[A photo of Chris Flynt. He has grey-white hair with a beard of the same color. His face is rounded. He is wearing a sports jacket and a blue button shirt. Next to him is a black dog.]

Celebrating World Braille Day: Empowering the Blind Through Touch

Invented by Louis Braille in the 19th century, the Braille system is a way to help blind people read and communicate with their peers. Braille designed this system to empower blind individuals, utilizing raised dots arranged in cells to represent letters, numbers, and even whole words. This standardized method of communication has allowed for reading, studying, and online communication for the blind.

Chris Flynt works with Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind Solutions (IFB Solutions) and was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) when he was 11-years-old. He gradually lost his vision over the next 40 years. He learned to drive for five years before complete blindness set in. Flynt began learning Braille in 1994, which is a process of four different grades, similar to how sighted children progress in reading complexity.

Grade 1 introduces the basics – the alphabet, punctuation, and numbers. Most blind people, especially those losing their vision gradually, typically stop at Grade 1. Grades 2 through 4 dive into contractions, math, music notations, and symbols, but many, like Flynt, rely solely on Grade 1 for everyday tasks like reading signs and labels.

Braille is commonly associated with signs on bathroom doors or hotel room numbers, serving as crucial navigation aids for the blind. However, its use has diminished due to assistive technology, which reads text aloud, offering a more efficient alternative. Unlike Braille, which requires extensive preparation for translation, assistive technology provides a streamlined experience, translating entire textbooks into one device that reads aloud.

Most blind people lose their sight gradually, learning to read with their eyes before adapting to Braille later in life. Assistive technology not only aids in reading but also enhances the experience of watching movies and TV shows, offering audio descriptions that narrate scenes and read on-screen text aloud.

Despite the efficiency of assistive technology, Chris Flynt emphasizes the enduring importance of Braille. Blind people continue to rely on Braille for essential tasks like reading labels and signs in public spaces and at home.

As Flynt says, “The world is made for sighted people,” but this doesn’t make blind people helpless. They can live independently by doing things differently. As we mark World Braille Day, let’s recognize the significant impact of the Braille system and assistive technology on the global blind community. Through Braille and technology, the blind have gained access to education, literature, and employment, fostering independence and empowerment. Let’s strive for a world where Braille is universally embraced, ensuring that every visually impaired individual has the tools they need to thrive and contribute meaningfully to society.