On January fourth, millions of blind people worldwide paid homage to Louis Braille on his 208th birthday. The braille system, which Louis began perfecting at the tender age of eleven, was adopted as the primary reading method of the blind by France in 1854, and started being used in the United States in 1860. Today, dynamic technological advances have caused the braille literacy rate of blind children to decline; According to National Braille Press, 12% of blind students learn braille. I wish to highlight how knowing braille impacts my daily life today, and will continue to help me in the future.
In the summer of 1999, I was a freshman in high school, and held my first job as a receptionist at Collette Vacations in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Collette had over 500 employees to whom I needed to efficiently connect callers. I placed the extension list in braille, kept it in a binder, and referred to it to obtain proper contact information. As my responsibilities at Collette increased, I placed tour descriptions into braille so I could respond to customer inquiries on tour highlights.
Braille remains important in my employment today. I am employed by a utility company, and receive emergency calls reporting gas leaks or odors. Each call is potentially a life-threatening situation, and I read a list of safety precautions which are written in braille. Soon, I will be delivering an oral presentation as part of a promotional exam. I will have notes for my presentation in braille to help deliver the speech with ease.
I know braille books are cumbersome, braille writers are heavy, and braille displays are expensive. However, without braille, it would have been impossible to learn proper spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Also without braille, I would not have been named to the Dean’s List at Fitchburg State University, or have recently received an award for exemplary customer service at work. As you consider whether braille is important, remember that of the 85,000 blind adults in the United States who are employed, 90% are braille literate. Louis Braille’s invention is one of the best gifts found under a Christmas tree; braille knowledge places people who are visually impaired on an equal pedestal with sighted relatives and friends.
By Tim Vernon