January 4- World Braille Day

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World Braille Day celebrated since 2019, is observed to raise awareness of the importance of Braille as a means of communication in the full realization of the human rights for blind and partially sighted people.

A part of the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 17, 2018, titled World Braille Day (73/161) says:

  • Recognizing that promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms in the context of access to written language is a critical prerequisite to the full realization of human rights for blind and partially sighted people,
  • 1. Decides to proclaim Jan. 4 as World Braille Day, to be observed each year beginning in 2019, to raise awareness of the importance of Braille as a means of communication in the full realization of the human rights for blind and partially sighted people;
  • 2. Invites all Member States, relevant organizations of the United Nations system, other international organizations, and civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, to observe World Braille Day in an appropriate manner, in order to raise public awareness of Braille as a means of communication;


Various issues related to people with disabilities, including people with visual impairments, should be discussed, from their access to public buildings and transportation services to their participation in political activities such as elections. 

Now and in celebration of World Braille Day, we focus on Covid 19 effects on people with visual impairments and the initiatives and programs that have been started to alleviate their suffering. Let’s start with a brief description of Braille.

What Is Braille?

Braille is a tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols using six dots to represent each letter and number, and even musical, mathematical, and scientific symbols. Braille (named after its inventor in 19th century France, Louis Braille) is used by blind and partially sighted people to read the same books and periodicals as those printed in a visual font.

Braille is essential in the context of education, freedom of expression and opinion, as well as social inclusion, as reflected in article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Based on this article says: “For the purposes of the present Convention: “Communication” includes languages, display of text, Braille, tactile communication, large print, accessible multimedia as well as written, audio, plain-language, human-reader and augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication, including accessible information and communication technology;

“Language” includes spoken and signed languages and other forms of non-spoken languages; ….”

COVID-19 and People with Disabilities

Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities—one billion people worldwide— are less likely to access health care, education, employment, and participate in the community. They are more likely to live in poverty, experience higher rates of violence, neglect, and abuse, and are among the most marginalized in any crisis-affected community.

For the visually impaired, life under lockdown has posed several issues in terms of independence and isolation, especially for people who rely on the use of touch to communicate their needs and access information. The pandemic has revealed how critically important it is to produce essential information in accessible formats, including Braille and audible formats. Otherwise, many persons with disabilities could face a higher risk of contamination due to a lack of access of guidelines and precautions to protect and reduce the spreading of a pandemic. COVID-19 has also emphasized the need to intensify all activities related to digital accessibility to ensure the digital inclusion of all people.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many good practices have been implemented by parts of the United Nations system to promote a disability-inclusive response to the COVID-19 and disseminate information in Braille.

  • In Malawi, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has produced 4,050 braille materials on awareness and prevention of COVID-19. 
  • In Ethiopia, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) disseminated audio information and education and communication materials to media professionals and has developed Braille versions of the educational messages. 
  • UNICEF has produced guidance notes that are available in multiple languages and accessible formats (including Braille and ‘easy-to-read’). ‘COVID-19: Considerations for Children and Adults with Disabilities’ addresses such issues as access to information; water, sanitation, and hygiene; health care; education; child protection; and mental health and psychosocial support, as well as considerations for an inclusive workplace.

Related observances