The World Blind Union joins the rest of the world in observing “World Braille Day” on January 4 2021, the third year since it was officially designated by the UN as a day observance. It is to raise awareness of the importance of Braille as a means of communication for blind and partially sighted people. January 4 was chosen to commemorate the birth anniversary of Louis Braille – the inventor of Braille for persons with visual disabilities. Braille is a tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols using six dots to represent each letter and number. Braille is not a language, it is just another way to read and write other languages, such as English, Italian French, etc.
Louis Braille, who is credited for developing a language for visually impaired is a French man who had lost his vision at the age in an accident. However, the accident did not stop him, and he continued his studies. It was in 1824 when he was 15 years old Braille first presented his system for visually impaired. Haüy system was used for blind and visually impaired people before the Braille language was invented. 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 is essential in the context of education, freedom of expression and opinion, and social inclusion.
Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities (more than one billion people worldwide) are less likely to access health care, education, employment, and participation in the community. For the visually impaired, life under lockdown has posed several issues more so as they rely on touch to communicate their needs and access information. The COVID pandemic has revealed how critically important it is to produce essential information in accessible formats, including Braille and audible formats.
Under the pandemic circumstances, even the fully healthy persons suffered, the struggle of blind and partially impaired individuals during this period is ineffable. Most of them spend the lockdown periods in isolation without anybody to communicate. UNDP and various organisations publish hundreds of books in multiple regions for blind people to ease such difficulties. Several organisations are also producing audio materials and other educational and entertaining materials too.
The World Blind Union (WBU) the voice of the blind, speaking to governments and international bodies on issues concerning blindness and low vision in conjunction with our members. World Blind Union works to achieve its long term vision of “A world in which we, as blind or partially sighted people, can participate fully in any aspect of life we choose.”
While we are talking about people born or led to live without vision or partial vision, many are blessed with complete vision. Still, they have difficulty seeing things as they are or as they should be. The world must cope with such people. The challenge is to bring awareness. It is not the mistake of the individual to be born with a disability. They deserve much more than mere change the way they are addressed. When the world struggles to develop societies and communities to be just and empowering, the disability brings in a new dimension to finding solutions.
Observing a day like this is to acknowledge that life can be different and challenging for some people. All human beings must ensure that suffering because of disability is to be minimised. Also, there is a need to enhance voluntary efforts, like eye donation and developing methods. Research needs to be improved to find solutions to reduce the people getting into partial vision. Lifestyle diseases like Diabetes are making things worse affecting the vision.
The determination showed by Louis Braille, not only in leading a life of purpose and laying the foundation for enabling millions to get connected with the world by introducing the language of Braille.