By Diane Forrest
Yesterday I wrote about the seeing eye dogs. Today, I want to let you know about another tool used by the vision impaired to assist them with their daily lives. In 1809 Louis Braille was born. 43 years and 2 days later, he died, but not before he created a reading system so that blind people would be able to place their fingers over raised dots and read. When Louis was 3 years old, an accident in his father's shop cause an object to be tossed into his eye. His wound became infected, and the infection spread to his other eye. By the time he was 5 years old, he was blind. His parents took great pains to raise him as a sighted child, teaching him how to navigate around the town alone. He was "at peace" with his disability. His bright and creative mind impressed the local teachers and priests, and he was encouraged to seek higher education.
When he was of age, he went to school and learned to read by tracing letters on heavily embossed pages. These books were very heavy and hard to handle. According to Wikipedia.com, Braille was determined to fashion a system of reading and writing that could bridge the critical gap in communication between the sighted and the blind. In his own words: "Access to communication in the widest sense is access to knowledge, and that is vitally important for us if we [the blind] are not to go on being despised or patronized by condescending sighted people. We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals – and communication is the way this can be brought about."
In 1821 he learned of a type of communication used by the French army called night writing. It was made of dots and dashes that could be read by soldiers tracing their fingers over the pages. This method was too complicated to learn and understand, so Louis devised his own method. When he was just 15 years old he began working on his own system by using the same tool that cause his blindness. His work was published in 1839, and the rest...is history. He contracted tuberculosis and died, 2 days after his 43rd birthday at home with his family.
This is National Braille Literacy Month. ehow.com has some suggestions on how to participate in this great achievement. They include:
1. Celebrate the birthday of Louis Braille- see if you can learn to spell his name in Braille on the birthday cake.
2. Talk to your children about blindness.
3. Blindfold yourself and see how well you can manage to move through your own home with someone guiding you. Keep it up and see how much you improve.
4. Check out a book in Braille in the library and study it. Show it to your kids.
5. Learn to write your own name in the Braille alphabet.