Committee Report of the 3rd Onkyo Braille Essay Contest (International Section)
Apart from Japan, 20 different member countries and regions of the World Blind Union-Asia Pacific (WBU-AP) were invited to participate. With the collaboration of the WBU-AP, a total of 32 compositions were received from 8 different countries: Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Australia. On August 27th and 28th, the selection committee was convened at the WBU office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. All 32 compositions were read aloud separately and judged carefully.
From this year, we decided to judge the essays in two groups: a youth group for people under 25, and a senior group for those over 25. Upon reflection following the previous yearfs judging process, we realized that attitudes towards Braille differ greatly, depending on whether one was born blind or became visually impaired later in life. In the former case, Braille is learned relatively naturally, while in the latter case, it can be a great struggle to master.
A total of thirty-two essays were gathered from eight countries, including Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, South Korea, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Nine essays were submitted in the youth section and twenty-three in the senior section. Each entry was considered interesting enough to receive a recommendation from the Braille association of its respective country, so the judging process involved a great deal of careful deliberation.
Le Hong Thuy, winner of the first-placed Otsuki Prize, is a seventy-five year-old developmentally blind man. Mr. Thuy struggled to master Braille by applying the knowledge of English and French that he had gained before losing his sight. Having learned the signs and abbreviations of the alphabet, and having overcome setbacks to keep up an arduous study regime, he eventually succeeded in translating a biography of Louis Braille \as well as completing a Braille book in Vietnamese\ all by himself. He has since produced a number of Braille books, which have been donated to the Vietnam Braille Library, and has attended WBU (World Braille Union) conferences as a representative of the Vietnam Braille Association. His essay was selected for the first prize with the unanimous approval of our selection committee, because it illustrates the benefits of learning Braille despite the dual challenges of advanced age and blindness.
Vu Van Tuan, runner-up in the international youth section, is a young Vietnamese man of just seventeen years of age. His essay shows that he enjoys studying and making best use of Braille. He impressed us with how he sought to expand the possible uses for Braille in his everyday life. Realizing the usefulness of Braille will surely have a positive impact on him, as well as on those around him.
Irene Joyce McMinn, runner-up in the international senior section, is a fifty-two year-old deaf-blind woman from Australia. Her essay brightly demonstrated how, despite her great handicaps, she could enjoy a fruitful daily life by taking full advantage of Braille. We were deeply moved by her words. We were inspired by her ability to accept her handicap for what it is and by her ability to resolve her various problems with wit and determination.
Two essays per group were selected for Highly Commended awards. With winners from the Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia, the Onkyo Braille Essay Contest is clearly growing in its reach around the world. This year, too, we received entries from several deaf-blind people, demonstrating to us the unique importance of Braille in their lives.
Needless to say, Braille is a powerful tool for education and work, but these essays also led us to rediscover how useful Braille is in everyday life. Unfortunately, according to some committee members, there is still the problem in some regions of a lack of Braille tablets and paper.
Finally, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the members of the judging committee for their thoughtful input, and to all those involved at Onkyo Corporation and the Braille Mainichi Shimbun for their contributions to the spread of Braille.