Reading forms a big part of our daily lives, whether we realise it or not. Even if curling up with a novel on a Sunday afternoon is not your idea of a good time, you’ll read signs, warnings and instructions countless times every day. Reading allows us to understand the world around us and keep ourselves safe.

World literacy is improving steadily, with 91% of 15 to 24-year-olds able to read and write in 2019 and, while there is still a long way to go, the future is looking brighter than ever before on that front. This statistic does not account for people with blindness and visual impairments, who are unable to see the characters we rely on so heavily.

On Monday 4th January 2021, we will be celebrating World Braille Day, in honour of Louis Braille’s birthday. Born in France in 1809, Braille lost his sight following a childhood accident and, as a teenager, he devised the tactile reading and writing system we now know as Braille.

What is Braille?

Braille is a system of reading and writing that uses our sense of touch, rather than our sight. Letters are formed by a series of raised dots, which are then arranged to make words just like with the traditional written alphabet.

Why is Braille important?

The simplicity of the Braille system makes it easy to print everything from signs to novels, allowing people with blindness and visual impairments to experience the full richness of the written word. It can, quite literally, save lives when used on warning signs and traffic light consoles

How can I help?

As smart technology takes over, Braille is becoming a less popular way for people with blindness and visual impairments to access information, with estimates suggesting only 1 in 10 blind people reads Braille today. Audio books and text-to-speech laptop and smartphone extensions aren’t viable options for everyone, though, meaning that Braille resources are more important than ever for those unable to access the latest tech.

Current copyright laws make it difficult for Braille materials to be shared across international borders, which means countries without the resources to print their own Braille texts are left without.

Braille Day 2021 is focusing on the Marrakesh Treaty, which would exempt Braille materials from the copyright restrictions, but requires every participating state to sign it. To make a real difference this World Braille Day, you could let your local governmental representative know that the treaty is important to you and worth their attention.

Charities that support World Braille Day

Pledjar’s aim is to help you put your pennies to good use, rounding up your spare change to donate to the causes that really matter to you. This January, you could donate your pot to one of our charity partners who are supporting World Braille Day. Both Sightsavers and the RNIB work to increase Braille literacy rates and advocate for those with blindness and visual impairments. The likes of Al Basar International Foundation have been fighting to protect sight because 80% of sight loss can be prevented or cured.

Find out more about donating with Pledjar here.

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