WBU-AP(Senior group) Fine Work
Changing What It Means To Be Blind With Braille And Mobility Aids
Myanmar Maran Roi Aung (26/Female)

I was born on 5th June, 1987 in Namtee, the Kachin state of Myanmar. I have been blind since birth.

As a child, I used to hear the children in my neighbourhood reciting their school lessons and I wished I could attend school. I realised that I was blind and that I had to eat what others fed me. I had to remain inside the house like a statue. No one sympathised with me because I was totally blind and I could not go anywhere.

In 1994, my family received instructions from the police station at Pakant for me to be sent to the Christian School for the Blind in Yangon. This gave me the chance to study and to learn the Braille system of writing. This made me aware that I could be educated and that I could participate in humanitarian work that would benefit other people who were in the same boat as me. At school, I felt greatly encouraged to know that I was not the only person who was blind.

besides Braille, some technical subjects were also taught which included handicrafts, identification of raw materials and the use of the White Cane. By using the Cane, I learned how to travel on my own without anyone leading me. This method of walking gave me much confidence and made me feel that my life was very different from the past.

When I was in Grade VI class, I read an article in a magazine published by MCFB which I borrowed from the school library. I read about the programmes that were being carried out for the blind in Japan. For example, the blind enjoyed an accessible transportation system in Japan. Braille was used to help the blind to identify bus tickets, seat numbers and even which bus by simply touching the Braille on the bus door. They had special signal lights at the road junctions and cross-roads to help blind pedestrians. Reading about this brought me much happiness and encouragement.

In Myanmar, we celebrate the International White Cane Day every year on October 15. As the day approaches, my heart beats faster than usual. On that day, we, the participants, are cheered up and applauded by the by-standers, well-wishers and donors. On hearing the cheers of applause, I forget my weariness and exhaustion. I would hold up my Cane and wave to the crowd.

One day, when school was closed for the summer holidays, I returned to Yamtee, my hometown. When I arrived, my father asked me whether I was afraid of being knocked down by a car. I smiled and told him that the car would knock my Cane instead of banging me down. My father gave a hearty laugh and said that he was very happy to see me so confident nowadays.

As I sat down thinking, a song sung by the popular singer, Lay Phyu, sounded in my head and the words flashed into my mind: "The life that I thought was of no value became alive and bright in your hands again."

I remembered how the days were in darkness before I went to school. Now life had become meaningful because I had become alive again in the hands of my school-teachers.

besides Braille, I am now learning how to use the computer with the touch-typing techniques. This is enhancing my ability to learn alongside normal sighted students and helping me to advance in my education. This has been made possible because of the new educational system introduced by the Educational Research Bureau and the Social Welfare Ministry. Through this system, all the disabled, including the blind, can learn on equal terms with the non-disabled in any Government school. As the Myanmar proverb goes, "The value of a person is his education."

Not before long, there will be new legislative acts in our country's Constitution for the people with disabilities. According to my teachers, we will be able to enjoy equal rights and gain the same opportunities as sighted people. I am so happy to know that soon we will no longer need to depend merely on people's charity but we will be free, independent and able to stand on our own feet.

Now I feel that I am free from my blindness. As the Myanmar saying goes, "Like all birds fly, all humans think and plan." Thus, I have the right to think and plan until I die.

Indeed, Braille and mobility aids have helped to make me realise that life is worth living. I owe a great debt to my parents and I am so grateful that they sent me to school. I am very appreciative of my teachers for all that they have taught me.


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