Today is World Braille Day! World Braille Day, celebrated on January 4th every year, honours the legacy of Louis Braille. The day is also a chance to spread awareness about the capabilities of blind people worldwide.
Who was Louis Braille?
Louis Braille, born in France on January 4th, 1809, was the inventor of the Braille system of reading and writing. Blinded in an accident as a young child, Braille attended a school for the blind in Paris. There, he was taught a tedious way to read raised print but not taught to write. As a teenager, he invented the Braille code as an easier and better way for blind people to read. In addition, the Braille system allowed blind people to write, and read their own writing, for the first time. School officials fought against adoption of the new code, but students learned it in secret until it was allowed openly. Louis Braille taught at the school until his death in 1852. Today, people in countries all over the world use the code he invented as an essential part of their lives.
What is Braille?
Braille is a way of writing using a system of raised dots that readers feel with their fingers. Many languages around the world, as well as music, math, and computer code, can be written in Braille. Most young children who are blind learn to read and write Braille while their sighted friends are learning print. People who become blind later in life can also learn Braille.
Many books are translated into Braille, from classics to best-sellers. Books for young children often include both print and Braille, so that parents or children who are blind can read with their families. People can order Braille books from companies that sell them. They can also borrow them from their local libraries or from the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA), a service that makes books accessible for Canadians who do not read print. There are also some Braille magazines. Other things sometimes available in Braille are:
- Signs for washrooms, elevator buttons, and room numbers in buildings
- Bank statements
- Event programs
- Board games
People can write Braille with several devices. A slate and stylus is portable, like a pencil and paper. A Brailler is a device like a typewriter. Braille displays connect to computers or phones and display the screen’s contents in Braille, allowing people to create and share files. An embosser or Braille printer allows people to print computer files in Braille.
More Braille means More Independence
With the rise of computer technology like Braille displays and Braille printers, there can now be more Braille than ever before. Braille readers can have access to reading and writing wherever they go.
In addition, Braille allows blind people all over the world to succeed at school and in their jobs. Using Braille and other skills they have honed throughout their lives, blind people can do many things sighted people do. They have successful careers, raise families, go out with friends, play sports, watch TV, and shop, among countless other pursuits. Despite their thriving in all these areas, however, many blind people are currently unemployed, although they are educated and well-qualified. Unemployment continues because people responsible for hiring do not understand that blind people can succeed without sight. World Braille Day is an opportunity to spread this understanding and celebrate all the things blind people can do. Happy World Braille Day to all our readers!