Supporting Group - Special Prize (Japan)
“Starting from understanding sightless people toward a supporter having an empathy with them”
Osaka Staff member of Nippon Lighthouse
Chikako Kajikawa (55; female)

I was immediately fascinated with a dot pen penetrating paper with a pleasant feel. I found a workshop for translation into Braille in the city publication in 1992. I've met a sightless (completely blind) teacher for the first time. The teacher walked around the inside of the building with one white cane, and taught us with a thick Braille textbook having his finger touched in the workshop. I was freshly surprised in each workshop. After the workshop was finished, as a daily routine, I was absorbed in translation into Braille forgetting the time, like a child feeling immersed in the game. I wish to “have many people as possible to read the translation into Braille.”
I visited to support a local meeting of sightless people, and took a time to tell them “I would like to translate anything into Braille as you request, so please let me have any requests!” Then, an elderly man slowly stood up and said gently, “Thank you very much. But I would like you to start getting to know our lives before translation into Braille.”I was so embarrassed at that moment. Because at that time, I only recognized that “sightless people need Braille,” so I had no idea that among the, there was a person who could not read Braille and a person with less visibility.
I had a good opportunity in 2003. A workshop for translation into Braille is held at a local lifelong learning center, and I participated in the workshop because four completely blind people were invited as guests on a weekly basis. I found from their talking about their daily lives and working at their workplace that I had a totally different image of a sightless person's life. I felt very strong to communicate more with sightless people.
After the workshop was finished, we started-up a Braille translation group composed of volunteers around a completely blind, Mr. M, who was a main instructor. We pasted a Braille seal on a vender machine and a seat of a citizen hall, while making a menu written in both characters and Braille (a color-copied menu is mounted on album cardboard and a Braille seal is pasted on the top). We needed courage for jumping into a restaurant to negotiate for asking if we could make a Braille menu, but we had a happy time to look at the menu made by us together to choose a dish with hesitation. I went out together with a sightless person so that I recognized there were plenty of information required other than a book.
I wanted to meet more sightless people. This wish became true in a short while. A completely blind woman who was a trainee of the Braille translation workshop needed advice from me about a screen of a personal computer. A personal computer is usable for a sightless person with use of a screen reader (screen reading software), so I trained in a personal computer support volunteer workshop at Nippon Lighthouse Information and Culture Center in order to try it together with them and support them. “Please go shopping with me?” “I would like you to go out with me for learning how to use a computer.” I got a qualification of a guide helper for safely guiding a sightless person to a far place.
Because she took me to places where we could meet many people, I had an increased interest with the community of sightless people, and I found that I have involved with them half a week.
I came to visit places different from those I used to visit. What strikes me are the meeting held by the visually impaired group, the event in the Commemorative Park where I felt the wind with rustling of leaves of trees, Nippon Lighthouse Show, a blind restaurant, Makkurakugo (Rakugo event in the dark), a blind tennis, a dialogue in the dark, and so on.
In those situations, even if I closed my eyes, I could feel the rest of four senses (the sense of hearing, smell, taste and touch) gradually increased, so that there were many unexpected discoveries. Sightless simulation has been gradually utilized for supporting sightless people according to their conditions and pace.
I was so happy when my friend having frequent contact told me, “I'm so comfortable with you,” “I feel comfortable with your natural support.”
At the talk event, I often heard “visual difficulty and invisibility are not unfortunate but inconvenient.” Although understanding the meaning, there is a slight distance between each other if you feel to help him/her. I believe that empathy with them seeing in the same way with consciousness of his/her feeling allows a comfortable relationship to be established.
If that elderly man said nothing to me, I might be just a Braille translator.
Six years ago, by a fortunate coincidence, I was employed in Nippon Lighthouse, working there utilizing meetings and numerous experiences so far. I've maybe supported by sightless people so far. I wish I can be with them also in the future.


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