With the festive period and the December holidays now behind us, and as we usher in a new year and a new decade, we at the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB) take this opportunity to extend our greetings and best wishes to you for 2021. May your personal resolutions be attained, and may you achieve your goals and aspirations.
Despite the fact that our country, like the rest of the world, is in the grip of a massive resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are confident that, with the roll-out of the envisaged vaccines, 2021 would witness significantly reduced infections and deaths from Covid-19, while simultaneously introducing greater economic prosperity.
While the country as a whole prepares to gradually ease into returning to work, school, and higher education, the SANCB commemorates World Braille Day by celebrating the anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille on 4 January 1809. In fact, World Braille Day, which was established by the United Nations to raise awareness on the importance of braille in education, communication and social inclusion, is celebrated around the world every year on 4 January, to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille.
But why should we celebrate the life and legacy of Louis Braille? Inspired by Charles Barbierr, a French Artillery Officer who created “night writing”, a method consisting of raised dots and dashes on thick paper used by French soldiers to communicate at night, Louis Braille invented braille, the system of reading and writing that is still used by many blind and partially-sighted persons throughout the world. The invention of braille was a significant contribution to the advancement of education for blind and partially-sighted persons. In fact, without a system of effective communication through reading and writing, the education of blind people would undoubtedly have remained as it had been through the Middle Ages. Perhaps one of the most memorable comments in praise of braille was made by Helen Keller when she said “The beauty of braille is that you can touch it and be touched by it.”
And so, while we celebrate the stellar legacy of Louis Braille, what is required is for the Government, as well as the private and public sector, to assist the SANCB in promoting braille literacy by enabling it to expand its braille production capacity so that significantly larger numbers of blind and partially-sighted persons would have ready access to material in braille. Equally important, resources are urgently needed to provide training in braille to educators in all provinces of South Africa so that they would be better able to provide quality support to blind and partially-sighted learners.
We therefore urge government as well as the private and public sector to support us in bringing this to fruition so that blind and partially-sighted persons would not continue to be denied ready and independent access to material in braille whilst bearing in mind the delays on the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty and the processing of the Copyright Bill which is essential for access to information.
Let us remember that service delayed is service denied.
Mr Lewis Nzimande
National Executive Director
012 452 3811