World Braille Day falls on the 4th of January. This day commemorates its creator Louis Braille and the tactile writing system he invented for the visually impaired. Louis Braille became blind in childhood after stabbing himself in the eye with one of his father’s tools. Braille is composed of one to six raised dots; the arrangement of these dots depicts different characters. There are 63 different characters in braille.
Roughly only 1% of all published books have been translated into braille, however, publishers are working on making books more available to the visually impaired. There is also the option of audio and e-books to allow a person to read. In the UK one of the only legislations around braille is that all medicine packets must have the name of the medication printed on the packet in braille.
Languages change from country to country and braille is no exception. There are many varieties of braille and dots that depict certain letters or symbols. Students can learn braille in schools for the blind, however, less than 10% of blind and visually impaired people know braille.
Learning braille is a lot like learning to read for the first time. You start by recognising the different dots and what they represent before moving on to structured words and sentences.
Blindness can have many different causes. Childhood blindness can be due to being born prematurely – this is called retinopathy of prematurity where there is stunted growth in the retinal vessels which can lead to retinal detachment. Other causes include vitamin A deficiency, measles, or glaucoma. With age, more causes can attribute to blindness such as diabetic retinopathy or cataracts.
Blunt-force trauma to the eye can leave to serious damage and blindness. In one instance, a lady was stabbed 30 times in the face by her boyfriend. The left eyeball was cut in half, half of the eye muscles were damaged, and the optic nerve was severed. In her right eye, the retina was completely detached. The retina is important for sight as it focuses images and relays information through the optic nerve to the brain. Surgery was attempted but this patient’s eyesight could not be salvaged. Other injuries that have led to blindness include a young man being penetrated with the horn of a charging bull, destroying the eye, and the force from a nerf gun bullet shattering the eye are some examples of what freak injuries can do!
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