Many years ago when I was in college, we used to have many visually handicapped students studying there. This was because it was one of the few colleges which had a fully functioning braille library and I remember them starting to add more books and resources to the library. This library was right next to the main college library and we also used to get students from other colleges come to use these resources. At one point, I was also recruited by a friend to act as a writer to a visually handicapped student for the final exam. My experience there was not very good as the student I got was not interested in the exam and since it was my subject and the student was a junior, they used to ask me to write the exam for them with no input from their side for each question. I refused to do so after the first question and the experience ended badly for me. But I did see sincere students who had prepped for the exams and even today, I remember this student who had so much to say that the student writer assigned to them had a cramped hand at the end of the exam!
Today is World Braille Day and this post is apt for the day. Celebrated since 2019, World Braille Day is observed to raise awareness of the importance of Braille as a means of communication in the full realisation of the human rights for blind and partially sighted people.
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, named after its inventor in 19th century France, Louis Braille is used by blind and partially sighted people to read the same books and periodicals as those printed in a visual font. Braille is essential in the context of education, freedom of expression and opinion, as well as social inclusion.
Eye conditions are remarkably common. The World Health Organization estimates that globally 36 million people live with blindness and 216 million people have moderate to severe visual impairment. Persons with vision impairment are more likely than those without to experience higher rates of poverty and disadvantage. Vision loss often represents a lifetime of inequality, poorer health, and barriers to education and employment. In November 2018, it was decided to proclaim 4 January as World Braille Day, recognising that the full realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms relies on an inclusive written promotion. Why 04 January? Because it is the birth anniversary of Louis Braille
World Braille Day is a reminder of the importance of accessibility and independence for people who are blind or visually impaired. Today’s reality is that many establishments such as restaurants, banks, and hospitals don’t offer braille versions of their print materials like menus, statements, and bills. Because of this, people with blindness or visual impairments often don’t have the freedom to choose a meal on their own or keep their finances private. This day spreads awareness about braille and other accessible forms of communication. It makes a visually impaired person be able to access educational opportunities and employment, be independent and be able to communicate with family, friends and society. Everyone deserves and is legally entitled to the same accommodations and service, regardless of ability. Let’s remember that and do our part to make our workplaces and community areas more accessible for everyone.
World Braille Day signifies inclusion and diversity. It is important to celebrate such days so that children become aware that people are different and unique, gaining an awareness of varying needs and requirements. Through celebrating days like this, it helps children raise important questions about additional needs and expands their knowledge of different people in our society.