I enjoy being a staff writer for 3BL Media/Justmeans on topics - Social Innovation, Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs. When I am not writing for 3BL Media/Justmeans, I wear my other hat as owner of Serendipity PR. Over the years I have worked with high-profile, big, powerful brands and organisations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from my industry...
Social Innovation in Guatemala with its First Free Braille Newspaper
Guatemala launched its first free Braille newspaper this summer, a social innovation landmark for Central America's visually impaired. The newspaper is a joint initiative by Prociegos, the committee for blind and deaf people in Guatemala, and Publinews, a Guatemalan newspaper. Together they produced 2,500 copies of the Braille freebie, which was distributed throughout the country. Edilzar Castro Quiroz, director of education at Prociegos says, "It's important for visually impaired people to have access to different forms of communication and to feel a part of society. They have the same human rights as everyone else and should be granted them by the state." Prociegos estimates that more than 110,000 people in Guatemala live with a visual disability in rural parts of the country, where access to medical care and special resources are limited, the problem is magnified.
This social innovation project is backed financially by four businesses and has plans to continue as a free monthly with the aim of providing its target audience with access to news and current affairs. Since its publication the newspaper has had more companies, both international and national, express an interest in supporting the project, as it has caught the attention of different businesses and investors. Publinews hopes to build on its experience in Chile, where it launched Latin America's first Braille newspaper two years ago.
About eight months ago, Publinews started working with focus groups to find out what articles and sections would be of most interest to the visually impaired, tailoring the content of this social innovation newspaper. The Braille newspaper has the same 16-page format as the Publinews daily, featuring articles catering to the interests of the blind. Hugo Perez, director of marketing at Publinews says, "The visually impaired community had been a little forgotten about, and we wanted to support them and prioritise their rights; it's a little drop of water, but it's making a lot of waves." Prociegos says the newspaper opens a door to blind people to contribute by writing articles, and helping with the production. Plus being able to hold a newspaper in Braille is a reflection that society is gaining an awareness of the needs of the blind.
Prociegos estimates each copy of the newspaper is read by five to eight people, but there's a need to address the publication's limited print run and frequency. Finding new backing is the first step to improving circulation. Publinews is optimistic. In the short term, it will continue as a monthly.
As well as covering the latest international, national, technology and sports news, the paper features an 'inspirational person of the month,' which aims to motivate other blind people to achieve their potential. The latest issue focuses on Brandon Aspuac, an athlete who will be representing Guatemala in the 800m and 1500m at the Paralympics Games in London this summer. This project has had such a positive response in Guatemala that Prociegos is now in talks about doing a paper in El Salvador.
Photo Credit: Braille Plus