World Braille Day: Blind CBeebies presenter says braille brings 'light into world of darkness'

Video report by Granada Reports correspondent Ann O'Connor

CBeebies presenter Dr Amit Patel says braille brings light into his world of darkness as he celebrates World Braille Day.

Dr Patel is registered severely sight impaired (blind) having lost his sight overnight to keratoconus in 2013.

He said: "Braille gave me something to focus on when my life turned upside down. I never thought it would be an integral part of my life.

"My best moments in life, I can sit down with a braille typewriter and type up a book so I can read to my children. It's small things like that make me smile in this dark world I live in."

Since he lost his sight, Amit has been on a journey - learning how to make a cup of tea again to walking using a white cane. 

He is now an active campaigner for accessibility, diversity and inclusion, speaking out against the issues that disabled people face.

The UN named 4 January as World Braille Day. The aim is to mark the importance of accessibility and independence for those who are blind or visually impaired.

Learning braille is not an easy task. Amit said: "I needed to make my finger sensitive enough to read the dots - so I used to rub sea salt into it.

"Six or seven years later I use it every day."

Amit added: "Sometimes it's good having braille, but it's got to be in the right places. If a blind person doesn't know it's there - they are not going to read it.

"Braille is a unique way for visually impaired people to feel normal. But sometimes it's so expensive - as many things for disabled people are as they're not for the masses.

"Those six little dots really does change the world for me."

January 4th also marks the birthday of Louis Braille who invented the system in 1824, when he was 15 years old. He lost his sight as a child.

In Liverpool, staff and pupils at the Royal School for Blind joined together to celebrate the language.

Jade uses a Braille watch to tell the time.

Teacher Jade Smith is registered blind herself and uses tools like baking trays and tennis balls to help teach the system of six raised dots per letter. She says that learning Braille was life changing.

"My self esteem went right down - I was too nervous to go outside. Learming Braille helped me to know that I can still get about."

Jade shows Ann O'Connor her techniques for teaching Braille.

Whilst Braille is now used widely in public spaces, many want to see even more places like shops and public transport, use it further.

Ally Jones who works at the school says more needs to be done:

"We need more funding across the UK to make the world more inclusive for everyone.

"Everything is there for fully sighted people but those people who can't access it, can't see it, so we need to make it more accessible."

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