National Braille Literacy Month is celebrated in January every year. It is also a celebration of the founder, Louis Braille’s birthday. Apart from honoring Braille’s legacy, this month aims to educate people about the importance and advantages of Braille literacy. The Braille system came as an advantage to people who suffer from different vision problems. The system remains unchanged to date. Now that Braille has been incorporated into digital devices and computers, it has become more accessible and relevant to the present technology-driven world.
History of National Braille Literacy Month
As surprising as it sounds, the history of Braille does not begin with Louis Braille. This system of using codes to write dates back to the early 1800s. We are referring to the time of the Napoleonic Wars. It was Charles Barbier, a soldier in Napoleon’s army who developed a system known as ‘night writing.’ He used this to secretly communicate with his comrades at night. To avoid the use of lamps that alerted enemy troops and resulted in a lot of killings, Barbier decided to find a way of reading combat messages in the dark.
Barbier executed his plan by developing tools to create raised dots on a surface. These dots were placed in a pattern to denote a kind of code language. By touching the pattern, one could decipher the hidden message without having to see it. This method was later adopted by the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris. Coincidentally, this was also the school where Braille studied. He was taken by this system and so decided to modify it to something more compact and flexible.
A major problem with the original military code was that the human fingertip could not feel every dot with a single touch. The refining of these patterns and dots was not easy. Braille took nine years to develop and improve the dot impressions to finally create a reading format based on a cell of six dots. Each cell encompassed one impression and it was convenient to glide your fingertips over one cell and quickly move to the next. This form of written communication has remained intact after many years.
Today, Braille is credited for the invention of this unique writing system because he made it less cumbersome and easy to acquire.
National Braille Literacy Month timeline
The Missouri School for the Blind becomes the first school in the U.S. to teach Braille.
Famous American author Helen Keller becomes the first deaf-blind person to earn a degree from Radcliffe College.
The American and British Uniform Type Committees adopt Standard English Braille as a uniform type.
Computers are adapted to produce Braille outputs.
National Braille Literacy Month FAQs
How does Braille help visually impaired people?
Braille is a writing and reading system for blind people. It enables students to access the same classroom written materials as their sighted peers.
Was Louis Braille blind?
Braille, the inventor of the Braille system, was blind.
Can I learn Braille even though I am not blind?
Of course! Many Braille instructors have perfect vision and yet they learned Braille to educate others. If they can, you can too!
How to Observe National Braille Literacy Month
Check National Library Service (N.S.L.)
Check out N.S.L. or pay a visit to a library for blind people. You will be able to find resources on the life of Louis Braille as well as the writing system.
Take Braille lessons
Take on learning a new skill. If you know someone who is visually impaired and you want to lend a helping hand, learning Braille could be a great idea.
Donate Braille books or donate resources to blind people who are underprivileged. You could also volunteer at a center for blind people.
5 Interesting Facts About Braille
It’s not a language
Braille is not a language, but a writing system.
It takes up space
Braille alphabets, due to their raised dots and patterns, take up more space, which makes reading Braille books longer.
Lack of teachers
Sadly, the number of teachers qualified to teach Braille decreases every year.
It is not common
In 2009, a study showed that only 10% of Americans with blindness can read Braille.
Naming an asteroid
NASA paid tribute to Louis Braille by naming an asteroid ‘9969 Braille.’
Why National Braille Literacy Month is Important
It spread awareness
This month is to raise awareness about Braille literacy and how it can change the lives of blind people. It also raises awareness about how Braille has aided blind people.
Understanding their struggle
It also opens our eyes to the struggles that blind people go through daily. We become appreciative of our ability to see.
One of the most important aspects of this month is that it teaches us to be inclusive and embrace people of different abilities. This ensures that everyone has opportunities in life.
National Braille Literacy Month dates