Calling Braille Writers – 2019 Onkyo World Essay Contest Now Open

The World Blind Union Asia Pacific Onkyo Braille Essay competition is now open for entries, closing 15 June 2019. If you or someone you know is a writer who uses braille, please read the information below and share with your networks. We look forward to receiving your entries by 15 June. Should you have any questions, please contact Samantha Marsh on 1800 033 660.

About the Contest:

The Onkyo World Braille Essay Contest is a worldwide initiative planned and sponsored by Onkyo Corporation Ltd. and the Braille Mainichi in Japan, and is implemented by the World Blind Union-Asia Pacific (WBUAP). It is administered locally by the Australian National Onkyo Selection Committee for the World Braille Essay Contest. The Committee comprises representatives from Blind Citizens Australia and other blindness agencies and organisations whose focus is on information access and braille.

The purpose of the contest is to promote Braille literacy and encourage the reading and writing of Braille; and to encourage cultural and social interaction among blind and vision impaired persons through their writings. The top 5 entries will be sent to the WBUAP Onkyo Selection Committee for final consideration, and any winning Australian entries will be published in Blind Citizens News.

This is an annual competition, with cash prizes awarded to the best seven entries received from within the WBU Asia Pacific Region. The main prize, “the Otsuki Prize” is $US 1000. Other prizes are for “Excellent Works” ($US 500) and “Fine Works” (either $US 300 or $US 200) depending on the age group. Participation in the contest is open to people from 14 years of age, living in the World Blind Union-Asia Pacific Region. Entries are divided into two age groups: persons between the ages of 14 and 25 years; and persons from the age of 26 years upwards.

Essay topics:

  1. Having Overcome the Challenges of Blindness, How I Can or Have Contributed to Society.
  2. The Significance of Braille in the IT Era and in my daily life.
  3. The people or organisations which have helped me on my journey to success.
  4. How Music Has Shaped My Life and Changed the Attitude of Society Towards Blindness.

Closing date is 15 june 2019. Winners will be notified in November 2019.

Essays must be between 700 and 1,000 words and presented in hard copy Braille or in computerized Braille if you can provide proof of your Braille literacy. This can be in the form of a letter from your Braille instructor, teacher or other professional who can vouch for your skills.

When submitting your essay to BCA, you must also provide an electronic photo of yourself, a cover letter stating your full name, address, and contact details, your date of birth and your status ie. student, home maker, worker. If a student state what school you are from including the name, address and email contact for your school

Please submit entries to BCA by June 15 2019 at:
Attention: Samantha Marsh

Blind Citizens Australia
Ross House
Level 3, 247-251 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000

Best of luck!

Ulaanbaatar Statement


Participants at the recent World Blind Union – Asia Pacific (WBUAP) Mid-Term General Assembly in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) adopted the following statement:

Posted 14/09/2018 on the WBUAP webpage

“We, the participants at the World Blind Union – Asia Pacific (WBUAP) Mid-Term Regional General Assembly in UlaanBaatar, 12 September, 2018 adopt the following statement and refer it to relevant stakeholders for their consideration and action where appropriate:

1. We request governments to review or enact legislation which ensures that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities constitutes an effective tool for change in the lives of people who are blind or partially sighted; and we urge all WBUAP members to engage with monitoring and implementation processes to the maximum extent possible.

2. We call upon all governments throughout the WBU Asia Pacific region (Region) to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty as soon as practicable, so that persons who are blind or partially sighted or who have other print disabilities, have the fullest possible access to works of literature and to educational materials. We congratulate the five countries in the Region that have already ratified the Treaty.

3. We encourage national and international development organisations to work with governments to develop disability-inclusive policies and to implement programs to progress the action plans for the Sustainable Development Goals, the Incheon Strategy and the Beijing Declaration.

4. We encourage WBUAP members to co-operate with the United Nations Development Program to build capacity across the region so that persons who are blind or partially sighted are able to advocate for greater access to information.

5. We request all WBUAP members to give priority to policies that promote the empowerment of blind and partially sighted women by striving for their equality, safety and economic independence. In particular, members should focus on the themes identified by the 2018 WBU Asia Pacific Women’s Forum: education, employment, leadership opportunities, social participation, technology and the prevention of abuse and exploitation of women.

6. In acknowledging the very successful leadership training course held in December 2017 in Bangkok, under the generous sponsorship of the Danish International Development Agency (Danida), we encourage WBUAP members to actively provide leadership training and mentoring opportunities to facilitate the active participation of young people at the national and regional level. Furthermore, we request all members to pay attention to the needs, opinions and aspirations of young people, as well as nurture their leadership potential.

7. Noting that not all countries in the WBU Asia Pacific region were able to fully participate in this regional assembly, largely due to a lack of resources and/or infrastructure, we encourage WBUAP members to reach out to neighbouring countries to help them build their capacity to ensure improved services and peer support for their blind and partially sighted citizens. In this regard we express our appreciation to those organisations which have sponsored participants at this Assembly.

8. We call upon all governments, corporations and other global partners to take their share of responsibility and consult effectively to ensure that information and communications technologies are available, accessible and affordable to, and useable by, persons who are blind or partially sighted—as it is through such technology that real inclusion can be advanced and social isolation eliminated.

9. We endorse the generous offer of Hong Kong Blind Union to initiate and lead the implementation of a web accessibility campaign at the regional level, with active support from WBUAP members, to promote the adoption of internationally recognised accessibility standards in web design, apps, e-learning and other ICT products and services.

