World Braille Day 2021

(4 January 2021 12:00 am)

Every January 4th the World comes together to celebrate World Braille Day. 

Celebrated on the same day as founder Louis Braille’s birthday, World Braille day is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of braille and the impact it’s had on the lives of thousands of blind and visually impaired people worldwide. 

Braille is a tactile reading and writing system that works through readers using their sense of touch on patterns of raised dots with each pattern representing a specific letter/group of letters, word, punctuation or number. The braille system uses a combination of six dots to represent each letter/sign, arranged in two columns of three dots. Now almost 200 years old, braille remains a crucial element of literacy and independence for a number of blind and visually impaired people. 

Braille is hugely important as it means that blind and visually impaired people can enjoy reading independently for life. Additionally, learning braille is useful for understanding the elements of written language, such as punctuation, document layout, grammar and spelling. 

Whilst used traditionally to transcribe books and publications, there are multiple areas outside and in public in which the application of braille is used daily to assist blind and visually impaired people in instances of written language. For example, braille can be found on supermarket packaging, medication labels, lift keypads, and door signs to help ensure that blind and visually impaired people are able to navigate as easily as possible. 

Improvements in modern technology has also meant that braille is no longer restricted to printed literature and signage. Inventions such as the refreshable braille display, sometimes known as a braille terminal, have been created to transcribe the text on computer monitors, smart phones and tablets into braille, enabling blind and visually impaired people to access and read online content. 

Being able to access and use the internet has slowly become crucial for freedom and independence in the 21st century. While audio transcribers for blind and visually impaired people do exist, they are not practical for those who suffer from deafness or those that are hard of hearing. The utilisation of braille in relation to the internet has empowered the lives of thousands of people and may be one of the most important breakthroughs in accessibility technology in recent years. 

In spite of all of the international success braille has had for the blind and visually impaired community, World Braille Day serves as a harsh reminder that more work needs to be done to incorporate braille into modern society. The sad reality is that many organisations, establishments and public buildings aren’t equipped to accommodate braille users, making their services restrictive and inaccessible to a large group of people. If more work can be done to spread awareness of the importance of braille and how it can radically transform lives, then perhaps we can build a more accessible world for the future. 

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