The Braillist

Veronica Narayan. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

AT 10 months old, Veronica Narayan was abandoned by her parents after her mother discovered she was visually impaired.

The Fiji Times newspaper caught up with the 40-year-old at Novotel Suva Lami Bay, last weekend, where she was part of a fun day hosted by the Sathya Sai Service Organisation of Fiji.

She is now the only braillist at the Fiji Society for the Blind based in Vatuwaqa, Suva — transcribing educational materials from print to braille.

“My family are originally from Naqara, Somosomo, Taveuni.

But I was brought up in my maternal village in Naivivi, Qamea and the eldest of five siblings,” she said.

“I was 10 months old when my grandparents took over the responsibility to look after me. My mother ignored me because she didn’t like my disability, I was blind and that is the reason she gave me away, I guess. At the age of six, Ms Narayan said she left her grandparents to join the Fiji Society for the Blind — a place she has called home for the past decades.

“The nuns from the Sisters of our Lady of Nazareth looked after us when I joined the institution as a boarding student in 1985. They were with us until 2009 before the matrons took over.”

In 2001, she completed vocational studies at the institution before she went on to pursue her education in Japan for a period of three years.

Upon return, Ms Narayan said she worked for the institution before taking over the post of braillist in 2008.

“I applied for this job because the only person who had this expertise had passed away and I thank the institution for believing in me.

“My role basically is to convert text books, internal and external examination papers, including papers from the University of the South Pacific into braille dots- this is for the braille production unit for the Fiji Society for the Blind.

“I thank God for equipping me with these talents which has enabled me to share it with my students who are now in secondary school and tertiary institutions such as USP and FNU. Outspoken Ms Narayan said people living with special needs should be treated with the same love and respect like any normal human being.

“When people look down on us, we should never give up because disability is not inability. So if they ask us to do anything, we need to be positive and take up the challenge.

“I’ve always advised my students to make use of their God-given talents.

“Our institution has catered for all children living with special needs from different family backgrounds because we have good equipment and services to cater for their needs.”

More than 30 students living with special needs are educated at the institution.

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