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Japanese Volunteers Transcribe Manga for Blind People

posted on by Egan Loo
Illustrated Braille Club makes text, images readable with raised dots

Volunteers in the Illustrated Braille Club (located in the town of Kitajima in the Japanese prefecture of Tokushima) have started transcribing the new Chibi Maruko-chan manga into Braille this month. The Braille system of raised dots enable the blind and visually impaired to read printed material with their fingers instead of eyes.

The volunteeer group specializes in children's picture books and other illustrated works that require not only Japanese/English-to-Braille text transcriptions, but also recasting of the illustrations into impressionistic raised dots. The group has previously transcribed Japanese pictures books, children's novels, and references books on space and other subjects. It has also transcribed English pictures books, including Walt Disney cartoon storybooks, Clifford, and Peter Rabbit. Besides Chibi Maruko-chan, the group has also been transcribing other manga such as Only Yesterday, Crayon Shin-chan, Sazae-san, and Hayao Miyazaki's The Journey of Shuna. The Braille versions are then "printed" with a printer that presses raised dots instead of ink, and given to schools and libraries for the blind as well as the local Kitajima Public Library.

After a run in the Ribon shōjo magazine from 1986 to 1996, creator Momoko Sakura restarted Chibi Maruko-chan as a newspaper strip on July 1. The Illustrated Braille Club takes each installment and encodes it into dots with the help of personal computer software. The resulting transcription is downloadable from the club's homepage. (The club uses BASE software for the Braille text and EDEL for the dot-converted images.)

According to the club's 82-year-old representative Kōji Sangawa, "the visually impaired don't have many opportunities to experience art, so they enjoy our work. I want to continue working as long as my body allows me, with the encouragement of their words of gratitude."

Source: Tokushima Shimbun

Image © Momoko Sakura

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