A complete and universal tool

Every January 4, World Braille Day is celebrated. Initiated by the World Blind Union, it aims to raise public awareness of the importance of this form of communication for the visually impaired.

Louis Braille is the inventor of the eponymous reading and writing system. Today, Braille is used, according to the Federation of the Blind of France (FAF), by more than six million visually impaired people in the world. This is why in 2001, the World Blind Union established World Braille Day, which is celebrated every January 4th. Anniversary day of his birth, in 1809.

Created between 1825 and 1829, braille succeeded the barber, based on the phonetics of words. While its last version was published in 1837, the Braille alphabet is today the most widely used by the blind. The Federation of the Blind of France explains: The system is based on six points whose combinations lead to the creation of 63 signs that make it possible to form all the letters of the alphabet, to cover all the accents, to form mathematical and scientific signs and to establish a complete musicography. “And defines:” Alphabets around the world now use the braille system. Just like a foreign language, it is learned but over time. For children, the assimilation time is equivalent to learning normal writing. For adults, the Valentin Haüy association estimates that six months are needed for complete braille; and twelve months for abbreviated braille. The latter makes it possible to read works published only in this form, or to develop more quickly. The organization’s volunteers also offer Braille instruction, face-to-face or remotely. The modules are suitable for the visually impaired as well as sighted people who want to learn. Of course, they include support, but also the supply of explanatory books and audio files.

This particular alphabet is based on highlighting its points. Therefore, it cannot be printed or written in the traditional way. To remedy this problem, there are now printers (called Perkins), typewriters (called embossers) and special tablets. Not to mention terminals that can be connected to a computer or Braille notepad.

At the same time, various alphabets intended for the blind and visually impaired were developed with varying degrees of success. They are usually based on the existing alphabet, such as the Alston, Fry, Gall and Klein systems. Others such as the Luke and Moon scriptures use shorthand. Among this diversity, braille has developed over time thanks to its many possibilities and universality.

A disturbing situation

Information technology has enabled great progress, including for the visually impaired, especially for entering, reproducing and long-distance transmission of Braille texts. On the other hand, while the scale of digital is exponential, a study about the use of technologies conducted by the Federation of the blind and amblyopic(1) de France draws an impressive inventory of the situation: ” The observation is surprising: public institutions and private companies are often very far from the expected standard in terms of compliance with the level of accessibility required by the legislator. In fact, the analysis shows that only 14.6% of public sites are accessible to visually impaired people, and private companies are far from doing better. However, the law on equal rights and opportunities for persons with disabilities passed in February 2005 makes digital accessibility mandatory. On the occasion of the international day of digital accessibility, the Federation of the Blind of France is taking the opportunity to raise awareness among the general public. According to a study conducted by WebAIM, worldwide, 98.1% of home pages contain at least one error that affects their readability.

In 2021, the Federation of the Blind in France reported: ” Blind citizens who are tired of fighting the lack of access to websites on a daily basis have alerted the Secretary of State. [Face à son inaction], they went to court by way of recourse to excessive power before the Council of State. They are related to some well-known companies. »

Overall, according to the organization, the country today has more than 1.7 million people with vision problems, including 207,000 blind people. However, only 10% of websites are accessible to them, as are 6% of books, 20% of movies released in theaters, and 4% of television programs. Books covering almost every subject are available, from science to music, history and of course literature. The Valentin Haüy association has also set up a special library that is among the largest in the world. It is regularly updated and lends its books free of charge to the blind. This summer, for example, volunteers mobilized to adapt 80% of the works of this last literary season. Made available as soon as they appear in bookstores, nearly 400 books are listed and accessible in audio versions and digital Braille. Also good news at the beginning of the year: until today, a book printed in Braille costs on average five times more than a traditional book. Since January 4, they have become more accessible: 2,000 books are now sold for between 11 and 30 euros. An important change that came 40 years after Lang’s law, in the single book price.

As it spread throughout the world, braille became universal and many everyday objects adapted to it, such as watches, board games, measuring devices, etc.

(1) Amblyopia, a common cause of vision loss in children, is visual impairment that occurs because the brain does not process the image it receives from one of the eyes.

Clara Serrano

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