World Braille Day is observed every year on January 4, as a means of realising fully the human rights of visually impaired and partially-sighted people, and bringing written language to the forefront as a critical prerequisite for promoting fundamental freedoms.
The day was officially approved by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in November 2018. The first World Braille Day was celebrated in 2019.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that people who are visually impaired are more likely than those with full sight to experience higher rates of poverty and disadvantages which can amount to a lifetime of inequality.
Around the world, 39 million people are blind, and another 253 million have some sort of vision impairment. For them, Braille provides a tactical representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols so blind and partially-sighted people are able to read the same books and periodicals printed as are available in standard text form.
What is Braille?
Braille is a system of raised dots that can be read with the fingers by blind people and those who have partially impaired vision.
Six dots represent each letter, number, even musical and mathematical symbols, to allow the communication of important written information to ensure competency, independence and equality.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD) cites Braille as a means of communication; and regards it as essential in education, freedom of expression and opinion, access to information and social inclusion for those who use it.
Why is World Braille Day observed on January 4?
The day marks the birth anniversary of Louis Braille, the inventor of Braille language. He was born on January 4, 1809 in France.
Louis lost his vision at a young age in an accident. Yet, he continued his studies and even obtained a scholarship to France's Royal Institute for Blind Youth.
Prior to his invention, blind and partially visually impaired people used to read using the Haüy system, which involved Latin letters that were embossed on thick paper.
This method, however, was complicated and it only allowed people to read and not write. The drawbacks of the Haüy system encouraged Braille to come up with an easier alternative.