Thursday, 1 March 2007

World Book Day: Save Braille

On World Book Day it seems appropriate to make sure anyone who wants to read is provided with the means to do so.

Many blind people are being denied this essential skill because of lack of funding, resources, lack of knowledge of the Local Education Authority and lack of braille teachers. Braille needs to be promoted and is essential for blind people to enjoy the right to read!

I came across this piece on DoveGreyReader's blog:

"My name is Clare Gailans. I am totally blind and have used braille as my means of literacy since starting school at five, that's to say for over 40 years. I have always told people what a wonderful system braille is, and had imagined it would always be offered to those who need to use it to read. Technology makes it very much quicker to produce now, and the Disability Discrimination Act requires information to be produced in it if it is the most appropriate format for the recipient.

This is all very well for us adults, but it is becoming clear that shortages of qualified personnel, money, or perhaps just plain arrogance, are creating a situation in many mainstream schools where blind children are not taught braille, and those with useful sight are often denied it until their sight has further deteriorated. By this time many of them already hate reading, which is a huge extra strain on them throughout the school day - a stressful time for many children at the best of times.

Apart from the people close to me, books are my first love and I came to them through braille. Books can be listened to with enjoyment, but this is not literacy. I could not have enjoyed sharing my love of books with others through email, or made virtual friends with so many lovers of books such as Lynne, without being able to write, spell and punctuate. Listening to voices as a poor second to literacy would not have taught me these things.

Without first learning to read words I could not have mastered music through braille notation, which has been the key to my employment for the past 25 years, and my obtaining a degree in music from Cambridge before that. Braille has also been the difference for my husband and me, through such activities as music and chess, between being merely tolerated in the sighted community and being fully accepted, indeed sometimes looked up to, for our contributions.

It has helped me in a variety of voluntary activities, and to instill a love of reading in our two sighted children. I could not run our household efficiently without it, in every department from cooking to labelling the many reams of paper which have to be filed, and which without braille would all feel identical."

If you are a UK resident you can add your signature to the online petition.

Updated: I have just found a New Statesman article covering much the same topic.


  1. Fascinating story and I'm happy you put your fingers on something most people take for granted. At work, my collegue next to me in the cubicle, has struggled his whole life with the fact his "next" to blind, and all the stories he tells me how discriminating our societies are.

    Came across this post:

  2. That's a great link, thank you Tor.


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