Calls for New Laws on Braille Labelling

A person using Braille

During National Braille Week, Disability Equality Scotland partnered with Sight Scotland and Oban and District Access Panel to call for action from government and retailers to promote more availability of braille labelling on retail goods.

We have urged the Scottish Government to consider introducing new requirements on retailers to provide braille labelling for a greater range of goods.  Currently braille labelling is only required for medicines, leaving braille users at a disadvantage to sighted shoppers in identifying other goods they wish to purchase and use.

Responsibility for labelling legislation is moving to the Scottish and UK Governments, having previously been a matter for EU laws where the requirement for braille labelling was introduced. The charities have written to the Scottish Government calling for new legislation which builds on this progress and makes braille labelling a requirement for a much broader range of retail goods.

Sight Scotland, which is Scotland’s largest visual impairment charity, organises National Braille Week in the second week of October every year.  The Scottish Braille Press is run by Sight Scotland as part of its services supporting visually impaired people, and National Braille Week aims to highlight the importance of providing publications and information in braille.

Marie Harrower is a member of Oban and District Access Panel and, as a braille reader, Marie has been an active campaigner for greater availability of braille labelling.

Speaking of the need for new legislation, Marie said:

“I feel passionate that blind and partially sighted people should be able to identify products, especially food products, in order to store away shopping, and retrieve products quickly, easily and with the minimum of effort. I wonder what people with sight would think if labels were removed and they had to seek assistance or do some guessing. I am absolutely delighted that the Oban and District Access panel, Sight Scotland and Disability Equality Scotland are vigorously supporting this access issue and campaign to have braille labels on products.”

Davina Shiell, Director of Communications for Sight Scotland said:

“Ensuring information is available in braille is vital for the inclusion of visually impaired people in our society. We know that some businesses and retailers are taking action to produce more information in braille, but still the vast majority of products do not have labelling in braille.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, when it was made harder than ever for blind and partially sighted people to access even basic provisions such as food, we believe this is exactly the right time to ensure retailers extend the provision of braille labelling. We are pleased the Scottish Government has indicated they will be reviewing policy and legislation on labelling. We hope they will support our proposal for new legal responsibilities to provide braille labels on a greater range of products.”

A spokesperson for Disability Equality Scotland said:

“Disability Equality Scotland firmly supports the introduction of braille labelling across a wider variety of goods. Statutory requirements for braille labelling are long overdue and until they’re in place visually impaired people will remain at a significant disadvantage in society.”

Braille Resources

Braille is a tactile system in which raised dots represent the letters of the alphabet and numbers, which allow blind and partially sighted people to access literacy by reading and writing.

Browse the following Braille resources to find out more:

  • The Braillist Foundation – What braille is, who uses it, how you can start to learn it – and why it’s called braille
  • National Braille Association – An international organisation whose mission is to provide continuing education to those who prepare braille and to provide braille materials to persons who are visually impaired.
  • RNIB – Blog on why Braille remains an importance accessible format.
  • Scottish Braille Press – A leading provider of high quality alternative formats and offers a transcription service to create Braille.
  • Sight Scotland – A history of Braille,  including who invented it, how Braille symbols are formed and how Braille is written.
  • Word Braille Day – World Braille Day takes place on the 4 January every year to raise awareness about the importance of braille as a means of communication