Thanks to the technology of typhlographics, braille and audio description, the same copy of this comic book about World War 2 can be read by both – sighted and the blind readers.
5 years ago when I was about to write my first comic book script ever, I came across a song titled “Life after deaf” recorded in sign language (with subtitles) about a platoon of deaf volunteers fighting in the 1944 Warsaw Rising. I thought to myself that if there are songs for the deaf and people who can hear, I have to (and I wanted to!) create a comic book for the sighted and the blind to join these two worlds of readers over one story.
I spent hours googling the web to learn as much as possible about publications for people with visual impairment and, to my great astonishment, there were only books with blank pages printed in braille.
That’s how me, a PhD student from Poland working as a freelancer, and Daniel Baum, a professional Polish realist painter and illustrator, came up with the idea of “The Braille Comics”.
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The Braille Comics now
But how did it start?
The first story created this way was totally hand-made and, in fact, glued: Daniel painted the images on white cardboards with black text print and narration and dialogues in braille.
The braille version of the text was more developed than the black print – this was done to make up for the lack of audio description at that stage. We got special comments at an international comics contest organized by the Warsaw Rising Museum and then it turned out that this is the first comic book in the world for both, the sighted and the blind readers!
But still, it was not reader-friendly, as there was no technology to reproduce and publish it.
A revolution that only a few understood
Long story short, it took us 4 more years to do it the way you see it now.
“The Braille Comics” started a revolution which was a complete novelty. The hardest part for us was to convince (the sighted) people that this is really a comic book for all – not only for the blind readers!
The great technology behind a simple idea
We use the technology of typhlographics developed for the purposes of producing maps for people with visual impairment, which is really expensive but hyper-effective. Braille print is so durable that you can literally sit on it and it does not get damaged. Also, it is waterproof, so you could read it in a bath or in the rain at the bus stop.
Each image and panel in the comics has got its audio description – this is what museums and art galleries use when they adjust their exhibitions to the blind or partially sighted visitors.
A comic book for all readers
After 5 years of fighting for this project, thanks to the fellowship of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, we have finally managed to create a full 11-page comic book about WW2 titled “War Notebooks: The Sleep of Reason”. This is a true story about a survivor of the Mauthausen-Gusen Nazi concentration camp liberated by the American army on May 5, 1945.
The war is over
And this is why Daniel painted a large, 2 meter high and 3 meter wide Sherman tank. It was the first thing that the prisoners standing at the main gate of the Mauthausen-Gusen camp saw when they understood that WW2 is finally over.
Both me and Daniel are great admirers of WW2 history. This is why we create comics about it and this is why we want to make the unknown and moving war stories available to all readers – irrespective of whether sight is their most or least developed sense.
Our little helper keeps her paws crossed
Yet, there is one thing that we have to do asap: to raise money to produce more copies and to create the English version of it to spread the idea outside Poland. For all these years we have been doing it in addition to our regular jobs and without any financial profits. That’s OK, because we have never stopped feeling that we are doing something that matters. The greatest gain is to give to others!
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