Efforts to make life a bit simpler for blind people in Japan may now be spotted on the tops of beer cans. The word 'alcohol' is imprinted in braille on top of beer cans to prevent blind persons from unintentionally opening a beer when they truly want a soft drink. Japanese brewers have discovered a technique to keep blind sober!
For those of us with healthy eyesight, picking up a six-pack of canned beer and mistaking it for soda and becoming inebriated without realising it is unlikely, but if you’re blind, it’s a real possibility, especially if you live in an area where soda and beer are sold close together. If both of these beverages are in your refrigerator at the same time, the issue is complicated. While you may appreciate beer, it is unlikely that you would want to consume it for breakfast.
This issue is complicated in Japan since aluminium cans are used for more than simply soda and beer. Recognizing this, Japanese brewers started printing the word “beer” in Braille on the top of their cans approximately ten years ago, exactly next to the tab you’d pull to open it up and take a gulp. It wasn’t a government-mandated regulation; rather, it was launched by the brewers themselves.
Just The Brewers' Initiative
Because this was not a government-mandated scheme, but rather a voluntary initiative by the brewers, there is no consistency in what is printed on the cans’ tops. Some just state “alcohol,” while others have the brand name in Braille, such as “Kirin Beer,” and yet others have the word “beer” imprinted on the top.
And the brewers aren’t only doing it to prevent several of the drunken individuals from wandering the streets and injuring themselves; they’re also doing it because some people become sick after drinking. Many Asians are vulnerable to the “alcohol flush reaction,” an allergic reaction produced by the body’s inability to effectively digest alcohol. It’s not lethal, but it’s unpleasant, causing redness in the face, neck, and shoulders, as well as nausea, dizziness, headaches, and swelling and itching of body parts in certain cases. Many people with the condition escape a night of suffering by labelling beer to enable the blind know the can they’re holding is beer.
Because the original Japanese braille system is based solely on kana characters, a system that enhances Japanese braille by directly encoding kanji characters has been developed. It employs an eight-dot braille cell, with the bottom six dots matching to regular Japanese Braille cells and the top two dots signifying the kanji’s constituent elements.
The Japanese Braille system has been widely used and taught in schools for persons with special needs since its invention in 1890. It is widely used in everyday life, such as on the bottom of train station railings to indicate the train’s location and on alcohol cans with “alcohol” written in braille.