To celebrate World Braille Day on 4 January 2019 and Louis Braille’s birthday some of our clients got spotty and showed their dots.

We ran an email competition where our clients could either send in a photo of themselves in a spotted outfit or answer the question, ‘what does braille mean to you?’

Thank you to everyone who entered – here are the winners, and highlights from other entries. Louis Braille would be proud!

Winning entry: Heather Fitzgerald sent in this photo of Methven House Resthome residents wearing spotted outfits and playing twister.

Heather Fitzgerald sent in this photo of Methven House Resthome residents wearing spotted outfits and playing twister

Winning entry: Phoebe wrote her name in braille using shells at Peka Peka beach in Wellington.

Phoebe wrote her name in braille using shells at Peka Peka beach in Wellington.

Winning entry: Russell Lowry expressed his love for the six-dot system.

Dottie About Braille.

Over the dots the fingers fly
Feeling the patterns, understanding why
Making sense of the written word
Educational options now open I’ve heard

Reading for fun who would of guessed
A lovely book recently pressed
Entertaining my child with a bed time story
Sharing with her the amazing Christmas glory

All possible by the amazing Louis Braille
An incredible overcomer who we admire and hale
He’s added pleasure and wisdom to the lives of the blind
Continue to learn and expand your mind

Entry highlight: Christine Litchfield explains the practical uses of braille.

I have been reading and writing braille for 25 years. I use braille for labelling food items, kitchen containers, cd cases and other things. I even have a braille label with my name on my white canes.

I like writing braille as it is interesting with all the short-form words and contractions. Now with devices such as the Orbit Reader and braille displays for computers more information can be accessed in braille. Electronic braille books give access to more books and information for vision impaired people.

Thank you Louis Braille for inventing such a useful option to use for reading, writing and accessing information as well as playing games and using lifts just to name a few.

Cheers to Louis Braille.

Entry highlight: Grant Hughes shares a poem dedicated to Louis Braille.

Louis Braille

Undeniably the man no fool,
providing mankind with a tool
certainly of lasting worth.
Bestowing blind and sight impaired
Gifts of reading, writing they’d  ne’er dared
To dream of on this Earth.

A literalist one may suppose,
when told to dot his i’s, did those
then did all the others too.
And having thus invented “Braille”
small wonder that the world should hail
the man, for the dragon that he slew.

Entry highlight: Miranda Stanford on learning braille.

My name is Miranda Stanford, I have been trying to learn braille for a while now and sometimes struggle. If I get the chance I take the braille machine to my work as I work with children, I try to teach the children a letter at a time. They love it and enjoy hearing about the machine and what it can do. If I struggle with learning, my son Isaac sits with me and learns the first book while I attempt the second.

Entry highlight: Renee Patete, aged 19, describes how braille has helped her succeed.

What Braille Means to Me

From my earliest years on this planet I have been totally blind, and was fortunate enough to have grown up from braille. Under the guidance of two highly experienced specialist teachers, I learnt both braille grades by the age of six, and have been a fluent and frequent reader and writer of the code ever since. My former singing teacher was also the former Braille Awareness Consultant at the Blind Foundation, and she passed on her love for Louis’s system to me by teaching me to read braille music and sharing her work in awareness with me.

Braille is an integral part of my everyday life. Without it I would not have completed my education to NCEA level 3 with such success, learnt two foreign languages and music, or read so many wonderful stories. As a university student to be, braille will continue to play an essential role in my studies of English, German and linguistics. I am also a passionate writer, which I could not be without Louis’s fabulous invention. Even in the most mundane tasks of my daily life I use braille, notably when I use my braille display to read and write text on my phone. I am also a frequent user of braille rather than audio labelling, and am happy to teach braille to anyone willing to learn. My life would not be the same without this simple six-dot system.

I believe that Louis Braille’s code is an ingenious invention. He used six dots to create a writing system for many languages, which, in my opinion, is much easier to learn and more consistent than arbitrary squiggles on a page. Braille has been proven to be read both by the eyes and fingers, which could make it a much easier writing system for everyone, blind and sighted alike. More importantly, however, braille is a writing method which represents text in its true form in a way that the blind can read. Louis certainly achieved his intended goal of making the blind equal and educated. If only society would recognise its potential too, and realise that, with the help of this code, we blind people are at no disadvantage in terms of literacy,’ education, or employment.

It is common belief these days that braille is dying out. However I believe that it is quite the contrary. As I wrote in a jingle for BANZAT last year: “Us Kiwis know that it goes on living, braille is a gift that just keeps on giving.” During my lifetime I intend to share this gift with anyone willing to receive it, whether through teaching the code or simply spreading awareness of its vitality and importance. Rarely is a gift given two hundred years ago still being given today. My only hope is that, as time goes by, it will continue to be better received by all.

Entry highlight: Susan Williams wears steampunk goggles and a sweatshirt reading ‘stick around’ in tactile print and braille.

Susan Williams wears steampunk goggles and a sweatshirt reading ‘stick around’ in tactile print and braille. [Insert photo]

Entry highlight: Ekta Kumar wears a red top with white dots and a matching headband.

Ekta Kumar wears a red top with white dots and a matching headband.

Entry highlight: Braille advocate Julie Woods and her husband Ron covered themselves in dots in Dunedin.
Braille advocate Julie Woods and her husband Ron covered themselves in dots in Dunedin.

Entry highlight: Toby, aged 10, says Louis Braille is his hero.

Louis Braille is the name of my superhero.

Louis Braille was born 4 January 1809 in france. He lived in a small town called Coupvray.

What makes him a hero to me?

Louis Braille invented braille for me to be able to learn. He thought there was a better way for blind people to read and write and he persevered and found it. If he didn’t persevere and didn’t invent braille people would have still been very sad. I wouldn’t have been able to be at school and I wouldn’t have been able to be at Belmont.

How has Louis Braille made a difference to me?

He made my life much easier by inventing braille for me. I can read and write and do my maths and I can read and write my music.

The story.

When Louis was 3 years old he started to become blind when he had an accident.

When he went to school he learnt using his clever memory. He became very good at maths and science but he couldn’t read and write so he went to a special school in Paris for blind students when he was 10 years old. He really missed his family.

He started to work on his braille system when he was 12 years old.

It took him 2 years to invent it.

No one believed a young boy could invent a great system. So it took a long time before the rest of the world could use it.

Toby and his Dad on a tandem bike. Dad has a tshirt with braille.

Aine Kelly-Costello described what braille meant to her in an opinion piece on Newshub and interviewed our Braille Awareness Coordinator Chantelle Griffiths.

Are you interested in learning braille? Contact us on 0800 24 33 33 or email info@blindfoundation.org.nz