January 4, 2022
“Braille is knowledge, and knowledge is power.” ~Louis Braille
World Braille Day is set aside to honor the tactile alphabet system invented by 15-year-old Louis Braille in 1824 that opened up the world of reading to people who are blind, deaf-blind. At All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD), the day is an inspiration to further his legacy by spurring the development of innovations that help all children learn to read.
Children with disabilities remain among the most marginalized in access to education, a challenge further compounded by conflict and crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Worldwide, more than 93 million children have a disability, and of those who reside in countries with high poverty levels, at least 90% do not attend school. UNHCR reports that children with disabilities are 19% less likely to achieve minimum proficiency in reading than those without disabilities in low- and middle-income countries.
Education systems often are not accommodating to the needs of children with disabilities, who face barriers such as a lack of suitable transport and infrastructure, inadequate teacher training, insufficient learning support, and a dearth of high quality learning resources.
Without new, appropriate solutions, we risk leaving them further behind their peers in academic and social development.
ACR GCD has grown to be one of the largest innovation funds focused on reading for children with disabilities, with more than $4.5 million invested in inclusive education. We are committed to raising the bar around accessibility of reading materials for children who are blind, low-vision, deaf or hard of hearing through advancing education technology innovation and research to increase literacy.
We are committed to raising the bar around accessibility of reading materials for children who are blind, low-vision, deaf or hard of hearing through advancing education technology innovation and research to increase literacy.
Below are a few of the EdTech solutions ACR GCD innovators have implemented and are working on to increase literacy outcomes for children who are blind or low-vision:
- eBraille storybooks. ACR GCD innovator Ekitabu is providing 220 eBraille renditions of storybooks created for the Malawian context under the Begin with Books prize. These stories will be uploaded to Orbit readers (a refreshable braille display and stand-alone reader device) across schools for the deaf in Malawi.
- Digital storybooks in underserved languages. Also under the Begin with Books prize, innovators SIL LEAD and eKitabu are creating digital storybooks in underserved languages in Mali and Malawi that are accessible to children who are blind or low vision through the addition of human narrated audio, which is engaging and easy to follow. This provides greater access to racing materials to all children, especially for underserved languages that do not have text to speech options.
- Early Grade Reading Assessments in Braille (EGRA-Braille). EGRA is a globally recognized standard for measuring foundational skills for literacy acquisition, and ACR GCD innovators along with monitoring and evaluation specialists from School-to-School conducted several of the first EGRA-Braille adaptations and baselines in the world to assess children who are blind/low-vision. Read more about the EGRA adaptation process and access the baseline reports of the four grantees who have conducted EGRAs for children with disabilities (as well as other grantee surveys).
- Human-narrated stories through Bookshare. With funding from ACR GCD, Benetech provided Marathi human-narrated audio capabilities to Bookshare, the world’s largest digital accessible library and Benetech’s flagship Global Literacy initiative. They piloted this innovation in four primary schools in India, providing students who are blind/low vision with accessible educational content to listen to on low-cost audio devices while simultaneously reading braille. Importantly, the project taught students to read in their spoken tongue, Marathi. Learn more.
- Expanding accessible formats. ACR GCD is committed to increasing accessible formats for children who are blind/low-vision–which is why we funded Resources for the Blind’s “Reading Beyond Sight” pilot project, which included a package of tools and technical support for intervention schools to help them provide materials in accessible formats (e.g. large print, braille, audio) and improve the reading environment with magnifiers, braille embossers and DAISY players) as part of a project that enabled the creation of 500 volumes of online, accessible, supplementary reading materials and lessons in Filipino, English, and 15 dialects. Learn more about this project and how RBI is building on it in a new project in the Philippines.
- EdTech to help learn and translate braille. Learn about a Catholic Relief Services project at the St. Bernadette Resource Center for the Blind in Lesotho that helped teach blind/low vision children with the use of two new technologies: the Mountbatten Pro Brailler (MB Pro) and the Jot-a-Dot. The MB Pro translates braille to text and text to braille, easing the transfer of resources and communication between students and teachers. The Jot-a-Dot provides a portable method for learning braille and prepares students to use larger, more powerful braillers.
On World Braille Day, we encourage you to take the opportunity to learn more about the challenges faced by children who are blind or low-vision and be part of the solution to advance EdTech solutions to increase reading outcomes for them and other marginalized children around the world. Below are a few steps you can take:
- Read and share six lessons we’ve learned through projects like these that provide meaningful insights for future literacy projects focused on children with print disabilities.
- Learn more about children with disabilities and solutions to increase reading outcomes and share them with your networks.
- Seeking a solution to address literacy challenges in specific context or language? Explore dozens of impactful innovations and approaches that can be used or adapted to improve reading outcomes for children in low-resource contexts–all of them free and open source.
- Learn how you can take action to increase literacy opportunities for children with disabilities in your work or programming.
- Interested in partnering with us? We welcome partnerships with companies, foundations, individuals and others that extend the reach and impact of literacy innovations toward the ultimate goal of all children reading. Learn more.
- Sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page to get the latest updates on innovations, research and funding opportunities.
Be part of the solution today!
All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development is a partnership between USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government.