Louis Braille, blinded by a combination of accident and infection in childhood, developed a system of raised dots that can be read by touch. Named after him, braille is not a language, but rather a code by which many languages can be read. This code was developed from Charles Barbier's system, called "Night Writing", that allowed soldiers to communicate silently in the dark. Only a few books were translated into braille before Louis' death in 1852, but today braille is used widely.
However, a 2009 report by the National Federation of the Blind revealed that braille literacy among the nearly 1.3 million Americans who are blind has declined dramatically. In the 1950s, 50% of students who were blind or visually impaired learned braille. Today, only 10% of students are being taught this important skill. Several factors are cited for this decline, including a shortage of teachers, the higher costs of producing braille texts, and increased reliance on text-to-speech technology.
Despite the helpful developments in technology, braille remains valuable to many, and would prove valuable to many more if made available with better funding and schooling opportunities. Literacy of all types is something to celebrate, share, and support!
Click on the covers for all-ages books about Louis Braille, and people living without visual sight in a sight-based world.