CAIRO: In a long-awaited achievement, Egypt now has its first magazine in Arabic Braille, offering visually challenged people an opportunity to work in journalism.
Akhbar Braille is published by Akhbar El-Youm, a semi-official daily newspaper in Arabic, and has columns on culture, art, sports, technology and politics. The Braille reading and writing system represents letters by raised dots.
The editor in chief of Akhbar Braille, Ahmad Al-Maraghy, told Arab News that the path to starting the magazine “wasn’t lined with flowers,” as it had to overcome many challenges to prove the idea was worth it.
“Officials in charge of granting us a press license were surprised when they first received our first draft of the magazine, because it was an all-white paper print,” he said.
The magazine’s team is made up of 20 editors who are all visually challenged. Nearly no reading material is available to the visually impaired in Egypt — some 3 million out of a population of 92 million.
While the idea first occurred to Al-Maraghy in 2007 by meeting a visually impaired person by coincidence, he said he had several trials in Braille publications before this edition.
“From a humanitarian perspective, I believe that being unable to see is the most difficult thing in the world,” he said.
Getting ads for the magazine was a challenge, he added, because people had never advertised in Braille before.
But it managed to attract some advertisers and receive sponsorship from a private bank. “I didn’t want the magazine to be seen as a charity or treat it that way,” he said.
“I’ve approached institutions who are aware of their social responsibility and are willing to develop their communities,” Al-Maraghy added.
“Our magazine is the first publication in Egypt and the Arab world to be published completely in Braille style.”
The 68-page publication currently prints 1,000-2,000 copies per month. Its free copies are distributed at public libraries, universities, schools or centers frequented by the visually impaired, in Cairo and other cities.
Al-Maraghy wants to increase circulation throughout Egypt and start a daily publication. “It’s not a magazine about the blind, it’s for the blind, to serve their needs and interests,” he said.
“We hope our publication reaches audiences in the Gulf and the rest of the world.”