Braille Without Borders

Braille without Borders' main goal is the integration and acceptance of the blind in the Tibetan society. Their work is through four major projects:                                        

• Implementation of a preparatory school for blind children.
• Production of educational materials in Braille for the blind. 
• A self-integration project, facilitating the return to local schools and home life. 
• Vocational training which gives blind people an opportunity and skills to generate their own income. 

Before the opening of Braille without Borders in 1998, blind children in the Tibet Autonomous Region did not have access to education. They led a life on the margin of society with few chances of integration. According to official statistics 15% of the 2.5 million inhabitants of the T.A.R. are blind, which compared to most of the world, is well above average. The causes of visual impairment or blindness are both climatic and hygienic: dust, wind, high UV light radiation, soot in houses caused by heating with coal and/or yak dung, and a lack of vitamin A at an early age. Inadequate medical care also plays a role. Cataracts are widespread. Some blind people receive sight restoring surgery, however, there is a large group of blind people that can't be helped this way.

In the summer of 1997, Sabriye Tenberken, blind herself, travelled within the T.A.R to investigate the possibility of providing training for Tibetan blind and visually impaired people. Sabriye developed a Tibetan script for the blind which combines the principles of Braille with the special features of the Tibetan syllable-based script. In 1997 in Tibet, she also met Paul Kronenberg, a Dutch engineer who became her future project and life partner. They together returned to Tibet in 1998 to start the project.
The Braille Without Borders name carries two important meanings: 'Without Borders' so the organisation can work anywhere in the world and because the organisation doesn't want to set any borders for blind people. Many students have benefited: several students nowadays run their own medical massage clinics, support their families at home in their farms or study in regular schools. In 2013, for the first time in Chinese history, four blind students wrote their university entrance exams together with their sighted peers. All four passed the exams and now study in university.

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