Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

 José Álvares de Azevedo (8 April 1834 – 17 March 1854) was titled the Patron of Education for the Blind and the creator of the first school for the blind in Brazil. His birthday is also National Braille Day.

Life and Career

Azevedo was born on 8 April 1834 in Rio de Janeiro. He was born blind and was known to be extremely intelligent and endlessly curious as a child — he investigated the world around him through touch. His family sent him to the Royal Institute of Blind Young People in Paris, the only school specialized in education for the blind, from age 10 to 16. Azevedo attended the school at a time when it was experimenting with the newly introduced braille writing system.

He returned to Brazil in 1850 inspired by two goals: to advocate for the social inclusion of blind people in his country and to create a school much like the one he studied at in Paris. Azevedo gave lectures about the ease and  importance of educating the blind wherever he could, from family homes to the Imperial Court. He also taught his fellow blind Brazilians how to read and write in braille.

One of his students was the daughter of the Imperial Court’s physician. The doctor, impressed by his daughter’s development, organized an audience with the Brazilian emperor. Azevedo gave a moving presentation and showed what a visually disabled person could achieve.

He was granted the resources to open the country’s first school for the blind, the Imperial Instituto dos Meninos Cegos (or the Imperial Institute of Blind Children). Today, the school continues its education program as the Instituto Benjamin Constant, and has expanded its offerings to include physical education, acting classes, self-care and daily living guidance, and more.

He died on 17 March 1854, a victim of tuberculosis, at the age of 20.

Award and Legacy

For all his contributions, on 8 April, Alvares de Azevedo’s birthday, National Braille Day is also celebrated. On 8 April 2023, Google celebrated José Álvares de Azevedo’s 189th Birthday with a doodle.