In 2018, the United Nations issued a proclamation declaring January 4th to be World Braille Day, on the anniversary of Louis Braille’s birth. Read more about his life on this page with 19 Fascinating Facts About Louis Braille. We celebrate him now as someone determined to invent a system of reading and writing to bridge the gap in communication between the sighted and the blind. In his own words:
Access to communication in the widest sense is access to knowledge, and that is vitally important for us if we [the blind] are not to go on being despised or patronized by condescending sighted people. We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals – and communication is the way this can be brought about.
Braille is a tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols using six dots to represent each letter and number, and even musical, mathematical and scientific symbols. Braille (named after its inventor in 19th century France, Louis Braille) is used by blind and partially sighted people to read the same books and periodicals as those printed in a visual font.
Braille is essential in the context of education, freedom of expression and opinion, as well as social inclusion.
Braille has come a long way since the 1800s. Now there are refreshable braille displays — computer hardware which has a series of refreshable, or fluid, braille cells on its surface.
Braille displays provide access to information on a computer screen by electronically raising and lowering different combinations of pins in braille cells. A braille display can show up to 80 characters from the screen and is refreshable—that is, it changes continuously as the user moves the cursor around on the screen, using either the command keys, cursor routing keys, or Windows and screen reader commands. The braille display sits on the user’s desk, often underneath the computer keyboard. The advantages of braille displays over synthetic speech are that it provides direct access to information; allows the user to check format, spacing, and spelling; and is quiet.
American Federation for the Blind
It’s a bit like carrying around an e-book vs lugging around boxes and boxes of books. Though this equipment is still expensive, it is becoming more affordable as the technology advances.
Additionally, braille is found in more places these days:
However, more needs to be done. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not mandate the inclusion of braille lettering on pharmaceutical drug packaging. In many cases, these examples are the exception rather than the rule. I want inclusive communication, in all forms, to become the norm.