Did you know that January 4th was World Braille Day? As I researched Braille Day, I learned some new, interesting facts.
- Braille is not actually a language, but a code used by blind people
- A blind Frenchman, Louis Braille, in 1821 devised this code to provide access to literacy, intellectual freedom, equal opportunity, and personal security
- Braille is the official communications code world-wide
Today, Braille is incorporated into many aspects of public life. Buildings with elevators have buttons with Braille markings, and Braille announcements and instructions are posted on walls so that people with vision impairments traveling on their own can navigate through the area. Even ATM machines now include Braille markings.
Technological devices have also been adapted to facilitate Braille users. Computers now incorporate the use of Braille through specialized displays, keyboards, and portable displays that connect to mobile phones. Alternatively, “Stand-Alone Braille Devices” are portable hardware devices that essentially function like PDAs. They include a word processor, email, calendar, contacts, calculator, etc. Users do not have to connect this machine to a computer in order for it to function, making this a great tool for individuals who prefer greater independence and privacy. There are also printers for Braille, known as embossers.
Here at Elizabeth Lee Black School, we have many students with vision impairments. Braille-printed materials are now in all of our classrooms. Not only are they great tools for these children, but also for children who may have limited vision and are non-verbal, as they aid in increased communication and a greater capacity for learning. Our Braille materials, referred to as “texture books,” are used in an introductory, sensory-based manner to assist with orientation and other fundamental skills. Each student has personalized materials with his or her name printed in Braille. That way anything they touch is recognizable to them, making them feel comfortable and safe.
I wonder if Monsieur Braille would have ever guessed that a code that he developed would still be used worldwide, 194 years later?