Every year on January 4th, World Braille Day is celebrated in honor of Louis Braille’s birthday. Louis Braille invented braille after becoming blind from a childhood accident. He sought a new way of communicating through reading and writing since he could no longer see, and thus created a brand new system that eventually became used worldwide. Braille wasn’t the first communication method developed for visually impaired persons, but it did become the most renowned and easiest to replicate.
The month of January also became known as National Braille Literacy Awareness Month as a way to raise awareness for the importance of braille for the blind or visually impaired. Because braille is not a language, but rather a tactile code, it can be read and written in many different languages. However, there is a movement for more uniformity and universal communication as the use of braille continues to decline.
Advanced technology, audio books, phone apps, artificial intelligence, screen readers, and voice recognition have made it easier for people to communicate. In an article by NBC News, it was reported that fewer than 10 percent of legally blind people in the United States read braille. It may not be likely that technology completely replaces braille, however, and it’s still important to raise awareness for the use and importance of the code.
It’s also important to raise awareness for blind and visually impaired individuals during the month of January and throughout the entire year. At NorthEast Independent Living Services (NEILS), we advocate for the inclusion and respect for all people, including those with disabilities. You can do your part in creating an inclusive community by educating yourself on interacting with people with disabilities.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services put together a helpful list of “Do’s and Don’ts When Interacting with a Person who is Blind” that we’d like to share:
When speaking with a person who is blind:
If you see a blind person who seems to be in need of assistance:
This is not the comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts offered through the website, but it is enough to get you started. If you’d like to learn more about how you can raise awareness for disabilities or become an advocate for others, check out the NEILS Disability Awareness Programs. You can make a difference in your community.
Happy National Braille Literacy Awareness Month!
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