4 January is Louis Braille’s birthday (he would have been 211 this year if he was still alive). It’s no coincidence, then, that, since 2019, the United Nations has formally celebrated this date as “World Braille Day”, an international day of observance “… 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.” In spite of how recent it is, it already feels firmly established in the calendars of the sight loss industry, attracting a great deal of online publicity this year. Perhaps that’s because, for many, the significance of Louis Braille’s birthday predates the UN’s intervention: organisations in the United States of America have observed National Braille Literacy Month in January since at least 2011, and Royal Blind’s National Braille Week in the UK was held in the week containing 4 January until 2013. (It’s now held in the second week in October to coincide with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’s “World Sight Day”, held on the second Thursday in October.)
One of the more creative announcements to spring from this year’s World Braille Day came from VICTA, a national charity in the UK which provides support to blind and partially sighted children and young adults (aged 29 or under) and their families. They’ve launched their first ever competition to challenge children and young people to push the boundaries of their creativity and use the braille system to produce a piece of art. Blind and partially sighted 0-10-year-olds are invited to present a creative way of displaying their name in braille using different objects, whilst 11-29-year-olds should find a way to use braille to create a picture. £50 and £25 Amazon vouchers are up for grabs respectively for the winners and the runners up in each category, and chosen finalists will be displayed in a booklet and an online gallery. Entries close at 5:00 PM on 31 January 2020.
We spoke with Luke Wakefield, Head of Activities & Strategic Programmes at VICTA, about the competition and the charity as a whole.