World Braille Day 2020: Why braille remains important

04 January 2020

On this day every year, January 4th, we celebrate World Braille Day – the birthdate of Louis Braille, creator of the reading and writing system we know commonly today as ‘braille’.

A combination of raised bumps in cells consisting of two vertical rows of three, was invented in France by Braille in the early part of the 19th century. Braille took inspiration from Charles Barbier, an artillery captain who had attempted to produce a tactile communication system that could be used covertly by the French military.

Centuries later, braille is still as important as ever in the lives of people who are blind. 

Vision Australia client Vicki regularly uses braille for recreational reading, notetaking, cooking and even for performing on stage. 

“I’ve performed in a couple of plays with a theatre group, one of which I did a monologue in. All my scripts are in braille.”

Vicki is also a VA Radio Adelaide volunteer and you can tune in every week to hear her host the Australian Geographic program.

“I usually take braille volumes on the bus and get lost in my own world,” Vicki said.

“My first job was working in the braille library in Adelaide, my love of it started there. Nearly 60 years on, I have been using braille recipe books as well a Braille Sense Mini notetaker for taking notes.”

“If I am reading a novel in braille, I get the connection with the characters that I just don’t get as much through audiobooks. If I found something I really wanted to read, I would often get someone to dictate and I’ll type in into braille.”

“For me, it’s the independence. I’m a very determined and independent person and braille has helped me to become that.”

In Melbourne, VA client Carmela is a panel member with Women With Disabilities, taking on an advocacy role with a focus on family violence and isolation in rural areas.

For Carmela, braille is an integral part of day-to-day life, having used it since the age of 6. 

“I like having hard copies of things in braille, such as my cookbooks and recipes. I regularly borrow braille books from the Vision Australia Library. I’ve got braille all around the house, on my microwave, dishwasher and washing machine.”

“Audio is great but if I need a reference, a lot of people prefer to see the written word. If I have it in front of me, I absorb it a lot better in braille,” Carmela said.

“A lot of people now access things through the computer and audio, where I find they usually fall down in literacy, and spelling can become a big problem,”

“Braille has helped me be able to consolidate everything a lot quicker, it’s made my life a whole lot easier.”