Apostolos Garoufos, a postgraduate student in ICT and Special Education and Psychopedagogy of Integration at Democritus University of Thrace has just translated Odysseas Elytis’ iconic love poem, The Monogram in Braille code.
“I have a profound knowledge of the Braille code not just in Greek and English but also in other languages except Chinese and other languages that use symbols,” he explained pointing out the lack of literature for the visually impaired.
“The idea was born while I was studying for my Masters in Special Education, Garoufos who minored in Greek literature and and majored in Modern Greek and Byzantine studies, said.
“It was a deep need for me, as I love people with visual impairments. I wanted to feel the power of the code.”
In an effort to put himself in a blind person’s shoes, Garoufos blindfolded himself and tried to spend a whole 24-hour day as a visually impaired person.
“Time with my eyes shut flew by easily but even though I could handle TV with Braille, I could not do anything that was vital to me, like reading my own literature. A computer can’t read to me, nor could anyone else read it to me either.”
Asked whether the transcription of a literary work in Braille and the adaptation of books for the blind is easy, he said that transcripts and prints are already being made by various clubs.
“In fact, I wanted to have an electronic program that would automatically transcribe from Greek and English to Braille code. The second phase is to print. With the software I’ve created, one does not need to know Braille in order to transcribe.”
“It is very difficult to find books for visually impaired people on the internet unless you ask for a custom made version. Majorities deprive minorities of the obvious, such as reading a book or a magazine, even of a simple text,” he points out.
He believes access to literary texts is paramount for the visually impaired and blind: “Education is the most important thing in this life. You open your wings, enjoy the love and smell of the pages. There should be an important initiative and an upsurge in publishing books for these people. I can not think of answering something different to the question of ‘food or literature’, of course, and I will choose the second one. Perhaps, eventually, we are turning a blind eye towards visually impaired people. While we see how a fellow man needs the obvious, we just laugh blinded by our selfishness.”
The Monogram is not the only literary work Garoufos has transcribed. On his Facebook page, MinaDot, one can find many more.