January is Braille Literacy Month

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Braille is used throughout the world by people who read a variety of languages. Louis Braille designed the coding system, based on patterns of raised dots, by which the blind can read through touch. January 4th is Louis Braille's birthday, and thus, January is also designated to be National Braille Literacy Month.

Louis Braille was born January 4, 1809, in Coupvray, France. An injury to his eye at age three resulted in total loss of vision. When he was ten, he entered the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, the world's first school for blind children. There he would live, study, and later teach. When Louis was fifteen, he developed an ingenious system of reading and writing by means of raised dots.

Louis Braille accepted a full-time teaching position at the Institute when he was nineteen. Unfortunately, he became seriously ill with incurable tuberculosis (a lung infection) in 1835 and was forced to resign his teaching post. Shortly before his death, a former student of his, a blind musician, gave a performance in Paris, France. She ma de a point of letting the audience know that she had learned everything she knew using the system developed by the dying Louis Braille. This created renewed interest in and a revival of the Braille system, although it was not fully accepted until 1854, two years after the inventor's death. Louis Braille died on January 6, 1852 at age forty- three.

The Braille system has been modified slightly from time to time over the years; for instance, to accommodate the new computer terminology and symbols. The fundamental version employed today was first used in the United States in 1860 at the Missouri School for the Blind. It continues to be used by many blind people around the world.

The South Carolina State Library's Talking Book Services offers Braille book access to qualified patrons via interlibrary loan from the Utah State Library. BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) also offers access to Braille books for download through Web-Braille. Web-Braille files may be read online or downloaded for viewing off-line or for embossing. Reading Web-Braille files requires a Braille display, Braille-aware notetaker, or Braille embosser.

For more information about BARD and other Talking Book services, please contact Sandy Knowles, Talking Book Services Director at 803-734-8650 or sknowles@statelibrary.sc.gov. Please visit the State Library's Talking Book Services web site at http://www.statelibrary.sc.gov/Talking-Book-Services/ for more information.