World Braille Day commemorates Louis Braille’s birthday, on January 4, 1809, focusing our attention on the importance of literacy in the blind and visually impaired community. Literacy and academic success are linked to employment. Being able to read and write in braille is vital for people who are blind or legally blind, who are not able to access large or magnified print.
Text to audio technologies, like screen readers, have opened more doors for job seekers. However, at the current 70% rate of unemployment for those experiencing vision loss is staggering, leading to a $8 billion loss of productivity in the United States annually. Of the 30% of individuals who are employed and who cannot use large or magnified print, nearly 90% are braille users, indicating a powerful correlation between braille literacy and employment success.
The connection between employment and the ability to utilize braille means it is critical students continue to be taught this reading and writing method. Among students who are blind and legally blind, ages 4 to 21, 8.5% are braille readers, just over 29% can read and write in print, 9.2% are classified as auditory readers, 18.3% are pre-readers and a startling 35% are identified as non-readers, according to the American Printing House for the Blind (2016).
The need for qualified instructors to teach braille in our schools is significant. Meeting this need is complicated by a shortage of teachers of the visually impaired, a lack of institutions training these professionals and funding shortfalls.
Today, more than 200 years after Louis Braille’s birth, the importance of braille is still strongly tied to independence and success for many people who are blind and legally blind. Each of us can be an advocate for braille in many ways;
- Share the importance of braille with someone you know.
- Let your local school officials know how important it is to include braille instruction for students who are blind or have significant vision loss.
- Follow the Council’s monthly advocacy emails to learn about our legislative priorities, including advocacy efforts around education.
- Learn more about the new training program for teachers of the visually impaired at Concordia University.
- Contact the Council, if you are a braille user and want to learn how to use a refreshable braille display.
- Request a refreshable braille display through your employer, DVR counselor or school, to make braille more accessible to you in the workplace or classroom.
- Consider taking a beginning braille course through Hadley.
- Make your organization’s key publications available in braille. For example, we publish a braille version of our Council Courier newsletter.
Together we can honor Louis Braille’s legacy and ensure people who are blind or legally blind can thrive in school and in their work.