Switzerland's Post Office is to issue its first ever stamp in Braille to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Swiss National Association for the Blind.This content was published on January 7, 2003 - 12:10
The Braille stamp, worth 70 centimes, will go on sale on March 6 and is designed to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the blind and partially sighted.
The stamp has been created by the Winterthur-based graphic artist Sandra Di Salvo and takes the form of a red square with the number 70 in Braille in the middle.
Di Salvo designed the stamp to have a high sensory impact. At first glance the stamp appears to be a red square, and only on closer inspection is the 70 revealed.
It will differ from the normal stamp which features a printed Helvetia 70.
The Swiss National Association for the Blind's Norbert Schmuck said he was delighted that Swiss Post had acted upon the SNAB's proposal for a touch recognition-based stamp.
He said it was important that the needs and problems faced by the blind, partially sighted, and the deaf and blind were recognised.
"For such people, communication is harder and more costly than for those who can see," Schmuck told swissinfo.
"This stamp changes it around so that for once the blind have the advantage: those who can see can't see the 70 at first. A blind person only needs to touch the stamp once to know straightaway that it's a 70 centime stamp," he said.
The Swiss Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired has also welcomed the move.
"Making people aware of the challenges [faced by the blind and partially sighted] is essential and we hope this stamp will do this. By using Braille, people can imagine what it's like to be blind," said the organisation's René Mathys.
Swiss Post, which has transported items for the blind free of charge since 1905, said the stamp was being issued to celebrate 100 years of the Swiss National Association for the Blind (SNAB) and the Swiss Library for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Zurich.
"We receive demands every year from organisations for special stamps," said Elsa Baxter, head of stamps and philately at Swiss Post.
"When we were asked by these two organisations for the blind, we picked a subject which I'm sure is of interest to a lot of the population and also honours these organisations that are both 100 years old."
Baxter said Swiss Post was unlikely to issue more Braille stamps in the near future, because of production difficulties.
However she insisted the new stamps would remain in circulation until they ran out.
Switzerland was the first country to exempt the blind from paying postage after the idea was suggested by former communications minister Joseph Zemp in 1905. These letters are now known as Cécogrammes.
Swiss Post is one of the first postal organisations in the world to issue a Braille stamp.
swissinfo with agencies
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