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A complete And Universal Tool

Louis Braille is the inventor of the eponymous reading and writing system. Today, Braille is used, according to the Federation of the Blind of France (FAF), by more than six million visually impaired people in the world. This is why in 2001, the World Blind Union established World Braille Day, celebrated every January 4. Day of the anniversary of his birth, in 1809.

Braille Succeeds

Created between 1825 and 1829, braille succeeds the barber, based on the phonetics of words. While its final version was published in 1837, the Braille alphabet is today the most widely used by blind people. The Federation of the Blind in France explains: “The system is based on six points, the combinations of which lead to the production of 63 signs making it possible to produce all the letters of the alphabet, to cover all the accents, to produce the mathematical signs and scientists and to establish a complete musicography. And specifies: “The alphabets of the whole world today use the braille system. Just like a foreign language, it is learned but with time. For children, the assimilation time is equivalent to learning normal writing. For adults, the Valentin Haüy association estimates that six months are necessary for full braille; and twelve months for abbreviated braille. The latter makes it possible to read works published only in this form, or to evolve more quickly. The organization’s volunteers also offer Braille instruction, face-to-face or remotely. The modules are suitable for the visually impaired as well as sighted people wishing to learn. They include of course the accompaniment but also the supply of explanatory books and audio files.

This very particular alphabet is based on the highlighting of its points. It therefore cannot be printed or written in the traditional way. To remedy this problem, there are now printers (called Perkins), typewriters (called embossers) and specialized tablets. Not to mention terminals that can be connected to a computer or Braille notepads.

At the same time, different alphabets intended for the blind and visually impaired are being developed with varying degrees of success. They are generally based on the current alphabet, such as the Alston, Fry, Gall and Klein systems. Others like the Lucas and Moon scriptures use shorthand. Among this diversity, braille has established itself over time thanks to its many possibilities and its universality.

A Disturbing State of Affairs

Computers have enabled great advances, including for people with visual impairments, in particular for the entry, repetitive reproduction and remote transmission of texts in Braille. On the other hand, while the scale of digital is exponential, a study concerning the use of technologies carried out by the Federation of the Blind and Amblyopes(1) of France draws up an astonishing inventory of the situation: “The observation is staggering: public institutions such as private companies are often very far from the expected standards in terms of compliance with the level of accessibility required by the legislator. Indeed, the analysis shows that only 14.6% of public sites are accessible to people with visual impairments, and private companies are far from doing better. However, the law on equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities passed in February 2005 makes digital accessibility mandatory. On the occasion of the world day of digital accessibility, the Federation of the Blind of France seizes the opportunity to raise awareness among the general public. According to a study by WebAIM, worldwide, 98.1% of home pages have at least one error that affects their readability.

In 2021, the Federation of the Blind in France reported: “Blind citizens tired of coming up against the inaccessibility of websites every day had alerted the Secretary of State. [Faced with his inaction], they went to court through recourse to excess of power before the Council of State. They relate to several well-known companies. »

More generally, according to the organization, the country now has more than 1.7 million people with a vision disorder, including 207,000 who are blind. However, only 10% of websites are accessible to them, like 6% of books, 20% of films released in cinemas, and 4% of television programs. Books covering just about every subject are available, from science to music, history and of course literature. The Valentin Haüy association has also set up a specialized library that is among the largest in the world. It is regularly updated and lends its books free of charge to the blind. This summer, for example, volunteers mobilized to adapt 80% of the works of this last literary season. Made available as soon as they come out in bookstores, nearly 400 books are listed and accessible in audio version and digital Braille. Good news also at the start of the year: until now, a book printed in Braille cost on average five times more than a traditional book. Since January 4, they have been more accessible: 2,000 books are now sold between 11 and 30 euros. An important change that comes 40 years after the Lang law, on the single price of the book.

With its spread all over the world, braille has become universal and many everyday objects have adapted to it, such as watches, board games, measuring devices, etc.

This article is originally published on paysansdelaloire.fr