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UN Celebrates its first-ever World Braille Day

From today onwards, World Braille Day will be celebrated by UN on January 4. It is after getting a proclamation from the General Assembly in November-2018. The purpose to celebrate this day is to highlight the importance of Braille.

Nearly1.3 billion people living are currently living with a visual impairment. United Nation has announced to celebrate this day as an acknowledgment of human rights of visually-impaired and partially-sighted people. As to which it is celebrating its first official World Braille Day today.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports a high level of poverty in visually impaired than those with full sight. They also experience disadvantages and almost no opportunities leading to a lifetime inequality.

Approximately, 39 million people in the world are blind, and nearly 253 million live with vision impairment. For both these, Braille is a tactical representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols that help the blind and partially sighted people to read books.

What is Braille?

Braille is a code in which alphabets are represented with dots. There are six dots in each letter, number, symbol or even the musical note. By reading the dotted pattern, a visually-impaired person can access the written information.

It is not considered as a language but a cryptograph which may be in multiple languages. Millions of people around the world use braille in their native language and it is a source of literacy for them.

This braille code is used in all parts of the world, the specific US code is called English Braille, American Edition. Since 2016 there is one main code for reading material which is Unified English Braille, that is used in seven other English-speaking countries.

Who invented this Braille code?

For decades, a wide variety of methods were experimented to help visually impaired people to read and write. Some of these methods included these raised codes. One prevailing belief is that Louis Braille (from France) who gave this idea of the relational method of dots invents braille system. It was specifically designed to be identified by the fingertips.

After that, this braille system has seen various modifications, one of which is the addition of contractions for frequent words of English language. This use of contractions ensures a faster reading and also allows the braille books to be small sized.

How to write braille?

Every letter of every word is written in braille. This is called uncontracted braille. For labeling the personal belongings or kitchenware, this uncontracted braille is extremely useful.

By using the braille system, textbooks and many academic and non-academic books are published. There are nearly 180 different letter contractions and 75 short form English words. This usage of shortcuts reduces the size of braille books and also helps a faster reading.

Just like other printed books, the braille can also be written in multiple languages. The alphabets appear like embossed symbols that are produced using a Perkins Brailler.

This Perkins Brailler has only six keys and a space bar. All of these keys are numbered with a specific amount of dots. Using the computer has helped in developing electronic braille notes.

The users can save and edit their writing and can even produce a hard copy by using a desktop computer-driven braille embosser.

Literacy as a fundamental right by UN

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD) declares Braille as a source of communication for visually impaired. It also regards it as an essential part of life, adding to freedom of expression and opinion, access to information and social inclusion for those who use it.

The UN has published its first-ever report on disability and development last year on the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. The acknowledgment of this day reaffirms an individual commitment to work for a more equitable world, safeguarding the rights of people with disabilities.

 

Areeba Hussain

The author is a Medical Microbiologist and a healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. She is an author of six research papers and currently working as a research associate in a Research Lab.

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