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What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think about the month of January? You probably think about the New Year and resolutions, exercise, and healthy eating, but did you know that January is also is National Braille Literacy Month?
What you might not know is Lions Camp has a fairly large Braille Library for its campers to utilize. Denise Rocha from LPEF spoke with Jamie Jannusch, Lions Camp’s Assistant Camp Director this week. Jamie showed Denise the bookshelves full of Braille books including the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series. “I was surprised by how big and thick the books were, it looks like it takes several volumes to make up even one book,” said Denise.
When asked who uses the books more, Jamie told Denise the books get much more use during the week we serve adult blind and visually impaired campers in comparison to the weeks we serve children.
In addition to the books, Denise told us she learned Lions Camp also has a Perkins
Brailler which is a machine similar to a typewriter, but instead of letters, it punches the Braille alphabet into the paper.
Now that you have learned all that, you can certainly understand why National Braille Literacy Month is near and dear to our hearts.
The Braille code has been around for quite some time. Louis Braille first developed the system at age 15 in 1824. It was introduced to the United States in 1869, but not adopted into the Standard English code until 1932. From that time until the early 1960s, many blind children were taught to read and write using Braille.
Unfortunately, after 1965, the literacy rate drastically declined. According to the American Printing House for the Blind, in 2014, there were 60,393 blind children. Of those students, only 8.5 percent (5,147 students) were Braille readers. The majority of those students were actually categorized as non-readers at 34.8 percent.
Many factors have contributed to the declining Braille literacy rate. The first was the passing of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Thousands of children became enrolled in public schools rather than specialized school for the blind. The problem; however, is the fact that many of those schools cannot afford to hire or train Braille teachers. The second factor is the misconception that audio books and talking computers are a comparable substitute for Braille.
Success in life is dependent on literacy. Did you know that the unemployment rate is especially high for individuals who are blind at 70 percent? A point well worth mentioning; however, is the fact that 90 percent of blind people are Braille readers. Learn more about the Braille Literacy Crisis here in America and don’t be afraid to share the facts.