10. Noting the unacceptably high levels of unemployment and under-employment of persons who are blind or partially sighted in many countries, we call on all governments to implement or out-source programs that enable economic empowerment through the full participation in employment including: the promotion and resourcing of occupation-specific programs which promote the economic independence of blind and partially sighted people; awareness-raising programs for public and private employers and the community; transition to employment programs for school-leavers and newly-blinded persons; and the operation of specialist equipment and assistive technology schemes.

11. We support the proposal of the WBU Global Employment committee to request the WBU Officers to give much higher priority to employment issues including a major focus at the 2020 WBU General Assembly in Spain. In addition, noting the success of project Aspiro, we request WBUAP members to find ways to support Project Aspiro such as by providing employment-related information and case studies in their major languages for inclusion on the Project Aspiro website.

12. We call on the WBUAP members to share actively best practice initiatives and programs in areas including employment promotion and entrepreneurship, fundraising and capacity building.

13. We urge WBUAP members and networks to maintain strong communication with each other, using the WBUAP web site, The East Wind newsletter and other communication tools – ensuring that where practicable no person is left behind.

14. We congratulate the Mongolian National Federation of the Blind (MNFB) on the hosting of a very successful regional assembly; and we express our appreciation to the Mongolian Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and to the members, staff and volunteers from MNFB whose collective efforts have made our stay in UlaanBaatar so productive and enjoyable.

Your Invitation – WBU Regional Assembly, Mongolia


Listen to the audio

Once every four years, representatives from the Asia Pacific Region of the World Blind Union come together for a Regional General Assembly. The 2018 Assembly will be held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia from September 10th to 12th.

Australia’s official representation will include WBU Executive Member Bill Jolley; BCA CEO Emma Benison; and two delegates chosen from blindness service agencies. Observers are also welcome to attend the assembly and participate in the associated social and cultural program. Those who are blind or vision impaired may be accompanied by a guide.

The venue for this year’s Assembly will be the Holiday Inn, in the centre of Ulaanbaatar. The rate for a standard Room is US $80 per day and a registration fee of US $250 is payable to the local organisers, the Mongolian National Federation of the Blind.

BCA members have a proud record of involvement with the WBU, and many BCA members have participated in the WBU’s Regional Assemblies throughout the Asia Pacific Region. Enquiries about this year’s Regional Assembly should be directed in the first instance to BCA CEO Emma Bennison via email to


Next article

Back to BC News main page

Previous article


World Braille Day 2016

Press Release from the World Blind Union:
World Braille Day 2016
Toronto, January 4th, 2016:

Every January 4th, we celebrate World Braille Day to honour Louis Braille, and to recognize the importance of his invention; the Braille system.

Louis was born in France in 1809 and lost his sight at age three as a result of an eye injury. However, Louis overcame this disability and went on to be a devoted and high-achieving student. As a student, Louis struggled with the limited modes of reading and writing available to the blind and partially sighted. These limitations to his independence as a scholar encouraged Louis to invent a new system for reading and writing for the blind. He created a simplified yet versatile coded system, using raised dots to represent numbers and letters, that we now call Braille.

To learn more about Louis Braille, click on the following link to the World Braille Foundation website:

The invention of Braille changed how blind people could read, allowing them more independence in their literacy, which has given them increased opportunities to become competent, independent and successful individuals. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) also recognizes the importance of Braille, as it explicitly mentions the need to recognize Braille’s importance in several Articles, including Article 2, 9, 21 and 24. The language in the CRPD stresses the use of Braille as a means of communication for blind persons that can also help to ensure their social inclusion. Braille, however, can only contribute to the improvement of the lives of blind and partially sighted persons if it is widely taught and available.

There is a real concern in the blind community that there is less support for teaching, using and investing in Braille, particularly among educators and governments, due to the belief that technologies such as e-books and screen readers can replace Braille. This issue is a worldwide concern, in developed and developing countries alike. In the UK, for example, only 4% of blind and partially sighted children, aged 5-16 years, can read braille. That is only 850 children out of a possible 25,000+. Braille is also the only non-technological equivalent to reading and writing to print, and those unable to afford new technologies are most likely to suffer from the decrease in Braille education and distribution. It is important to not forget about old but essential systems when new technologies are introduced.

The WBU wants to stress that other accessible formats, including those accessed via technology, and Braille do not compete, but rather supplement one another. Just as recorded books or e-books cannot replace hard copy books for the sighted, similarly, Braille books cannot be wholly replaced as they are integral components of meaningful education and rehabilitation for blind persons. The importance of Braille is no better described than by former Secretary-General of the WBU, Pedro Zurita, who wrote: “And you know what, Louis? … I exhibit your invention everywhere. I read material the way you invented it; standing, lying down, sitting, in any position, … Because your code, Louis, has afforded many, many blind people–myself among them, naturally–dignity, freedom, and many hours of incomparable spiritual enjoyment.”

Click on the following link to download Pedro Zurita’s “A Letter to Louis Braille” from our website:

On World Braille Day 2016, the WBU is calling upon specific actors to do their part to ensure Braille education and investment continues to be prioritized:

  • We urge the United Nations, and related organizations such as UNESCO, to enhance the promotion of braille as provided for in the UN CRPD
  • We call upon all States Parties to submit to their responsibilities according to the UN CRPD and thereby
    o Facilitate easier access to Braille materials
    o promote the education of blind children, youth, and adults, as well as those with partial sight who could benefit from Braille instruction, in reading and writing braille
    o ensure the education of professionals in the teaching of braille as well as the adaptation of materials into braille
  • We ask that all member organizations of the WBU, educators, and professionals supporting the blind, as well as blind people themselves, promote the use of braille in all aspects of political, social, economic, cultural and community life

The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization representing the estimated 285 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations run by blind people advocating on their own behalf, and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment.

For further information contact:
World Blind Union
Caitlin Reid
Communications Coordinator