World Braille Day – 4 January

The World Blind Union will join the rest of the world in celebrating World Braille Day on 4 January 2021, the third year since it was officially designated by the UN General Assembly as a day 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.

World Braille Day aims to promote awareness of the braille language, which strives to bridge the big divide between ordinary and specially-abled people. This day commemorates the birth anniversary of Louis Braille, who is popularly known for inventing a language used by blind and visually impaired people.

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.”

Louis Braille

Braille is essential in the context of education, freedom of expression and opinion, as well as social inclusion, as reflected in Article 21 and 24 of the UN the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

What is Braille?

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) is used by blind and partially sighted people to read the same books and periodicals as those printed in a visual font.

In 1824, at the age of fifteen, Louise Braille developed a code for the French alphabet as an improvement on night writing. He published his system, which subsequently included musical notation, in 1829. The second revision, published in 1837, was the first small binary form of writing developed in the modern era.

These characters have rectangular blocks called cells that have tiny bumps called raised dots. The number and arrangement of these dots distinguish one character from another. Since the various braille alphabets originated as transcription codes for printed writing, the mappings (sets of character designations) vary from language to language, and even within one.

Braille literacy is a social-justice issue. Early braille education is crucial to literacy, education and employment among the blind. However, in the face of changes in education policy and screen reader  software, braille usage has declined in recent decades, despite the fact that technologies such as braille displays have also made braille more accessible and practical.