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Editorial: Seeking a society of coexistence as Braille Mainichi marks 100th anniversary

The Braille Mainichi, Japan's only weekly newspaper in braille, published by The Mainichi Newspapers Co., marked its 100th anniversary on May 11.

    Known affectionately as "Tenmai," the newspaper carries articles covered by its reporters, some of whom are visually impaired, as well as contributions from relevant people, and has provided information on daily life, social participation and culture.

    The paper was established in 1922 in an age when radio broadcasts did not exist.

    The first editor-in-chief of the paper, Kyotaro Nakamura, gave remarks on the commencement of its publication. He stated that its aim was not only to "provide knowledge, courage and comfort" to the visually impaired, but to "awaken the sleeping conscience of society." Publication of the newspaper continued even during the war, and during earthquakes and infectious disease epidemics, the paper conveyed the reality of the trouble faced by the visually impaired.

    During the Great East Japan Earthquake, the newspaper reported on how the visually impaired were unable to read signs at shelters, and how they faced trouble getting to restrooms. And during the coronavirus crisis, it reported on the difficulties faced by massage therapists including the visually impaired, whose work decreased as a result of distancing requirements.

    Its media formats diversified, with the appearance of an audio version and a printed version, so that the families and supporters of those involved could access the articles in The Braille Mainichi.

    Related projects also emerged. Soon after the paper's launch, it published textbooks in braille ahead of the government, supporting the rights of students at schools for the blind to receive an education. It also poured effort into holding braille workshops for visually impaired people in general.

    When a braille voting system was implemented in national elections for the first time in the world in 1928, The Braille Mainichi held a mock vote in advance, encouraging the visually impaired to participate in politics.

    Since the 2004 House of Councillors election, The Braille Mainichi has published an extra edition with the full text of election bulletins carrying the histories of candidates and their political views in braille.

    The "Zenkoku Mogakko Benron Taikai" (all-Japan speech contest for schools for the blind) is a precious opportunity for students at schools for the blind to convey their thoughts to society. It has continued since 1928, and this autumn it will mark its 90th edition. Students in various situations speak about the things they have noticed as they face their own disabilities and their dreams for the future, and their words resonate with others.

    Yeong-hong Shin, a professor emeritus at Shitennoji University, who is familiar with welfare issues pertaining to the disabled and is blind himself, commented, "The efforts of The Braille Mainichi have led to movements for the restoration of the rights of the visually impaired."

    "A society where we can live together," where no one is left behind, is a goal shared by all humankind. While setting our sights on achieving that, we want to continue to deliver information in braille.

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