World Braille Day puts spotlight on 2.2 billion people with vision impairment

World Braille Day puts spotlight on 2.2 billion people with vision impairment

Monday, January 06, 2020

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Being marked for the second time ever, World Braille Day on Saturday raised awareness of the importance of the tactile global communication system which enables blind and visually impaired people to realise their full human rights.

It is estimated that approximately 2.2 billion people around the world have a vision impairment or blindness, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a billion of whom have either not had their condition addressed, or whose impairment could have been prevented.

This one billion includes those with moderate or severe distance vision impairment or blindness due to unaddressed refractive error (123.7 million), cataract (65.2 million), glaucoma (6.9 million), corneal opacities (4.2 million), diabetic retinopathy (3 million), and trachoma (2 million), as well as near vision impairment caused by unaddressed presbyopia (826 million).

In terms of regional differences, the prevalence of distance vision impairment in low- and middle-income regions is estimated to be four times higher than in high-income regions. With regard to near vision, rates of unaddressed near vision impairment are estimated to be greater than 80 per cent in western, eastern and central sub-Saharan Africa, while comparative rates in high-income regions of North America, Australasia, western Europe, and of Asia-Pacific are reported to be lower than 10 per cent.

“People with vision impairment are more likely than those without to experience higher rates of poverty and disadvantage, the UN said in a statement on its website.

“Not meeting their needs or fulfilling their rights has wide-reaching consequences: vision loss often represents a lifetime of inequality, poorer health, and barriers to education and employment.”

Braille is a tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols using six dots to represent each letter and number, as well as musical, mathematical and scientific symbols. Named after its inventor, Louis Braille, the system is used by blind and partially sighted people to read the same books and periodicals as those printed in a visual font.

Braille, who was born on January 4, 1809, created the eponymous system at age 15, after having become blind in a childhood accident.

It has been tweaked over the years and as early as 1949, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) took the initiative to promote a survey of problems aimed at establishing Braille uniformity.

The 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which has advanced the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities, considers Braille essential for education, freedom of expression and opinion, access to information, and social inclusion.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2015, further pledges that no one will be left behind in the aim to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives.

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