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Braille Day in Canada, Feb.9, 2000

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Wendy Edey is a psychologist who practises her profession in Edmonton, Alberta. She is the Chair of the Canadian Braille Authority's Promotion and Access Committee.

Imagine what might happen if every Canadian who cares about Braille did something to promote it! School boards might be more comfortable with the idea of providing Braille instruction. More restaurants might have Braille menus. Blind people might be able to ask for books in Braille and expect to receive them. Companies might use the current technology to produce important documents in Braille. The list of possibilities is endless!

Braille Day in Canada is a cooperative project of the Canadian Braille Authority, the World Blind Union of Canada, the CNIB, the Canadian Braille Literacy Foundation and the Canadian Literacy Secretariat. This year marked the first annual observance of this day. There was a national launch on Parliament Hill and media coverage across the country. The CNIB distributed a film about the life of Louis Braille for viewing by students in Grade four.

There was a time when blind and visually- impaired children at all levels of intelligence were taught to read and write Braille. Braille lost some of its status with the demise of schools for the blind. Where once it was expected that blind children would learn Braille over all objections, Braille is now thought of as difficult to learn, optional because of talking computers. The slate and stylus-the blind person's pen-is virtually unknown to the current generation of children, possibly because adults lack the confidence to teach it.

Statistics show that the rate of employment in the blind population is three times higher for Braille readers. If you cannot read print, Braille is the best choice for making your own readable notes, or reading books to your children. Even though technology makes Braille production relatively simple, the general availability of Braille has not significantly increased.

For several years, the Canadian Braille Authority-a coalition of educators, service providers, parents and Braille readers has been asking: What can we do to ensure that children will be encouraged to learn Braille rather than take what appears to be an easier short-term solution? Braille Day in Canada is a first step toward gathering some momentum around Braille.

You can help. Don't just stand by and watch the demise of Braille. Ask for Braille. Think up a project for next year's Braille Day. Mount a display. Get a guest speaker. Talk about Braille in your staff room. Write a letter to a teacher, a government official, a company representative or a library asking for more material in Braille. Offer your opinion on the discussion about whether we need legislation.

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