Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bills written in Braille?!

Cebu City, Philippines - Eric Abella is excited.

He will finally get to “read” his electric bill starting this week even though he is blind.

“Finally, mabasahan na gyud nako pila akong bayranan (I can read my bill). Mas maayo man gyud na nga mabasahan nato para dili ta ilaron (It's better that we can read it so we won't be fooled),” Abella said.

Abella, 29, has been blind since he was five, the result of a medicine overdose.

Today, he runs his own sari-sari store and e-load station in Barangay (village) Guadalupe, Cebu City.

He was one of seven visually impaired individuals chosen to be the first to get their electric bill from Veco in Braille this week.

The recipients were identified by the Resources for the Blind Inc. (RBI), which assists visually impaired Filipinos. Veco, with BRI as its partner, is the first utility firm in the country to adopt this system.

Braille, which uses a pattern of raised dots that represent letters, numbers or punctuation marks, is a writing system for the blind developed in 1821 by French teacher Louis Braille.

This allows visually impaired individuals to read and write through touch.To produce the special bill, Veco sends RBI Cebu office the word format of the bill through e-mail.

The RBI “feeds that in an embossing machine available in their office,” said Sebastian Lacson, Veco vice president for administration and customer services.Veco's electric bill in Braille will be attached to the regular printed bill. The special form will no longer itemize fees and charges that are part of the 23 unbundled components of the regular bill.

“The Braille bill contains a summary of information pertinent to the consumer such as the billing period, nature of the bill and amount,” Lacson said.

Jaime Jose Aboitiz, Veco chief operating officer, said the partnership with RBI should serve as an eye-opener for all power distributors in the country. He said Veco's sister companies - Davao Light and Power Company Inc., Cotabato Light and Power Company Inc. and Subic Enerzone Corp. - will also adopt a Braille bill system.

Aboitiz said Veco will urge fellow members of the Philippine Electric Plant Owners Association (PEPOA) to follow suit.

“I don't think it will be hard for us to convince them,” he told reporters during the signing of the memorandum of agreement between RBI and Veco on Monday.

Rustica Padasa, RBI Cebu branch director, said this is the first time a company approached RBI for this kind of project.

“Normally, we are the ones who approach a company. This is a remarkable project because it will really help the visually impaired,” she said.

“We don't want the public to always pity us; we can manage (to carry out daily activities) given opportunities,” she added.

Abella was smiling when Veco officials asked him to demonstrate the Braille system by reading dots embossed on a piece of white cardboard.

Abella said he hopes newspapers will take the cue.

“Your newspapers contain a lot of information I'd like to read,” he said.

For now, Metro Cebu electric bills will be available in Braille to those who request Veco for the special form.


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