• All About Braille

    What is Braille?
    Braille is a series of raised dots that can be read with the fingers by people who are blind or whose eyesight is not sufficient for reading printed material.  Teachers, parents, and others who are not visually impaired ordinarily read braille with their eyes. Braille is not a language. It is a code by which languages such as English or Spanish may be written and read.

    What Does Braille Look Like?
    Braille symbols are formed within units of spaces known as braille cells. A full braille cell consists of six raised dots arranged in tow parallel rows each having three dots. The dot positions are identified by numbers from one through six. Sixty-four combinations are possible using one or more of these six dots. A single cell can be used to represent an alphabet letter, number, punctuation mark, or even a whole word.

    How Was Braille Invented?
    Louis Braille was born in Coupvray, France, on January 4, 1809. He attended the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, France, as a student. While attending the Institute, Braille yearned for more books to read. He experimented with ways to make an alphabet that was easy to read with the fingertips. The writing system he invented, at age fifteen, evolved from the tactile "Ecriture Nocturne" (night writing) code invented by Charles Barbier for sending military messages that could b read on the battlefield at night, without light.

    How Is Braille Written?
    When every letter of every word is expressed in braille, it is referred to as Grade 1, or uncontracted, braille. Very few books or other reading material are transcribed in Grade 1, or uncontracted braille. However, many newly blinded adults find this useful for labeling personal or kitchen items.

    The system used for reproducing most textbooks and publications is known as Grade 2, or contracted, braille. In this system cells are used individually or in combination with others to form a variety of contractions or whole words. For example, in uncontracted braille, the phrase you like him requires twelve cell spaces. It would look like this:

    You like him



    If written in contracted braille, this same phrase would take only six cells to write. This is because the letters y and l are also sued for the whole words you and like respectively. Likewise, the word him is formed by combining the letters h and m. It would look like this:

    Y l hm



     There are 189 different letter contractions and 76 short-form words used in contracted braille. These "short cuts" are used to reduce the volume of paper needed for reproducing books in braille and to make the reading process easier.

    Since its development in France by Louis Braille in the latter part of the nineteenth century, braille has become not only an effective means of communication, but also a proven avenue for achieving and enhancing literacy for people who are blind or have significant vision loss.

    This information was provided by the American Foundation for the Blind, www.afb.org.