Brunei celebrating World Braille Day

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Borneo Bulletin/ANN) - Members of the public who sense something wrong with their vision or eyes are advised to go for a check-up at any of the eye clinics in health centres throughout the country.

Individuals who experience a sudden loss of visual functions meanwhile should head to emergency services to seek immediate treatment.

Early detection of visual anomalies is very important because some of the cases of visual impairment are preventable and curable. In the case of glaucoma for example, early detection gives the sufferer a chance to preserve the majority of his or her vision for a long period of time.

The importance of having regular eye check-ups and early detection of eye problems was underscored by an eye consultant at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital Pengiran Dr Noor Affizan binti Pengiran Haji Abd Rahman during an interview on the sidelines of the World Braille Day celebration at the hospital.

“The majority of glaucoma patients in Brunei come to us very late and their visual functions have regressed so much that no matter what we do, the patient could still go completely blind,” she highlighted.

She said World Braille Day celebration “is marked annually on January 4 after the day was proclaimed at the United Nations General Assembly in November 2018, as a means of realising fully the human rights of visually-impaired and partially-sighted people, and bringing written language to the forefront as a critical prerequisite for promoting fundamental freedoms”.

She pointed out that across the world there are around 39 million people that are blind, and another 253 million have some sort of vision impairment.

Braille, she noted, provides a tactical representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols so blind and partially-sighted people are able to read the same books and periodicals as printed and available in standard text form.

In the local context, the majority of visual impairments are due to genetics, while among the older generation, glaucoma and diabetes are common, Pengiran Dr Noor Affizan said.

“This is one of the main concerns because there are many diabetic patients in Brunei,” she added.

“Examples of other age-related visual problems include retinal degeneration (retinopathy). This normally afflicts people between 12 and 80 years old.”

Brunei Darussalam National Association of the Blind (BDNAB) President Muhammad Hamzi bin Omar meanwhile stated his hope that people will go for an eye check-up at least once a year.

“I am hoping that the BDNAB will be able to set up a training centre for the blind within five years, however at present the association lacks funding,” he said. “Hopefully members of the public or companies can come forward to donate to the association to achieve its target of having its own training centre.”

Held at the hallway of the Eye Centre of RIPAS Hospital, the celebration was officiated by the guest of honour Deputy Permanent Secretary (Professional) at the Ministry of Health (MoH) Dr Haji Zulaidi bin Haji Abdul Latif.

This year’s celebration was held with the cooperation of the Special Education Unit, Ministry of Education; the BDNAB; and the Braille Company.

The aim of the celebration is to raise public awareness on the importance of Braille as the written language for people who are visual-impaired, and to give the public the opportunity to gain information and advice on eye problems and techniques on proper eye care.

CEO of RIPAS Hospital Saidah binti Haji Wahid as well as staff and officers of the MoH and RIPAS Hospital were also present at the celebration.