Youíve probably wondered what those tiny raised dots on indoor signs (i.e. elevator emergency signs), fast food drink lids and other places youíve seen it is. Those tiny raised dots happen to be a language that can only be read by a personís sense of touch. Itís called braille and has been around for centuries. This section discusses its inventor, a brief introduction on the topic, the braille cell and other items of interest. There are images on this page to show sighted people what braille looks like. There are even links to websites that have tools or fun education games or more information on the topic.

About Louis Braille Louis Braille (1809-1852) designed a coding system, based on patterns of raised dots, which the blind could read by touch. Born in Coupvray, France, Braille was accidentally blinded in one eye at the age of three. Within two years, a disease in his other eye left him completely blind.

In 1819, Braille received a scholarship to the Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles (National Institute of Blind Youth), founded by Valentin HaŁy (1745-1822). The same year Braille entered the school, Captain Charles Barbier invented sonography, or nightwriting, a system of embossed symbols used by soldiers to communicate silently at night on the battlefield. Inspired by a lecture Barbier gave at the Institute a few years later, the fifteen-year-old Braille adapted Barbier's system to replace HaŁy's awkward embossed type, which he and his classmates had been obliged to learn.

In his initial study, Braille had experimented with geometric shapes cut from leather as well as with nails and tacks hammered into boards. He finally settled on a fingertip-sized six-dot code, based on the twenty-five letters of the alphabet, which could be recognized with a single contact of one digit. By varying the number and placement of dots, he coded letters, punctuation, numbers, diphthongs, familiar words, scientific symbols, mathematical and musical notation, and capitalization. With the right hand, the reader touched individual dots and, with the left, moved on toward the next line, comprehending as smoothly and rapidly as sighted readers. Using the Braille system, students were also able to take notes and write themes by punching dots into paper with a pointed stylus which was aligned with a metal guide.

At the age of twenty, Braille published a monograph describing the use of his coded system. In 1837, he issued a second publication featuring an expanded system of coding text. Despite the students' favorable response to the Braille code, sighted instructors and school board members, fearing for their jobs should the number of well-educated blind individuals increase, opposed his system.

Braille grew seriously ill with incurable tuberculosis in 1835 and was forced to resign his teaching post. The Braille writing system - though demonstrated at the Paris Exposition of Industry in 1834 and praised by King Louis-Philippe - was not fully accepted until 1854, two years after the inventor's death. The system underwent periodic alteration; the standardized system employed today was first used in the United States in 1860 at the Missouri School for the Blind.

The Braille Cell
braille cell exampleBraille is formed by a cell of 6 dots:
Dots 1, 2 and 3 are found on the left.
Dots 4, 5 and 6 are on the right.

Each dot forms into something-wheatear it's a letter, number, symbol, punctuation mark or part of a contraction.

For instance the letters A N D are used. This makes the word: AND. Also contracted by using dots 1, 2, 3, 4, 6. Of course all letters are in lowercase unless they have a dot 6 in front of the letter, making it capital.

word and in braille

3 Grades to BrailleBraille has 3 levels (or grades) to go by. Each grade has its own uniqueness.

Grade 1 Braille
All 26 letters of the alphabet.
Numbers 1 - 0 (letters A - J with number sign in front.)
Punctuation marks

Image: Alphabet, Numbers & Punctuation

Alphabet, Numbers & Punctuation

Grade 2 Braille
Contractions make up grade 2 braille. 189 words in this catagory can be used to shorten a word thus shortening a sentence. This allows for faster and easy reading. Not all words can be contracted, and there are strict rules for using them.

Images: Examples of the word Braille in Grade 1 & 2 Braille:
example of the word braille

Image: Contractions List
contractions list

Grade 3 Braille
advanced contractions

No images for grade 3 braille are provided.

Usage & Tools of Braille Uses


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