World Braille Day celebrates the birth of Louis Braille, on January 4, 1809. Though not a public holiday in any country, World Braille Day provides an opportunity for teachers, charities and non-government organizations to raise awareness about issues facing the blind and the importance of continuing to produce works in braille, providing the blind with access to the same reading and learning opportunities as the sighted.
Until 2013, books in braille could not be distributed outside of their county of origin, severely limiting the number of braille resources. In June of 2013 in Marrakesh, Morocco the Wold Intellectual Property Organization passed the Marrakesh Treaty easing this restriction. The treaty went into effect on September 30, 2016 when it reached 20 ratifying countries. However it is only in effect only within the countries that have ratified the treaty. The United States has signed the treaty but has not yet ratified it.
This landmark treaty, which was championed by the World Blind Union, has the potential to dramatically increase the educational level of the blind throughout the world. However there is one big problem. Braille education is on the decline. Only 10% of blind children in the United States are being taught to read braille. There is a similar trend in the UK, and one could only assume the numbers are lower or non-existent in developing countries.
Audiobooks seem to have taken the place of braille for many visually impaired people. However, audio alone cannot give the blind access to all the information accessible to sighted individuals. Most specialists in the field agree that audio plus braille is the most effective strategy.
This map shows which countries have signed and ratified the Marrakesh Treaty. It was was created using mapchart.net, a free resouce for making beautiful and informational maps, and was downloaded from the World Blind Union website.