Toronto, Canada: On January 4th,
we celebrate World Braille Day and the huge impact that Louis Braille’s
invention has had on the lives of blind people all over the world. Braille always
has been and always will be more than just a tool for blind individuals who use
it. Braille represents competency, independence, and equality.
Braille is not a code to be
deciphered but it is a method of reading and writing that is equal in value to
print for sighted people. The way in which blind and partially sighted people
develop literacy skills may differ, but the goal is the same: to use reading,
writing, and other literacy tools to gather and understand important
information and to convey important information to themselves and to others.
A lot has changed since Braille was invented almost 200
years ago, both in technology and educational practices. Nowadays, various
students have access to different kinds of devices such as refreshable
braille displays and/or braille note takers (a dedicated computer for braille
users). The books in Braille that are used now are often produced by high-speed
braille embossers using translation software that converts the printed word
into Braille cells. However, the fundamental importance of Braille remains
unchanged and as important as ever.
is a real concern in the blind community that there is less support for
teaching, using and investing in Braille, particularly among educators and
governments, due to the belief that technologies such as e-books, audiobooks, and screen readers can replace
Braille. This issue is a worldwide concern, in developed and developing
countries alike. “Other formats such as audiobooks, which are generally cheaper
than Braille, cannot replace Braille and advances such as the newer and more
affordable refreshable Braille displays will support Braille literacy in the
future,” said Kevin Carey, the new Chair of the World Braille Council.
While advances in
technology are welcome, we recommend that technology should be used to enhance
the use of Braille, not to replace it. Evidence supports our belief that those
who have the opportunity to fully acquire Braille reading and writing skills
attain better literacy, better education,
and employment outcomes than those whose learning has been primarily supported by spoken word technology.
Literacy – the ability to
read and write – is vital to a successful education, career, and quality of
life in today’s world. Whether in the
form of curling up with a good book, jotting down a phone number, making a
shopping list, or writing a report on a computer, being literate means
participating effectively at home and in society.
The World Blind Union
strongly recommends that all blind and severely partially-sighted children be
given the opportunity to learn and become proficient in Braille reading and
writing skills and that they receive instruction from those who are thoroughly
trained and qualified to teach Braille.
We also strongly recommend that all blind persons have
access to a variety of books and publications in braille that are up-to-date. This recommendation can be
achieved in part by governments ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty, which allows for copyright
exceptions to facilitate the creation of accessible books and other copyrighted
works and for the import and export of such materials across national
To read our
revised Position Statement on Braille Literacy, which includes a full list of
our recommendations as well as a description of the Braille alphabet, please click
The World Blind Union (WBU)
is the global organization representing the estimated 285 million people
worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations
run by blind people advocating on their own behalf
and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as
international organizations working in the field of vision impairment.
further information contact:
Officer, World Blind Union