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Improving communication

By An Baijie and Hou Chenchen | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-07 16:06
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A student from the special education college of Beijing Union University touches the six-dot Chinese Braille with tones being added in January. [Photo provided to]

Researchers help pioneer ways to enrich lives of people with visual impairment, An Baijie and Hou Chenchen report.

Blind people in China have been struggling to understand the meaning of words written in Braille because of the system's absence of tones.

For instance, Mandarin Braille lacks the ability to differentiate between the Chinese words "time" (shíjiŅn with "jiŅn" in the first tone) and "practice" (shíjiàn with "jiàn "in the fourth tone) due to identical pronunciations despite the differing tones.

Things have changed as China introduced the Chinese Common Braille Scheme in 2018.

After seven years of research, Zhong Jinghua, a professor at the Special Education College of Beijing Union University, devised a Chinese Braille system capable of representing the tonal aspects inherent in Mandarin.

Zhong's groundbreaking work put an end to the 70-year history of non-tonal Braille in which visually impaired individuals had to guess word meanings.
Now, tonal Braille has been integrated into primary education and Braille publishing, encompassing textbooks used in schools for the visually impaired across China.

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