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4th of January – World Braille Day




Whilst many were recovering from the festivities and social gatherings during the holidays, you may have missed the World Braille day on the 4th of January. It is celebrated since 2019 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 [1].


Why on the 4th of January? Simply because it is Louis Braille’s birthday, the inventor of the Braille notation [2]. Louis Braille was born in 1809 in France and became blind during his childhood. He thus created a reading and writing system based on an existing notation for sonography (a tactile notation to transcribe sounds) from Charles Barbier de la Serre [3]  when he was only 15 years old [2] or 18 [3] ! Adjusted over time, Braille is now used worldwide, not only to read and write on paper, but also for digital content through Braille keyboards and the raised dots for tactile graphics.


Why is it important? It is meant as a reminder of the importance of equity, accessibility and independence for people with visual impairment [2] [3]. It is also an opportunity to celebrate Braille literacy, which is crucial for many aspects of the language, not always available in speech – such as the subtleties of punctuation, grammar and spelling, it also helps foster the imagination as reading is an active process compared to simply listening, the layout of the page, etc. It is also more convenient for complex notations such as mathematics formula (see previous blog article) and musical notation and can help ensure more privacy and confidentiality (e.g. bank statements, etc.) [2].


Depriving access to Braille content or other accessible formats can also have drastic consequences to access the information. During the pandemic for instance, many persons with disabilities faced a higher risk of contamination due to a lack of access to guidelines and precautions [1]. As underlined by the United Nations, COVID-19 has also emphasized the need to intensify all activities related to digital accessibility to ensure digital inclusion of all people [1]. In the Ability project, the consortium has that at heart by trying to develop new solutions with a tactile tablet with multimodal feedback and a full-page Braille display at an affordable price. The road is paved with many challenges, but we are progressing well!  

In the meantime, Happy (belated) World Braille Day!

 

[1]   United Nations. World Braille Day 4 January - Reaching blind and visually impaired persons. Online: https://www.un.org/en/observances/braille-day 

[2]   Braille Works. What is World Braille Day? Online: https://brailleworks.com/what-is-world-braille-day/ 

[3]   Valentin Haüy. 4 janvier : journée mondiale du braille. Online : https://www.avh.asso.fr/fr/4-janvier-journee-mondiale-du-braille-0 (in French). 


Credits: Photo from Braille Works [2]

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