1. What is the difference between blind and partially sighted?

We usually refer to a blind person as someone who has no visual perception. In a broader sense it is a person who is not able to use vision for daily tasks such as orientation, reading, etc. Partially sighted is someone who has limited visual perception that can be used for daily activities. Both, blind and partially sighted people, are also called visually impaired.

2. How can blind people read and write?

Almost 200 years ago a blind boy had the strong wish to read as his sighted friends. That's how the Braille system was born. Braille consists of six dots. Different combinations of dots form the letters of the alphabet. There is a different system for the Nepali and English Braille alphabet. The six dots are arranged like the six on a dice and fit under a finger tip. Blind people read with their hands, so they are the only ones able to read in the dark. To write Braille, blind people use a slate and a stylus. The stylus is the tool to make small holes in the paper that will be dots once the paper is turned around. The slate is the frame to place the dots in the right position. There are also typewriters and printers to produce Braille in high speed and big quantity.

The number of books in Braille is very limited as production is expensive and Braille books occupy a lot of space. Therefore, alternatives are audio books with a recorded voice that reads the book or the use of digital formats.


3. How can blind people use the computer?

There is a screen reading software that reads the contents of the screen aloud. This is possible for all text, graphics or pictures are not recognized. Blind people use a regular keyboard, even sighted people can write without looking at the keyboard. They don't use the mouse but only keyboard shortcuts to navigate in different programmes. The screen reading software for windows is quite expensive and therefore difficult to access in developing countries. An alternative development is open source software. Linux distributions have a screen reader integrated in the operating software. Many partially sighted people use magnification software that increases the size of the letters on the screen.

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With the help of a scanner and an OCR software it is possible for blind people to access printed books. Printed text is scanned, then the resulting picture can be transformed into text by the OCR software. This text is read with the screen reader. This opens the world of books to blind people for studies and personal reading. However, there seems to be no OCR software for Nepali writing. So this technology is limited to English texts for now.

4. How can blind people move on the street?

Usually blind people use a white cane that helps them to identify obstacles on their way. In addition it gives them tactile information about the characteristics of the ground and acustic information. During a special mobility training blind people learn to use their other senses to collect information about their surroundings. The sound of the echo of footsteps or the cane helps to find out if there is a wall or if a door is open. The characteristics of the ground help to identify the location and serve as a point of reference for orientation. The smell can give information about a shop or restaurant.

Partially sighted people often don't use a cane during the day as their vision is ennough to identify obstacles. However, they might have difficulties to cross the street or catch a bus. Then they have to ask for help. At night, many partially sighted people cannot see well, so they use a cane in darkness.


5. What are professional opportunities for blind people?

In Nepal, most visually impaired people work as teachers, telephone operators or musicians. However, especially for highly qualified professionals there are many areas of activities. Visually impaired people can be advocates, psychologists, physiotherapists, computer specialists, social workers and many more.

6. What do blind people do in their free time?

As sighted people, blind youth like to use the computer, chat in facebook or listen to music. There are some sports activities for the blind, for example there is an active blind cricket team in Nepal. Also sports like swimming, athletics and some adapted ball games are played by blind people.

7. How to behave when meeting a blind person?

The blind person knows about your presence only if you speak to him or her. So, if you meet a blind person on the street, you can offer your help. Most blind people know their way in familiar areas, but they might need help if there are unpredictable obstacles such as construction works. Especially for crossing the road or identifying the right bus blind and partially sighted people will appreciate your help.

In general, there is no difference between blind and sighted people, other than sight. So you can talk to them normally as if you interacted with a sighted person. Please tell a blind person before you leave the room, it is not so nice to talk to the wall.