Cebu City Library opens digital Braille section

By Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo |August 12,2018 - 09:52 PM

Engr. Dandil Ababon of KGS Philippines Corporation is shown orienting staff of the Cebu City Public Library on the BMS40, a digital assistive device for visually impaired persons.

FIRST IN PH

The Cebu City Public Library (CCPL) has ushered in another first in the history of the country’s public library system with the opening of the Philippines first digital braille section.

Launched last August 1, CCPL’s digital braille section was made possible through a memorandum of understanding signed by the Cebu City Mayor’s Office, CCPL and KGS Corporation.

“We have a braille section at CCPL since 2015 but it was only printed braille. We are very blessed in Cebu because we are the only one in the Philippines who has these units. Even the national library does not have these,” said CCPL chief librarian Rosario “Ruth” Chua.

Chua noted that CCPL, which has served as venue for different trainings and workshops involving children, mothers, educators and persons with disabilities, has been a staunch advocate in making the library a conducive place for everyone’s learning.

With the addition of the electronic braille section, the spotlight now shines brightly on the visually-impaired persons (VIPs).

“Electronic braille gives hope to the blind. The possibilities are endless with these equipment units, “ said Chua.

“These will give visually-impaired persons the chance to enrich their intellectual capacity in the same level as the one with regular vision capabilities,” Chua added.

UNDERSTANDING

With the availability of the digital Braille section, the public will see more VIPs – visually impaired persons – visiting the library in the coming days.

Those who want to use the equipment need to reserve the space at least a day before their preferred schedule, said Chua.

The staff of the Cebu City Public Library get some hands on training on the use of the BMS40.

The braille section is located on the second floor of the Rizal Memorial Library and Museum on Osmeña Boulevard which used to house the Cebu City Tourism Office.

Engr. Roger Bajarias, manager of KGS Philippines Corporation, said the company, with the support of its president, Ryoji Kudo, decided to pour its resources on CCPL because the city’s public library has the capacity to reach more people in the community.

“CCPL has a wider user coverage than other public libraries, being at the center of Metro Cebu. This makes it accessible to a greater number of visually impaired persons who wants to access digital braille information,” said Bajarias.

Bajarias said Kudo and the company’s general affairs director, Shinya Tsukada, visited CCPL last February 2018 to examine the possibilities of installing the Braille Memo Smart 40 (BMS40) in the library.

Kudo suggested that five units be installed under a one-year lease agreement.

KGS Philippines Corporation is engaged in the manufacture of Electronic Braille Cells Displays, Graphics Cells and Displays Braille Labelers.

Its plant is located at the Mactan Economic Processing Zone 2 in Basak, Lapu-Lapu City.

EQUIPMENT

Braille is a system of touch reading for visually-impaired persons in which characters are represented by patterns of raised dots that are felt with the fingertips.

The BMS40, which was installed by KGS Corporation at the library, is an assistive device for visually-impaired persons consisting of six (6) braille input keys (or the standard braille input for the blind).

BMS40 has 40 braille cells, hence the number 40 affixed to its name.

Each unit has several navigation keys similar to what a sighted person might be accustomed to in a normal computer.

“We say computer, because it basically is a computer for the blind. The unit has inside it a Windows CE version as its Operating System or OS. The unit allows the blind user to write and read text just like a regular person but is displayed to the blind user in tactile form,” Bajarias explained.

It can read, through braille, and play Digital Access Information System (DAISY) files.

It can also access the internet via a cable interface to a computer thus allowing the user to read and write emails or surf the web.

Some people refer to BMS40 as a personal digital assistance device because it has functions like a calendar, clock, alarm and text editor. It is also able to access common office programs like Excel, Microsoft Word and Powerpoint.

“The blind have very limited access to text (braille) information. The BMS40 allows the blind to have this access at the library and the internet just like a sighted person would have,” said Bajarias.

“It might also allow the blind to use this system, in the future, to work in a regular office. Assistive devices such as the BMS40 empowers the blind, helps them to be productive members of society as well as gives them independence in their lives,” he added.

If successfully utilized at the CCPL, Bajarias believed that libraries in other cities and towns would be interested to acquire units for their constituents.

For CCPL’s Chua, the presence of the library’s new digital braille section is a realization of its mission to make learning accessible to everyone.

“We are fortunate to have partners like KGS Corporation who provided these units for us, “ she said.

“It gives us hope that we will further grow into a society where the visually-impaired persons will have opportunities as the sighted ones,” added Chua.

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