Photo by Eren Li / Pexels
Photo by Eren Li / Pexels

Seeing with fingertips

Braille in Southasia.

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In the Buddhist classic of the Pali canon (Udāna 6.4), there is a mention of the ancient fable of the blind men and an elephant. In this fable, several blind men come across an elephant, and they describe it by touching its ears, tail, trunk, leg, and sides. Each describes the animal using their individual perception through touch. The elephant was perceived as a snake by the one who touched its trunk; as a pillar by one who touched its leg; as a winnowing basket by the one who touched its ears; as a rope by the one who touched its tail; and as a wall by the one who touched its side. Apart from showing the susceptibility of individual perception to subjective experiences, the fable also reveals the importance of tactile perception. Touch is thought to be one of the first senses to develop in babies and which gives us the sensory scaffoldings on which we visualise our own bodies and sense of being. According to the World Health Organization's 'World report on Vision' (2019), 2.2 billion people have some type of visual impairment. For many of them, touch remains a critical sense for connecting and understanding the world.

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Himal Southasian