January 2017 Issue  Volume 18  Number 1

Editor's Page

AccessWorld Recognizes the Birthday of Louis Braille

Lee Huffman

Dear AccessWorld readers,

The holidays are behind us now, and it is time to start looking forward to a new year. For many, that means New Year's resolutions and commitments to exercising, losing weight, eating healthier foods, and taking better care of ourselves. Statistically, people with vision loss tend to be among the most sedentary and unhealthy among all age groups, but it does not have to be that way. You may be surprised by how technology can help you become healthier in the new year. If getting into better shape is on your mind, check out Bill Holton's article on Bluetooth scales you can access with VoiceOver to track your weight loss progress through accessible apps.

On another topic, at this time each year, AccessWorld recognizes and celebrates the birthday, contributions, and legacy of Louis Braille. The fact is, 200 years ago, a child or adult who was blind had no effective way to read or write independently. Today, thanks to Louis Braille's invention and continuing advancements in technology, children and adults who are blind can read and write as well as their sighted peers. The invention of braille, a system of raised dots representing letters, numbers, and punctuation, truly revolutionized independent communication for people who are blind or visually impaired.

This month, AccessWorld celebrates the anniversary of Louis Braille's birthday, January 4, 1809. We also celebrate the braille code, named after its young inventor, and the expanded possibilities for literacy and independence this code created for people with vision loss.

The AccessWorld team invites you to visit The Louis Braille Museum on the AFB website, which illustrates the life and legacy of the creator of the braille code. Using photographs, engravings, and illustrations from books preserved in the AFB Archives and Rare Book Collection, the museum traces Braille's life from his childhood in Coupvray, France, through his student years in Paris, to his invention of the braille code and the recognition of its importance throughout the world.

We also invite you to read The Reading Fingers , the full text of Jean Roblin's classic 1952 biography of Louis Braille, and "Braille, the Magic Wand of the Blind," Helen Keller's essay on Louis Braille, written around 1924. In this essay, Keller describes how the braille system works and relates how she benefited from learning and using braille. She describes the reading systems that existed prior to braille and the debates of the late 19th and early 20th centuries over competing embossed systems.

I also encourage you to check out Cay Holbrook's blog post, "Falling in Love with Braille," on the AFB FamilyConnect site. If you happen to be a teacher of visually impaired students or a professional in the field of vision loss, you may want to take Reinforcing Braille Using the iPad, a webinar available for purchase from the AFB e-Learning Center. For kids, parents, and teachers interested in learning about braille in a fun and interactive way, please check out AFB's BrailleBug website.

Today, braille has made the leap into the increasingly fast-paced world of technology via braille notetakers and braille displays. The following braille-related articles from the AccessWorld archives will be interesting and useful to those who are interested in, or users of, braille and braille technology.

The entire AccessWorld team hopes you enjoy this issue and exploring the additional braille resources linked to above. The team hopes you will make 2017 the year you become more tech savvy than ever. We encourage you to download and try the AccessWorld app for iOS, and we wish you the best in the New Year!

Sincerely,
Lee Huffman
AccessWorld Editor-in-Chief
American Foundation for the Blind

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