National | CHUBU CONNECTION

Group compiles, posts song lyrics in Braille online to facilitate karaoke for the visually impaired

Chunichi Shimbun

Nagoya Braille Network, a support group for people with visual impairments, has started posting lyrics written in Braille online for people who cannot read with their eyes.

Music fans who are visually impaired will no longer have to memorize song lyrics before partaking in karaoke. Instead, they can bring lyrics printed on Braille cards to any karaoke session.

The Nagoya-based group, which offers information on books and newspaper articles written in Braille, created a new section on its website that enables users to search for lyrics by song title, artist or songwriter.

As of August, the site had compiled the lyrics of more than 2,000 songs in various genres, including pop, enka ballads and children’s songs.

These lyrics can be downloaded free of charge and produced on printers designed for Braille.

Local support groups in different regions have been working separately to transcribe lyrics into Braille, but until now no scheme existed to centrally collect their data.

There used to be a website that provided Braille data for some 1,000 songs, but it shut down a couple of years ago when the organizer ceased its activities.

The Nagoya group collected data accumulated by different support groups nationwide and volunteer workers are registering the data on their website daily.

The work was slow-going in the beginning, because many participants were not familiar with handling computers, but the pace has picked up rapidly since April, when a group member asked Hitoshi Okumura, 54, to join.

Okumura, who loves playing with computers, had a stroke eight years ago that paralyzed the left side of his body.

“I used to become depressed after I suffered the stroke, but (this work) made me think there is still (a way) I can be of some help,” said Okumura.

“I hope more people will offer to help with registering the data, so that more users can benefit from the service,” he added.

The long-awaited news has excited the Braille-reading community.

“I cannot read the lyrics, so I would listen to each song and transcribe it in Braille, which I would then put together into a book of cards to carry around with me,” said 78-year-old Muneo Maeno, who is blind.

“(With the new database), I won’t need to create my own lyrics book (and will be able to) sing any song I want,” he said excitedly.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Sept. 5.