In a move that publishers call a Central American first, Guatemala launched its first newspaper...in braille.
Following in the foot steps of Chile, Publinews - Guatemala's version of the U.S. and UK freesheet Metro - distributed 2,500 copies of the braille paper to visually, impaired Guatemalans.
"It's important for visually impaired people to have access to different forms of communication and to feel a part of society," said Edilzar Castro Quiroz, director of education at the blind rights organization Prociegos, according to the Guardian newspaper. "They have the same human rights as everyone else and should be granted them by the state."
Guatemala is home to an estimated 110,000 visually impaired people, according to Prociegos.
For me to be able to hold a newspaper in Braille is a reflection that society is gaining an awareness of the needs of blind people.
- Jorge Mario Cifuentes, blind for 20 years
One blind man, Jorge Mario Cifuentes, has been living in darkness for 20 years. For Cifuentes, it was something important to hold a newspaper in his hands and understand what was written on the pages.
“Having a visual impairment in Guatemala, like any other kind of impairment, is very difficult,” Cifuentes said. “For me to be able to hold a newspaper in Braille is a reflection that society is gaining an awareness of the needs of blind people."
Access to different forms of communication is important to the visually impaired because it makes them feel connected to society, said Castro Quiroz. "They have the same human rights as everyone else and should be granted them by the state."
The paper includes major headlines in international and national news as well as sports, and tech news. In addition, it includes an “inspirational person of the month,” featuring visually and physically impaired people who overcame outstanding obstacles to accomplish something great.
The project has been so well received in Guatemala that Prociegos is in the works for a similar launch in El Salvador.
The cost of production and limited monetary resources presents problems to future endeavors, but Quiroz affirmed that business and investor interest in the project are on the rise.