The Accessible Books Consortium Supports World Braille Day

January 4, 2021

January 4th is designated World Braille Day by the United Nations General Assembly to mark the importance of Braille.  The WIPO-led Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) encourages the teaching of Braille to students who are blind or have low vision.

World Braille Day commemorates the birthday of Louis Braille, who invented the tactile system of six raised dots on a grid in the 1820s to allow reading and writing by persons who are blind.  This eponymous system also allows for musical notation.

Evidence demonstrates that persons who are blind or visually impaired who have had the opportunity to learn Braille show improved educational outcomes and higher rates of employment. Nevertheless, with the onset of technology, fewer children who are blind are learning Braille literacy skills at school.

Braille and Education

ABC recognizes the role of Braille as an important driver of educational advancement for persons who are blind and visually impaired.  We therefore support the teaching of Braille and the production of both embossed and electronic Braille.

The importance of Braille as a medium for literacy is evident for several practical reasons. Braille is the best way to provide a blind individual with direct access to knowledge of spelling, punctuation and the formatting of a document. In areas such as mathematics and the sciences, Braille also allows students to grasp equations and scientific notation that would be impossible to hold in working memory. These reasons are often cited by organizations representing the blind when promoting Braille instruction for children with visual impairments.

Refreshable Braille Display
Refreshable Braille Display (PHOTO: EMMANUEL BERROD)

How ABC supports Braille Literacy

ABC promotes Braille in all three of its primary activities:

  • Capacity Building– ABC provides training and funding to organizations in developing countries for the publication of books in embossed Braille or that can be read with the use of refreshable Braille displays.
  • ABC Global Book Service– this global library catalogue of 650,000 accessible format titles contains over 79,000 Braille titles, as well as 7,000 Braille music scores, which can be downloaded by participating libraries serving the blind. The sharing of library catalogues between participating organizations prevents the duplication and high costs associated with converting print books into Braille when another library has already produced the title.
  • Accessible Publishing– ABC encourages publishers to adopt “born accessible” practices, including the production of books in the accessible Epub3 format, so that their publications can be read by persons who are blind or visually impaired using assistive technology, including refreshable Braille displays.

According to a 2018 World Health Organization estimate, approximately 253 million people are blind or visually impaired world-wide. More than 90% of these are resident in developing countries, where the World Blind Union (WBU) estimates that people who are blind have only a one in ten chance of going to school or getting a job. A lack of accessible books remains a very real barrier to getting an education and leading an independent, productive life. The WBU estimates that less than 10% of all published materials can be read by blind or low-vision people.

About the Accessible Books Consortium

The Accessible Books Consortium is a public – private alliance led by WIPO; it includes the World Blind Union, the DAISY Consortium, the International Council for the Education of People with Visual Impairment, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, the International Authors Forum, the International Publishers Association and the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations. ABC aims to increase the number of books worldwide in accessible formats and to make them available to people who are blind, have low vision or are otherwise print disabled.

About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO assists its 193 member states in developing a balanced international intellectual property (IP) legal framework to meet society's evolving needs. It provides business services for obtaining IP rights in multiple countries and resolving disputes. It delivers capacity-building programs to help developing countries benefit from using IP. And it provides free access to unique knowledge banks of IP information.