To commemorate the birthday of the creator of a marvellous aid that opened the entire world of accessibility to the blind and visually impaired, known as Braille, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in November 2018 declared January 4 to be celebrated as World Braille Day.
The creation: Braille
Braille is a tactile (perceived by touch) way of writing used by the people having vision impairments. It is a special tool that uses the combination of code made from a cell with six raised dots on a grid to spell numbers and letters. In all there are sixty-three different combinations of these dots, enabling braille to be translated in different languages. Those who are visually impaired can read these dots using their fingertips to feel the patterns and even write.
The creator: Louis Braille
Louis Braille, born on 04 January 1809 in France, lost his eyesight in his early childhood, when he accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with his father’s awl. However, his determination overcame this setback. Inspired by Charles Barbier’s night reading system, he formulated and perfected his invention of raised dots that eventually came to be known as Braille – the creation named after its creator, that too when he was just 15 years old.
Initially, it was introduced in the very school where Louis studied. Gradually the Braille system became more widely used when other French schools also readily adopted it. Eventually, this system gained the pace, crossed the shores and reached across geographical boundaries and Braille system got engraved globally. With minor modifications as per the local requirements, Braille is now easier to read, write and used worldwide.
Incidentally, the creator of this masterpiece neither could see his creation nor had an opportunity to become an eye witness to the usefulness his creation has for the beneficiaries. In the year 1852, he left his foresighted legacy for the world of blind and those suffering from a short of sight.
The day: World Braille Day
World Braille Day is a true eye opener that gives us an opportunity to be aware of this invention that transformed the lives of those with visual impairments. This day also highlights the need to get sensitized about what, why and how associated with blindness and the sufferers. Only then it can help us in making concentrated efforts to promote their inclusion and provide equal opportunity.
This day reminds us of the significance of accessibility and independence for those who are blind or visually impaired. Today, it is a reality that there are many establishments such as restaurants, banks, and hospitals which fail to provide Braille versions of their printed material including menu cards, statements, and bills. Such an act limits the options of people with blindness or visual impairment.
However, Braille Literacy is one of the critical factors in providing equal opportunity to the beneficiaries. Presently, Rubix Cubes, Watches, LEGO style bricks, and other such inventions carry Braille versions reinforcing and strengthening the Braille Literacy. Likewise, currency, elevators, calculators and many such utilities in daily life are made accessible to those suffering from blindness.
Some interesting facts about Braille:
- In 1999, NASA’s Deep Space 1 flew past an asteroid on its way to photograph the Borrelly’s Comet and named it 9969Braille in acknowledgment of Louis Braille
- Braille by itself is not a language but alphabets that can be used to write almost any language, and its versions are being used in Arabic, Chinese, English, Hebrew, Spanish and many more languages
- Braille has two versions; uncontracted Braille spells out every word, whereas contracted Braille is a shorthand version that abbreviates familiar words
- The unique version Braille, specifically for mathematics and science, is called Nemeth Code
- Family classic toys, too, are available in Braille, including Uno, Monopoly, and LEGO
- Blind music utilizes the six-dot cells that has own syntax and translations, immensely benefitting the blind musicians
- At the Los Angeles Braille institute, Braille Olympics or Braille Challenge is organized every year for the blind students to compete for their skills in reading comprehension, proofreading and spelling
- Braille is produced using special machine called Braillewriter that has only six keys, a space bar, a line space, and a backspace. The six keys are numbered to correspond with the six dots in a Braille cell, wherein most Braille cells contain more than one dot
- In 1951, Central Braille Press was set up at Dehradun for making Braille literature available for the visually challenged. It is the first press of its kind in India and one of the oldest Braille presses in Asia. Subsequently, over the years, several Braille presses have been set up by the Government and Non-Government Organizations across the country
How to celebrate World Braille Day:
- Sensitize and raise awareness among the younger generation especially
- Capacity building of those engaged in supporting the cause
- Extending helping hands to strengthen the efforts through charity
The best way is to pledge the eyes