The Braille Literacy Crisis in America

Earlier this week I received a press release from the National Federation of the Blind that I wanted to share.


An astounding 90 percent of blind people today are Braille illiterate. This would be viewed as a national outrage if the same crisis faced sighted individuals, and yet blind people continue to be deprived of the Braille education and resources they need to obtain jobs, pursue stimulating careers, and enjoy the same opportunities as sighted individuals. Further, Braille illiteracy is the leading contributor to a shocking 70 percent unemployment rate among 1.3 million blind Americans and it’s only going to get worse – 70,000 people are losing their sight each year.

To help fund Braille literacy programs, the NFB has teamed with the U.S. Mint to issue the first coin ever to feature readable Braille.  The Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar will be launched this Thursday, March 26, 2009 at the NFB’s headquarters in Baltimore, MD, after which the coin will be available for purchase. 

Every coin sold will support Braille education nationwide and ensure that every blind American enjoys the same opportunities for success as sighted individuals. Note, only 400,000 coins will be minted and available for order at until December 31, 2009.

The National Federation of the Blind is also publishing a report to the nation, titled “THE BRAILLE LITERACY CRISIS IN AMERICA: Facing the Truth, Reversing the Trend, Empowering the Blind”.  The report, a comprehensive overview of the crisis and proposed solutions to reverse it, will be posted online on the launch day on March 26, at and

Why is there a Braille literacy crisis? 
As addressed in National Federation of the Blind’s just released “Braille Crisis in America – A Report to the Nation,” there are a number of factors that have led to Braille illiteracy in America, including:

    1. Negative attitudes and false beliefs that Braille is “slow,”  “unusual” and too complicated to learn
    2. Misguided notions that technological advances have become a viable substitute for Braille
    3. Limited access to quality instruction today
    4. Lack of standardized Braille teaching methods and credentialed instructors

What must be done to solve this crisis?                                                                                 

The NFB’s cutting edge research training center– the NFB Jernigan Institute– has launched a national Braille Literacy Campaign to double the number of school-age children reading Braille by 2015.

To help us achieve this goal and fund the campaign, we are partnering with the U.S. Mint to launch a coin with a special mission – the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar– available to everyone by the U.S. Mint starting March 26th in honor of the 200th birthday of Louis Braille. 

This stunning, one-of-a-kind collectible in 90% silver is the first U.S. coin in history to feature readable Braille, and marks a turning point for blind people of all ages. Money raised through the coin’s sale and matched dollar for dollar through other fundraising activities will support our Braille Literacy Campaign and literally change the future for tens of thousands of blind people.

How will the funds raised by the coin help blind Americans and increase Braille literacy? 
This Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar symbolizes the most significant investment in literacy for the blind.  While pressure from consumers and advocacy groups has led thirty-three states to pass legislation mandating that children who are legally blind be given the opportunity to learn Braille, more can be done.

Through its sale we hope to raise upwards of $8 million to:

    • Increase access to Braille instruction and reading materials
    • Expand Braille mentoring, reading-readiness and outreach programs
    • Require national certification in literary Braille among all special education teachers
    • Advance the use of Braille in current and emerging technologies
    • Research new methods of teaching and learning Braille
    • Enact legislation in all 50 states requiring special education teachers of blind children to obtain and maintain the National Certification in Literary Braille by 2015.
    • Make Braille resources more available through online sharing of materials, enhanced production methods, and improved distribution.

Why should I care about the coin? 
Each of us has a right to literacy. Every purchase of this one-of-a-kind commemorative coin will help reverse Braille illiteracy and ensure that every blind American enjoys the same opportunities for success as sighted individuals. When the blind can read, the blind can achieve so much more.


Also, be sure to connect with NFB online: 





One Response

  1. […] will be minted and available for order at until December 31, 2009.” Thanks to the Reading Zone for the […]

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