World Braille Day 2019
Louis Braille: Six-point writing opened the door to education for blind people
January 4th is World Braille Day. The World Blind Union has initiated this annual commemoration day to once again emphasize the importance of Braille for visually handicapped people. The day commemorates the birthday of Louis Braille, who was born in 1809 in the French village of Coupvray near Paris.
At the age of three, Louis Braille injured himself with a sharp tool on his right eye in his father's saddler's workshop. Over time, the infection of the injured eye spread to the other, leaving Braille completely blind at the age of five. As the son of a simple craftsman, he would have been destined to lead an uneventful and miserable life - without any education or profession. His parents, however, initially allowed the bright and intelligent boy to attend the village school. Thanks to his intelligence, at the age of ten he received a scholarship to Valentin Haüy's first “National Institution for Blind Youth” in Paris.
At this institute, the children learned mainly by listening and repeating what they had heard. There were some books with raised letters that could be touch-felt by blind people. But reading them was very laborious and time-consuming.
From Charles Babier's night writing to Braille
In 1821 the Artillery Captain Charles Barbier visited the school and presented his "night writing". He had invented it so that soldiers could transmit messages silently and without light. The writing consisted of 11 dots (some sources also speak of 12 dots). But it was comparably difficult to read and required a lot of space.
This encounter inspired Louis Braille to his simple and practical Braille writing, which he completed in October 1825 at the age of only 16. However, it took some time for his idea to become established worldwide. It was not until 1850 that the six-point alphabet was officially recognised by the French Pedagogical Academy and introduced in Paris. By decision of the First Congress of Teachers for the Blind in Vienna in 1873, Braille became compulsory in German-speaking countries as well.
Braille did not live to see the worldwide triumph of its writing. He died of a lung disease on 6 January 1852 in Paris. One hundred years after his death, his homeland honoured the life's work of Louis Braille and had his bones reburied in the Paris Pantheon - the resting place of France's national heroes.
Experience the world with six points - Braille
Each character consists of one to six dots, arranged as on a cube. There are three versions of Braille in Germany: The basic font with all letters of the alphabet as well as the numerals and punctuation marks. The full font with additional characters for au, eu, äu, st, ch, sch, ei, ie. And the shorthand, a kind of stenography with 289 abbreviations for words, sound groups, syllables for faster reading. In addition, there are a number of special scripts for mathematics, music, chemistry and physics. The so-called computer braille or eight-point braille has been invented for working with the computer with the Braille display, in which a cell has not only six but eight points.
More books for blind and visually handicapped People
Whether specialist literature, current news or reading pleasure - to date only around five percent of all books available in Europe have a format that is suitable for blind and severely visually handicapped people. Nevertheless, Braille is still of great importance today, because it is the only way blind people can acquire writing and knowledge themselves.
Accessible literature is provided primarily by libraries for the blind, such as the Deutsche Zentralbücherei für Blinde (DZB). The library itself produces Braille and audio books, magazines, reliefs and sheet music.
An important step towards facilitating barrier-free access to literature for blind, visually handicapped or imnpaired people is the implementation of the "Marrakesh Directive" into German law on 1 January 2019. The Directive goes back to the Marrakesh Treaty under international law, negotiated in 2013 within the framework of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which is intended to ensure a better supply of barrier-free literature worldwide. So-called authorised bodies can now make literature directly accessible to blind and visually impaired people via the Internet. In addition, the law now enables the cross-border exchange of works in barrier-free formats. In future, more people will also benefit from the copyright exceptions, as the libraries for the blind will be allowed to provide barrier-free media for people with reading impairments, i.e. people who cannot read printed matter, such as dyslexics.
The German Patent and Trade Mark Office is also making its contribution: since 1 January 2019, the Office supervises so-called authorised bodies in accordance with § 45c of the Copyright Act. You can find out more in our press release.
Last updated: 13 November 2019