World Braille Day 2021
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World Braille Day | by David Howard, CENMAC Advisory Teacher
World Braille Day on January 4th is the celebration of the birth of Louis Braille. Louis was the inventor of braille. He was born in 1809 and was blinded in a childhood accident. When Louis was only 15 years old, he created a reading and writing system based on Charles Barbier’s night writing system. We know Louis’ system today as braille. Adjusted over time, braille is now easier to read and used all over the world!
There are some amazing devices available today for braille users.
Today, Rubix cubes, watches, lego-style bricks, and other innovations are constantly changing the way we use braille and help increase braille literacy, too. That’s why you’ll find braille on objects you use every day — signs, ATMs, elevators, calculators, and even the new polymer banknotes can be identified by braille clusters. The £10 has two and the £20 has three clusters. It’s all thanks to Louis Braille and the schools that adopted and taught his reading and writing system.
Challenge – what braille character is on the £10 note?
There are some amazing devices available today for braille users. As a sighted teacher working with braille users, I had to learn braille, which is not the easiest thing to do. Mustafa, a very capable year 10 boy, took it on himself to help me learn braille. Using a device called a Braillenote he was able to type in braille and the text was converted automatically into plain text for me. I could then type my teacher comments into the Braillenote which he could read in braille or have the notes read back to him. This one piece of equipment was invaluable for Mustafa and me, enabling him to achieve great GCSE results and go on to study for his A levels, and for me to make a good start to learning braille.
Mustafa had this to say about braille accessibility:
I believe that over the last 10 years braille technology has developed in leaps and bounds. We have reached the point now where the BrailleNote touch runs an android version alongside its braille side. I believe, however, that braille needs to become far more mainstream for it to take its next evolutionary step. Due to the nature of braille technology now companies hold a monopoly over braille technology, thus making it difficult for blind and low vision people to be able to access it. If more mainstream companies were to adopt braille into their products, I believe that it would become cheaper to manufacture and thus easier and cheaper. This would make it more accessible to blind and low vision users and make mainstream technology that little bit easier to use. Although it could be argued that this can already be achieved using a braille display, I believe if a braille display were part of a laptop rather than a separate component it would make life easier. I also believe that more sighted people would understand braille and educate themselves and others more about blindness.
What braille character
is on the £10 note?
I believe that over the last 10 years braille technology has developed in leaps and bounds. We have reached the point now where the BrailleNote touch runs an android version alongside its braille side.
I have learned a huge amount because of working with students with visual impairments, I now notice braille everywhere and take pride in being able to read it. However, there is a long way to go to empower people who rely on braille, for instance getting a book from the library that has been converted to braille is possible, but a novel will be large, and, in several volumes, which is not very convenient. Assistive technology like the Braillenote is fantastic for empowering children and young people with VI. However, there are barriers to its use. Technology like this costs a great deal of money and is not available to everyone who needs it. Putting the braille letter ‘G’ on the £10 note was a significant help when identifying money. Next time you go shopping, lookout for braille labelling in shops, it’s not that common yet but it is starting to emerge.
For more information or to embark on learning braille yourself, why not take a look at these websites:
- UEB Online | UEB Literacy & Mathematics Braille Training
- Paths to Literacy | for students who are blind or visually impaired
- The Braillists Foundation – Our Mission: More Braille!
Don’t forget you can share your CENMAC experiences for our CENMAC family to enjoy.
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