World Braille Day is celebrated every year on January 4th because of its inventor’s birthday on the same date. This day actually honors the birthday of the inventor of Braille, Louis Braille.
Louis was born in 1809 in France and became blind after a childhood accident. But, he quickly mastered his new way of living. When Louise was only 15 years old, he created a reading and writing system based on Charles Barbier’s night writing system. We know Louise’s system today as braille. Adjusted over time, braille is now easier to read and used all over the world.
The United Nations proclaim 4th January as World Braille Day, to be observed each year, in order to raise awareness of the importance of Braille as a means of communication in the full realization of the human rights for blind and partially sighted people and invites all Member States, relevant organizations of the United Nations system, other international organizations and civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, to observe World Braille Day in an appropriate manner, in order to raise public awareness of Braille as a means of communication.
What is Braille ?
Braille is a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired. It is traditionally written with embossed paper. Braille users can read computer screens and other electronic supports using refreshable braille displays. They can write braille with the original slate and stylus or type it on a braille writer, such as a portable braille notetaker or computer that prints with a braille embosser. These characters have rectangular blocks called cells that have tiny bumps called raised dots. The number and arrangement of these dots distinguish one character from another. Since the various braille alphabets originated as Transcription codes for printed writing, the mappings vary from language to language, and even within one. In English Braille there are three levels of encoding:
Grade 1: a letter-by-letter transcription used for basic literacy
Grade 2: an addition of abbreviations and contractions
Grade 3: various non-standardized personal stenography
Braille cells are not the only thing to appear in braille text. There may be embossed illustrations and graphs, with the lines either solid or made of series of dots, arrows, bullets that are larger than braille dots, etc. A full braille cell includes six raised dots arranged in two columns, each column having three dots. The dot positions are identified by numbers from one to six. There are 64 possible solutions using zero or more dots. A cell can be used to represent a letter, number, punctuation mark, or even a word. Today there are several standardized versions of Braille around the world though technology such as screen readers and speech to text is widely available in our phones or on our computers. Braille is still an important skill for the blind to learn.
There are different electronic Braille aids such as refreshable Braille displays. They are very expensive and are among the recent inventions. There are Braille displays and Braille printers and Braille keyboards out there. They plug to any PC via the USB but they are extremely expensive. Teachers, parents, and others who are not visually impaired ordinarily read Braille with their eyes. Braille is not a language. Rather, it is a code by which many languages such as English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and dozens of others may be written and read. Braille is used by thousands of people all over the world in their native languages, and provides a means of literacy for all.
On behalf of NAYS Pakistan, we want to support the World Braille Day as it is a reminder of the importance of accessibility and independence for those who are blind or visually-impaired. On World Braille Day, we have to do our part to make our world more accessible for everyone to live in. Everyone deserves the same accommodations and service, regardless of ability. Braille literacy is also an important factor in equal opportunities for people with blindness.
Article compiled By: Ms. Sundeela Fayyaz