced Braille books and audio content.

Last year SK C&C, the third-largest conglomerate in South Korea, teamed up with Lion Rocket, a start-up that developed artificial intelligence-based voice synthesis technology, to produce Braille sense books for the blind by using text-to-speech translation technology.

South Korea has an estimated 250,000 visually impaired people in a population of about 52 million, according to the World Blind Union

The two companies joined the state-run National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and used the voices of two Korean movie stars — actor Lee Byung-hun and actress Han Ji-min — to produce content such as audio books, education and YouTube content for the blind, Aju Business Daily reported.

South Korea has an estimated 250,000 visually impaired people in a population of about 52 million, according to the World Blind Union.

While South Korea is an economic powerhouse, disabled communities like blind people face significant challenges to have education and employment, the group says, adding that blind people mostly work as therapists in massage and acupuncture industries, health keepers, teachers in schools for the blind and social workers.

As of 2018, South Korea had 13 education institutes for the blind, while the National Institute for Special Education provides Braille textbooks and reference books.

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