January 4th 2021 is world braille day. In 2018, the UN General Assembly officially designated the world braille day as a day to raise awareness of the importance of braille as a means of communication in the full realization of the human rights for persons who are blind or partially sighted.
World braille day commemorates the birthday of Louis Braille, born at Coupvray, France in 1809, who has been credited for inventing braille, a widely used touch system of reading and writing for persons who are blind. This is a special code made from 6 raised dots on a grid. There are 63 combinations of these dots, meaning that they can be translated into many languages, including music.
Braille is essential for literacy and lifelong learning of the blind, their freedom of expression and opinion, as well as social inclusion. This is in line with Articles 21 and 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 which focuses on inclusive and equitable quality of education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all.
In celebrating the world braille day, the World Blind Union is urging all countries to ratify and implement the Marrakesh Treaty which enables distribution of braille, and other accessible reading materials, without the threat of copyright infringements. This is a great way of ensuring that braille remains relevant alongside new technology. Also, it is critical given that in less developed countries, braille production is costly, hence limiting the availability of reading materials for the blind.
Furthermore, as the world strives to cope with COVID-19 pandemic, access to information and reading material in accessible formats is essential for persons who are blind or partially sighted. Therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to call on governments, policy makers and all other stakeholders to ensure that reading materials are available in accessible formats, including braille, so that no one is left behind.
Meanwhile, the WBU continues to promote braille literacy by providing scholarships to persons who are blind and partially sighted in less developed countries. For further information and downloadable application forms for WBU scholarships, please visit their website at: https://worldblindunion.org/programs/education/scholarships/