Braille, one of the things that France is well-known for inventing

Apart from interesting food and cars whose name are difficult to pronounce, France is, amongst people who are blind, widely acknowledged for having a citizen who almost 200 years ago invented the Braille font. This was the first time that blind persons were made able to truly read, write, communicate amongst themselves and hence offered the liberating way to learn to use a system that was adapted for their specific use by sense of touch. It took time for countries around the World, like Denmark, to acknowledge that Braille was the indisputably most suitable and manageable way to communicate in writing. But now it is, and using technology in the right and clever way can lead to boosting and enforcing the production, use and circulation of Braille through high speed  embossers, through note-takers, Braille displays and, of course, on paper which itself allows the two-dimensional sensation and way to master and perform reading.

Scientific research has shown that written material on paper offers a superior way for the reader to grasp maximum meaning of the text as opposed to electronic versions, and this seems to be true for Braille text, on paper versus Braille displays. But together these formats work beautifully and enhance one another.

Braille has opened the doors to literacy. Therefore, to avoid the disabling situation of just listening to text, which was the case before the invention of Braille, and constitutes a threat in the days of synthetic speech on phones and computers, and even the temptation to dictate text instead of writing it, to avoid functional illiteracy the speech option should be heavily supplemented with the presence, use and performance of Braille.

Sighted persons are subject to graphics, letters and other such stimuli constantly. Blind persons are not. Therefore it is of ultimate importance to maintain Braille in all situations starting with parents learning, cherishing and playing Braille into the lives of their kids, who with this as a basis will have a much greater opportunity to become educated and even reach employment.

That UN has now fortified the focus on Braille by recognizing the Birthday of the inventor, Louis Braille, on January 4, should mean that on all levels, trickling from the international level down to national and local level, Braille should be acknowledged, supported and given prime priority.

By John Heilbrunn, Danish Association of the blind, Vice-President.

For more information on EBU’s work on Braille, including the Onkyo Braille essay contest, visit the Braille promotion page of the EBU website.