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Exhibition focuses on visually impaired

by Keiji Hirano

Kyodo

A unique exhibition is underway at a human rights educational facility in Tokyo focusing on how to guarantee the “right to read” of people with visual impairments.

The around 100 items on display at the Tokyo Metropolitan Human Rights Promotion Center include embossed art and picture books as well as braille maps of Tokyo Disneyland.

Embossed art books enable visually impaired people to trace embossed pictures such as “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci and “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer with their fingers so they can visualize what the paintings look like.

Some picture books present illustrated animals, such as rabbits and birds, with featherlike fibers on their pages.

“These books allow visually impaired and sighted people to enjoy art objects and reading together,” said Katsuichi Hayashi, curator at the center.

In the past, creating illustrated books for visually impaired people was expensive as they were hand-produced, but editors from several publishers are promoting studies on how to create them more cheaply by eliminating the binding process to make folding books, according to Hayashi.

The exhibits also include books with large print and a portable expandable instrument for reading.

While it is estimated at present that there are around 310,000 certified visually impaired people in Japan, others have difficulty reading small characters.

“People, with aging, will have more difficulty in reading,” Hayashi said. “As Japan has become a super-aging society, the reading problem is an issue for everyone.”

Among other exhibits are several digital talking books used not only by visually impaired people but also by those with poor literacy skills.

With Japan having become a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities earlier this year, “we are now required to guarantee the rights of the physically handicapped, including those with visual impairment, at a higher level than ever before,” Hayashi said.

The center, whose precursor was created by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in 1971, has worked toward raising public awareness over human rights issues facing vulnerable groups, including women, the disabled, the Ainu and those infected with HIV.

The free exhibition runs through July 27 without days off from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.