American Braille Flag Project makes flag accessible to veterans through touch

The non-profit American Flag Project is working to install tactile American flags for veterans to access.
Updated: Jun. 13, 2021 at 11:53 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - It’s not the stars and stripes as most people see it. Instead of fabric, bronze plaques are helping veterans with vision loss see the American flag through touch. That has some veterans traveling the country to increase access for their fellow service members, bringing them to Kansas this week.

“When I felt it, instant love. I said, wow, this is powerful,” said Walt Peters, president of the American Braille Flag Project.

Since 2009 Walt Peters has been raising up the American flag, but to feel it is to see it.

“The stars are all raised, and as you go across the stripes, the stripes at the end of the row tells you what color,” said Paul Kaminsky, the executive officer of the American Flag Project. “Then it also has the pledge of allegiance in braille.”

Walt Peters and Paul Kaminsky are leaders with American Braille Flag Project. They both experienced vision loss later in life and want to make sure that doesn’t stop them and their fellow veterans from still experiencing the American flag.

“Approximately 130,000 visually impaired veterans in the United States,” said Peters.

Kaminsky said it was the reaction of a friend that got him involved with the project.

“He is totally blind. He’s missing a leg. He was in Vietnam.” Kaminsky said, “His granddaughter took him and put his hand on the flag, and the tear started rolling, and it’s something he hasn’t seen since the early 60s.”

It’s a reaction they see the places they go. The project aims to dedicate one of these bronze braille flags to every blind rehabilitation center at VA facilities. So far, they’ve seen about 100 installed. The plaques are also found at many other places in Kansas and across the country.

“Walk in front of the unknown solder’s tomb, you look to the left, and you’ll see that braille flag right there on that marble wall; it’s beautiful,” said Peters.

The significance of bringing these braille flags to veterans with vision loss is to show they’re not forgotten, respected and show care.

“Feel and see the braille flag and let them know that they are loved and appreciated and just as valuable as they ever were,” said Peters.

For him, part of the goal is to show veterans that there’s still purpose even with vision loss or another disability.

“I learned as an Army private, many, many, many years ago. I had this old Seargent tell me, ‘Peters, I’m going to give you the one-liner of life,’” Peters said. “You’ve got to tell yourself every day, you’ve got more rear end than the whole world’s got teeth, so stay focused.”

This week, Peters and Kaminsky are in Kansas, the place where this flag originated. They will dedicate a braille flag Monday, Flag Day, with Governor Laura Kelly at the Topeka VA.

“My father was a World War II veteran who later in life became blind and could no longer see the American flag which he so dearly loved, so my mother kind of impressed upon me why don’t you make a flag your dad could still see,” said President of the Kansas Braille Transcription Institute Randolph Cabral.

Cabral created the flag in 2005 and continues with this effort even after the passing of his father because he saw a great need.

“Even though I made that in my father’s honor, I realized that there were a lot of blind Americans that would benefit from seeing the American flag,” said Cabral. “Be able to see the most recognizable symbol in the world, our American flag, that’s a privilege and an honor, and that’s something people give their lives for.”

Cabral will join Peters and Kaminsky in Topeka Monday. Their goal is to make the braille flag as commonplace as the traditional red, white and blue. Already they work with veterans and other groups that help with the purchase of the braille flags for places like cemeteries and memorials.

Cabral recently created a new design meant for schools and libraries that he is looking to have produced in Wichita.

“Could you imagine being a child or adult that have never ever seen the flag and for the first time you get to realize what it is, tactile,” said Kaminsky,

The American Braille Flag Project is a non-profit organization. Any donations go to help with the purchase of the braille flags.

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