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January is Braille Literacy Month. Braille Literacy Month is celebrated in January because that's when Louis Braille was born. We use it as a way to honor him for his gifts to the blind and visually impaired community. What exactly is the braille code (lettering system) and where did it come from?
The National Braille Press tells us that braille was invented by a man named Louis Braille. He became blind during an accident when he was very young. After struggling to learn how to read and write, he wanted to help create a way to allow him and his fellow blind classmates to read and write easier and quicker. He started by poking holes in paper to try to copy letter shapes, but that didn't work.
Louis then met a man named Charles Barbier, who was using a system of raised letters and dots in Napoleon’s army so that notes could be passed without a light (so that their enemy didn’t figure out where they were) and could be understood by soldiers that couldn't read. Louis Braille met with Charles and began to make improvements on his idea, creating what we now know as braille code.This system began to be used in 1824 and is still used by blind and visually impaired people today.
Now we know what braille is and where it came from, but why is braille literacy so important?
The Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired says only 8.5% of blind or visually impaired students ages 4 to 21 can read braille, 29% can read and write in print, and 9.2% read by hearing. Another 18.3% are pre-readers, and 35% are non-readers. That is why braille literacy is so important.
Without Louis Braille, the blind and visually impaired community would not be able to live their life, their way. Braille literacy could change the way someone lives in the world. To learn more about Louis Braille, and different braille resources, check out an article from Paths to Literacy.
We here at SAU1 are proud supporters of the blind and visually impaired community! It is important to us that everyone has the opportunity to live their life the way they choose. That is why sharing information about braille and braille literacy is so important to us. Without these essential life tools, people in the blind and visually impaired community cannot live their life the way they choose. To help us acknowledge this and spread the word about Braille Literacy Month, please take time and appreciate the differences among your community members. Maybe you can take time to speak with someone who is visually impaired and learn about their life.
Image of Louis Braille from Mariaelizabeth124, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons