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January 2023 - World Braille Day

Updated: May 30, 2023

As part of World Braille Day, a day of acknowledgement and celebration for the blind and visually impaired population, we will be putting the spotlight on the value of braille in January. It was first observed in the year 1952 by the World Federation of the Blind to commemorate the birthday of the brain behind braille, Louis Braille, who created the world's first system of braille writing. This day is also celebrated on January 4th; the birthday of Louis Braille, who was blinded at the age of three and invented the system at the age of fifteen.


The braille system has been used to empower blind and visually impaired people for centuries. It allows people with low vision to read printed material using only their fingertips. This has helped shape the world's understanding and use of technology. As the world becomes more digital, the braille system continues to play a vital role in making information accessible to all individuals with low vision. These include braille displays on smartphones and other devices, closed-circuit television (CCTV) captioning, accessible GPS navigation systems, computer braille software, braille printers, and more.


Organisations around the world are working hard to make information accessible in braille, as it enables those with visual impairments to overcome barriers, participate in society and the ability to live as independently as possible. Although there are digital braille books, they need specific software and instruments that may not be available everywhere.



History of Braille

What came before braille? While Louis was at school, blind people read books, where the lettering was often embossed to enable the reader to feel the raised surface, akin to feeling each letter and number on a coin. While it worked, this method was slow and cumbersome.

Inspired by the French army's use of "sonography" (also known as "night writing") to communicate during the Crimean War, which is similar to the Braille used today, except it used twelve cells instead of six.


What is a cell?

In braille, a cell is a group of six dots that can be arranged in sixty-four possible combinations, as shown below.


 

Discussion points for Equality and Diversity

  • Can you access material or communicate in an accessible format?

  • Where have you been recently that has braille signing?

  • Before reading, did you follow the common misconception and think that braille is its own language?



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