by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
As this is the last bulletin in 2022, we are highlighting the fact that January is Braille Literacy Month, and January 4th is World Braille Day. This year marks the 214th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille. While, as of this writing, there are not many announcements about commemorative events occurring on that day, be sure to follow the websites of major blindness organizations which announce such happenings in the coming weeks. The United Nations (UN) officially declared the holiday in 2018, and the first events were held on January 4, 2019. However, January 4th had been celebrated by the vision loss community for years before, with particular emphasis on the 200th anniversary in 2009. On World Braille Day 2022, the United Nations made a post on their website honoring the holiday, emphasizing the importance of equal access and Braille literacy around the world. It specifically notes efforts in developing countries such as Malawi and Ethiopia to make COVID-19 prevention materials accessible, through Braille and audio. This is particularly relevant not only because people in these areas have less access to technology and vision loss services as well as lack of knowledge of COVID-19 guidelines, but also because many countries still have very low vaccination rates due to a lack of uptake and/or supply. The post also features a photo of a training officer for poll workers in Sierra Leone reading a tactile ballot guide showing people with disabilities how to vote. This highlights the fact that many people with disabilities often do not vote in elections, either because they don’t know that they can, or because systemic barriers, such as voting access limitations, make it more challenging for them than for those without disabilities. As the number of people with vision loss literate in Braille continues to be low in the United States, efforts like these, as well as introducing Braille more widely into state and local education systems, are critical. You can find more about international efforts in the above post at the UN’s World Braille Day homepage which also contains additional links to historical background, stories, and resources related to the day.