This Bengaluru doctor gives prescriptions that the blind can read
4 January is World Braille Day and in our seriesÂ The Power of Braille, we profile initiatives that are using the language of the blind to inform, empower and entertain India's blind population.
We begin the series with a profile of eye surgeon Dr Shalini Shetty, who is part of the team at the Apollo Group of Hospitals in Bengaluru.
When we go to a doctor for treatment, most of us carefully go through the list of medicines prescribed so we know what we are taking.
Imagine not being able to do that and having to be dependent on family or friends to read the prescription information to you. This is the reality in India, where most doctors give prescriptions in English, making it difficult for the vision impaired to manage their medications safely and independently.
European Union law makes it mandatory for all medicine packets to have information in Braille
The sheer injustice of this was brought home to Dr Shetty when she was based in the United Kingdom for about 10 years. "After my daughter's birth I was diagnosed with vertigo and was prescribed with some medicines. That was when I noticed that the medicine packet I was given had information in Braille". This is because in 2004, a law was passed that made it mandatory for all pharmaceutical companies in the European Union to print relevant information about the medicine in Braille on the packaging.
What does a Braille medicine label have?
It has information about the medicine, the name of the patient, the expiry date of the drug and the correct dosage. This brings down the risk of a blind patient having the wrong dosage or taking an expired medicine and puts the power in the patient's hands.
Once back in India, Dr Shetty approached some pharma companies about Braille packaging, but found the response poor.
"The standard answer was that it was too expensive and not really worth the effort given the small numbers. I thought that entire attitude was really unfair" - Dr Shalini Shetty
A feeling that was brought home once again when an elderly patient of hers with age related macular degeneration lost her vision and wanted the prescription in Braille. "This time I was determined to help her", says Dr Shetty. She found someone who could translate in Braille and was able to help her. She soon decided to make it a key part of her practice.
Since 2015, Dr Shalini Shetty has been able to help thousands of visually impaired people. A person well-versed in Braille helps her with the Braille prescriptions that are given on a sheet of paper along with the written version.
"I bear the cost of the Brailling myself and don't put it on the patient. Its a small cost and I choose to take it on myself".
She has now made it a mission to spread the word and hopes to encourage more doctors to follow the practice by speaking about it at workshops and conferences.
Hopefully her efforts will translate into a legislation that will make it mandatory for all doctors and pharma companies in India.
Click below to read the other stories in The Power of Braille series: