Release Date: 
Monday, November 17, 2008
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

Geerat Vermeij to Serve as National Ambassador for Braille Literacy

Baltimore, Maryland (November 17, 2008): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s leading advocate for Braille literacy, announced today that Dr. Geerat Vermeij, professor of geology at the University of California at Davis and MacArthur Fellowship Award recipient, will serve as a National Ambassador for Braille literacy.  As an ambassador, Dr. Vermeij will help advance the NFB’s Braille Readers are Leaders campaign, a national initiative to promote the importance of reading and writing Braille for blind children and adults.  The Braille Readers are Leaders campaign kicked off in July of 2008 with the unveiling of the design of a commemorative coin to be minted in 2009 in recognition of the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille (1809–1852), the inventor of the reading and writing code for the blind that bears his name.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to have Dr. Vermeij as part of this historic initiative to bring Braille literacy to all of the blind children and adults in America who need it.  Dr. Vermeij is a professor, an evolutionary biologist and paleontologist, and an accomplished author—and he uses Braille to effectively do this work.  His success as a blind individual is surely an inspiration to blind children and adults learning Braille throughout the United States and the world.  There can be no doubt that the ability to read and write Braille competently and efficiently is the key to education, employment, and success for the blind.  Despite the undisputed value of Braille, however, only about 10 percent of blind children in the United States are currently learning it.  Society would never accept a 10 percent literacy rate among sighted children; it should not accept such an outrageously low literacy rate among the blind.  The Braille Readers are Leaders campaign, with the support of influential scholars like Geerat Vermeij, will reverse the downward trend in Braille literacy and ensure that equal opportunities in education and employment are available to all of the nation’s blind.”

Geerat Vermeij said: “I am honored and pleased to serve as a National Ambassador for the Braille Readers are Leaders campaign.  I can emphatically say that Braille literacy is critical and that the lack of Braille instruction in classrooms today is outrageous.  Without the use of Braille, I simply would not be able to do my job—I use it every day while collecting and analyzing data, maintaining an enormous Braille library of scientific material, and writing manuscripts.  Braille literacy has helped me to achieve my goals, and I hope to help other blind children and adults do the same.”

For more information about the Braille Readers are Leaders campaign and the Louis Braille commemorative coin, please visit