Braille: Helping People who are Blind to Read and Write Independently
World Braille Day is January 4. The day celebrates the birth of Braille’s inventor, a French educator named Louis Braille, who was blinded at age 3. An accident blinded one eye and infection caused blindness when it spread to the other eye.
While the Braille system dates back 200-plus years, the annual observance of World Braille Day was established by the United Nations in 2019. World Braille Day raises awareness of the significance of Braille as a means of communication—it allows many blind and visually-impaired people to read and write independently. The day also highlights civil rights for people who are blind or have partial vision.
What is Braille?
Braille is a three-dimensional tactile language represented by raised bumps in a simple grid on a medium-weight paper or lightweight board. Various combinations of raised dots represent each letter and number so that books and periodicals can be read through touch. Music notation and mathematical and scientific symbols can also be communicated using Braille.
Braille resources in Seattle
The Seattle Public Library’s Library Equal Access Program (LEAP) offers a variety of accessible programs, services, and resources. Located in the Central Library in downtown Seattle, the LEAP Lab offers several assistive technologies, including Braille display, keyboards, and printer. The LEAP Lab is open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Braille displays are also available at the Broadview, Columbia, Southwest, and University branch libraries. All Seattle Public Library branches offer screen enlarging software (ZoomText), screen magnifying software (XP Magnifier), and screen reading software (JAWS).
For more information about assistive technologies at The Seattle Public Library, leave a voice message at 206-615-1380 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library, located in Seattle, provides library services statewide to any Washington resident unable to read standard print material due to blindness, visual impairment, deaf-blindness, physical disability (cannot hold a book or turn pages), or reading disability. The library served more than 7,200 people in 2021, and more than 10,000 each year prior to the pandemic.
The Talking Book & Braille Library offers audiobooks and magazines on digital cartridge with playback equipment and accessories for reading, braille books and magazines, and a youth large print collection. Audio and electronic Braille titles are also available for download via the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) site or by mobile app for iOS, Android, or Kindle platforms. The library produces audio and Braille books onsite to add to a national collection and offers activities and events for patrons of all ages.
For more information about the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library, located at 2021 9th Avenue in Seattle, visit www.facebook.com/WTBBL or call 206-615-0400. Volunteers are welcome—more information is available on the United Way of King County volunteer website.
Contributor Irene Stewart is editor of AgeWise King County. She communications for Seattle Human Services, including Aging and Disability Services.