World Braille Day, observed on 4 January, highlights the importance of Braille as a means of communication for partially sighted and blind people. The day has been marked by the United Nations since 2019.
World Braille Day also marks the birth anniversary of Louis Braille, who was born on 4 January, 1809. The French educator invented the Braille system, after being blinded at a young age.
What is Braille?
According to the UN, 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”. The language is used by partially sighted and blind people to read books and periodicals.
People use their fingers to touch and figure out the Braille code and understand the information being given through the language. The invention of the code helped visually impaired people communicate more easily and also made a wider range of reading materials available to them.
Before Braille, people with visual disabilities used to read using the Haüy system, which involved Latin letters being embossed on leather or thick paper.
According to the UN Convention on the Rights of People With Disabilities, Braille is seen as necessary for social inclusion, education, freedom of expression and opinion.
Significance of Braille:
According to the World Heath Organization, about one billion people have a distance or near vision impairment that was either preventable, or is yet to be addressed.
The UN General Assembly, under its 2018 Resolution A/RES/73/161, decided to observe World Braille Day to create awareness about how people with visual disabilities will fully realise their fundamental freedoms only if they are offered inclusivity, including acceptance of Braille as a medium of education.
Due to the coronavirus lockdowns across the globe, people with visual disabilities have faced several issues in terms of isolation and independence. The pandemic has highlighted the necessity of providing essential information in accessible formats including Braille and audio, as many people with disabilities can face a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 due to lack of guidelines available to them.