SEATTLE — World Braille Day was celebrated Jan. 4 in the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library in Seattle.
Library Director and regional Librarian Danielle Miller said braille is truly literacy for people who are blind.
“To be able to read, write and communicate in their first language gives people the opportunity to be more competitive in school and the workforce.” said Miller.
World Braille Day is an annual day to celebrate the importance of accessibility and independence for those who are blind or visually impaired. Braille dates back to 1824 and is named after Louis Braille, who lost his sight as a result of a childhood accident. The system of raised dots that can be read with fingers was created back in 1824, when, at the age of 15, Louis developed the braille code based on the French alphabet.
The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library was established in 1931 and became part of the national braille and talking books network started by the Library of Congress.
The Washington Talking Book & Braille library serves the entire state and offers audio and braille books with an emphasis on local book production.
“We have our own recording studios and volunteers who read and edit the books," said Miller.
Youth services provide resources for toddlers to teens. The library serves around 8,000 active patrons per day and many reach out online or by phone.
“Our readers advisors are both blind and use assistive technology to help our patrons, so they really understand what it is to rely on assistive technology or our services as someone who’s blind,” said Miller.
Library patrons can get hard-copy books in braille or listen to audio books with digital talking book players that are loaned free of charge. The braille-on-demand pilot project was launched in June of 2022. Patrons can request and receive one hard-copy braille title per month, which they can retain for their personal use.
The longest braille book in the library? “The Joy of Cooking is thirty volumes,” according to Miller.
The library is growing by the day as more and more books are being translated in braille and audio formats. Miller said the most exciting part of the library is that they have the ability to help many more people who are simply not aware of their services.
“We are always here to help and provide a free service to the entire state of Washington by mail, by download, by phone or in person at the library,” said Miller.