Since 2019, World Braille Day is observed on 4th of January to raise awareness of the importance of Braille as a means of communication in the full realisation of the human rights for blind and partially sighted people.
The United Nations detail that 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 seen as an essential in the context of education, freedom of expression and opinion, as well as social inclusion, as reflected in Article Two of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
To mark this day, Youth Time spoke to Katelynn Lucas, Community Outreach at Seedlings Braille Books for Children, a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, based in Livonia, Michigan, United States of America (USA), is dedicated to increasing the opportunity for literacy by providing high quality children’s literature in braille to children worldwide.
Understanding Braille’s Importance
In this exclusive interview she spreads the message about how important braille literacy truly is, believing that everyone should be aware of and recognise the importance of braille literacy.
She began: “A child who becomes proficient in braille will grow up to be a successful and independent adult. According to the National Federation of the Blind, braille literacy is critical to personal and financial well-being.
“Ninety percent of blind adults in the USA, who are employed full-time, are fluent in braille.”
Katelyn further describes the main focus of their work and ways they reach the targeted audience.
“Seedlings Braille Books for Children’s mission is to increase the opportunity for literacy by providing high-quality, free and low-cost braille books for children.
“Braille books are rare and normally very expensive, sometimes costing $100 for one book. We give half of our books away for free and charge an average of just $10 a book for the rest.”
Seedlings contributes to literacy by providing visually impaired children an equal opportunity to develop the love of reading.
How is this going and how close is this organization to increasing the number of blind/visually impaired children in the USA that are proficient in braille?
Lucas answers this by first explaining that unfortunately, there is no way to track the number of children who have become proficient in reading braille by using their books.
However, they have 10,000 people in the database.
“These include teachers of the visually impaired, parents and other family members of blind children, children with vision loss, as well as donors and other supporters.
“This means that we are spreading awareness of braille and braille literacy to this core audience through emails, as well as the general public through the media channels mentioned above.
“The one thing we do know is that working closely with schools, teachers and libraries creates more resources for children and their families to increase their opportunities for braille literacy.”
From Scratch to 600,000
Through Seedlings Braille Books for Children’s important initiatives, people have an opportunity to be more aware of their mission, as well as the importance of blind and visually impaired children to enjoy an equal education opportunity.
Having this in mind, Lucas highlights one of their major accomplishments, while saying that the entire organisation is a success story in itself.
Lucas reminds us that Seedlings was started in 1984 as a one-person operation producing 221 books a year out of the founder’s basement in Detroit.
“We now have an 11-person staff in a 6,000-square-foot office, producing approximately 30,000 books a year. Over the past 36 years, we have produced and distributed nearly 600,000 braille books to children with vision loss in more than 75 countries.”
These high numbers illustrating Seedlings’ important, successful work would be impossible, or way harder to achieve without their strategic ability to reach their audience in many ways – through social media, website, print and online publications, radio and television.
“We do a lot of community outreach, visiting groups, schools, etc. We give short presentations showing our products and teaching people about what we do and how we do it.”
How can you help?
Conclusively, Lucas shares a few initiatives and advice about how youth are contributing and can contribute to this far-reaching cause.
She believes the best thing people young and old can for them is to create as much awareness as possible about Seedlings Braille Books for Children and what they do.
“Whether that be through word-of-mouth or by sharing our page on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, we invite your audience to let people know how important braille literacy is and how we offer free books for children who are blind. And of course, financial support is always an essential part of our work.”
Every $10 donated puts another book into the hands of a child with vision loss.
If you need inspiration for donating, follow Seedlings Braille Books for Children on social media to see their activities:
Photos: Shutterstock / Bill Bresers
If you need more inspiration for donating, check out this piece about the cultivation and significance of International Day of Charity.
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