6th Onkyo Braille Essay Contest
Onkyo Corporation and The Braille Mainichi (The Mainichi Newspapers) created "The Braille Essay Contest" in 2003 with the hope of building a bridge between Braille and sound for the visually disabled who share heart-warming feelings more closely. The contest has been held the contest every year since then.
Having got the cooperation of the WBU-AP (World Blind Union Asia-Pacific) since 2004, ABU (Asian Blind Union) since 2005, and EBU (European Blind Union) since 2007, we had received a lot of entries from many countries and could have "cross-cultural communication" by understanding the culture and thinking of each country with Braille.
We published this booklet, in print as well as in Braille, containing winning works in three regions (WBU-AP, ABU, and EBU), and presented to the countries in the regions.
We wish that readers should understand the thinking and living of the visually disabled; and that, regardless of disability, all people should feel heart-warming harmony the disabled live in, or make, together.
27 winners in four regions were awarded trophies, prize money, and mementos.
Onkyo Corporation and The Braille Mainichi (The Mainichi Newspapers) presented this Braille booklet to the organizations for the visually disabled in 186 countries to promote cross-cultural communication.
Ms. Olivia Minh En, who won our highest award, the Otsuki Prize, in the World Blind Union Asia-Pacific region, immigrated to New Zealand from a refugee camp in Vietnam. Her father confounded the experts by teaching her Braille even though she was just three years old and the youngest of seven children. I believe he showed great foresight in teaching her a love of words. Even more impressive was her ability to understand his thinking and her efforts to get involved at a young age in work that would be hard even for fully sighted people. With her higher belief that "(we don't) 'aspire' to be like sighted people; we simply wish to be able to do all that a sighted person can do," she seems to be putting into practice the ideas that were Louis Braille's legacy.
The winner of The Otsuki Prize in the Asian Blind Union: West Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East regions was Ms. R.S.N. Karunaratne from Sri Lanka. Using her knowledge of conditions in other countries, she made a strong appeal for improving the educational environment for visually impaired orphans in Sri Lanka. Based on her experience, she suggests that a high-quality educational environment (also involving sports and other activities) should be provided for children, since what they absorb so easily at a young age has a big influence on them later in life.
That this essay won the highest prize shows that the ABU members recognize the need for such educational improvements. From now on, it won't be Braille alone that will be promoted for visually impaired people; computers and special education software will become increasingly important. We would be greatly pleased if this contest could play some role in facilitating that development.
Mr. Antonio Martín Figueroa, who comes from Spain, was awarded the Otsuki Prize for the European Blind Union: Europe region. His writing contains a variety of expressions that give us a glimpse of his sensitivities. He says that he has in his mind different sections for written words and for the pronunciations of words he hears. Meanwhile, he expresses the names of cities in their respective countries' languages, taking him farther into the unknown world. He also colorfully expresses his admiration for Braille by saying, "my fate... is linked to the new universe created by my mind through my sense of touch," and also that he can contribute by carving these round pebbles (i.e. Braille).
In Japan, violinist Mr. Taro Masuda won the Otsuki Prize. At first, in the opening part of his story, I was bowled over by the overwhelming scale and dynamic setting. The atmosphere of the venue came across vividly through his explanation of his mind-set during his "chat-and-play" concerts and through his description of the scene where he strikes up a dialogue with the audience. He works out the gender and mood of the audience through their applause and the sound of their laughter, and then, through his performance, he expresses his own feelings as they evolve through the process of communication. Compared to when he could see, the performer seemed to come closer to his audience. I hope that many people, through this essay, come to understand that real communication is a heart-to-heart process. At the same time, I also hope people can share in the zest for life that is contained in his words. I, for one, appreciate his excellent work.
Finally, I would like to thank all of the entrants for their excellent and promising work. I also wish to express my gratitude to our co-hosts for this contest, Mainichi Newspapers Co. , Ltd.and the Braille Mainichi. Thanks must also be expressed to the WBU-AP (World Blind Union Asia-Pacific); the ABU (Asian Blind Union); the EBU (European Blind Union), who collected entries and organized judging and prize-giving; and everyone that provided assistance in each of the participating countries.
We hope this Braille essay contest will help the culture of Braille to spread to every corner of the world.