This month we celebrated World Braille Day on January 4 in honor of Louis Braille, the inventor of Braille. I had occasion to reflect on some questions about Braille and I share some of those thoughts with you here.
I was asked, “How does Braille help you as President of the National Federation of the Blind. And what advice would you have for someone who is learning Braille?”
In part I shared, “I use Braille all of the time. My Braille display is connected to my iPhone, and I use it to take notes and read documents. And I especially use Braille when I want to have information and give presentations, it's invaluable. I have my trusty slate right here that I write notes on, jot little things down so I don't forget them. I can't imagine doing the variety of things that the Federation expects me to do without having a whole variety of tools available, and Braille is one of those very important tools.”
Members of the Federation encouraged me to learn Braille. I had been told when I was a senior in high school that they could teach me Braille if I wanted to learn it. Now, I was a teenager and did not see any reason to learn Braille. I did not learn Braille until I met members of the Federation who explained why I might want Braille. Members challenged me to think about how I was going to do the things I said I wanted to do without really being able to read and write effectively on the go.
So, what do you need to do if you want to learn Braille? Well, there are two things I would encourage. Number one is to find a mentor. Find a Braille buddy, someone who can encourage you, inspire you, read with you, and share notes with you. Don't go on the journey alone. I know that was a motivator for me when I learned Braille. I had a friend who was working on Braille at the same time. The other thing that I would say is put Braille under your fingers every day, and even if it's just carrying around some index cards with Braille on it, make sure you are reading Braille every day.
I didn't start learning Braille until I was in my twenties, even though there is a myth that at some point it's too late to learn Braille. Even learning the alphabet is useful for notetaking and for things like labeling household items, buttons, medications, etc.
In the National Federation of the Blind, we foster independence. In honor of World Braille Day, I urge you to learn about Braille, to commit to learning to read Braille yourself, or to improve your Braille reading skills. The more tools we possess, the more likely we are to live the lives we want and raise expectations for all.
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind
We know that more tools in our toolbox help foster independence. Unemployment rates for blind people are high–about seventy percent. Fewer than ten percent of blind children are taught to read Braille, but of the thirty percent of blind adults who are employed, most read Braille. There is a high correlation between Braille literacy for blind adults and employment, and we understand that Braille gives blind people the means to independently take notes, label items, and read in any environment. Adding Braille to our toolboxes is important. Like many skills, learning Braille early is preferred, which is why the National Federation of the Blind sponsors our NFB BELL® Academy and Early Childhood Initiatives.
Starting a young child on their journey to learn Braille can be as simple as reading bedtime stories with print & Braille books. Here is a note from a family who is doing just that:
“My smart, capable child can read thanks to The National Federation of the Blind. My child is a dual-media reader, which means he has enough vision to read some print but needs literacy in both print and Braille for true sustainable success.
The NFB is largely responsible for my child's literacy skills in both print and Braille. As a wise NFB-affiliated teacher once shared, “early literacy is best achieved when supported by the triad of home, community, and educator.”
The NFB has led the charge in increasing literacy levels in all three of these critical areas. Even the most supportive parents are not always well-equipped to support literacy, especially Braille literacy, at home.”
Braille is vital to literacy for the blind. Braille teaches grammar, punctuation, spelling, and vocabulary better. Check out our Braille Resources for more information.
National Federation of the Blind Enhances Largest Scholarship Program for Blind Scholars
Thirty scholarships are available for blind students who are residents of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico and who are pursuing or plan to pursue a full-time post-secondary course of study in a degree program at an accredited United States institution in the fall of the 2022-2023 academic year.
In recognition of the rising cost of tuition and after careful review of the scholarship program, each scholarship winner will receive $8,000. This amount will replace the tiered scholarship amounts used in previous years. However, special scholarships will still be presented to students in certain areas of study or with other specific qualifications. The application period closes March 31. Scholarship finalists will be announced later in the spring and will attend and participate in the 2022 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, which takes place July 5-10 in New Orleans. The class of finalists will select one individual from their cohort who will receive a special scholarship and have the opportunity to address the convention banquet.
To learn more about the scholarship program, visit https://nfb.org/programs-services/scholarships-and-awards/scholarship-program.
More Santa and Winter Celebration Letters Sent than Ever Before
The National Federation of the Blind sent out almost nine hundred Santa and Winter Celebration letters in December as part of our work to get more Braille into the hands of children. 2021 was the first year the Federation offered a choice of a letter from Santa or a Winter Celebration letter to parents and teachers requesting letters and activities for children. Braille letters and activities are a fun way to encourage Braille literacy and the response in 2021 was phenomenal.
Learn more about our Early Childhood Initiatives.
February Career Fair Announced
The National Federation of the Blind’s Employment Committee will hold the 2022 February Career Fair virtually on Monday, February 7, 2022 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. eastern in conjunction with the annual Washington Seminar.
The Career Fair is an opportunity to connect with diverse and dynamic employers and job seekers from across the United States.
To learn about registration and additional details, visit https://nfb.org/programs-services/advocacy/washington-seminar/washington-seminar-career-fair.
New Orleans Site of 2022 Convention
The 2022 National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, July 5 to July 10, at the New Orleans Marriott at 555 Canal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130. You can reserve a room now at the Marriott by calling 800-654-3990 ensuring you’ll be in our headquarters hotel. If you wish to stay in our overflow hotel directly across Canal Street, call 855-516-1090 to book a room at the Sheraton New Orleans.
To learn more about the hotels, registration, the convention schedule, and health and safety protocols, read the recent article about the convention in the January Braille Monitor.
More information and updates will be available at nfb.org/convention.
Throughout our local chapters and state affiliates to our national headquarters and diverse committees, the National Federation of the Blind is an organization of collective action. Here’s what you can do to get involved this month.
- Sometimes blindness is hard. Read "It's Ok to Not Be Ok" by Danielle McCann in the Voice of the Nation’s Blind Blog.
- Share information about our Free Slate and Stylus Program, Free White Cane Program, and our Scholarships.
- Check out our Early Childhood Initiatives.
We certainly are a busy organization. Don’t miss these upcoming events, workshops, and deadlines.
- January 25, 2022: Accessibility Boutique, Streaming Services
- February 1, 2022: Presidential Release, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, CC and Spanish translation available
- February 7-10, 2022: Washington Seminar, Virtual
- February 22, 2022: Accessibility Boutique, Strategies for Using Web Applications with Screen Readers
- March 1, 2022: Presidential Release, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, CC and Spanish translation available
- March 24-25, 2022: Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, Virtual
- March 31, 2022: Scholarship Application deadline
- July 5-10, 2022: National Convention, New Orleans, LA