Press Release from the World Blind Union:
World Braille Day 2016
Toronto, January 4th, 2016:
Every January 4th, we celebrate World Braille Day to honour Louis Braille, and to recognize the importance of his invention; the Braille system.
Louis was born in France in 1809 and lost his sight at age three as a result of an eye injury. However, Louis overcame this disability and went on to be a devoted and high-achieving student. As a student, Louis struggled with the limited modes of reading and writing available to the blind and partially sighted. These limitations to his independence as a scholar encouraged Louis to invent a new system for reading and writing for the blind. He created a simplified yet versatile coded system, using raised dots to represent numbers and letters, that we now call Braille.
To learn more about Louis Braille, click on the following link to the World Braille Foundation website: www.worldbraillefoundation.com/aboutbraille.htm
The invention of Braille changed how blind people could read, allowing them more independence in their literacy, which has given them increased opportunities to become competent, independent and successful individuals. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) also recognizes the importance of Braille, as it explicitly mentions the need to recognize Braille’s importance in several Articles, including Article 2, 9, 21 and 24. The language in the CRPD stresses the use of Braille as a means of communication for blind persons that can also help to ensure their social inclusion. Braille, however, can only contribute to the improvement of the lives of blind and partially sighted persons if it is widely taught and available.
There is a real concern in the blind community that there is less support for teaching, using and investing in Braille, particularly among educators and governments, due to the belief that technologies such as e-books and screen readers can replace Braille. This issue is a worldwide concern, in developed and developing countries alike. In the UK, for example, only 4% of blind and partially sighted children, aged 5-16 years, can read braille. That is only 850 children out of a possible 25,000+. Braille is also the only non-technological equivalent to reading and writing to print, and those unable to afford new technologies are most likely to suffer from the decrease in Braille education and distribution. It is important to not forget about old but essential systems when new technologies are introduced.
The WBU wants to stress that other accessible formats, including those accessed via technology, and Braille do not compete, but rather supplement one another. Just as recorded books or e-books cannot replace hard copy books for the sighted, similarly, Braille books cannot be wholly replaced as they are integral components of meaningful education and rehabilitation for blind persons. The importance of Braille is no better described than by former Secretary-General of the WBU, Pedro Zurita, who wrote: “And you know what, Louis? … I exhibit your invention everywhere. I read material the way you invented it; standing, lying down, sitting, in any position, … Because your code, Louis, has afforded many, many blind people–myself among them, naturally–dignity, freedom, and many hours of incomparable spiritual enjoyment.”
Click on the following link to download Pedro Zurita’s “A Letter to Louis Braille” from our website: http://www.worldblindunion.org/English/resources/Pages/Braille-Information.aspx
On World Braille Day 2016, the WBU is calling upon specific actors to do their part to ensure Braille education and investment continues to be prioritized:
- We urge the United Nations, and related organizations such as UNESCO, to enhance the promotion of braille as provided for in the UN CRPD
- We call upon all States Parties to submit to their responsibilities according to the UN CRPD and thereby
o Facilitate easier access to Braille materials
o promote the education of blind children, youth, and adults, as well as those with partial sight who could benefit from Braille instruction, in reading and writing braille
o ensure the education of professionals in the teaching of braille as well as the adaptation of materials into braille
- We ask that all member organizations of the WBU, educators, and professionals supporting the blind, as well as blind people themselves, promote the use of braille in all aspects of political, social, economic, cultural and community life
The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization representing the estimated 285 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations run by blind people advocating on their own behalf, and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment.
For further information contact:
World Blind Union