Touch and see

Last week, when my daughter and I used our building’s lift to get to the parking area, she suddenly noticed, for the first time, the raised dots on the lift buttons.

She then asked me what they were. I explained to her that those are in braille, to help people with visual disability, use the lift.

I also showed her our home landline phone (BSNL; hasn’t been working for the past 3 months and I cannot even cancel it, ironically, because no one from BSNL cares either way), where the number 5 has a raised dot. That’s also meant to be a tactile marker for the visually disabled to feel the keypad starting with 5, in the center.

She became endlessly fascinated with the idea (like any child) and wanted to research more on braille, how it works, and how the letters, words and numbers are converted in braille.

She—and I—had assumed that the letters in braille are literal conversions of English letters, but there is a lot more to braille than what I had assumed. Along with her, I came to know that there are 3 Grades in braille and the 2nd and 3rd ones even has contractions (or shorthand) because of a pressing doubt I had – how can a normal page full of text be converted into a same page in braille, given the amount of space each letter demands?

Thanks to her curiosity, I got to learn a lot too, that I had completely ignored given my entitlement of having normal vision.

Late last week, I also stumbled on Mattel Games’ Uno doing something interesting in this area. On the 1st of October, Uno launched a braille version of their card game, to enable visually impaired players to enjoy the game!

Not just that – back in 2017, they had even launched a ColorADD version of the card game, meant especially for people with color blindness!

I recall a famous campaign from 2012 where the South African burger chain Wimpy created braille burgers, where the lettering was written with sesame seeds that are usually found on top of the burgers!

That was an idea and campaign by the agency MetropolitanRepublic Johannesburg… and a bloody smart idea, geared for a specific and highly resourceful purpose – to announce the launch of their braille menus!

All this comes on the back of more recent news involving brands and visually impaired people!

One involved Burger King. A woman had gone to a Burger King store and told the staff about her nut allergy. She was told that the staff could give her a menu but company policy meant customers had to read it themselves!! Burger King has apologized for this lapse and also confirmed that there’s no rule like this in their company policy.

The other one is even more serious: Domino’s is asking the US the Supreme Court to shut down a lawsuit requiring its website be accessible to blind people!

Our businesses still have a long way to go to become truly accessible. But, beyond business, the little things we could do, ourselves, as individuals, is to start looking (pun unintended) at things through the eyes of others less fortunate than us.

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