Raising Awareness for Blind + Partially Sighted People on World Braille Day
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World Braille Day, celebrated since 2019, is observed to raise awareness of the importance of Braille (named after Louis Braille) as a means of communication in the full realization of the human rights for blind and partially sighted people. Braille is not its own language but rather a code that can be translated into many languages.
According to the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, Louis Braille was born in 1809 in the village of Coupvray, near Paris. He lost his sight as the result of an accident with a tool in his father’s harness-making shop. Braille was awarded a scholarship to the Royal Institute for Blind Youth (Institution des jeunes aveugles) in Paris. Here he was introduced to “night writing” by a visiting army captain, Charles Barbier, who allowed soldiers to communicate silently using a raised-dot alphabet. He spent several years modifying this alphabet from a 12-dot system to the six-dot system still used today.
Braille went on to publish “Procedure for Writing Words, Music, and Plainsong in Dots” and became a professor at the Royal Institute. He remained there until his death in 1852. Louis Braille did not receive formal recognition in his lifetime. The braille code was adopted in France as the official reading and writing system for people who are blind in 1854. In 1878, the World Congress for the Blind followed suit, making braille official worldwide.
By 1946, a type of braille began being sued for math and science notations. Nemeth Code, developed by Dr. Abraham Nemeth, allows one to render all mathematical and technical documents into six-dot braille. In January 2016, Unified English Braille (UEB) launched, replacing English Braille American Edition.
Being Visually Impaired During the Pandemic
Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities — one billion people worldwide — are less likely to access health care, education, employment and to participate in the community. For the visually impaired, life under lockdown has posed several issues in terms of independence and isolation, especially for people who rely on the use of touch to communicate their needs and access information. The pandemic has revealed how critically important it is to produce essential information in accessible formats, including in Braille and audible formats. Otherwise, many persons with disabilities could face a higher risk of contamination due to a lack of access of guidelines and precautions to protect and reduce the spreading of a pandemic. COVID-19 has also emphasized the need to intensify all activities related to digital accessibility to ensure digital inclusion of all people.
Take a look at the websites below for more information and resources for the blind community:
- National Library Service (NLS) is a free braille and talking book library service for people with temporary or permanent low vision, blindness, or a physical, perceptual, or reading disability that prevents them from using regular print materials. Through a national network of cooperating libraries, NLS circulates books and magazines in braille or audio formats, that are instantly downloadable to a personal device or delivered by mail free of charge.
- Digital braille and talking book titles can be downloaded from the NLS BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) service. Contact your local cooperating library to register for BARD. Registered users may also download audio titles on iOS and Android devices using the BARD Mobile app. Braille titles may be downloaded using the app on a device linked by Bluetooth to a refreshable braille display. To find your local cooperating library, go to loc.gov/nls/findyourlibrary or call toll-free (888) NLS-READ and follow the prompts or visit the NLS website.
- The Iowa Department for the Blind helps educate, train and empower blind and low vision individuals to pursue lifelong goals. With offices in Greater Des Moines (DSM) and field staff operating statewide, the Department is committed to three goals, including improving skills so the blind and low vision may obtain or retain competitive employment throughout Iowa, increasing confidence and independence in all aspects of daily life and improving access to information, activities and opportunities.
On Saturday, Feb. 26, the 2022 Iowa Regional Braille Challenge will take place from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. at 524 4th Street in Des Moines. The Braille Challenge is the only academic competition of its kind in the country for visually impaired students. Any blind or visually impaired student in first through twelfth grades who can read and write braille is eligible to participate in the preliminary regional events where they will be tested on a variety of braille skills. Questions? Contact the Library at email@example.com or (515) 281-1323.
The Greater Des Moines Partnership calendar of events is a one-stop resource for activities taking place throughout the region. Find networking information for Greater Des Moines (DSM) businesses or events specific to Downtown DSM.
Greater Des Moines (DSM) welcomes diverse talent to the region. As one of the fastest growing business communities, inclusion and attracting diverse talent in the workplace is a key strategy of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Learn more here.
Named the #1 Best Place to Live in the Midwest and #2 Safest Place to Live, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a city where you can have it all. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.
Timothy Perkins is of Cherokee and Natchez tribal descent. Perkins has served in logistics, equal opportunity employment and education services. He serves as commissioner on the Governor's Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs and the Iowa Mental Health and Disability Services Commission, as well as on the Greater Des Moines Partnership's Diversity and Inclusion Committee, among others, and has more than 30 years of service within the military.