As a means of consuming literature, learning, and communicating, braille has remained the biggest game changer in the history of inventions for people who are blind. It is only fitting then, that we celebrate the United Nations' recent resolution designating January 4 of every year as World Braille Day.
As a braille user myself, I can say firsthand that those tiny tactile dots represent so much more than the sum of their parts—they are a gateway to independence for people who are blind or visually impaired. Braille lets students who are blind or visually impaired learn at the same pace as their sighted peers, so there are no limits on their potential.
I learned braille at a very young age, and to this day feel gratitude towards my early grade school teacher, Mrs. Summers, who taught me braille. As a child, reading was very important to me, especially after I left the school for the blind and was the only blind student at my school. I often felt isolated. But I was a voracious reader, and reading was a constant comfort and solace. I also learned a great deal, including how to absorb information and become an excellent speller—because I was actually reading instead of listening to recorded books. The literacy aspect of braille is just one of the reasons why the American Foundation for the Blind will always advocate for braille instruction.
At AFB we believe that if someone who is blind or visually impaired can't read print at the same speed as a sighted person by using magnification, then they should learn to read braille. Reading is an important part of an overall quality of life—not just for education and employment but being a well-informed citizen and a person who can enjoy art, poetry and fiction, who can engage in entertainment and escape and all the things people use reading for. I rely on braille every day at work, and read fiction every single day. Reading is central to my life, as it should be for everyone.
But none of us can do it alone. We need to advocate for fundamental changes in our educational systems, our employment practices and the way society is designed in order to create a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. We need everyone to be onboard—educators, employers, elected officials and members of the community—to change the way the rest of the world sees people who are blind or visually impaired.
Braille is essential to learning for people who are blind or visually impaired, and AFB will continue to advocate for the availability of braille across every area of life, from school to the workplace to daily living. It's up to all of us, and I know a world of no limits is something we can create together.
On behalf of the American Foundation for the Blind, on this 2019 World Braille Day we commend the United Nations for passing this resolution and recognizing the historical significance and importance of this invaluable learning tool.
—Kirk Adams, AFB President and CEO
See also: UN General Assembly affirms World Braille Day, World Blind Union