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Laughs for literacy coming to Boston

Comedian Tom Papa will host A Million Laughs for Literacy on October 19 at the Westin Boston Waterfront to support the National Braille Press literacy campaign.

Tom Papa, comedian and host of the hit TV show "The Marriage Ref" will host A Million Laughs For Literacy, a gala and live auction to support the National Braille Press literacy campaign, on October 19 at the Westin Boston Waterfront.

The National Braille Press, located in the Back Bay, was founded in 1927 to help blind children and adults become literate through braille.

The gala is held each year to help raise money to provide braille books to thousands of blind children and their families.

Brian MacDonald, President of the National Braille Press, says learning braille is the foundation of education and literacy for blind children.

"Researchers have found that using braille actually lights up the brain the same way a sighted person might notice colors," said MacDonald.

The agency made national news when it transcribed the Harry Potter books into braille under tight security so blind children could read the popular bestseller at the same time as sighted children.

Today about 84 percent of blind children attend public schools.  While that's good news, MacDonald says, unfortunately only about 15 percent of blind students can read braille.

Hoping to make braille technology available to all blind children one day, MacDonald has gathered some of the best and brightest minds in the country to form the Center for Braille Innovation, a group working to create new technology to help blind children become literate through braille.

The group is working on a prototype of an IPad or tablet that will combine braille technology with haptics or the ability to produce a braille image using an electric current.

MacDonald says the group is also working on adapting braille into household items such as microwaves and TV remotes.

MacDonald was inspired by his grandmother who read braille to him as child after becoming blind in 1918 after coming down with the Hong Kong flu in Hawaii.  

The National Braille Press publishes books for the blind- many written by blind authors - from subjects ranging from cookbooks to cancer.  

The agency which receives no state or federal funding relies on donations from individuals and corporate foundations.

To learn more about programs and ways to help the National Braille Press, click here.

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