World Braille Day

World Braille Day is a celebration of Louis Braille’s birth, the inventor of the reading-writing system that millions of partially-sighted and blind people around the world use.

Although not observed in any country, World Braille Day is an opportunity for non-governmental organizations, teachers and charities to raise awareness about the issues facing blind people.

Louis Braille, inventor of braille was born in France, January 4, 1809. Braille, a child who was blind in one eye due to an accident as a child managed to overcome his disability. He was able to see well enough to excel in school and was awarded a scholarship to the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in France.

Inspired by Charles Barbier, the French Army’s military cryptography, Braille developed a system for tactile code to allow blind people to read and write efficiently. Braille, who was only fifteen years old, presented the results of his hardwork to his peers in 1824. He published his first book, “Method to Writing Words, Music and Plain Songs by Means Of Dots, For Use by the Blind, and Arranged for them”, in 1829.

The braille system represents the alphabet letters and numbers in a series 6 dots, paired up in three rows. His simple idea enabled books to be produced on a large scale and in a format that blind people can read simply by placing their fingers over the dots. Blind students can now learn alongside their peers and also enjoy reading for pleasure as much as anyone else.

Braille can be as amazing as braille, and it has many benefits for blind and partially-sighted people. However, international copyright laws restrict braille books’ ability to be copied outside the country in which they were produced. Braille books can’t be shared across borders. This means that the blind can’t read books made outside their country. Unfortunately, only 5% are currently available in accessible formats. This means that less than 10% of blind children in developing nations go to school because of a lack or shortage of teaching materials.

Marrakesh Treaty refers to an international agreement that was finalized in June 2013. It would allow publication rights exceptions to be made available in accessible formats. Blindness organizations will be able to share their resources in the Marrakesh Treaty with organizations from developing countries who may not have the funds to produce books for their blind members.

Schools for the blind in richer countries could then send books to schools in less developed countries, so that blind children can still access the textbooks they need to complete school. Spain’s ONCE (Organizacion Nacional de Ciegos Espanoles or The Spanish Foundation for the Blind), for example, could make its braille library available for all Spanish-speaking countries of South America. This would save the cost of printing the exact same books for every country.

These resources cannot be shared unless the treaty is ratified in all countries.

Celebrate Louis Braille’s accomplishments and help millions of blind or partially-sighted people worldwide by sending a letter to your government representatives urging them to make this treaty a reality.

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