January is National Braille Literacy Month (not to be confused with National Braille Week-which occurs each year in October). It is the birth month of Louis
Braille, the inventor of the system of raised dots allowing people who are visually challenged to read and write for themselves. This innovation by Braille-who went blind himself after an accident at a young age-allowed for those with vision impairments to enjoy more independence and freedom than they ever had before (keep in mind, this was the early 1800’s).
At the age of 15, Louis Braille developed the small rectangular blocks called cells that contain tiny palpable bumps called raised dots. The number and arrangement of these dots distinguish one character from another.
In the face of screen-reader software and voice activated technology, braille usage has declined. However, braille education remains important for developing reading skills among blind and visually impaired children, and braille literacy correlates with higher employment rates. Low vision aids have also played a large role in our time to help those with visual impairments.
Here are some interesting facts about the Braille system you can share with customers during this month-you can even use these in an e-newsletter to your customers (facts courtesy of Second Sense).
~Braille is not a language
Braille is a system of touch reading and writing using raised dots. Nearly every language that is widely spoken has its own braille system. There are even unique systems for math, computer science and music!
~The War of the Dots
The United States originally had five distinct codes of raised writing systems from blind readers. Different materials were produced using different systems; different people were taught and used different systems. Imagine having to learn five different systems in order to have access to all the (very limited) available materials!
~Louis Braille played the organ, piano and cello
He played the organ at various churches in Paris to supplement his income as a teacher at the Royal Institution for Blind Youth. His organ playing was praised by Felix Mendelssohn.
~Louis Braille’s hands were buried separately
On the 100th anniversary of his death, Louis Braille’s body was exhumed from the village cemetery in his home town of Coupvray and buried in the Pantheon in Paris. However, the Mayor of Coupvray insisted on having Braille’s hands removed and buried in the village cemetery.
The Use Of Braille
Fewer than 10% of the 1.3 million legally blind people in the United States read Braille, and just 10% of blind children are learning it, according to a report by the National Federation of the Blind.
Nikki DiBacco, ABO/NCLE, is an educator, writer and owner of DnD Consulting&Design. She is also co-founder of The Visionaries Group. Learn more at www.visionariesgroup.com