January 4th marks World Braille Day, a global event that celebrates the life and legacy of Louis Braille, the inventor of the Braille system. It is an opportunity to reflect on Braille's critical role in granting independence and inclusion to those with visual impairments.
The day also reminds us of the critical need to create spaces that welcome everyone, pursuing innovations and technologies that enhance the lives of those with visual impairments. Read on to learn more.
Featured in: January - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.
History and Background of World Braille Day
Every January 4, World Braille Day acknowledges the contribution of Louis Braille, who formalized a tactile code for the visually impaired in 1824. After losing his sight as a child, Braille went to the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris. His work revolutionized how visually impaired people communicate in written form.
The first World Braille Day started in 2001 to commemorate Louis Braille's legacy. In November 2018, the United Nations General Assembly recognized World Braille Day through the declaration of Resolution 73/161.
Braille technology has come a long way, with the introduction of digital Braille devices and software, which have made written materials accessible to visually impaired people. However, we still need to do a lot of work to make Braille technology affordable and accessible.
The Cause and Its Challenges
Data from the Lancet Glob Health reveals that there are 43.28 million people who are experiencing complete blindness worldwide, with almost a split occurrence between genders and higher prevalence for older people.
Low Braille literacy has far-reaching consequences, particularly in education and employment. The visually impaired face significant barriers1; around 63% of them are unemployed.
A lack of awareness and understanding of Braille also leads to social isolation. For example, restaurants and hospitals do not have Braille versions of their menus, statements, and bills, impinging on their right to maintain financial privacy or choose their meal.
While mastering Braille is challenging for those who lose sight later in life, it promises a better quality of life for the visually impaired.
Why World Braille Day Matters
Braille is not a language but a tactile alphabet that people can use to write any language. For instance, nearly every language in the world has a Braille code. This universality makes Braille an essential tool for visually impaired individuals worldwide.
Braille literacy is crucial for empowering individuals with visual impairments to achieve independence and expand their horizons in education and work.
One of the hurdles in learning Braille is the need for more qualified Braille teachers in the education system. The scarcity of instructors is a considerable gap that requires urgent attention.
In the digital era, electronic Braille devices are emerging as a new alternative to traditional paper-based Braille. However, the high cost of these devices is a significant hurdle that hinders access to this technology.
We must figure out ways to make Braille devices more affordable and accessible to ensure that Braille remains a lifeline for visually impaired individuals.
Efforts and Initiatives
In line with the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 24 discusses the availability of quality education among persons with disabilities. Numerous organizations worldwide are working to promote Braille literacy in several languages using materials in accessible formats.
For example, the World Blind Union (WBU) advocates Braille literacy and independent living for visually impaired or partially sighted people from developing countries.
The Perkins School for the Blind's Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library offers individuals and schools an extensive collection of Braille books and resources.
Additionally, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) in the US has launched the "Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning" program aimed at early Braille instruction for blind children.
In Europe, the European Blind Union (EBU) has been organizing a Braille reading competition since 2003, which has increased Braille literacy among young people.
How to Get Involved and Support World Braille Day
- Leverage social media platforms to share posts, videos, and infographics about Braille's rich history, importance, and how it works.
- Organize or participate in a fundraising event to support organizations that provide Braille books, learning tools, and support for visually impaired individuals. The event could raise awareness in the community and beyond.
- Educating yourself is another way to make a positive impact. Here is a short guide on reading the six dots braille system.
- Learn about the challenges faced by blind people and the role of Braille in their lives by watching documentaries or talking directly to them.
World Braille Day is an opportunity to recognize the importance of reading and writing Braille, essential in promoting self-reliance and independence among the visually impaired.
This day also reminds us that people with visual impairments should have equal access to education, employment opportunities, and public facilities.
Let us build a world where they have the same opportunities as everyone else.
World Braille Day FAQs
It is an annual observance held on January 4th to raise awareness about the importance of braille as a means of communication for people who are blind or visually impaired.
January 4th is Louis Braille’s birthday. He was the French inventor who developed the braille system in 1824 at 15. France’s Royal Institute for Blind Youth taught his system two years after he died in 1852.
Braille is a reading and writing system composed of six raised dots people can feel with their fingertips. Each braille character represents a letter, number, or punctuation mark. Individuals who are blind or visually impaired can interpret written information by reading the pattern of dots.
You can spread awareness about its significance by donating to organizations that promote braille education, volunteering at braille libraries or centers, and advocating for inclusive policies that promote equal access to braille materials.
Bell, E. C., PhD., Mino, N. (2015). Employment outcomes for blind and visually impaired adults. Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research