For the first time in 23 years, the world's most important and comprehensive braille reference book, World Braille Usage, has been updated. The new edition was released at the Braille Summit held at Perkins in June.
Often described as "the braille bible," World Braille Usage is a compilation of braille codes for languages from around the globe. The new edition includes braille codes for 133 languages—up from 97 languages in the previous edition.
"Braille, just like print, has never been a static system of reading and writing," said Dr. W. Aubrey Webson, director of Perkins International. "Much has changed over the last 23 years."
For this edition, a special effort was made to collect braille codes for indigenous and mother-tongue languages, which will allow more students to learn braille in the language they grew up speaking. The book includes eight of the most commonly used tribal languages in South Africa, as well as Iñupiaq from Alaska, Khmer from Cambodia and Ndebele from Zimbabwe.
"It is truly a global treasure," said Ellen Hall, Perkins International's braille literacy manager. "It contains the most comprehensive collection of braille codes available in the world today—braille codes that open the door to literacy, literature and lifelong learning."
World Braille Usage will answer educators' questions about proper braille usage, and promote consistency within each country's braille code. The book also preserves braille codes for rare and endangered languages.
Perkins coordinated the World Braille Usage update project, working with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Library of Congress (NLS) and the International Council on English Braille (ICEB).
Perkins staffers created questionnaires, translated them into more than 60 languages, and mailed them to braille authorities, government officials, educators and braille experts around the globe. More than 500 individuals and organizations contributed to the book.
The new edition of World Braille Usage is available in a downloadable format. The goal is to eventually offer it in an online format that will be more accessible to braille experts and educators.
"We also want to develop a system whereby the document can be updated with new information and include a growing number of countries in years to come," Webson said.
The first edition of World Braille Usage was published in 1953 and the second followed in 1990. All languages in the book are based on a standardized system of phonetics, which makes possible the inclusion of character-based languages such as Mandarin.
To learn more about World Braille Usage or read it online, visit Perkins.org/worldbraille.