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the 1st World Braille Day and a breef history on Braille writing

The 4th of January 2019 was a special day. Not only would Louis Braille have celebrated his 210th birthday – Since this year we can also celebrate the “World Braille Day”, after the United Nations adopted a resolution from the World Blind Union. This might seem as a good moment to review the history of Braille writing and blinds education for both go closely together.

When illiteracy retreated in the 18th century, it arose the question of how to educate the visually impaired. Therefore the first school for blind got founded 1784 by Valentin Haüy in Paris. Since the Braille system had not existed yet, blind students learned to read the alphabet of the sighted, using tactile letters which were barely sensible with the fingers.
In 1821 the army officer Charles Bavier De la Serre presented his “ecriture nocturne” a writing system consisting out of 11 dots. Their position towards each other formed different sounds. The system had neither a different sign for the numbers nor any punctuation. It should be used for soldiers so that they could write messages at night without the use of light. The inventor considered his 11 dot writing system also useful for blind people. So he presented it at the already mentioned blind institute in Paris.

During that presentation there was also a boy named Louis Braille among the audience. Unconvinced of the military writing system, he began to change it. In 3 years he had developed the now widely known six point Braille writing. Again 3 years later, Braille invented the musical writing based on the same system. However, he had to wait for the end of his life time before both his efforts and his writing system got recognised . In
1850 Braille became the official system for the Blind in Paris, and in
1851 Louis Braille received, already gravely ill, the medal of honour, the highest award of his country. On the 6th January 1852 he died, aged 43 due to tuberculosis.

Louis Braille did not experience the success of his invention. Nowadays blind people all over the world use the Braille writing to attain knowledge and to read. But it is not only reading braille. With the development of braille typewriters, writing got far easier for blind people. Now nearly 20 years of the 21st century have passed and yet braille writing stays as important as ever. There are still a lot of blind people world wide who do not have the possibility to learn Braille or to use the knowledge adequately. On the other side especially the blind in the western countries have an advantage from the technical development and the possibility of using braille displays, talking phones and computers or braille printers. As a consequence, the newly proclaimed world braille day may not only exist to remind us on the past or the progress which there is – we also should consider the problems and ways how to solve them. So let us look forward to next years’ January and a belated happy world braille day 2019 to all of you!