Japanese Excellent Work
"A canvas at my finger tips"
Sayaka Yoshida (24, female, house worker)
A few years ago I discovered a different kind of braille. Finger braille is a medium of communication for aurally- and visually-challenged people, as well as for fully deaf-blind people. They can communicate information and have a conversation using their fingers like a braille typewriter.
I started studying finger braille with the idea that I'd be able to help others. Even though I am amblyopic, I can translate what I hear into finger braille. My involvement with deaf-blind people includes translating for them and helping to run events for the deaf-blind.
Last summer, I took a trip in a houseboat with the staff of a deaf-blind organization. I was responsible for finger braille translating for one of the participants, a woman called Ms. A.
Soon after our boat departed, I clearly heard the warbling of a bird over the river. For a moment, I doubted that it could be a bush warbler, as it was already June. But I definitely heard snatches of croaky warbling a couple of times.
When I mentioned to Ms. A that I'd heard a bird warbling, she asked me what it sounded like. "Well, I don't really know how to explain it," was my embarrassed reply. Then she said, "Just tell me what you feel." "Well, it was something like 'Ho-kekyo'," I typed on her fingertips, wondering if she would get my meaning.
I was getting a bit annoyed, and felt I'd already had to explain too much to her: the unique views from the boat, the conversations among the people around us, the organizer's speech, and so on. It was then I realized how difficult it is to give another person the information she wants.
When I said goodbye, I apologized to her for being a poor translator. "Not at all," she said. "I'll ask for you next time, too. Please just tell me what you feel next time," she said with a smile. She often likened her braille-reading fingertips to a canvas. Her words stayed with me, and I'll always remember them when I use finger braille.
In the spring, I went to a park with a deaf-blind man called Mr. B and Mr. C, a translator and helper. Mr. C described our conversation and surroundings to Mr. B by finger braille, and spoke to me as well, so I could understand. "Some cherry blossoms are blooming over there. We can touch their lower branches. Shall we go over there?" Mr. C asked.
We walked over to the cherry trees. Viewed casually from a distance, the blossoms had looked faintly pink. But seeing them up close, I noticed that the shades of pink varied from tree to tree, and that there were also red buds and green leaves.
The delicate petals felt lovely as I stroked them with my fingertips. The word "pink" alone couldn't capture the feeling of rich colors and the ambience of the season. I realized that, even for an amblyopic such as myself, there were a lot of things to see and enjoy.
As the information I can get through my eyes is limited, I'm afraid that I can't share enough detail when I translate for deaf-blind people. So I sometimes ask the people around me about our surroundings. Nevertheless, I think there is still a lot I can share as an amblyopic by using my five senses to their full.
When we talk about communication, there are many modes of expression and points of view. As Ms. A mentioned previously, we should place more importance on expressing our impressions of the world as we feel them.
It's important to me to listen to other people in my life. While the content of people's speech is the most important aspect of it, their intonation often gives us an idea of their emotions or personalities.
I am interested in colorful things and sounds. Among the things I can see, my favorite color is that of a clear blue sky. It makes me happy and it's something I'll never get tired of. I used to say I wanted capture this color and put it in a finger ring. I'm also drawn to the mysterious beauty of the sky at dusk: the deep, clear blue we see before the night falls.
I hope to share with deaf-blind people the various charms of people and the beauty of the surrounding scenery. Whenever I'm in the same place as deaf-blind people, I want not only to enjoy the scene for myself but also to express what I feel in my own words.
If we didn't have a way of talking about our surroundings to people who are completely deaf and blind, they would be left out of the conversation and would continue to live in darkness. With this in mind, I realize how wonderful it is to have ways of communicating from hand-to-hand, such as finger braille or tactile sign language.
I realize this "other braille" that involves typing on the fingertips has the power to make people who are shut away from sound and light become interested in various things and touch their hearts. I hope I will be able to draw the world I feel on the canvas of their fingertips and act as a bridge between the deaf-blind and the rest of the world.