HKSB News Release
HKSB Celebrates 200th Anniversary of Louis Braille
Pioneer’s Work Lives on Through Helen Keller Services for the Blind’s Braille Center
January 16, 2009, New York — Helen Keller Services for the Blind kicked off their year long commemoration of Louis Braille’s bicentennial with a birthday party at its Louis Anzalone Braille Center in Hempstead. Those who gathered to blow out the candles included individuals who work and volunteer at the Braille Center.
Since 1952, the Louis Anzalone Braille Center has provided Braille and large print textbooks and educational materials to students who are visually impaired in grades K to 12. “By producing and distributing a physical textbook for each student, we provide access to information that allows them to participate in classroom activities and demonstrate their unique skills sets,” said Karen Barrett, Director of the Center.
Louis Braille’s system is used world-wide. Born in 1809 in Coupvray, France, Braille lost his sight at the age of 3. As a student, Braille was unsatisfied with the system being used to teach those who were visually impaired and began inventing his own system by the age of 15. Braille’s code uses characters formed by the combination of six raised dots that are arranged in a cell. One cell consists of two columns of three dots each. These cells make up a letter, word or punctuation mark. Although Braille eventually became a well-respected teacher in his time, his system was not officially recognized in France until two years after his death in 1854.
“Mr. Braille’s system allows us to assist children in their quest for higher education and gainful employment,” said Ms. Barrett. A wonderful example of this is a student who volunteered and worked at the Louis Anzalone Braille Center, Christopher Kchao. Blind since birth, Chris was a production assistant who learned firsthand how the very books he used were put together. Chris is now a junior at Hunter College and dreams of becoming a lawyer.
Irene Major, a former teacher of Braille for over 26 years, volunteers at the Braille Center. “Braille opens up the world of books to blind children,” she said. “Louis Braille devised a brilliant system!”
Since 1893, Helen Keller Services for the Blind (HKSB) has been a pioneer in the field of blindness rehabilitation and served thousands and thousands of blind and visually impaired individuals. Headquartered in Brooklyn, the agency has additional rehabilitation sites in Hempstead and Huntington, Long Island and operates the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults in Sands Point, New York.
For more information on the Louis Anzalone Braille Center, please call Karen Barrett at 516-485-1234.