At Camp ASCCA I have met two blind campers who also had additional special needs like other campers there. One similarity they shared was that they both use Braille, but one used it more than the other.
It’s really hard to explain, but one carried a Braille alphabet paper everywhere she went to translate. When it came to following instructions or simply reading a clue during a scavenger hunt, she would bring out the paper that had braille on it, and the counselor would help her feel out the letters on the paper to make words. The other camper used a different method of touch.
When I got home, I researched more about blindness and braille. I soon found out that World Braille Day is celebrated on January 4, which was the birthday of Louis Braille, who invented the blind code. Nowadays the day is a day of awareness of the blind.
I found other interesting facts about the history of braille. In 1819, before it was called braille, a system of dots was known as night writing, and it was created by the French army at the time. The military used this to communicate in the dark without speaking to each other. Then in 1829 night writing became called braille, named after the man who perfected the six dot cell system to help blind and partially sighted people to read and write by themselves.
When Louis Braille invented the braille system for blind readers, he also created a way for blind people to understand and write music. The music sheets are in the same six dot cell system for each note that is on them. It is cool to think there are music sheets specially made for the blind.
However, as time went on people stopped using braille because it is difficult to learn. Instead, people now rely on audio texts, voice recognition software and other technology because they are so much easier. In fact, only 10% of people worldwide use braille today. As much as I would like it, braille is not considered a language, but a form of code, so students cannot get a high school foreign language credit for it as they can with sign language, for example.
Despite fewer people using it, braille is still used in so many different ways in today’s time. Game and toy companies nowadays are trying to find ways to make it easier for blind people to play their games. In 2019 the card game UNO announced they were making a new set of cards called UNO Braille. It would show the numbers and symbols, like Reverse and Skip, with braille in the top corner of the card saying the color and number or symbol. Also, in 2020 LEGO started having bricks in braille as well. The LEGO bricks have braille patterns on top and the translations below the dots.
Every now and then I come across foundations that support people who are blind. The awareness ribbon color for the blind is white. So on January 4 of every year, make sure to wear white to help spread awareness for people who are blind.
Even though braille is considered outdated, I still respect how useful it was and still is for so many people. The two campers from Camp ASCCA showed me that loud and clear, and I support braille all the way.
Whenever I meet a camper who is blind I always support whatever method they use to “see.” World Braille Day was originally a day to celebrate Louis Braille’s birthday, but now it is the day to celebrate and spread awareness of the blind. I hope World Braille Day helps you find a way to spread awareness!