ENDORSED AND AUGMENTED BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN BRAILLE AUTHORITY [SABA]
January 4th 2021 is world braille day. In 2018, the UN General Assembly officially designated the world braille day as a day to raise awareness of the importance of braille as a means of communication in the full realization of the human rights for persons who are blind or partially sighted.
World braille day commemorates the birthday of Louis Braille, born at Coupvray, France in 1809, who has been credited for inventing braille, a widely used touch system of reading and writing for persons who are blind. This is a special code made from 6 raised dots on a grid. There are 63 combinations of these dots, meaning that they can be translated into many languages, including music. South Africa, with its eleven official languages, is also a beneficiary to the invention of braille through the provision of braille materials in each of these languages.
Braille is essential for literacy and lifelong learning of the blind, their freedom of expression and opinion, as well as social inclusion. This is in line with Articles 21 and 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 which focus on inclusive and equitable quality of education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all.
In celebrating the world braille day, the World Blind Union is urging all countries to ratify and implement the Marrakesh Treaty which enables distribution of braille, and other accessible reading materials, without the threat of copyright infringements. This is a great way of ensuring that braille remains relevant alongside new technology. Also, it is critical given that in less developed countries, braille production is costly, hence limiting the availability of reading materials for the blind. It is for this reason that by not signing the Marrakesh Treaty by South African government, SABA and its allies and members, perceive that as intentionally denying the otherwise print disabled, their inherent right to access reading material in their alternative and preferred formats.
Furthermore, as the world strives to cope with COVID-19 pandemic, access to information and reading material in accessible formats is essential for persons who are blind or partially sighted. Therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to call on governments, policy makers and all other stakeholders to ensure that reading materials are available in accessible formats, including braille, so that no one is left behind.
Meanwhile, SABA continues to promote braille literacy by advocating for the full realisation of braille usage in South Africa.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT BRAILLE AND THE SOUTH AFRICAN BRAILLE AUTHORITY, VISIT www.sabrailleauthority.org.za
The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization that represents the estimated 253 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations of blind people advocating on their own behalf and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment. Visit the WBU website at www.worldblindunion.org