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President, National Federation of the Blind Braille Reader
Hall of Fame Quarterback
Dr. Abraham Nemeth
Inventor of the Nemeth Code
The Honorable Pat Schroeder
Executive Director, Association of American Publishers Former Member of Congress
Dr. Geerat Vermeij
Professor of Geology, University of California at Davis Braille Reader
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December 15, 2008, Issue #4
A Note from Dr. Fred Schroeder
In just a few short weeks, the world will celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, the man who, in his too short life, gave so much to blind people everywhere. For thousands of blind people, this landmark day will be a powerful reminder of the far-reaching impact this young visionary had on our lives when he developed his code so many years ago. We will pause and reflect on how so many of our accomplishments have been possible because of the miraculous invention of Braille, and we will be thankful for the opportunities it has given us.
For billions of sighted people, however, Louis Braille’s birthday will be just another January 4. For many of these people, Braille is a curiosity and a momentary fascination, not a vital component to the success. They occasionally glimpse Braille in a public place, and they are briefly intrigued, but most of them do not know that for thousands of blind people, Braille is the critical link to independence—the sole factor standing between success and failure.
Louis Braille believed in the capabilities of all blind people, and he designed his code so that we could be given the chance to succeed. He understood the critical role that being able to read and write plays in being able to function in society, and he knew the benefits that increased access to information would bring to his fellow blind people. Today, his remarkable invention enables many to achieve full independence in society. From participating fully in the work force, to achieving top marks in school, the benefits of Braille can be seen everywhere.
But for many blind people, the benefits of Braille literacy are not being realized. Our children are not taught to read Braille at an early age, and so they struggle through school, forced to strain their eyes to read print they can barely see, or taught to read and write only by listening to pre-recorded books. For many who lose vision later in life, Braille is described as being too difficult or too cumbersome, and they are kept from regaining their independence and securing meaningful employment.
We in the National Federation of the Blind are aware of the necessity of Braille, and thus, we will continue to work to insure that all blind people are given the chance to be literate. We will continue to work to spread awareness of the staggering illiteracy rate among the blind, and we will continue to work to pass legislation that mandates the teaching of Braille to all blind students. This has been our mission for many years, and it will continue to be our mission until our goals have been met.
Our work cannot simply be accomplished in the halls of Congress, however. It cannot be achieved solely in meetings with teachers, parents, and school officials. In order for us to be most effective, we must work with the entire public as partners and friends. We must demonstrate our love for Braille and the independence it brings, and through our commitment, spread that passion to everyone around us.
On January 4, 2009, the National Federation of the Blind will be holding events all across this country to commemorate the birth of Louis Braille. We will meet in bookstores and libraries, churches and homes, and we will demonstrate through our enthusiasm and commitment just how important Braille is to our success and independence. The public will see blind children reading Braille books, and they will understand that Braille can be just as effective as print. They will see Braille labels and clothing tags, and they will learn how Braille can help us to participate in everyday activities. They will see the blind writing on Braille notetakers, and they will realize that even as technology advances, Braille is still key to our empowerment.
Sadly, when Louis Braille invented his code nearly two hundred years ago, it was not seen as the revolution it truly was. Today, however, we understand just how important Braille is to so many people. On January 4, we intend to spread that understanding to our friends and community members. We will share with them the knowledge that Braille is not just important, but crucial in our quest for independence, and we will demonstrate on a grand scale that Braille readers truly are leaders.
How You Can Help
Give the gift of literacy. Although the Louis Braille Commemerative coin is not yet available, you can download a gift card to give to recipients. Then when the coin becomes available in 2009, you can buy it from the U.S. Mint.
As always, please encourage people to join this campaign list . This campaign is an excellent vehicle for us to build our list of individuals who want to learn more about Braille, want to help with Braille literacy, or are interested in buying coins. Every new subscriber is another opportunity for us to share our message, a message that carries with it the hopes and dreams of a future filled with equality and opportunity for every blind American.
Cut and paste this link to join the NFB-Braille Commemorative Coin & Literacy Campaign: http://tinyurl.com/6jdajq .
Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate through e-mail and texting quick frequent answers to one question: what are you doing? Now, when you are asked, “what are you doing?” you can answer, “making Braille literacy a reality for all blind people!”
The Impact of Braille
Do you know a Braille reader who is a great leader? If so, please let us know. You can e-mail your stories of Braille readers who are leaders to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Watch the video Braille: Unlocking the code . In this the exciting new video, the history and importance of Braille is explored with commentary and insights from successful Braille readers.
Look for the Louis Braille events in your area. Plan to attend and participate on the January 4 events, then tell us about it. Send an e-mail to email@example.com and let us know about your experience. We want to hear all of your stories.
Need Braille Books? Want to get rid of some old Braille books but cannot find anyone to take them? Wondering how to build your Braille book library? Want to help get more books into the hands of blind children? Never fear, the ShareBraille revolution is coming. . .
Photo: Blind girl reading Braille
Jim Portill assists Tim Kelly on a Braillewriter
Photo: Blind girl reading
A child reading a Braille book
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
410-659-9314 * Fax 410-659-5129
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