Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy Birthday Louis Braille

I wish to add a belated but heart felt happy birthday to Mr. Braille, whose bicentennial occured on 1-4 of this year. Celebrations and educational events have already begun and are scheduled to continue throughout the year. I trust and hope this educational push will encourage both the sighted and blind to understand why Braille is not merely important but absolutely necessary for independence.

Happy Birthday Mr. Braille! — $200 discount on our Braille products
Longueuil, January 6th, 2008 — January 4th 2009 marked the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille. Louis Braille is the inventor of the Braille reading and writing system used internationally by people who are blind and visually impaired. It is the only method by which the blind can be truly literate. Statistics show that 85% of employed blind people use Braille to perform part of their job.
HumanWare has been at the forefront of providing award-winning Braille solutions for both students and professionals. HumanWare's BrailleNote note takers are used by thousands of students and professionals who create and access documents and books to be read in Braille. HumanWare offers other Braille solutions from the pocketsize BrailleConnect for use with mobile devices and laptops, several sizes of the Brailliant Braille displays for the workplace, and personal and institutional Braille embossers.

HumanWare will be celebrating this two hundredth anniversary throughout the year with many future announcements. To begin the year with the true spirit, HumanWare is pleased to offer to all of our customers in the Americas a $200 discount on the purchase on any of our Braille products.

HumanWare realizes that much work remains to be done to insure that all blind individuals have an opportunity to learn and use Braille. HumanWare has worked on many initiatives in the past to make Braille more accessible and will vigorously pursue these activities in 2009 and beyond to make illiteracy among the blind a thing of the past.

Campaign tries to teach the benefits of Braille


January 5, 2009 - 2:38PM

Since its invention in the 1820s, Braille has been the key to literacy - and employment - for blind people, according to the National Federation of the Blind.

It's appalling that only 10 percent of blind children in the United States are learning Braille, said Kevan Worley, president of the federation's Colorado Springs chapter.

Nationally, about 70 percent of blind people are unemployed, Worley said. But, he said, more than 80 percent of blind people who have learned Braille are employed.

The federation has launched a Braille literacy campaign as it celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, the blind Frenchman who invented the Braille alphabet and published it in 1829. Sunday, Worley and other members of the local chapter demonstrated various mechanical and electronic Braille writers at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Briargate Boulevard. Similar events took place at about 60 bookstores across the country.

The small Braille machines easily attracted the attention of children visiting the store.

"Kids love to learn about Braille because it's a code," Worley said. Many myths about Braille - that's it's slow and hard to learn or that it can be replaced by audio material - have kept the Braille literacy rate low, he said. Also, there's a shortage of qualified teachers. But perhaps the biggest obstacle is that most blind children have some visual capabilities and are encouraged to use that rather than learn Braille, Worley and others said.

Rene Harrell, who is teaching Braille to her 7-year-old daughter Clare, said: "The default is to use print because people believe it's easier and it's less intimidating."

That might be OK for children's books when there's only a few large-print words on a page, she said, but by the time blind students get to high school they can't keep up with the reading and can't compete for college and jobs.

Harrell said she adopted Clare when she was 4 and at first believed that she could only perceive light. It turned out that Clare has some visual abilities, but they can vary based on the environment and other factors.

"We decided to let Clare use her vision when it's useful and let her learn techniques for when it's not," Harrell said.

Most children learn Braille at about the same rate that seeing children learn to read, Worley said. And it opens a world to them that listening to audio books alone cannot. When he adopted his son, Nijat, from Azerbaijan at age 11, he'd had no Braille training. He was living in a refugee camp and when his sight was lost at age 9, his schooling had stopped.

Nijat said he quickly picked up Braille (and English), learning to read it with Harry Potter books. He graduated last year from Cheyenne Mountain High School and is now a freshman at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Now he teaches his dad how to download the newspaper on the equivalent of a Braille laptop, as well as scanning and downloading his textbooks so that he can read them in Braille.

Contrary to popular belief, adults who lose their sight later in life can learn Braille, too, Worley said.

Rob Lewark, 45, awoke one day in May 2005 and could barely see. His vision was about 80 percent gone, and by January 2006, he was blind because of glaucoma. He'd done a variety of things but in midlife had gone back to school and became an architect. That career was gone, too.

But he learned Braille at the Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton, and soon was running his own cafe on Peterson Air Force Base.

"There are a lot of things blind people can do," he said. As for the saying "Life's a bitch," Lewark had his comeback tattooed in Braille on his arm: "Let's get this bitch started."

I also have to mention the continuous and tireless work of the National Braille Press. Their quest to provide Braille at prices our sighted counterparts would pay is a praise worthy one.

No comments: