Owliver celebrates the second-ever World Braille Day4 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
Welcome to Owliver’s Post. Today is a very special day indeed! It is the world’s second-ever world Braille day! Last year, the United Nations declared that Braille would be celebrated internationally every year on this day, the 4th of January.
What is Braille?
Braille is a form of reading and writing used by the visually-impaired. It is a code used by people who have either lost most or all of their eyesight. Within it, a series of tiny bumpy patterns on paper or metal convey alphabets and numbers. When those that have learned Braille run their fingers over these bumps, they read. You can even write in Braille using either a special type-writer known as a Braille-writer or a pointed stylus that makes dents in a metal slate.
Owliver’s Obscure Observation: Even musical notations can be written in Braille. In fact, the world has been blessed with several great visually impaired musicians such as Stevie Wonder and Andrea Bocelli.
How did Braille come to be?
Braille was invented in 1824 by Louis Braille from Coupvray, France. Louis lost his eyesight at the tender age of 3. Unable to go to regular school, he was enrolled in the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris.
The method that was used to read by the blind at the time was painfully slow. People had to run their fingers across raised letters to understand them. Only a few blind people mastered the art of reading, and writing was almost impossible.
Louis started to spend all his time outside, piercing all sorts of things, trying to develop a more efficient method for the blind to read and write.
He got his inspiration to use dots to represent letters from a secret code system that was first offered to Napolean’s French army. Charles Barbier, a retired officer in Napoleon’s army, demonstrated a note-taking system in which raised dots represented sounds. Thus, soldiers could pass notes without needing any light to read them. This way, they would be quiet and unseen, and it would be far more difficult for them to be spotted by their enemies. When the army rejected Barbier’s code, Louis took it up. He improved on it, and at the age of 16, he invented what is today known as Braille.
Owliver’s Obscure Observation: Louis didn’t allow either his age or his impairment to stand in the way of his life. By the time Louis died at the age of 43, he had lived a successful life as a teacher, musician, researcher, and inventor. All thanks to a system that he himself invented!
Now 2.2 billion visually impaired people across the globe are supported by Braille. Today, thousands of languages from Marathi to Zulu have been translated into this code of embossed dots. Braille has not only helped millions read and write but has also afforded them their fundamental human rights. Braille is essential in education, freedom of expression and opinion, access to information, and social inclusion for those who use it.
Braille has advanced to adapt to an increasingly digital world. From Braille Note Takers to Braille computers and smartwatches, technological advances are constant. In fact, inventors are working hard to ensure that no one gets left behind in the increasingly fast paced world. Take a look at this video to see how one company innovates to keep Braille users up to date.
With Excerpts From: National Braille Press, UN News, UN:Department of Economic and Social Affairs, NDTV